My first day at Whistler Bike Park

Riding Whistler is a bucket list thing for many a mountain biker. And so it was for me. A family road trip in Canada was a great occasion to plan a visit to this Mecca of downhill mountain biking. Arguably where the roots of modern day downhilling lie, Whistler boasts an enormous network of graded trails, from grey, through blue lines of varying difficulty, up to black diamond, double black diamond and red lines for the real pro riders.

I decided to sign-up for a group lesson, and also rented a bike including protective gear and a lift pass for half a day. Signing up for a lesson turned out to be a great and easy way to learn the ropes of how a bike park works, what you can expect, find some fitting and cool lines to ride and to meet some new bike buddies. Our instructor was a young local, a bit too shy to really teach us a lot, but just following his line down trails with names like Ninja Cougar, Karate Monkey, The Heart of Darkness and Samurai Pizzacat, trying to match his speed already taught me a lot. My favourite lines, the most flowy, jumpy fast ones were Blue Velvet and Crank it Up. I did need jumping skills, which I was there to train as well, but there were no gap jumps so it was fun and safe to try to get ever more height and dial my landings ever better.

In short, the most fun on a bike I have ever had.

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Whistler is all quality

The whole logistics of the thing is managed so well if you count out the long lines (especially when there was slight IT snafu disabling all the computer systems of the park for over an hour). I had booked in advance, my bike was adapted to the size I needed, with the back brake on the right handle, the GT Fury was a great quality bike, the IXS protective gear including the full face mask helmet was up to par (and necessary, I had a slight sideways slip and bashed the side of my face to the ground).

The ski lifts have been modified to carry four bikes up at a time and then the four riders of those bikes after that. Staff on the upper station take the bikes off the lift and hand them to you so you can bomb away. Easy peasy smoothy well done.

Am I good enough?

I would advise anybody to go to Whistler, regardless of skill level. Sure the best riders in the world come to Whistler to test their mettle, and there are many double black diamond runs that are not for the average mountain biker, but there is a line for everybody. And it gives so much opportunity to advance your skill in your own tempo.

The only regret I had was only having half a day available to go biking. After four hours I was physically quite tired, but after lunch, I could have gone up again, had I had the time. If you haven’t done down hilling before, it is really tiring and you need some full body strength to carry you through the day. So planning a number of half day sessions would also be smart, making sure you are fresh on your bike every day. Because every meter deserves to be enjoyed to the fullest!

And next time I am there I will also do the “Top of the world” single track line that boasts a 5000ft vertical drop to the valley floor. I wanted to do that as well but decided against it because of being so tired. The combination of limited stamina and sensible decision making: a sure and slightly depressing sign of advancing age.

In conclusion, can’t wait to go back to this absolute Walhalla of adrenaline and endless stoke. Thanks Whistler and see you again soon!

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Mark Stokmans
Sinds mijn jongste jeugd ben ik een zeer actief sporter in heel veel verschillende sporten: begonnen met honkbal, tennis en paardrijden later nog hockey, voetbal, hardlopen en aikido. Daarnaast sinds twaalf jaar oud into actionsports: als eerste windsurfen, later klimmen, skaten, snowboarden, mountainbiken. Gek ook op video's maken van action sports. Verder al sinds 1990 werkzaam in de sport, en sportmarketing eerste bij de Judobond en tot eind 2016 bij NOC*NSF. Naast GearLimits in het dagelijks leven part-time werkzaam bij digitaal bureau Infocaster.

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