Whistler's bike trails include Kill Me Thrill Me and Whip Me Snip Me.
As I watched a mob of gonzo cyclists careen down the slopes of Whistler Mountain Bike Park last summer, I feared I'd stumbled into a Mad Max movie.
A swarm of heavily armored bikers bobbed and swerved over a dusty swath of dirt moguls that had been built into the lower slope. They caught air, then crashed to earth again on their solidly suspended two-wheeled steeds. At the base of the mountain, in the broad cobblestone plaza of Whistler Village that marks the entrance to the park, riders encased in visored helmets and molded body armor popped wheelies, chatted with buddies, and queued up to board a retrofitted ski lift that whisked them—and their bikes—back to the top for another teeth-chattering descent.
I wanted to drop my rental bike and run. But that would have been a big mistake. Though the park's 63 miles of expert-designed trails and highly engineered terrain have made Whistler the Valhalla of mountain biking and home to an international competition every summer, it's only the start of what makes the mountain and its environs a genuinely delightful biking area for experts and beginners alike.
Beyond bustling Whistler Village (where chalet-style hotels, restaurants, and bike shops bump up against an abundance of physical therapy offices) lies a quiet valley best explored on two wheels. Over the course of a few days, I pedaled through towering stands of cedar and fir and ascended to rocky outcrops with panoramic views. I rolled along hewntimber bridges over winding rivers and spied on salmon as they spawned in the shadows below. Bike trails at Whistler skirt five pristine lakes, where bathers both human and canine romped before a backdrop of 7,000-foot mountains capped with snow.
My mud-spattered colleagues may differ with me, but it is this cyclist's firm conviction that there are few greater thrills than pedaling oh-so-slowly through Whistler's level, sun-drappled valley, admiring the soaring peaks from below. Now that's adventure.
Whistler Village has plenty of good bike rental shops, but the selection of high-end bikes and equipment is limited. Serious riders should consider bringing their own bikes and gear. Tire pumps, CamelBak canteens, and emergency repair kits are available for sale, but not for rent.
This article was first published in May 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Note that some parts of Whistler Village will be under minor construction for several years to come as the region gears up to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Whistler Mountain Bike Park will host its annual mountain bike festival, Kokanee CrankWorX, from August 7-15, 2010. The event attracts amateur and pro free-riders from all corners of the globe, as well World Champion downhill racers. For more information on the 2010 festival, visit, www.whistlerblackcomb.com/bike