North American Bike Park Review Tour
WHISTLER BIKE PARK
It’s impossible to talk mountain bike destinations without bringing up Whistler Bike Park. It’s countless appearances in videos, photographs and magazines have given this park a legendary, even mythical status. If you’re a mountain biker who hasn’t been here yet, chances are, it’s on your bucket list. There is no denying this park has been our favorite for over a decade and we’ve even tried living out of the back of our van there more than once…But does Whistler still deserve its legendary status or have its glory days faded away as lines, prices and braking bumps increase. Find out how the world famous Whistler Bike Park stacks up against the competition and check out our tips to help plan your next or first trip to this mountain bike mecca.
Whistler Bike Park has one of the most developed and extensive trail networks on the planet. The building at this park has truly set the bar and influenced the way most bike parks construct their trails. What makes Whistler’s trails truly unique however, is the combination of topography, soil and weather in the park. Few places have such favorable conditions, the means to make use of them, and the ability to realize it into a rideable bike park.
The mountain is divided into four zones: Fitzsimmons, Garbanzo, Creekside and Top of the World. The Fitzsimmons zone begins in Whistler village and can be accessed via the Gondola or the Fitzsimmons Express. This area has many of the famous trails you’ve seen like A-Line, Schleyer, Clown Shoes and Dirt Merchant. It’s also home to most of the green and blue trails that let riders build their skill and get acclimated to the park. Trails like B-Line and Crank It Up are perfect for warming up with the flow vibes. Too Tight and Ho-Chi-Min are great starter trails for those searching for technical terrain.
From the top of the Fitzsimmons or “Fitz” lift, riders can access the Garbanzo or “Garbo” zone with 2,700 feet of vertical. If you want to seem like you belong, using these abbreviated names will help you fit in with the cool kids in the park. Garbo plays host to a long list of technical and flow/jump trails. You won’t find any greens up in this area, but for riders looking to do a bit more advanced riding, Garbo has some top-notch trails, cooler temperatures and shorter lines. Flow trails like Una Moss offer a great blue warm up before tackling the main course trails like In Too Deep, Freight Train, Goat’s Gully and countless others. If rocky, steep and technical trails are your jam, Garbo alone can keep you busy for the entire trip.
From there, riders can access a new area called Creekside. The new zone is to the spectator’s right as you look up from the main village. Creekside trails present access to new terrain and cheaper lodging away from the main Whistler Village. The Creekside zone has a host of blue trails and a solid selection of technical, rowdy blacks. Because it’s new, and a lower traffic area, trail conditions are similar to old Whistler, meaning you can still find dirt that doesn’t feel like concrete under your tires.
Lift lines are also much shorter than the Fitz zone, especially during peak weekends or events like Crankworx. Standout blue trails include Earth Circus and Insomnia, both of which have a mind-blowing number of berms. If you want to work on your cornering, this is the place to go. For more technical trails, Sabertooth Horse and Delayed Fuse are both must hit standouts.
Another must hit is the Top of the World chair. For an extra $20 you can gain access to this black diamond trail that comes off the top of the mountain. It offers an incredible view of the surrounding area and is something that is worth doing once. The upper alpine section is entirely rock, and quite technical. Once the trail gets back into the trees, riders are greeted with swooping berms, pumps and a great mix of flow and tech. The trail and views from the top are definitely worth the extra cost.
Whistler has one of the most extensive and well built trail networks we’ve ridden in a bike park. You wont find janky corners, poorly constructed trails, or jumps that aren’t predictable in Whistler Bike Park. The building here is seriously top notch, with perfect radius berms, jumps and trails that are amazingly fun to ride no matter the skill level. One area that Whistler particularly excels above the competition is in the construction of jump trails. You’d be hard pressed to find a jump that didn’t have adequate speed or wasn’t built with perfect lips. More importantly, they’re all very predictable and you can guarantee that you’ll clear the next jump if you cleared the previous. That’s not something we can say for most of the other parks we visited this summer.
However, we can’t talk Whistler without discussing brake bumps and trail erosion. In peak season, trails like A-line will have more than 2,000 riders per day! That kind of traffic results in braking bumps, holes and wear that the 42 trail crew employees are constantly combating. On machine-built trails, holes can be filled easily, but on tech trails, it’s harder to remedy the erosion and the inevitable rockiness that ensues after thousands upon thousands of tires have skidded the dirt away. Many of our favorite tech trails have become unrecognizable from what they were a few years ago. If you’re a grumpy sentimentalist like Drew, you’ll probably complain and bring up the good old days when you could still find dirt on the trail. Nevertheless, erosion is a very real issue and trails have changed greatly, some for the better and some for the worse. It’s just the price to pay for a growing sport and increasing numbers of riders.