I’ve been dying to ride Whistler ever since it opened. Face it, everyone has. It matters not whether you prefer the safe perpendicular edges of the concrete jungle or the rush of landing your first X-up on that big double that’s haunted you since you were born. Whistler resort is to riders what Disneyland is to 8 year olds – it’s a fantasy. I was given the chance to stay on Whistler Mountain for a few days before school and jumped on it, not knowing what was going to happen. It started off wonderfully, with Cathay Pacific (I hope you guys are reading this *shakes fist*) losing both my large suitcase and my 6ft long Snowboard case somewhere in the Hong Kong Airport. My girlfriend threw me her brother’s clothes, hooked me up with a good friend of hers, and pointed me in the direction of the mountains (which isn’t too hard to find really…).
Before I could break another Shimano derailleur, I was standing next to the gondolas – surrounded by the largest collection of drool-inducing full sus bikes anyone would ever see. Unfortunately, it was raining pretty hard and the mountain was foggy. But care I did not; I was living my fantasy.
I mention full sus bikes on purpose, because over here, you only have a hardtail if it’s your second bike. There are too many stories of one needing a Dualie to ride the mountain, and I never really thought much of them coming from a trials/street background. On a Stinky, my arms nearly died. The countless stories are true, the trails are ?ber bumpy and unless you take stuff slower than you’d like, swallow your pride and get a damn full sus. This ain’t no Singapore-style DH track, this is the real deal.
The equipment – I was on my friend’s 02/03 Kona Stinky, which in my opinion is quite enough if you flow and pump the trails. If you feel lazy, get or rent a full DH bike and let it drag your lazy ass over the obvious rocks and holes littering the trails. The padding, helmets and bikes rented out by the various shops surrounding the base of the mountain are more than adequate for your joyriding needs, at a modest cost *cough*…
The trails – Here’s what separates the techies from the air-heads, literally. A-Line is the most ridiculously fun trail ever conceived; it flows and the air is incredible and it’s so damn effortless and *cringe* (as seen on TV). B-Line is A-Line, sans the steroids. Schley named after… Schley, is fun, just like dirtmerchant. As for all the other trails, I was having too much of a good time to remember their names. Describe what you want to any of the people working on the mountain and they’ll give you a general direction to pedal towards. Rock faces aren’t as hard as they appear to be (considering they were wet as well; just don’t lock your brake), switchbacks are ridiculously technical (Rock! Turn! Rock! Tttuurrnnnnssshhiiitttttt*Tree), I don’t care how good you are or what bike you ride, just wear a ton of damn armour and a full face (pedal meets shin guard = resounding thwap). Berms were quite the experience (tyre don’t you wash out on me please oh please, I’d get run over) and the jumps are incredibly well planned; think about hitting a 10 foot table (they’re all tables so beginners don’t die and can get to work up their confidence), clearing it smoothly then looking at it later wondering how you ever did it. Or when there’s not enough speed on a section, speed bumps are placed there for your pumping pleasure (think clean thoughts.. think clean thoughts…).
A few things worth mentioning:
A-Line – Think air down up air down up air down up air. There’s no other way to describe it, the flow and air is absolutely incredible, even when using a long travel, heavy, two-wheeled monster. One thing leads to another and once you learn to trust your leaning self on the berms, everything works itself amazingly well together.
The Boneyard – I felt like a 4 year old kid that had walked into this oversized playground. The jumps are bigger than anything you’ve ever seen but strangely effortless to air and clear, the berms are absolutely massive and just ridiculously fun, you feel like such a pro railing them its size matches the ego boost. I bailed on my first attempt on the box (air>stoppie>bikeditch>running/jumping>losingleftshoe>pridehurting-cheers-from-liftline) but the second was landed, not without much sketch however. The wallride was difficult in the wet, considering it was… wet. The famous GLC (named after the Garibaldi Lift Company’s bar and grill near it) drop is a lot of fun and easy to land – just don’t bail. Nobody I saw bailed on the lower section of The Boneyard. Why? Because everyone’s watching you from the bottom, and by everyone I mean amazed tourists, fellow bikers on the lift line, and of course, the most potentially dangerous spectators… The really hot chicks.
Everything else – As I said, the trails are all made to suit what you feel like doing. Most of the bigger, more difficult stunts have small footpaths or trails that you can take if you ever decide that ridiculously large stupidly sketchy drop is not worth the laughs you’d receive from your wives/girlfriends if you bail, and/or the never ceasing nagging from your mother *grumble*.
Overall, I rode out of the place with the biggest grin on my face that stayed for ages. Not only does Whistler increase your happy-levels, it also makes you more confident with your abilities in getting lots of air. Drops don’t look so big anymore and gaps aren’t things you only see in movies. Easily money well spent and memories worth the effort.
With Balfa Boy before and another rider with a Giant DH Team, we set out on a sunny, dry day. I was riding on a rented Banshee Scream/Charparal this time. The first Charparal they rented to me had a derailleur failure (for the curious, it wasn’t a SRAM derailleur) but I went back and they gave me another bike straight away with no retorts or questions, clearly shops in the village were dedicated to letting me get the most out of my day. I found the Charparal a nice bike: it was quick and light but way too unstable in the air for trails like A-Line, so I went back and switched it for a Scream. Suddenly I could launch further, air higher, rail berms faster and grin bigger. The Scream is the perfect bike for Whistler; if you can find one or rent one, do it. You’d thank me later.
The day started out by standing behind Richie Schley in the lift-line (gasp) and watching super smooth and styled riders such as Greene hitting the box. Being a drier day, my friends decided to take me on some other trails such as dirt merchant. It was way more technical, full of risky and sketchy drops, complimented only by tons of fun-as-hell step-ups and step-downs. I rode A-Line a bunch of times again (heehee) and Schley trail, which I still find to be a really good mix of technical natural terrain and that oh-so-famous drop at the end. I don’t know whether it’s the presence of mud or my natural love of wet trails, but I preferred Whistler when it was overcast and drizzling. It felt like you were riding natural trails, as opposed to a path cut out in a forest that’s been ridden by literally thousands of people all summer.
Whistler’s an incredible time and if you even get the slightest chance to go, take it as a favour for yourself.
I was in a pretty well-known bike shop called Evolution, which hooked me up with one of their sponsored riders for a photo session for his resum?. 15 years old and sponsored by Specialized and Evolution, Brandon Seminuk is pretty incredible. I didn’t bring my camera whilst riding up the mountain considering I would’ve probably destroyed it, but since today was a dedicated photo session it was all good. The skatepark in Whistler is really sweet and big (as you’d come to expect in North America), with well thought out lines and a wicked bowl. Right next to it is the dirt jumps that you’ve probably seen in countless photos and videos. One is able to ride the Boneyard and some of the last jumps on the lower parts of A-Line without buying a lift ticket, but that means hiking up – a lot. If you feel like spectating for a day though, I recommend grabbing some lunch and taking pictures of people that go past on the jumps. There are some incredible riders happy to show off to you, including 13 year olds pulling off the phattest suicide no-handers you’ve been working towards all your life *grumble (kids these days…)*. I’m sure the pictures are self-explanatory.
-If a faster rider behind you shouts “On your left/right!”, it means he’s passing you on your left/right. It DOES NOT mean YOU move to YOUR left, because that means you two are going to collide and both be in a lot of pain. Respect everyone else and you’ll be respected yourself.
-You’re able to rent helmet cams (the little thin ones that attach to your helmet and record video through most video cameras) at a shop called Summit (which is at the base of the mountain). Are you reading this, Mann?
-When people talk about “The Village”, they mean the Village in Whistler at the base of the mountain. When they say “The City,” it means Vancouver. Locals often make the 2-hour drive to Vancouver to buy their groceries and do shopping because it’s VERY expensive in the Village; and by expensive I mean No-Board-Shorts-Under-70-Canadian-Dollars expensive. I recommend buying all your food and supplies in Vancouver or anywhere-but-Whistler before going.
-On your first ride on many of the trails, try and take the easier line around stunts you’re not too comfortable about. This lets you scope out the jump/drop whilst moving, as many riders get annoyed if you leave your bike further up the trail and walk around to look at stuff. Either that, or you could hope and react fast and hit just about everything; which I did a lot (with the occasional fall).
-It’s recommended to experience the humble B-Line on your very first run, as it gives you a feel of what A-Line and the rest of the trails are like, especially if you’re not experienced with berms and that kind of stuff.
-If you want to ride the skatepark, do it in the morning or when it’s not packed with Skaters that get pissed off. I don’t blame the skaters either: the park is sometimes crowded with 5-year olds on their tricycles swarming the place and crying for their mums… Eaugh.
-Plan your trip well. Don’t show up and hope that there’s a vacant hotel room; there won’t be one.
-Remember that there are tons of other things to do in Whistler during any season (unless your Mum and little Sister ride as well) e.g. Bungee-jumping, sightseeing up the mountain, fishing, ATV, and camping. It’s only the biggest ski-resort in North America.
-Try to resist temptation and not ride your bike in the Village, as there are those who have been slapped with the insane CDN$2000 (that’s two with the three zeros) fine.
-If you want a fun way to learn from the pros (and I mean, The Pros in the industry) and make other friends on the mountain with your ability, take one of the camps. I’ve never been on one but I’ve heard they’re worth the money and time. Riding with Schley and other new like-minded buddies on Whistler, how could it possibly be bad anyway?
Zo? and her parents for taking me for 10 days and getting lift passes.
Her friends (you know who you are) for the awsome photo session and rides.
Summit bike shop for hooking me up with an awsome deal and dealing patiently with my derailleur nonsense.
Evolution bike shop and Brandon Seminuk for the photo session and hoodie.
Esquires coffee house, for all the free coffee and Italian sodas (highly recommended).
Leong for helping with my last minute panic before the photo shoot.
LiOnFiSh for editing this article and making it presentable (and readable).
Finally, you for reading this. If you’d like to send me any comments/critiques/questions, shoot your e-mails to [email protected]