Brian Finestone can’t help but smile. Sure, he’s been overseeing the Whistler-Blackcomb Bike Park for close to a decade and has orchestrated many groundbreaking projects, but we are standing atop a new era for pedal-powered descents: the snow-banked trailhead for Top Of The World.
It is a day before the official public opening of the new alpine trail and the lifties are still getting used to loading and unloading bikes on Whistler’s Peak Chair. Indeed, watching $5,000 dangle from a single hook 100 feet over the monolithic boulders of Whistler Bowl can be a nerve-wracking experience. At the top, a middle-aged woman cheers as she unloads my ride successfully. We are a group of a dozen or so riders—everyone from mountain bike beginners from the Globe and Mail to guys like Finestone and Whistler-Blackcomb’s own Peter Lonergan who rip the park on a daily basis, and myself, Freehub Publisher Brandon Watts, and a couple of other local media types.
Jared Vandergriend makes the first turn on the Top Of The World with Black Tusk in the background.
We look over to views of the iconic Black Tusk drifting in and out of spotty cloud cover. The top section of the trail is loose, rocky, and a little intimidating for those who don’t ride much downhill, mostly due to a bit of exposure and tight switchbacks. But after a half dozen turns, the trail settles into loamy, winding singletrack alongside the first stunted evergreens at treeline with views to the Coast Mountains fading into the distance.
Yes, it's rocky off the top. Eric Johnson (front) and Jared Vandergriend (back) through the switchbacks.
Finding flow - Eric Johnson pumps a benched-out section before the trail makes its first road crossing and drops into the loam.
Jared Vandergriend navigates one of the more technical sections near the top of the trail.
Yet this is just a taste—the Top Of The World trail is still under construction. Only two of five sections are complete, and the bulk of the descent below treeline utilizes existing winter runs to bring riders back to the west side of the Garbanzo zone, where, after 2,000-plus vertical feet of descending, riders link into another 3,000 feet back to the village. However, Finestone explains plans to rough out singletrack below Cockalorum in West Bowl, which will link singletrack from the peak to the park. And, eventually, they hope to break ground on subsequent alpine trails to provide a decidedly different aspect the Whistler Bike Park—more of an all-mountain, trail-bike-ready experience at 7,000 feet; a type of riding suited to cyclists looking to add some seclusion and alpine vistas to their gravity experience.
Top Of The World reconnects with the Garbanzo zone of the Whistler Bike Park on the upper reaches of Freight Train, just in time for Eric Johnson to send a few wall rides in the tunnel.
Just before entering the lower mountain, Eric Johnson rallies Drop In Clinic while Jared Vandergriend follows behind.
As we reconvene within the bike park proper, our group splits into a few groups, with the more experienced riders dropping into the high speed confines of Freight Train and the well-traveled haunts of the lower mountain. For now, only 100 Peak Chair bike passes will be sold per day, ensuring the trail will not become congested or overcrowded. We will ride for two more days, being several of the lucky 100 to score a Peak Pass and find some alpine flow Saturday evening. And we will leave with a new perspective on what riding the Whistler Bike Park can mean.
Words and Photos by Colin Wiseman
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