Must Rides in Whistler - A High Alpine Newcomer and Valley Gems

Jun 23, 2017
by Todd Hellinga  
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Lord of the Squirrels alpine trail
Getting ready to descend on Lord on the Squirrels. Photo: Ollie Jones Photography, courtesy of Tourism Whistler

After a long winter's rest and a drawn out cold spring, Whistler's trails have finally started to open en masse, much to the pleasure of both locals and visitors alike. Much of the network is now open, save for the high elevation trails, and trail crews from the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (W.O.R.C.A) have been out clearing trails and repairing winter's damage, while other private groups have been buffing and tweaking the trails they maintain. This year will also mark the opening of Whistler's much anticipated Sproatt alpine trail network which has been nearly five years in the planning and building process, and the town can't wait to share this amazing new trail experience with everyone.

Whistler's broad valley trail network provides many different options for riders looking to experience the diversity of trails on offer. While Whistler has traditionally been known as a tech riders playground, trail development over the past years has had a focus on filling in gaps in the network and diversifying it to provide more intermediate trail options for a wider range of users.

Mountain biking Whistler s Valley trails
A group of bikers ride the cross-country bike trails around Lost Lake Park. Photo: Mike Crane, courtesy of Tourism Whistler

At the south end of town, the Cheakamus area provides great options for all levels of riders, and with the Interpretive Forest trailhead directly adjacent to Function Junction and Highway 99 the staging is perfect for out of town riders who want to avoid the village. From mellow green trails like the Sea to Sky Trail and Farside, to technical classics like Trash, or fun flowy trails like High Side and AMPM, this area has many options for different groups of riders. The ride out to Singing Creek on the Cheakamus Lake trail is also a highlight.

Function Junction also has bike shops, breweries, cafes, bakeries, and restaurants to refuel after your ride. WORCA is working with partners and other stakeholders on further trail development plans in this area over the coming years, including connecting Farside to Cheakamus Lake trail, and connections up to the Jane Lakes network, which is being brought back to standard. A great short loop for the time restricted is riding up Farside, Far Out, then combining High Side, Hi Hi, and It's Business Time into AMPM. At 10km it's a relatively short quick ride but full of fun!


Lord of the Squirrels alpine trail
A biker crosses a bridge on a XC trail near Lost Lake. Photo: Mike Crane, courtesy of Tourism Whistler

While the south end may lean towards more flowy and fast trails, the north end veers towards the other end of the spectrum—tech, and more tech. The No Flow Zone in Emerald is currently only accessible through the Rainbow/Baxter Creek subdivision on Delineator or Shit Happens, the entrance to No Girlie Man is also a good choice. The old water reservoir access road is private property and closed, so please respect the property owner and choose another entrance into this area. Comfortably Numb is the quintessential technical xc slog in town and will continue to see more maintenance this year from the Al Grey bridge through towards the Golden Door. If you park at the Wedge lot, there are many options abound, including Out There, or Kill Me Thrill Me. My personal favourite is climbing Yummy Nummy, taking a right onto Comfortably Numb, a right through the Golden Door, and then riding to Jeff's Trail and back to the village via the Sea to Sky trail.


Mountain biking Whistler s Valley trails
Epic scenery from the surrounding trails around Whistler. Photo: Mike Crane, courtesy of Tourism Whistler

The west side definitely continues to be the main focus of Whistler riding and it's where you'll find most of the steeper and more technical trails, but it's also where Whistler has focused on broadening the network and providing some key Intermediate trails and connections that will help the system flow better and provide more choices for rides. The Rainbow side of things in the Alpine Meadows area hasn't seen too much new development at this point but continues to see regular maintenance and tweaking by builders. This area is great for wet weather riding as it's a bit rockier than other places. Grind up the Flank to Screaming Cat Lake before turning around and ripping Howler back to the valley for a brake searing descent!


The Sproatt area on the west side is where riders will find most of Whistler's new trail development activity, and it's where W.O.R.C.A completed their first two officially authorized new trails last year. A Cut Above is an uphill primary connector from Whip Me Snip Me that heads back into Stonebridge and the top of Beaver Pass. It starts right at the bottom of Wizard Burial Ground and while steep and grindy, is a beautifully built trail through cool, bluffy and moss covered terrain. W.O.R.C.A's great partners at Stonebridge Developments are also building a singletrack climbing extension of Hot Dog Alley adjacent to Scotia Creek to avoid the steep road slog. Eventually, W.O.R.C.A is hoping to complete a climbing trail from the Beaver Pond area up to the Flank at the top of High Society to provide a connected and road free route from Rainbow Park, right up into the new Sproatt alpine network.

Which brings me to the big news, the completion of Whistler's new climbing and descending routes on Mount Sproatt. Over the past five years, W.O.R.C.A has been consulting, planning, and building with its partners to create a brand new trail experience predominantly in the alpine. W.O.R.C.A's friends at the R.M.O.W have been focused on building a climbing route, while their contractors focused on three sections of trail in the alpine. W.O.R.C.A was tasked with building a fully intermediate descent from the top, right back down to the Flank trail. This epic loop is sure to blow minds, while the climb is certainly not fast, or easy. Into the Mystic as it's been dubbed, climbs through beautiful old growth forests and weaves its way into the alpine for over 8km.

Lord of the Squirrels alpine trail
High alpine glory awaits on Lord of the Squirrels. Photo: Ollie Jones Photography, courtesy of Tourism Whistler

Once in the alpine, the trail winds its way up On the Rocks' ridges and bluffs, with open views in 360 degrees, providing a unique new perspective on the Whistler Valley and beyond. Be sure to go all the way to the end of Happy Hour where you'll be staring down on Whistler. Then it's time to head back down to the junction of W.O.R.C.A's new flagship trail, Lord of the Squirrels. At 8km long this is one of the longer trails in the valley and is top to bottom intermediate flowy goodness. To say Whistler is really proud of this new part of the trail network would be an understatement, and they're positive that you'll love it too.


While the trail had a soft opening in the fall, this alpine portion of the network will be actively managed to ensure its long-term sustainability. With snowpack depths still in the two-meter range in the Sproatt alpine, the opening will be delayed and W.O.R.C.A will be implementing closures via signage and Trailforks during the melt, and later in the season when the fall rains return. Please watch WORCA.com for updates over the coming weeks and for information regarding an official grand opening later in July or August.

In addition to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, partners at Whistler Blackcomb also maintain many of the public trails not in the bike park that area within their Controlled Recreation Area (CRA). The Blackcomb network of trails continues to see ongoing work and the builders of Microclimate have been putting in a lot of work over the fall and spring. Microclimate is currently closed due to snow melt and seepage from higher on the mountain and while the builders do maintenance. Please respect these closures. On the Whistler south side of the CRA, Heavy Flow and Hind Sight have also seen work this spring.


Whistler Village
Iconic resort views of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains on a beautiful summer day. Photo: Mike Crane, courtesy of Tourism Whistler

The future is bright for riding in Whistler, with the recent release of the Mountain Biking Economic Impact Study and the knowledge that mountain biking contributes over $59 million a year into the local and provincial economy, W.O.R.C.A is excited to use that information to help implement the long-term trail development plan to help better connect and diversify the network for non-motorized users and keep the existing trails maintained to the highest standards. W.O.R.C.A does ask that when you're here you respect the trails, closures, wildlife, and most of all, other trail users. Whistler can't wait to share their old and new trails with you this summer, whether you're mountain biking, hiking, trail running, or just sightseeing, they've got a trail that you'll enjoy using!


Sponsored Content created in partnership with whistler.com/bike


47 Comments

  • + 42
 A shout out to Todd Hellinga for all the work he's done donating a bunch of time on the heavy lifting on the administrative side for the Whistler area planning endeavours. Its hundreds and hundreds of hours in meetings, planning sessions, GIS, filling out interminable forms and drafting pages of government required verbiage. The backroom stuff is not sexy but its incredibly necessary. Todd has also slung a ton of dirt in his own time at his own expense. He'll likely be embarrassed to get called out like this but ---- suck it up buttercup. Would also shout out to all the brilliant Whistler volunteers over the years and years of biking history in Whistler that have made this place the gem it is.
  • + 3
 Cheers, Lee, always appreciate your support
  • + 12
 Once the snow is clear is the key! Lord of the squirrels is still closed and will be for a few week yet as there is still snow in the Alpine. Right now the only option is to ride up the trail and turn around to ride back down. WORCA has closures up and asks riders not to poach it while there is still snow in order the avoid braiding and damage to the Alpine environment . Stay on the trail please, requested from the team of local builders, The success and future new trail opportunities depend on it.
  • + 8
 Pretty stoked to head up and ride Lord of the Squirrels!!
  • + 6
 It's definitely worth the climb.
  • + 3
 You and me both buddy. We went up there last week but it's still under snow so we rode the awesome flank trails instead. Now we wait for the snow to melt.
  • + 3
 During my bi-annual trip to Whistler I had the pleasure of helping the WORCA volunteers to cut a new section of trail off Lower Sproat. I recommend it as a great way, as a visitor of 13 years, to pay it back to those who spend so much of their free time to build the best trails in the world that everyone can enjoy for free.
  • + 1
 Did you take trail bikes this time??!!! ;-)
  • + 7
 I'll trade you all of the trails at mammoth for ten whistler trails.
  • + 8
 Nice try.
  • + 4
 No deal.
  • + 1
 10 more like 4
  • + 4
 I'm hitting Crankworx this year - can't wait to get out and ride some Whistler trails! The hardest part is going to be trying to decide which trails to hit in the limited time I have there!
  • + 16
 Don't drive past Squamish without riding some of their trails.
  • + 3
 Same for me and my buddy from NC! North van, whistler, squamish then back to north van!
  • + 2
 Hopefully moving to Whistler for next season, the question is keep the 160mm bike or buy a downhill bike? Of course gonna ride the park but the valley trails/Squamish seems to be to good to miss out on by having just a DH bike. Thoughts from the locals or seasonaiires?
  • + 2
 If your priority is the wealth of trailridng then lots of people get by with a nicer trailbike thrn get a cheaper clapped out dh bike. Or ride park on the trail bike and accept wear and tear. Its priorities really
  • + 2
 ideally both; there's pretty good deals over there on second hand, and GBP is strong over CAD, so you can get one for a few hundred pounds, then recover part of it by selling in the end of the season.
  • + 3
 If you can take both. It's a sin not to ride both trail and park. If you going for the season then it's a must to hit Squamish. The north shore pemberton and if possible. Get to the chilcotins, oh and the sunshine coast even the island. There is so much to ride within a short distance of whistler you won't regret. Taking 2 bikes.
  • + 2
 No chance of taking 2 initially (bar winning the lottery) but leaning towards the idea of taking the trail bike and grabbing a dh bike out there. Have ridden park stuff in the alps on it no problem but theres something about the idea of owning a dh bike in Whis which gets me frothing. Cheers boys
  • + 3
 I was riding there last summer for about 2 weeks and rode the bike park before too. Last year I was on my trail Bike (A devinci Spartan). I enjoyed the bike park but clearly it's not made for an Enduro bike. If in Europe trails bike are doing very well in the bike park, it's not the case in Whistler or Sun Peaks. Yes, you can ride eveything BUT not as confortable and you can feel that the bike is paying is toll on the bike park.
So for me, bring a trail bike and buy a used or YT type of DH bike there if you plan to ride a lot the bike park. It will cost you less at the end than constant repairs on the trail bike.
  • + 1
 Cheers bruvaa all sound advise, if anyone fancys PMing some tips and tricks with regards to moving to and living in whistler i'd be super grateful. Or if anyone else is heading out next year for a season we can shred
  • + 2
 @m07mmukh:
I to have ridden different trail bikes in the park over the years I been going. From my Santa Cruz heckler santacruz butcher and my knolly chilcotin even had a NHS soda set up at 180mm travel as my park bike.
But. The real fun starts when you get on a downhill bike I sold my soda to get my carbon demo.
There are certain bike park trail that wouldn't be fun on a trail bike unless you a pro.
  • + 2
 As someone who moved to Whistler for a whole summer, only taking downhill bike, I highly recommend taking your trail bike. I have so many regrets spending 100% of my time riding the bike park. Hopefully I get back over someday real soon to ride everything but the bike park.
  • + 2
 160mm is still lots of travel for the bike park. That's on the big side for a trail bike and is plenty for the park and better for the flow trails than a big DH rig. One option is to simply buy a second wheelset assuming a modern 160mm trail bike with slacker angles. Have a heavier wheelset with DH casing rubber for park days and it'll keep the bike more planted and the extra couple pounds and more lateral rigidity and your bike will be transformed to a mini park bike. And the wheels take much of the abuse in the park.
  • + 1
 @whitehonky: Yeah I've been thinking, Just make it more dh orientated but climbable over the next year and then see how it is for the first few weeks of the season in the park. Cheers bro
  • + 5
 What about Aline? Is that worth my while?
  • + 8
 Do not dare to speak its name in vain! The only question is, are you worthy?
  • + 3
 A-line is a must ride if you are doing a day in the bike park
  • + 1
 lol
  • + 1
 LOTS is now open to the 1200m point as an out and back and it's spectacular even to that viewpoint. Respect the closure beyond that point. Local bike shops will also be selling a cool Lord of the Squirrels T-Shirt starting about mid-July. A good portion of the proceeds will go directly to WORCA to keep the alpine trail program going strong. So when in town, pop by a local bike shop and grab one.
  • + 2
 How/where will the climbing trail start and it will it end at the intersection of the summit trail and lord of the squirrel?
  • + 1
 @bigwheels87 the climbing trail starts about 200m distance W of the exit of LOTS. It's approx 400m E and 100m lower than the start of the Flank Trail in Function Junction. The climbing trails ends at the intersection of the summit and LOTS - correct.
  • + 1
 Awesome, thanks! It'll probably be on Trailforks by end of summer, eh?
  • + 1
 Damn, looks AMAZING. Can't wait to spin up to the top of Sproatt. So we can expect a full opening of those trails around late July in to August?
  • + 3
 maybe even september...
  • + 2
 I anticipate lord of the squirrels being incredibly busy /popular, for good reason! Rode it once last fall and it's a blast.
  • + 5
 just please don't hike your bike up the trail.. use the climbing trail once the snow clears!
  • + 3
 Actually I don't see huge popularity simply because it is a tough long climb. That type of difficulty will keep traffic down. I have ridden it a couple times and it is amazing. I think it will be popular in the sense that people will want to ride it at least once a season but it won't be like say Business Time where access is much less strenuous but I still rarely see other on it. For example I rode Farout, SCAP, Highside, Hihi, Highline, IBT, microwave climb, Highline, Hihi and Farout back to the car and saw exactly no one else, on a Saturday. In nice temps. I love it. One thing that the bike park has done is reduce traffic on the valley self shuttled trails. And that's a good thing.
  • + 1
 @Someoldfart: Indeed it is!
  • + 1
 @Someoldfart: I'll go ahead and disagree, it will be huge and I'll put a few beers on it, that and we'll also be putting in a mid-elevation connector between ITM and LOTS to allow for shorter loops, hopefully that will be happening this summer too as it was a pet of our original authorization for the first phase of the project. I 100% agree re. Cheakamus loops, awesome times down there!
  • + 1
 @Someoldfart: How long is the climb up there? Did I miss it in the article? I can't wait to ride LOTS this summer...
  • + 1
 @manhattanprjkt83: if I recall correctly it took us about two and a half hours with stops to climb LOTS to where it was at the time complete which was just to the subalpine level. We are good climbers but not cross country racer good. Still snow up high so it won't be fully open for a bit but summer is here, rivers are high and snow is going.
  • + 1
 @Someoldfart: got to the top of 'happy hour' (weather station at peak of Sproatt) in about 3.5 hours, fit riders but not going fast and a cougar encounter along the way haha
  • + 1
 @kevin267: Thanks guys!
  • + 1
 Can't wait to come back.. Lord of the Squirrels looks like its going to be miiiint!!
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