Riders Retreat diaries: Faced with the prospect of having to leave Morzine … Paul decided to delay a trip home to rainy Blighty with a stop off in Whistler. Here’s his latest update!
The season in Whistler runs for longer than it does in Morzine, so this year I decided that it was high time I made the trip across the pond to see what all the fuss was about. Something that’s been on the cards for years, but for one reason or another never came to fruition.
I was pretty set with the idea of comparing Whistler to Morzine and trying to decide which was better; an oft repeated forum argument. It’s no surprise that these arguments go on and on as they really are two very different places.
If pushed for a comparison I would say that Morzine/Portes du Soleil is like a true mountain biking paradise with a sense of adventure of exploring the trails over the whole area and from valley to valley. Whistler is more like a theme park for bikes, buy your ticket and hop on the ride, you get to the bottom and queue again for your next go. That’s not to take anything away from either, they’re both great places and it’s safe to say if you like riding bikes, you’ll like either one.
I was travelling on my own with the vague notion that there were a few people I knew around and about in the area. 48 hours later I’d met or bumped into about half a dozen friends from the bike scene and made about a dozen new friends. I already felt like a local and quite at home – big thanks to all that made that happen, you know who you are. It show’s what a great community mountain biking is that’s full with awesome people.
The Commencal Supreme was well suited to the riding here, as there’s a good mix of pedally tracks, downhill and jump tracks, it never really felt out of place. Most of the downhill riding is directly under one lift though, so there’s not really much need to pedal anywhere here. A full on downhill bike certainly wouldn’t be a disadvantage.
The cross country riding here is also something else, not something I’d really heard about before I’d gotten here. I only managed to get one XC ride done, but if I were to come again I’d definitely pack an XC bike. In fact, I’d be tempted to spend more time doing the XC than the DH as it’s just that good. Make no mistake, it’s not for beginners, the downhills are as tough as anything you’ll find in the park.
Adventure is something that’s missing in Whistler itself, up and down the same bit of the mountain rapidly became tiresome. However, there’s much more to this place than that. Start listening to those in the know and you start hearing about the odd epic track that you can push/ride up to that will blow you away.
There’s a lot more riding in the area than Whistler. Start getting to know the area better and you’ll hear a lot about the surrounding areas like Squamish, Pemberton and Vancouver to name just a few. Most of these aren’t lift serviced, so it’s either a pedal up or a blag in a shuttle truck to the top.
Of these, I only made the trip to Sqauamish which was definitely one of the best days riding I’ve had; good friends, good tracks, good weather, good times. The tracks there are a lot more natural than Whistler Bike Park and you feel a lot more like you are in the mountains than in a town with some tracks. 19th Hole has to be up in the top 5 tracks I’ve ever ridden. Again please!
While I was in Whistler the event of the year took place. Some would say that’s Crankworks. Those in the know would agree that it’s MEGA TRAIN! Organised on rumour and the power of Facebook, 135 people turned up to ride down Whistlers infamous A-Line trail in one continuous train. Not an event to be take too seriously, the smiles on everyone’s faces and the plethora of high-fives at the bottom showed that those that took part had a great time being part of it. Go to our Facebook group to see a couple of videos from the day.
I’ll definitely be back to Whistler and soon. Perhaps with Riders Retreat…?? Who knows. Until the next adventure it’s back to the flatlands of the UK to shop for motocross bikes and see friends and family.
You can also keep up with the latest news from the Riders Retreat camp on their Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/ridersretreat) or Twitter (@ridersretreat).