How To Ride Coast Gravity Park and Whistler for as Cheap as Possible

Aug 13, 2017
by Vince Bugni  
How To Ride Coast Gravity Park and Whistler for as Cheap as Possible
Doing my best in Whistler


Introduction

We are two college students who work basic jobs all summer in order to afford to go to school for the rest of the year. We have been riding bikes for our whole lives and Whistler had always been a riding destination we had dreamed of going to. With the recent construction of Coast Gravity Park and tales of smooth, floaty jump trails, we knew we had to go there as well. There was one weekend where we both got some free time, and the trip was on.

In order to save the most money on the trip, I researched a lot about how to ride Whistler and CGP for as cheap as possible. Our trip was a short four nights and three full days of riding, with a day of travel at either end. We spent one-day riding CGP and two days riding Whistler. It cost each of us a total of around $300 USD from the moment we left our homes to when we returned. If anyone else wants to do the same, here is what we learned.

How To Ride Coast Gravity Park and Whistler for as Cheap as Possible
On the shuttle at CGP


Travel

Fortunately, we live near Portland, Oregon, which is just five hours from the US/Canada border. From the border, we drove to Vancouver, from which you must take a ferry to get to the Sunshine Coast. The ferry cost more than we anticipated, having never ridden a ferry before. It was around $100 USD for two passengers and one vehicle (one way, coming back is free). You can save about $20 by reserving the ferry over seven days in advance, or if it’s a weekday, you may not need to make a reservation at all. We had planned to take the ferry back to Vancouver and drive to Whistler after riding all day, Sunday at CGP, but all of the ferries coming back to the mainland were full when we were reserving our spot. This forced us to take the 6:20am ferry on Monday morning, which was not fun to wake up for, but we still made it to Whistler before the lifts started spinning on Monday morning.

How To Ride Coast Gravity Park and Whistler for as Cheap as Possible
Dank sunsets on the first night equal a cool trip ahead.


Gas is far cheaper in the US than Canada, so make sure that you fill up in Bellingham before crossing the border. Also, we found that the gas in Whistler was surprisingly cheaper than the gas in Vancouver, so don’t bother looking around for the cheapest gas in Van. when Whistler is actually your best bet (at least when we were there).

How To Ride Coast Gravity Park and Whistler for as Cheap as Possible
Waiting for the ferry like any normal human would.


Living

We knew we were camping every night of the trip. Both of us are experienced campers and backpackers, so car camping is a breeze. There are several campgrounds near CGP, but they all cost $30–40 per night. We chose to drive up a somewhat secluded logging road in Roberts Creek and set up our tent down a side road, and no one bothered us. It was only 20 minutes or so to get to CGP from here. We also met some Swiss homies while riding CGP who said they camped just past the bike park on its access road and no one bothered them either.

There is a great public bathroom in Davis Bay which you pass on your way up to CGP that we used to fill up our waters and wash dishes. It’s painted blue and has a big wave on it so you can’t miss it. Creekside Campground is a minute down the road and has hot showers for $1. Park just across from the campground entrance and walk right in, the showers are in the bathrooms next to the pool. Make sure you have a looney.

How To Ride Coast Gravity Park and Whistler for as Cheap as Possible
Our luxurious Sunshine Coast accomodations


In Whistler, we knew of a campground on the outskirts of town called Cal-Cheak that had primitive sites for only $13 per night. There is no reservation system, and the sites are in high demand, so our backup plan was to camp along the river just north of town. However, because our ferry back from CGP was so early, we were able to find and secure an available spot. We almost didn’t want to because it still costs money, but the luxury of pit toilets lured us in. It should be noted that if you don’t want to drop a whole $13 on a camp site it is permitted to camp anywhere in the forests around Whistler, so long as you are not on private property. Also, Whistler Lot 5 allows overnight parking for free, so a lot of people were posted up camping in there vans there. A good option if you don’t need to set up a tent.

We couldn’t find any public showers in Whistler, or even campground showers to sneak into (Riverside resort requires special tokens to turn the showers on, an unfortunate discovery we made after some serious sneaking). We resorted to bathing in Lost Lake, which is right in Whistler and eerily deserted after dark. The river is another option for bathing, but we chose the warmth of standing water. I’m not sure if Whistler has any public bathrooms, so I filled up my water containers at the drinking fountain at the bottom of the bike park, after hours.

Food

We brought along a camping stove and silverware with a plan to buy groceries and make all of our meals. Breakfast was usually eggs and fruit, with maybe a yogurt or some cereal. For lunch, we made sandwiches every day. PB and J sandwiches are the simple way to do it, but we balled out on cold cuts and made some great meat and cheese sandos. For dinner, we ended up being lazy and going out every night but still kept affordability a priority.

On the Sunshine Coast, groceries aren’t very expensive so it doesn’t really matter what grocery store you choose. We went to an Independent Grocer in Sechelt, which is handily right across from the free wifi and electricity of Starbucks. For dinner, we went to Sharkey’s Fish and Chips in Roberts Creek. It looks unassuming from the street but it was actually packed with people and cost $12 for more fish and chips than I could eat in a sitting.

In Whistler, groceries get pricier, but they aren’t outrageously costly unless you go to the grocery store in the village. We went to Creekside Grocery and only felt slightly robbed. As far as cheap restaurants, you can’t beat El Furniture Warehouse. Everything on the menu is $5, and just one item is enough to be a meal. We ended up eating dinner here both nights because, well, it’s $5. Get the poutine.

How To Ride Coast Gravity Park and Whistler for as Cheap as Possible
This photo is entirely unrelated to the food section, I just liked it


Riding

Buying lift tickets online ahead of time is always cheaper, and you get to skip the massive lift ticket line in the mornings by just picking up your pre-purchased ticket at guest services. Buying online saved us $10 at CGP and $5 each day at Whistler.

As far as bike maintenance goes, I popped my tire at the bottom of A Line and paid $13 for a new tube at one of the shops in the village. So make sure you have spares of everything because it will probably be double what it should be if you buy it in Whistler instead of your local bike shop.

How To Ride Coast Gravity Park and Whistler for as Cheap as Possible
One happy camper.


Of course, a guy had to make an edit of the trip, even with a limited amount of riding shots. We were just having too much fun to stop and try for clips! I hope that you enjoy the video, and feel free to comment or message me if you have any questions about how you too can live the bike bum life.

Views: 2,550    Faves: 9    Comments: 4




MENTIONS: @bikerofestacada


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58 Comments

  • + 16
 Just got back from 2 weeks Whistler. When did you go? As we got free showers at the riverside campground. No token or coins needed. There's a slot for them. But we just turned on the tap and it worked lol. Side note is we went to the bathrooms across the bridge and up the hill. Fat Tony's pizza in the village is also a great place for lunch. And super cheap at 2.50 a slice till 5pm. Awesome write up guys! Thanks!
  • + 1
 We went over the last weekend in July. I think we were in different bathrooms at Riverside, because I was fully undressed in the shower when I made the unfortunate realization that it wouldn't work without coins haha. Thanks for the kind words, will definitely hit the cheap pizza next time!
  • + 13
 300 usd is about $ 4000 canadian pesos. So there shouldnt be any issues.
  • + 8
 It's almost an art going to Whistler and seeing how little money you can spend. Bringing food, beer, a tent/bedroll, and a bike shop worth of spare parts usually gets you up and back for under $150-300. Say goodbye to your money if you either A: break something and don't have a spare, or B: think you have a shot with that beautiful Aussie gal walking into the Longhorn with her friends.
  • + 5
 Some interesting comments and information in the article on here about Whistler. I've lived in town and work as a LBS for a few years now and its interesting to see how people generalized the whole experience. One thing is yes, things in Canada generally cost more than the states but as opposed to the rest of Canada, these is no "resort" tax. Competition is high among the shops and keeps that from happening. If you paid $13 for a tube chances are you didn't look around much (There are 10 shops in town) or got sold a thicker FR/thorn resistant tube. The park is F*CKED mid summer, it eats bikes. Come earlier or later and maybe you can get away with your trail rig after its rained more than once in the last month. If your not a smooth rider/know the trails your gonna be bashing your bike and blowing sh*t up. If your worried about tire prices many places in town (including Whistler Blackcomb) have used tire piles. Its expensive for us to recycle them in town so we just give them away. Last but definitely not least, RESPECT THE SHOPS! Sure sometimes your labour cost may be a bit high but you just ran into the shop freaking out about the derailleur YOU blew up (which wasn't our fault) and need it done on the spot. Never mind the 12 other rigs that came in before you. Yours needs done NOW. Considering this is the case very often I have no problem charging these rates when my shops policy is no more than a 24Hr turnover on all repairs if we have the parts.
  • + 3
 nah 13 for a tube in whis is pretty standard i rekn
  • + 1
 LOL @ no resort tax.

Maybe you've been in Whistler a little too long to remember what it's like outside the bubble.
  • + 4
 Also, if you are doing this trip, lots of super fun free trails in Squamish. No lift fee to pay. Just gotta use your legs. Tons of free camping. Get a day or two of riding in without spending any cash on your way up to Whistler.
  • + 4
 Nothing to see here. Whistler is up the road. Smile
  • + 1
 #squamishsuckstellyourfriends
  • + 1
 @AJBarlas: Seriously, I hate Squamish. Too easy and no trails signs. Most of the time one needs to bushwack. Listen to AJBarlas, it definitely sucks. ;-)
  • + 4
 Its really easy to camp for free in BC. Was there over a month and the only time we spent any money of lodging was one night when we decided to spoil ourselves with an airbnb for a chill night.
  • + 4
 This is what is sweet about Canada, you can dirtbag camp almost anywhere for free with a bit of effort and nobody bothers you. We found this to be really hard in the USA. Cops always gave us trouble even for resting a few hours in the car and logging roads have gates everywhere. That being said, BLM sites are cheap and plentiful so we ended up there most nights.
  • + 3
 @mountain-life: Its pretty easy in the states too, maybe just a bit more of a learning curve. BLM is free, kind of hard to find correct maps of the areas tho. You can also camp for free in most national forests long as you are off a main road and there arent no camping signs.

That said, Canada was def one of the most chill places I've visited when it comes to this kinda stuff.
  • + 10
 NOT SAYING ANY OF YOU GUYS DID THIS but clean up after yourself. It used to be the case that free forest service road and FS sites camping was not a problem as was camping at pullouts. Lately in the Whis/Squamish/Pemberton areas there's been a plague of people (not just bikers but all walks of life) leaving campsites and pullouts trashed.

We're welcoming and pretty chill about campers but leaving garbage and/or burning down the place is not cool
  • + 6
 @leelau: Can attest to this. Can also say I cleaned up a few biker messes at the campsites outside of trails in Revelstoke and GSC. A little disappointing when you see messes like this that were obviously from mountain bikers, cause the campsite is at the trailhead. Only takes a second to throw it in a bag before ya leave in the morning.
  • + 3
 @leelau: Preach. Always gotta leave it better than when you came.
  • + 4
 Ferry was more than expected lol, BC ferries used to cost me more to go from Tsawassen to Schwartz bay then it cost in fuel to get from Calgary to the ferry terminal and that was 6 years ago.... They got us by the balls
  • + 2
 if you could do it again would you spend more time at one park over the other? We have gone up to whistler 8 years straight driving through the night both ways from Utah. We have always wanted to try coast gravity park but our trip is so quick that it seems like quite the effort to get out to the park?
  • + 1
 This is what I want to hear. Been to Whistler 3 times and love Van, but next time I want to hang at Coast Gravity Park.
  • + 1
 I live in Whistler and haven't been to CGP, but several of my friends have done Whistler->CPG->Whistler in a day. I'd suggest doing 1 day there (it's pretty small) and the rest of your time here in Whistralia.
  • + 2
 I thought Coast was pretty fun for what it is, but you get a lot more out of Whistler for the money.
  • + 1
 @BDKR: Coast is fun. Spent two days there. Got a little boring my end of day two. Worth riding a few days, but maybe not in a row depending on how long of a trip you take. Vibe is so mellow and fun at coast tho. Rad place.
  • + 1
 I would have loved to spend another day at CGP, but probably not more than two days. It's just so much smaller than Whistler, however the trails are top notch and they are expanding. The beginner and intermediate trails are very comparable to Whistler, just fewer braking bumps. What really set CGP apart for me was their expert jump lines. Coastal Cruise to Flight Deck is some of the most fun I've ever had on a bicycle, and whistler doesn't quite have jump trails this technical yet (at least until D1 opens, from what I saw). So if you really like jump trails that are more than just tables, I would recommend squeezing in at least one day there at some point. Plus, the whole laidback Sunshine Coast vibe is a great change of pace from the craze of Whistler.

On the other hand, I would spend another week at Whistler if I could. There's just soooooo many trails.
  • + 1
 I just came back from a BC trip and could have used a lot of these tips! I made my way north from the shore up to Whistler. I ended up breaking my arm on week 2 out of 3 in Squamish so it was cut short but I still ended up spending $200 more than I initially planned on spending for the entire trip. I'm going to follow this and do some better planning for next summer. Car camping it is!
  • + 1
 i went to whistler 17 days at the end of july with 6 other friends, we flew our bikes there and the park was really hard on the bikes. we all spent 50 to 250$ on repairs when we were there and that is not counting the maintenance on them before coming in whis. new tires pads etc... but what a trip man will come back for sure!!
  • + 2
 If you are going to ride CGP and don't want to camp you should check out "Upper Deck Hostel" One of the nicest hostels I've stayed in.

www.secheltaccommodation.com/home.php
  • + 1
 We flew in, rented high end rental bikes and bought the damage insurance, rode non stop in thrw park 3 days straight and destroyed more money in bike patts than I could have imagined (not a single wreck) and came out so much cheaper than riding our own bikes.

I'd love to see an estimated $$$$ amount of how much everyone thinks they spent in bike parts, wrenching and ride time lost by taking their own rig to Whistler bike park.

I imagine only luck would allow you to come.out ahead of renting. I say that because parts and repairs have got to be so expensive.
  • + 3
 Depends on your bike. I tried renting a regular DH bike and it was such garbage I just rode my patrol. Came out fine without damage. Same as the other guys, other times I've been there has always been some sort of mechanical that would have made renting worth it, but that was with bikes of 5 years ago, these days bikes are so good they can handle a pretty good pounding. It's def rolling the dice though and your reg bike will take a pounding. I say if ya can afford it or have a bike that's too trail oriented you gotta spend the money on a rental and it's worth getting a premium cause those basic rentals are f*cking garbage but if you have a decent aggressive trail bike and don't want to spend $200 On a rental you'll be fine on your reg bike. I had more fun on my patrol then I did on the rental.
  • + 1
 I rode my own bike, and only blew one tube and finished off a set of old pads. $30, all told. No wrecks!

If you're a bigger dude or just super aggressive, you may end up wrecking a lot of stuff, especially wheels and tires. Another thing with rentals is that if you break it, they might not be able to get you the same bike. During prime time - last two weeks of July through to the end of Crakworx - the rental fleets can sometimes be 100% booked up. Wreck really good and you might find yourself on a low-end rental instead of the wunderbike you started out with. Buddy snapped the front end off his high-end rental DH bike [yay for insurance!], and he got the choice between an entry-level DH bike or a high-end trail bike as a replacement. Non-plussed.
  • + 1
 I did a lot of maintenance before taking my bike and I was so pumped I took it. I did bearings, suspension front and rear, new tires and new brake pads. My bike was running mint, I didn't break anything and I didn't have to touch a single adjuster. It's my bike so I felt comfortable right away. Between maintenance and traveling with a bike I spent about the same as rental for three days, but that maintenance is still paying off this season. I did fly southwest to Seattle and my buddy drove up so only $150 in airport fees for the whole trip. My other buddy doesn't have a bike up to the task of Whistler anymore, so he rented. The tires were shot, he got the rear replaced halfway through our second day, but it was less than great until then. He also flatted which was a bit of a pain, while I had no problems with my normal tubeless setup. Probably the only other things to note is I run SS on my DH bike, so there is a little less to break; and I already had a bike bag. Only reason I share this is I fretted over the decision for a while and in the in end I was so happy I took my bike and I came out ahead; albeit with a lot of things falling my way (flying SW to Seattle, already owning a bike bag).
  • + 2
 @pinkrobe: Wow. That is something to consider. We went in September and gaff or pick of the litter in the Demo Center. Tires were the only thing really worn on thrm, but traction at Whistler is bountiful compared to North Carolina. Would suck to pay all that money and not greet on the dream bikes like we did.

I burned through 2 sets of pads on 2 of their bikes, an XO derailleur pulled it's guts on the lady jump of lower A Line, and my friend snapped a derailleur hanger off a carbon V10.
But we saved a ton on checked bag fees, rode from 10am-5pm non stop 3 days straight & not having to pack a bike back up our worry about it making 2 trips and 5 airports was efficient.

Ideally, we'd have loved to do two weeks of legit vacation with our own DH & trail bikes, but we got lucky and got the Swiss timing version of a "quickie"
  • + 0
 @pinkrobe: "had our pick of the litter" ... spell check
  • + 1
 Rental bikes often have worn or garbage tires (hard compound so they last longer), suspension may not be serviced and cockpit may not be to your liking. I've rented from the demo centre and the bikes were pretty beat by early August last year. Own bike = setup to your exact liking, and as long as you maintain it, you are looking at maybe $500-$1k a year in maintenance on a high end DH bike depending on what brakes (suspension servicing, brake pads, tires, a rear rim, brake bleeds).
  • + 1
 Ultimately, I think a lot of it what you'd expect to spend depends on how long you plan on staying.

Let's qualify this a little and talk only about people that have to fly there.

* If you are going to be there for more than a couple of days, the cost of getting your bike there via the airline is cheaper. My experience is Air Canada is by far the most reasonable in this respect. Another option is Bike Flights. Very reasonable compared to state side airlines and if you know someone that will accept your bikes on the destination end your gold.

* Carry as much as you can in the way of spares and tools. Air Canada as an example has a 50 pound ceiling before the costs start going up (freight). If your packed bike is less than 50, put some tubes, break pads, der hangers, tools, extra handle bar, back up shock, or whatever you think you might need and can get in there before you are overweight.

* Check your tires before you leave!!!! You'll be hard pressed to find a tire for less than a 100 bucks at Whistler. Last year I didn't check and wound up with a tear in the rear. I got lucky and found one shop selling Magic Mary Bike Park tires for 26 bucks!

A 100 bucks may not seem like that big of a deal, but if you're being budget conscious while you're there, that may 100 bucks you really couldn't afford.

* @gramboh is right! Rental fleets often suck! But if you go that route, call ahead and make sure they can set it up for you as much as possible before you get there. I ride moto so that's an absolute must. In most cases that's a non-issue, but better safe than sorry.

* Be realistic. While I think a DH bike is the coolest thing on the planet, you can still hit the bulk of the trails at Whistler on an AM/Enduro bike there. If that's all you have, bring it! You'll have fun and won't have to pay for a ragged out rental bike that will cost a kidney to fix if you don't get the insurance.
  • + 2
 This seems insane. Was in BC for a month riding various places. Went through a rear tire, set of brake pads and put a dent in my rear wheel, which i was able to just bend back and the tubless still sealed. All that is less than one day of a rental bike. Either your bike must be pretty week or you just smash into a lot of shit. Rode all the double blacks on my trail bike and didnt destroy it.
  • + 1
 Also forgot to mention that if you're well outside the target MTBer (~165lbs 5'8" as far as I can tell) think about renting a bike with air suspension or taking your own bike, the stock spring on every bike is at least 100#s light for me.
  • + 1
 @dinosaurinachinastore: Good point!!!!
  • + 2
 I think anybody that does their own work, can source parts themselves without a bike shop holding their hand, and doesn't always subscribe to need the newest bestest thing can come out way ahead. I bought a DH sled in 2014 and have spent very little money on it other than brake pads, tires and spokes and if I rented a bike every time I went to Whistler I'd be down thousands of dollars by now.
  • + 1
 I've only blown tires and one derr. (my fault not whistlers) since I have been going for the most part. Second year there had a bad crash on the rocks way up top and smashed a hole in my Boxer lowers. Freak crash but.... My Devinci Wilson has been up there three times in a row. No real issues
  • + 1
 also forgot to mention that I burned through pads the first day because it was pouring the rain in the morning of the first day and we just rode non-stop in the rain. The pumice chewed through the pads. Reading all these posts about rental bike garbage, I will definitely say we got lucky with dialed bikes with almost new parts top to bottom and the right suspension setup. Maybe the parts we destroyed were the ones that had been on the bikes the longest and seen the most punishment hah I will say they were smart to make me sign the damage waiver on the ENVE wheels. If they hadn't held me accountable on those, I was gonna do my best to split 'em apart . heh
  • + 3
 Let's give these boys some credit for picking some real music. Way to make it happen, this is what ridin is all about.
  • + 2
 Ferry by car 100$
Ferry by bike 20$
Also just set up camp any where in the bush at dusk.
Choose a new spot after a few days.
Bus goes up to Whister for 40$.
  • + 2
 Don't need showers at Whistler - jump in Alta Lake at either Lakeside park or Rainbow park.
  • + 3
 The piano cat easily makes this VOD.
  • + 1
 i did a month in whistler with 20 days in a rented bed and the rest car camping. spent less than 1000 USD. going back this year, fall season pass FTW
  • + 1
 do you know when fall season pass will be available?
  • + 1
 @Yuho-Sports: They usually announce it right at the end of august. I called em last year and they told me yes before they announced it so try that.
  • + 1
 UBC hostel is a 5 min drive to the park and really cheap, not too crowded in the summer. This was about 5-6 years ago however
  • + 2
 Why the ponytail? #wearitdown
  • + 3
 Staaaaaaateeee
  • + 1
 i remember being young skid and poor, glad to not be the last two of those any longer! enjoy your skid years skids!
  • + 2
 ohh to be young again...well done !!!
  • + 2
 Awesome blog guys, thanks! There's good stuff in here even for a 'local'!
  • + 1
 Thanks for the kind words!
  • + 2
 Nicely done boys!!
  • + 2
 Go State
  • + 2
 Sick vidz dudez

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