Destination Showcase: Hidden Thrills in Whistler

Aug 16, 2021 at 10:34
by ben haggar  

HIDDEN THRILLS - WHISTLER
Words / Photography: Ben Haggar
Riders: Braedyn Kozman & Laura Battista
Presented by Tourism Whistler

Whether you’re a Whistler local or are just visiting for a few days, we all have our favourite go to trails - Dark Crystal, A-Line, Howler - this could be a long list in a destination with over 1400km of trails. These are well trodden classics that we know, love, and find safety in. Not in the literal sense of the word, but we are safe in the knowledge that this choice yields the goods each and every time - and that’s why we keep coming back for more. Especially in the fall when the dirt is tacky, temperatures are comfortable, and your riding is at the top of its game.

But what if our trail selection was primarily guided by the drive for a new experience? This mindset could open up a whole world of possibilities. It does take some motivation - a new trail, the drive for a different experience or general curiosity to break free from a tried and tested routine. Unless, the end goal isn’t about riding the (subjectively based) best of the best trails, but is about finding something different and unexpected. This is where Whistler delivers in spades.

Whistler has definitely cultivated the recipe that brews up a consistent smorgasbord of high quality trails. With ingredients like steep coastal terrain, golden dirt and a passionate roster of trail chefs, it’s no surprise that the number of 4-5 star rides are abundant. It’s easy to get lost in deliberation and overwhelmed by choice on this extensive menu. This is where a trust in the builders offers a confidence to try something different.

It’s not only the high quality level of building we’ve come to expect in the mountain bike mecca, it’s the attention to detail. Aesthetics are as important as line choice in crafting the overall experience of the ride. By hiding organic debris removed from the trail bed and replanting moss and ferns, it feels like the trail has been there for years or has just appeared out of thin air. Combine this with retaining a raw and rugged character while imperceptibly armouring high impact sections to be able to handle the number and intensity of riders is an art in balance that Whistler builders have down to a science.

There’s nothing like riding a new trail, but as well, a lot of enjoyment can be garnered from riding something that you haven’t ridden for so long that it actually feels like its a new trail - or in essence what we’re searching for here - a new experience. If you really want to dig deeper into the subtle character of Whistler and taste its unique offerings, you need to branch out further from the well trodden classics and sink your teeth into some of the more obscure delights.

All trails featured here are on the Traditional Territories of the St̓át̓imc Tmicw (St’at’imc), Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w (Squamish), and Lil'wat Nations.

Whistler morning gold
Whistler morning gold

Beginning the climb
Beginning the climb

The viewpoint means pads on and time to lose some elevation
The viewpoint means pads on and time to lose some elevation
Droppin in to Out There
Droppin in to Out There

Whistler North - Out There

Originally the Wedge area was only frequented by those with the steeliest of steel legs heading out to tackle the notoriously steep hike to the alpine paradise of Wedgemount Lake or to ride the meandering cross country test piece - Comfortably Numb. Expansion into the this zone was slow until the creative eye of Tim Haggerty spied the clever mix of steep slabs, intricate technical climbs and a distinctly remote feel which now characterizes the area.

Out There was an instant hit with locals - technically challenging, ample flow and it was something new. With a creative approach, there are sneaky doubles and gaps, slab lines can be ridden in a multitude of different ways and the climbs can be enjoyed instead of feared.


Lots of chances to get the rubber off the ground on the upper half of Out There
Lots of chances to get the rubber off the ground on the upper half of Out There
Dustbowl dance
Dustbowl dance

Braedyn finding his flow
Braedyn finding his flow

Laura taking the wall ride to the limits
Laura taking the wall ride to the limits

Access for Out There is either straight up the gravel road or for a more enjoyable and extended lap, head up the technical North Secret single track climb which adds roughly an extra 2.8 km (compared to the road climb) and will also give you a little old school taste of classic Whistler technical climbing. The expansive views of Rainbow and Cougar mountains across the valley and further north towards the Soo Valley signal the end of the main climb as you begin your descent linking a series of chunky corners and cheeky airs through tight second growth forest. The real beauty of the line begins at the rock slabs which link seamlessly together through punchy climbs and intricate, natural looking rock work. If you don’t have the time to stop and look, take my word for it, these climbs didn’t build themselves and the amount of work that has gone into this masterpiece is extensive, but like any good build - imperceptible.

Close proximity to highway 99 allows for a quick lap if you’re pressed for time or it’s easily combined with a lap of Happiest Days - another Haggerty classic with a very similar feel and difficulty level to Out There. If you’ve still got some juice left in the tank after those, head back up Comfortably Numb and traverse over to Young Lust for some extra vertical and a few more leg burning climbs.

It wouldn t be a Haggerty trail without a bit of climbing
It wouldn't be a Haggerty trail without a bit of climbing

getting techy on it
getting techy on it

The open forest on the lower half of the trail has a sub-alpine feel
The open forest on the lower half of the trail has a sub-alpine feel
Post ride river chill
Post ride river chill

Whistler North mountain biking trails

Nice technical climbing through mature mossy forest - this is Whistler
Nice technical climbing through mature mossy forest - this is Whistler

The Westside - Chipmunk Rebellion

The Westside is home to some of Whistler’s oldest trails and holds classics like Billy Epic, the Danimal trilogy, High Society and Pura Vida. Led by long time Whistler builder Dan Raymond, the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) has put in a lot of work on the Westside in the last few years adding much needed connector trails and diversifying the climbs to access the heart of the trail network.

Chipmunk Rebellion is the welcome extension of Lord of the Squirrels (LOTS). Designed and built by Raymond and the WORCA trail crew, Chipmunk maximizes the low angle terrain squeezing out every last ounce of goodness with swooping corners, playful airs, and short technical sections. Dan’s extensive snowboarding background shows through with his design ethos. Flatter sections are preceded by fast corners or steeper sections allowing you to maintain speed and playfulness which avoids excessive braking or pedalling through the flats. If you can break out of your tunnel vision descent, small touches like intricate rock armouring and excellent drainage speak to the expert craftsmanship that has gone into Chipmunk Rebellion.


Dropping in to the rebellion
Dropping in to the rebellion



Trail expression
Trail expression

Chipmunk holds its own as one of the best blue descents on the Westside. Also, its position below the Flank means that it melts out early (generally mid April - early May) and is suitable for dogs (as a rule of thumb, dogs are not permitted in the more sensitive area and grizzly / black bear habitat above the Flank). If Chipmunk is your main focus, there are a lot of options accessing the Flank and traversing either north or south to the beginning of the trail. A recommended option though is from Alta Lake Road, hopping onto the gravel at the yellow gate at the Westside Powerlines and climbing the freshly detailed Piece of Cake, then south on Danimal Middle, and up Industrial Waste to the Flank. This keeps the climbing mostly technical blue singletrack and leads through beautiful mature mossy forest.

Tons of micro features to get playful on
Tons of micro features to get playful on

One of the chunkier sections to break up all that flow
One of the chunkier sections to break up all that flow

For a short technical outlet - Industrial Disease
For a short technical outlet - Industrial Disease

Westside - Sproatt mountain biking trails

Cheakamus - It's Business Time (Duncan's)

Cheakamus is another outlier slowly garnering more attention and new trails. Recent WORCA volunteer trail nights have seen progress on a new build Flash Back which traverses the interprative forest from the Cheakamus Lake trailhead linking into the main network near High Side. Classic trails in the Cheakamus / Whistler South zone include Kashmir, Kush, AM/PM, Tunnel Vision and Heavy Flow as well as Business Time.

Business Time has been a popular ride since its completion in 2012. Originally designed and partially built by long term Whistler local and ski patroller Duncan MacKenzie, WORCA along with a large number of volunteers took over the completion after Duncan’s tragic passing in 2011. The diversity of terrain and challenges are what makes this ride something special. Despite its proximity to Function Junction, Business Time feels remote as it winds its way along rock faces, past multiple view points and throws in a number of demanding climbs to keep you honest.

The trail is split into two distinct sections with the upper third being less technical with smaller rock rolls and slightly easier climbs with the option to forego the lower section in favour of a connector to AM/PM. The lower two thirds challenge with steeper slabs, more sustained climbs and rooty technical descents and traverses.

When riding Business Time on its own, access is via the steep but generally shaded Lower Microwave Tower Access Road which climbs right from the valley. If you are adding Business Time from the main Cheakamus area, access via Highline, Lower Babylon or by traversing the Microwave tower road from above.

Duncan MacKenzie - Legend
Duncan MacKenzie - Legend

This trail s so hot Braedyn s tires are on fire
This trail's so hot Braedyn's tires are on fire!

Smoke show
Smoke show

Braedyn through the pinch
Braedyn through the pinch

Nice views south towards Mt. Cayley Brandywine and Black Tusk after another leg burning climb
Nice views south towards Mt. Cayley, Brandywine and Black Tusk after another leg burning climb



Laura threading the needle
Laura threading the needle


Tons of line options on the lower section of the trail
Tons of line options on the lower section of the trail

Last rays on Duncan s
Last rays on Duncan's

Whistler South mountain biking trails


One of the added bonus features of Business Time (and Chipmunk Rebellion) is the quick pedal to Coast Mountain Brewing. Established in 2016, Coast has made a name for itself among the already stellar Whistler beer scene as an innovator with more experimental hop forward IPAs and sours, in addition to the usual year round suspects like Crystal Chair Pilsner, Valley Trail Pale Ale and Surveyor IPA. As a rule, keep checking back in as seasonal specialties like the Pakalolo IPA, Bloem Saison, Fruit Snack Blackberry Lime Berliner Weisse are only around for a limited time and are well worth taking advantage of. Just like sampling the new trails - a little taste for experimentation can deliver the most memorable experiences.



Great ambiance on the Coast Mountain patio
Great ambiance on the Coast Mountain patio




Local Knowledge


About Whistler, BC

You’ll find Whistler in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia just two hours north of Vancouver. This legendary resort is an international mountain sports mecca and a down-to-earth mountain town. Two side-by-side mountains spanned by the world-record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola give access to Whistler Blackcomb’s renowned alpine terrain, drawing hikers, skiers and mountain bikers in search of mind-blowing landscapes. At lower elevations, a coastal climate delivers a lush contrast to the volcanic alpine environment.The place teems with life.

In the spring, people continue to ski in the alpine, while hiking, biking and trail running, and other activities start as soon as the trails are clear of snow. Spring also brings longer days to enjoy multiple activities. In summer, Whistler attracts adventurous travellers from around the world. This place is magnetic. From the unmatched alpine landscape and the world’s premier mountain bike park to the endless options of the Village, its diverse offering of rugged West Coast beauty, passionate community and unrivaled selection of refined experiences make every summer day unique.

The legendary flow of the Whistler Bike Park draws mountain bikers from around the world and is the perfect setting for guests to discover the exhilarating pull of gravity on the trail. If you’re looking for adventure at a different speed, breathtaking glacier-fed lakes, lush forests of towering trees and waterfalls are all linked by a network of paved trails, so you can discover Whistler at your own pace. From the deeply intense to the profoundly relaxing, summer is a season of endless choice.

Fall is an ideal time to ride, with moderate temperatures, superb conditions, fewer riders on the trails and great value through off-peak pricing.


Getting There:

Our legendary resort town is just a two-hour drive from Vancouver along the awe-inspiring Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99). It's a short, 120 kilometre (75 mile) drive from Vancouver to Whistler, and one of the most scenic routes in the world.

The Climate:

Whistler enjoys a temperate coastal climate with summers generally sunny with moderate precipitation and an average temperature between 20-25°C (68-77°F). Fall brings cooler temperatures and more precipitation with November as the rainiest month of the year. Beautiful mountain vistas, ancient forests, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and fresh, clean air. Much of what makes Whistler such a unique and memorable destination lies in its awe-inspiring and pristine natural surroundings. The Whistler community cares deeply for the environment and strives to preserve the area's natural beauty during all four of the distinct seasons by taking meaningful steps towards the resort's vision of sustainability.

Bike shop and repairs:

Arbutus Routes
Coastal Culture
Comor
Evolution Whistler
Evo Village Sports
Fanatyk Co
Garbanzo Bike & Bean
Summit Sports
Whistler Bike Co
Fineline Bike Shop
The Fix

Local Mountain Bike Clubs: 

Whistler has everything from easy green trails to endless technical ascents and descents through old-growth rainforest and alpine meadows. Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) is the local non-profit cycling group responsible for maintaining many of Whistler’s mountain bike trails to the highest environmental standard possible, as well as advocating for mountain bike trail access.

Support the Trails

The trail network that exists in Whistler today would not be possible without WORCA, who rely on volunteers and the support of member fees to keep things rolling. Consider coming out to a trail day or supporting their maintenance and construction through a WORCA membership or trail supporter pass on your next visit.

Food and Drink:

Coffee & Breakfast:
Mt Currie Coffee Company
Elements Whistler
Gone Eatery
Purebread
La Cantina (Breakfast at Nesters location)
The Green Moustache
Hundo P Smoothie Bar
Forecast Coffee
Camp Coffee
Cranked Espresso Bar
Alpine Café

Lunch/Apres/Dinner:
Pizza Antico
Hunter Gather
Coast Mountain Brewing

Must Dos:

Biking in Whistler
Whistler Cross-Country Mountain Biking
Whistler Bike Park including Top of the World
PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola and 360 Experience
Scandinave Spa
Ziplining
Vallea Lumina

Bike Friendly Accommodation: 

When you’re serious about riding, you don’t leave your bike just anywhere. Here in the mountains, we know how to take care of our rides, that’s why numerous Whistler hotels offer services that specifically cater to cyclists. Rest easy after a day of riding and know that your bike is as comfortable and safe as you are.

Getting around Whistler: 

Whistler Village is pedestrian only, with restaurants, shops, hotels, chairlifts and other amenities located within walking distance. Other neighbourhoods, lakes and beaches are all connected by the Valley Trail and buses, so getting around Whistler is easy without a vehicle.

With the majority of trails within striking distance of town, you don’t need a car while in Whistler – summer and early fall is the perfect time to explore on two wheels. Rent a bike and ride the Valley Trail, a gentle network of paved, multi-use paths connecting Whistler's neighbourhoods. Stretching 40 km through Whistler’s valley, the Valley Trail connects all neighbourhoods with a paved, accessible and scenic path that’s perfect for biking and sightseeing. With five alpine lakes and numerous parks all within pedalling distance of the Village, the Valley Trail provides days of entertainment and allows you to pedal, paddle and picnic all summer long.

The Sea to Sky Trail is a non-motorized, multi-use trail that runs through the Whistler area. While this is an extensive project and some sections of the trail are not yet complete or still under construction, there are several large sections that are ready to ride. When complete, the 180 km trail will connect Sea to Sky communities from D'Arcy to Squamish. To learn more about the project and plan your ride, please see the Ready to Ride Guide.

Whistler Village: 
Whistler Village is the beating heart of the valley. Here, the energy of a social community is palpable, driven by locals who bring their up-for-anything attitude to every shop, restaurant and sun-soaked patio. The Village is both a jumping-off point for adventure and an epicentre for cultural events and festivals, with something new around every corner.

There’s an endless list of reasons Whistler is a mecca for outdoor lovers and cultured travellers alike. If you have a passion for nature’s dramatic beauty and a thirst for refined experiences, its pull is magnetic. When you come here, you feel it in your soul. There’s a good chance that feeling will have you coming back.



Presented by Tourism Whistler



39 Comments

  • 54 2
 I like the way the article specifically shouted out the builders. Builders are the bedrock of Whistler's biking. Did not expect anything less from Ben Haggars' fine writing.

Also like the way it calls out the climbing. On almost every Whistler trail ( outside the park) there's climbing even in the downhills. Embrace it
  • 60 15
 Please never do this article for Bellingham
  • 9 1
 I hear but seriously, just scratching the surface.
  • 8 9
 All tourism companies should be shut down. Not a single destination that actually needs it anymore.
  • 74 4
 Please never leave Bellingham to ride then
  • 4 3
 @BWildProductions: well said!
  • 10 0
 I'm not local to Whistler, but have already ridden these trails a few times each. I thought these were three of the most popular trails outside the park, could be wrong though. When I am looking in to trails to do outside the park these always seem to pop up. Wouldn't exactly say "hidden" trails so you're probably okay if it does happen. It's like putting Evolution on the "hidden" trails list lol.
  • 4 1
 Well, there wouldn't be an article like this to create for Bellingham trails Wink
  • 6 1
 Please don't mention the word "Bellingham" in comments unless it's in conjunction with words like "sucks", "don't go", "so ugly my eyeballs hurt".
  • 1 0
 @savagefilms: Or for anyone outside the US "Can't go" lol.
  • 4 1
 @piotrek21: exactly. Bentonville is where it’s at.
  • 16 1
 Whistler has so many trails, you rarely ever run into more than a handful of people aside from a select few popular routes. Reading these types of comments you'd expect to run into a traffic jam when mountain biking but that literally never happens outside of the bike park. Mountain biking still is and always will be a pretty niche sport in the grand scheme of things.
  • 4 0
 @bull-dozer: This. With a few exceptions (typically on the weekends) it's rare to run into more than a couple of other riders. Promoting other trails that can take higher traffic loads could help distribute riders a bit more evenly and take pressure off some of the 'top' trails. Plus the community makes it's living based on visitors - localism is overplayed in this context. And there will always, always be the local trails that don't show up in these articles or TF.
  • 2 2
 @hi-dr-nick: lol. that's the dumbest thing that will be written in this thread......unless DCA chimes in, I guess...
  • 2 0
 why would you even say anything at all?? sitll kinda off the map, keep it that way
  • 1 1
 @conoat: quite a few mountain towns have already suspended their tourism divisions for the time being actually, it’s more serious than you might think. But hey continue to think the world is still running the same as it always has…
  • 5 1
 People from the ham need to get over themselves. Enough already.
  • 3 0
 Well.... these trails are all on TrailForks. No secrets exploded here. 99.3% of the visitors are only in the park anyway.
  • 39 0
 That wall ride pic is pretty fantastic.
  • 23 0
 About an inch away from a fairly impressive crash and a broken camera.
  • 19 0
 Wait, there are trails in Whistler other than Dirt Merchant and A-Line?
  • 3 1
 Park for flow...valley trails for tech.
  • 2 0
 @MikeyMT: agreed. I had a buddy visit me in Whistler, so on day one we hit up Stonebridge and finished with river runs through it. The next day we hit the bike park, which gave him the best of what Whistler has to offer. Polished park, and rugged Valley.
  • 3 0
 @MikeyMT: go ride Osin into goats, and tell me there's no tech in the park. lmao
  • 2 3
 @conoat: Go ride The Thing and then tell us that OS and GG are particularly technical in nature. Sure they can be a a bit spicy but assuming you can follow the rock armour they aren't exactly difficult. My 8 year old refers to GG as the short cut to In Deep.
  • 1 1
 @gb8561: lol. nothing particularly technical in nature on Goats?


you are a special kind of PB commenter for sure....
  • 1 0
 @conoat: it's true, at least for original sin. I rode it today. Up until you get to the final rock wall, it's just a great, bumpy trail.
  • 1 0
 @hypa: GG, B.C.'s, Captain Safety, DRC, etc etc etc.


the point here is saying there is no Tech in the park is ludicrious
  • 10 0
 If you're the kind of person who can see masses and masses of black squiggles on Trailforks and not feel compelled to explore them then maybe you best stick with the bike park.
  • 7 0
 Wait, Whistler has mountain biking? Cool.
  • 2 0
 It is a tourism article. Hardly say out there is hidden or obscure… judging by the braiding I’d say it’s pretty well ridden. Should have highlighted happiest days or trails that are less ridden to spread the load.
  • 4 0
 Choose the spicey meat stick!
  • 1 0
 Definitely.
  • 4 1
 High Society, Tree Birds, AC/DC, Cheap Thrills, Butterflies and Flowers.Those are my Westside favourites
  • 3 0
 Article fails to mention you are required to sell your first born child if you wish to live there
  • 1 0
 Just spent a week in Whistler, and I wish I would have hit a few more of these! We did tick off Chipmunk Rebellion on a rainy morning and it was pretty sweet!
  • 1 0
 id like to visit whistler one day, but for now, good old lake and peak district in the uk and a few trips to scotland will have to do!
  • 2 0
 Dang, Whistler actually looks like it would be good.
  • 1 0
 Wait, people think that the trails in and around Bellingham are a secret?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA





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