Whistler's 5-Year Plan To Double Their Bike Park

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Whistler's Creek Zone will be the focus of Phase One expansion.Whistler's Creek Zone will be the focus of Phase One expansion. WMBP photo.

When Whistler Mountain Bike Park announced its $345-million 'Renaissance' expansion plan last week, the fact that it would include 31 miles of new trails caught our attention, but details were vague at best. Whistler has now released the specifics of the first phase of a five-year plan, including the number of new trails and what they might look like.

Background

altWhistler's Creekside Gondola opened to bikes for the first time last year. WMBP photo.

It was pretty big news last year when Whistler announced it would open the Creekside Gondola for bike access. The Creekside Gondola base area is the mountain's original ski base area, and opening it to bikes not only gave riders additional parking and access to the bike park, but new terrain to ride. That initially came in the form of two new trails, Dusty's DH and BC's Trail. While an exciting and welcome addition, it was hardly a drop in the bucket compared to Whistler's already impressive nearly 60 trails on 4,946 feet of vert. But it turns out that was merely the prologue.

Early last week, Whistler announced its $345-million 'Renaissance' expansion plan, and after skimming the fine print we found it would ultimately include approximately 31 miles of new downhill trails that will effectively double the size of the existing bike park. The expension will begin at Creekside, which the park has now dubbed "Creek Zone," making it the park's fourth distinct "zone" in addition to the original Fitzsimmons Zone, upper mountain Garbonzo Zone, and the Peak Zone which made headlines in 2012 with the opening of the high-alpine Top of the World trail.

Whistler Renaissance: Phase One

altWhistler calls Creek Zone "the most impressive old growth" on the mountain. Robin O'neill photo.

Timing and final builds are somewhat dependent on various approvals and consultations with entities such as the Canadian Province and the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, but here's what we know about the plan.

With the green light under the Renaissance plan (which is sweeping and effects both summer and winter activities), Brian Finestone and Whistler's bike park team have worked with Gravity Logic, Inc., and Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners to flesh out a five year plan focused solely on the bike park. The first phase of that is focused on expanding the new Creek Zone.

According to Whistler, the plan calls for a mix of technical singletrack and machine-built flow trails through the Creek Zone, an area it calls "the most impressive old-growth forest on Whistler mountain." The plan aims to have the Creek Zone trails accessible not only from the Creekside Gondola, but the Garbonzo Zone, Upper Whistler Gondola and even the Peak chair.

While the terrain is generally steep, the plan proposes a mix of 5 to 10 percent beginner, 60 to 70 percent intermediate and 20 to 35 percent expert terrain.

In order to take on the sweeping scope of the project, Whistler says in addition to its own bike park crew, it will enlist some outside help by, "tapping into the amazing trail building expertise in the Sea to Sky Corridor."

The Trails

altPhase one calls for five new trails in the Creek Zone covering 7 miles. WMBP photo.

Phase One includes five trails totalling more than 7 miles in the Creek Zone, including advanced intermediate (blue) and advanced (black) technical and freeride type trails.

"This mix of trail types will give the zone more diversity, allowing a larger range of riders to be able to access the zone while maintaining the personality and atmosphere that makes Creekside so special," says Whistler.

  • 1 Light Blue Machine Built Freeride Trail
    • 1 Blue Machine Built Freeride Trail
    • 2 Dark Blue Technical Trails
    • 1 Black Technical

  • Trail 1
    Description: Advanced blue machine-built singletrack
    Total length: 1.72 miles
    Average grade: 11.5 degrees

    Trail 2
    Description: Black technical handbuilt singletrack
    Total length: 0.7 miles
    Average grade: 14 degrees

    Trail 3
    Description: Blue machine built singletrack
    Total length: 1.4 miles
    Average grade: 8.4 degrees

    Trail 4
    Description: Blue machine built singletrack
    Total length: 1.6 miles
    Average grade: 8.4 degrees

    Trail 5
    Description: Dark blue excavated singletrack
    Total length: 1.72 miles
    Average grade: 10.2 degrees

    Pending approvals, the first phase could break ground within the year, but no word yet on an estimated completion date. And with just more than 7 of 31 total miles accounted for under this phase of the plan, we can't wait to see what else is in store.

    Whistler Mountain Bike Park opens for the 2016 season May 20. The Creek Zone will operate June 18 through September 18.

    by Don Stefanovich

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