Crankworks Whistler Garbanzo Downhill, 2017

Whistler: A Singletrack Destination Guide

by 0

Best For

Beginner

Intermediate

Expert

If Disney did MTB then Whistler would be the place they put their park. A destination that should be on every MTBrs bucket list. That said it's easy to be overwhelmed by the trails especially as a beginner - There are 8 green trails in the park and some excellent gentle trails around the nearby lakes.

Trail Ratings

Natural/XC

Manmade

Park

While undoubtedly Whistler is famous for its park riding there are hundreds of miles of natural and maintained trails threaded throughout the surrounding forests. The signage is good but a guide is always going to get you to the best options.

Contacts

We use a five star rating system to designate trails in our resort guides. Here are our descriptions of what each means and who it is for.

Trail Type How we define that trail
Natural/XC Trails that are generally outside of designated riding areas and are primarily un marked and require the rider to use their navigation skills. You will need a map for these and expect them to be on mixed use trails, shared with walkers and other trail groups.
Man-Made These are trails that will be way-marked and designated as mountain bike trails, typically found within managed forest areas. You should not need maps to ride these trails and expect as many climbs as descents. The trails will usually be designated as easy, intermediate and expert.
Park Park trails are usually DH trails. Often with uplifts via chairlifts, gondolas or vehicle shuttles. These trails will mostly be pay to play trails and are typical in alpine resorts and resorts in places like BC. Expect trails rated from easy to expert, well marked and often with jump lines and other technical DH features. A full face helmet is often mandatory.
Crankworks Whistler Garbanzo Downhill, 2017

Whistler

Blackcomb

Without doubt, Whistler is one of the most famous MTB destinations on the planet. A resort that sits on more riders’ bucket lists than any other, for sure.

We have visited Whistler on a semi regular basis for almost two decades now and it’s safe to say we have only just scratched the surface of the riding options that exist there – not just in the world class, uplifted MTB park but also outside those boundaries and into the surrounding BC mountains. If you have experienced a ski resort in the summer months in the Alps you will be familiar with the quiet, often deserted and closed feeling of a resort focused on a winter season with only secondary consideration given to mountain bikers. Whistler is nothing like that. The massive vibe of the resort continues through the summer as much as the winter.

The Environment

Rather than rely on accounting tricks like carbon credits, Whistler has invested heavily in on site environmental projects like it’s own hydroelectric generating plant that can output enough energy to power 4000 homes. You can read more about the Whistler approach to sustainability here. This is primarily the reason Singletrack has awarded the Whistler resort a coveted and hard to get Green Star.

Accommodation

Whistler is not renowned for its budget accommodation options, but that said if you avoid the main busy times of the year you can find yourself a surprising bargain.

There are few options for full packaged holidays – instead you need to get adept at searching for flights and accommodation and putting it together yourself. That said there are package options available through companies like British Airways, Last Minute.com and Expedia for those looking for an ATOL protected trip.

Our last trip to Whistler was towards the end of the season in late September. Some of the lifts had closed but the main lift from the foot of Whistler mountain was still running so there was plenty of park riding to be had even at that late stage in the year.

We flew out from Manchester, UK with IcelandAir to Vancouver and stayed for a week at the Pan Pacific Mountainside, one of Whistler’s premier hotels that sits right at the foot of the main lift station. Despite the 4*+ rating the entire package of flights and accommodation cost around £850 per person based on two sharing a standard room. So, deals are there to be found.

Our package was booked 6 months in advance via Lastminute.com so not really very last minute.

For self catering and/or group bookings then have a look at the options for whole Whistler apartments and homes for rent on VRBO. For groups this can be a particularly effective way of reducing the costs, so long as you are happy cohabiting with your mates for a week or more.

Price Points

At the top of the range are hotels like the Fairmont Whistler. Here you will get the full 5* treatment at 5* prices. But despite the high quality rating you should remember that it’s the outdoor lifestyle that drives all the traffic to Whistler and so even the likes of the Fairmont, with its plush rooms and chandeliers is geared up to even look after mountain bikers.

A full bike concierge service is included for all guests which means you can ride in from the mountain to hand your bike over to the service staff who will store it for you ready for the next day.

For considerably less expense a newly opened Pangea Pod Hotel is situated right in the heart of the village (2 mins walk to main lift). You can book yourself into an all new pod room from around £90/night if you book well in advance. Although not exactly bargain basement prices the location and access to the centre of the village is highly desirable.

The Pangea also has bike storage and even a bar.

If budget is tight then consider Creekside for your stay. It’s now really well connected to all the park trails via the newly opened (2023) gondola and there’s a huge amount of trails on the Creekside flank of the mountain. It’s a couple of miles from the village but the accommodation tends to be slightly cheaper.

Creekside Village has it’s own unique vibe and the bars and restaurants there have a different atmosphere to that found in the main Whistler Village. Many of the locals gravitate to Creekside at the end of the day. It’s different. Not better.

Camping and RV park

New for 2023/24

Whistler Olympic Park RV & Campground, a new camping destination in BC’s Sea to Sky Corridor, is located within the iconic Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley, 30 minutes south of Whistler. It provides 39 campsites, with 20 full-service RV sites and 19 unserviced multi-use sites for tenting and smaller recreational vehicles. The campground operates from early summer to fall annually, thereby complementing Winter Olympic Park’s winter offerings as a cross-country skiing and snowshoeing destination and Nordic sport training centre.

For its inaugural season 2023, the campground will be open from June 30 to October 4.

Check out our magazine feature on Whistler from issue 115 of Singletrack World Magazine

Getting there

Direct flights from the UK to Vancouver form part of a daily schedule for Air Canada. There are British Airways options too. Air Canada take boxed up bikes at a fee of CAD$50 each way.

Transfers from Vancouver Airport to Whistler village are mostly handled by two shuttle companies. Skylynx Transfers and Whistler Connection Shuttle. A typical shuttle return fare would be in the region of CAD$75 per person. Transfer time is around 1.5 – 2 hours.

Check out the latest prices on flights to Vancouver here

Bike Hire

You don’t need to take your own bike to Whistler as the hire option choices are excellent. Whistler’s bike park hire fleet is refreshed each year and in 2019 were well spec’d GT Fury bikes. Expect to pay around CAD$100 per day (around £60). High spec rentals for riding outside the park on the wealth of XC trails are also available.

The majority of hotels in Whistler provide secure bike storage.

Check the £/CAD$ exchange rate here

Park Lift Passes

If you wait until you get to Whistler before buying your lift passes you will pay the most expensive rates. For 2023 the high season rates are CAD$ 92 for a day if you buy it at the window on the day you ride. Pre-booked tickets are cheaper and if you are there for 5 days or more the cost drops considerably.

eg.
5 days x $92 = $460
5 day pre-booked ‘EPIC’ pass = $405 (Approx £245)

The Epic passes come with a string of perks including 20% off resort services like rentals and also food on the mountain.

A 10 day EPIC pass = CAD$ 630 (Approx £380) and a full season pass costs CAD$ 875 (Approx £530)

Check online ticket prices here

The Top of The World trail runs from the summit of Whistler down to Creekside. It’s an absolute must do trail if you are up to it. It’s designated as a black run and access to the summit is not included in your lift pass. Top Of The World tickets for 2023 are CAD$24 for a single run.

Carbon neutralise your trip

A roundtrip for two using direct flights on a modern Boeing 777 (Typical BA plane for this route) could be carbon offset for £125 using a genuine carbon offset scheme via AtmosFair

FOOD

Eating out

Whistler is crammed with eating out options and as you’d expect they range from the super pricey in the posh restaurants of the big hotels to the likes of KFC and MacDonalds around the market square.

In between these extremes are a smorgasbord of options, too many to go into detail here. But here’s a few of our recommendations and highlights.

If you are looking for a blow out, high class meal then you don’t have to go much further than the Araxi restaurant in the centre of the village. Despite the sophisticated menu and incredible service levels the atmosphere is far from what you may expect. Instead it’s incredibly welcoming and the staff are exceptionally accommodating, especially when it comes to real world dietary requirements and allergies. Expect to drop around £50+ per person on food. YMMV.

Let’s talk mid level next and if you are a sushi fan then Sushi Village located close to the lifts in the main village is well worth a trip. They don’t take bookings but if you rock up and there’s no tables they’ll take your number and call you when they have room for you. Sitting in a nearby bar for half an hour or so is no real hardship either.

Not feeling the eat out vibe or watching the budget? The Poutine takeaway at the foot of the stairs to Sushi Village is always busy and for good reason. What’s poutine? It’s basically chips and gravy with cheese curds sprinkled on top. It’s a Canadian speciality and somewhat familiar to those of us who live north of Nottingham in the UK.

A hidden row of small cafes sit opposite the Summit Lodge hotel near the market square. They provide a great choice of breakfast options and are well worth checking out.

Peaked Pies is another of our highlights. It’s mostly takeout but with a small seating area. It specialises in pie, peas and mash. Dirty food but good grief! It’s good.

Eating in

There are two main supermarkets in the village. The largest is located on Market square in lower village and there is a smaller one in the upper village. Prices are steep compared to home (UK) and anything you are familiar with from the UK will be uncomfortably spendy. But you can get all the basics and more and save yourself some cash by not eating out and using your kitchenette in your accommodation (If you have one). It’s a handy point to note when choosing where you stay to look for a kitchenette if you don’t plan eating out every night.

Bars and Social Stuff

Our favourite bar is the Mallard located in the Fairmont. It’s always busy and quite pricey but the cocktails are incredible. They also serve food.

The Garibaldi Lift Company bar (or GLC as it’s known locally) has won awards for being one of the best Apres bars in the world. It’s located right next to the main lifts in upper Whistler village and is a great place for drinks and sitting out on the balcony watching the action on the lower mountain as well as the hubbub of the village below.

The Brewhouse, found close to the Olympic Plaza in the Lower Village is an eating out pub but with an excellent bar area. It is part of the High Mountain Brewing Co. and does brew some beer on site.

During the summer there are outdoor events on a regular basis including the outdoor cinema showing films for free in the Olympic Plaza. Live bands are a regular feature in many bars and open spaces.

The Longhorn pub opposite the main village gondola is where the ‘socially active’ gather each afternoon and evening. It’s not shy of being loud and has a distinct party atmosphere. Depending on your tastes you will either love it or avoid it.

CrankWorx was born here and continues to be a massive mid summer event. Parts of the mountain will be closed off for the events but not all areas. This will be the busiest and most expensive time to visit Whistler in the summer but that could very well prove to be well worth it for MTB fans.

Singletrack Whistler Tips

  • Consider adding a few days in Vancouver for a city break at the beginning or end of your trip – it’s a very pretty city with a wealth of shopping, entertainment and dining options.
  • Don’t plan to spend all your riding days in the park or you will miss out on the excellent choice of trails further out. Pemberton and its surrounding trails are world class and well marked.
  • If shredding the park is your main goal then consider not taking your own bike as the rental fleet is excellent and well maintained. The park will batter your bike and will show up any weaknesses in your maintenance.
  • Pre-book your lift passes and even get a some eating out reservations n the bag BEFORE you arrive in resort. Lift tickets will be cheaper and at busy times it can be hard to find an empty table without a booking.
  • Buying an EPIC pass, even if for just the minimum 5 days, is a very good investment over the daily tickets as it comes with a host of other in resort perks, like 20% discounts in on mountain restaurants and rentals. You can add more days to your pass online too.
  • When in resort, follow the Whistler Bike Park lift ops @wbmtnops team on Twitter as it’s the most up-to-date source of lift status information.

Join our mailing list to receive Singletrack editorial wisdom directly in your inbox.

Each newsletter is headed up by an exclusive editorial from our team and includes stories and news you don’t want to miss.

Signing up to our mailing list is not only a great way to keep up-to-date on all things Singletrack but it is also a great, free way to support us.

Sign up to receive awesome editorial content from Hannah every week.

We appreciate how handing over your email address is a mark of your trust in us. Check your inbox for our confirmation email and click the link to activate your newsletter.
We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Check out a previous newsletter here

Whistler Bike Park Trail Map

Our Whistler FAQ

How suitable for beginner mountain bikers is Whistler?

Compared to European and UK trails, Whistler’s trails are a step up in terms of difficulty. While there are green beginner trails in the park they are few by comparison to the tougher grades but are easily tackled by even young children. Outside of the park network there are easy green and blue trails around the local lakes but beyond that the trails are designated red and black. Resort instructors are always available for hire and they cater for all abilities.

Is Whistler all about the park riding?

Undoubtedly the park is what makes Whistler famous but in recent years the resort has worked tirelessly to build, grade and maintain almost 200km of natural trails outside of the town. Some are becoming almost as famous as the trails inside the park – Check out Lord of the Squirrels for example.

Are eMTBs welcome in Whistler?

eMTBs are welcome on most of the trails outside the bike park. Inside the bike park access for all bikes is via lift only so you can’t skip the lift ticket and ride your eMTB to the top of the park trails. Outside the park eMTBs are welcome on most trails with the exception of the marked alpine trails (High altitude trails). Lord of The Squirrels for example, is out of bounds to eMTBs so if you want to hit that you need to power yourself.

How expensive is Whistler?

Riding facilities this good do come at a price. That said the atmosphere in resort is extremely friendly and welcoming despite it’s reputation for exclusivity. In reality there are deals to be had almost all year round for budget conscious travellers – We even scored a stay in the shoulder season for £850pp for a week at a 4* hotel overlooking the lifts, including flights. Shopping and eating out in the village is pricey and there’s definitely a resort premium applied there. But for all the visitors glamming it up in Fairmont Gold for £400/night there are others staying for less than £100 (Pangea Pods) in the heart of the village.

Is Whistler just for DH riders?

No. It has a well earned reputation for being an amazing place for riders who live for the lift assisted, big featured DH trails but there is so much more on offer to all riders. The majority of the lift assisted trails are suited for riders who never leave the ground and each is very well designated and categorised so you know what to expect. But that’s only the trails in the park. Outside the park are over 200km of waymarked XC trails that focus as much on the climbs as the descents. You don’t have to be a full faced DH expert to ride the park so long as you have an intermediate to expert level of riding experience.

Whistler in the news

Whistler opens camping and RV hookup park for MTBers

The world’s most prestigious biking destination becomes accessible to budget conscious travellers Whistler Olympic Park RV & Campground, a new camping destination in BC’s Sea to Sky Corridor, is located…

Singletrack Whistler Video Diaries Episode One – Cream Puff And Bears

Chris Eyres is our man on the ground in Whistler. He lives there. Yes, we hate him for that too. In the winter Chris spends his days snowboarding the twin……

Vancouver to Whistler in 30 minutes via high speed train? There’s a plan for that

Ok, at the moment it’s a ‘proposal’ for a post covid-19 recovery plan for the south BC area and the plan is designed to allow for the affordable expansion in…

Whistler Bike Park Opens | But is it worth the the full ticket price?

Of particular frustration to those of us on the right hand side of the Atlantic as we are pretty much locked out of travelling unimpeded to BC but for those…

Live webcam from Whistler

Whistler Resort Municipality, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, British Columbia, Canada