While time takes a slower turn across North America’s major mountain resorts, there’s one place that continues to shift into overdrive. Just when other places are winding down, the sound of gears cranking resonates through the crisp mountain air. The mountain bike invasion has begun.
Trails take on new form with the innovative designers of the world-class Whistler mountain bike park. Cross-Country bikes need not apply. We are talking hordes of decked out full armored combatants ready to test their skills on some of the burliest trails in the world. Ride up? No thanks, we’ll take the lift. The bull wheels on the Fitzsimmons Express are once again turning and whisking mountain bikers up to more than 1,200 vertical feet of in-your-face, smack talking, hard nosed, those aren’t your momma’s trails for all the dirt bashing enjoyment one can handle.
With the old cliché, “bigger is better” Whistler once again pulls out all the stops with the much anticipated opening of the Garbanzo Express. The additional 2,200 vertical feet will feature a variety of wall rides, signature berms, and hits. Anticipation looms large for opening day on June 26.
Operations in all four seasons dominate the Whistler landscape. Competition for first chair is not just for snow sliders. Bikers get in on the fun as the season’s turn. Closing day at Whistler Mountain on June 6 treated die-hard skiers to numerous skiable chutes in Glacier Bowl holding down a consistent base, droppable cliffs and cornices. While snow was rapidly disappearing underneath the Emerald Express, The Peak Chair was rocking. Curious to check on the conditions inside the Couloir, I made my way through a large boulder field of shale rock to find a wide enough slab to make the cornice drop into the chute. Butterflies hurtled through my stomach when I realized that I could still hit a phat cornice into a technical line- months after other area resorts had shut the doors. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm so I immediately launched the lip toward the snow covered apron below. Feeling my heart beat like that again brought a rush of adrenaline through my body- catapulting me back to the Peak Chair. It was like a drug. I wanted more. I needed more.
Lap after lap exploring the various entrances into the Glacier Couloir and Cirque, I grew bold and ventured toward a more rotten, exposed Exhilaration. Snow lines had definitely receded since my last trip to this hanging wall of snow back in February. Pointed rocks, holes, and avalanche debris lay scattered amongst what seemed like an outright obstacle course. I checked my line and decided that it was time for a little mini-golf. I hopped off the opposing cornice and landed square inside the first chute.
Plans were coming together. I thrust my skis into a few power turns toward the next snow lined patches to my forward right, but felt the momentum overtake me. “Oh, Crap!” I thought to myself. The front shovel of my right ski had sunk into a thick wedge of sludge. I knew I was going down- there was no way out of fighting this exit. Luckily, I had planned a few ditch lines in case I found some trouble so I was able to cartwheel in between the rocks- finding my way through the widest gap of densely covered spring slush. My t-shirt came untucked from my jacket and I woke up with a bit of a 7/11 slurpee scraped down my back. Ouch! That friggin felt like the nice caress of sandpaper. Ah, but it was definitely worth it- One more quality digger for the season. What started out as a day with freezing rain and sleet turned into a well protected bluebird adrenaline fest. On my way down the Whistler Gondola, I couldn’t help but notice the large après gathering at the Longhorn Pub. Oddly enough, with no snow on the ground and surrounded by mountain bikers, skiers and snowboarders, it felt just right. That first sip of cold Kokannee tasted like a bit of Heaven.
But Heaven will have to wait. Whistler Blackcomb, North America’s largest winter playground, recently announced plans for the most ambitious expansion in Whistler Mountain history. Plans call for adding an additional 1100 acres of Peak to Creek skiing and an unrivaled in-bounds backcountry experience on adjacent Flute Bowl.
The long-awaited opening of the Peak to Creek trails will allow both intermediate and expert skiers the opportunity to ski more than 5,000 vertical feet to the newly redeveloped Creekside, a family-friendly pedestrian only village with shops, restaurants, and hotels.
When all the new improvements are completed, a whopping $14.2 million dollars (CDN) will be invested. As Whistler residents will attest, it’s all about progression. Stuart Rempel, VP, Marketing and Sales, agrees. “We’re all about creating unforgettable memories for everyone that comes to play on our world class mountains.”