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.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.
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).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.
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. 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.
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.