Learn to Mountain Bike on Whistler Mountain
Mountain biking in Whistler is a way of life – once the skis and snowboards are put away, everyone is on their bike enjoying the local trails with friends. Whistler may be known for our epic winters, but there’s a reason why seasonal visitors end up staying around for the summer. Think warm summer days biking in the mountains followed by an afternoon at the lake or on one of Whistler’s many outdoor patios enjoying an ice cold beverage.
Never been mountain biking before? No problem. So long as you know how to ride a bicycle, certified instructors can teach you the ins and outs of mountain biking. Sure you can take mountain biking lessons Vancouver, but why not make the 90 minute drive to the mountain biking mecca of Whistler?
Intro to Mountain Biking in Whistler
As soon as the snow melts in the Valley, the mountain bikers emerge from winter’s grasp to enjoy the plentiful and diverse trail network in Whistler. It’s far from a bandwagon and more of a way of life in Whistler in the summertime. While it may seem intimidating at first, shops in town offer rentals, private mountain bike lessons, and guidance to get you started on your mountain bike journey.
Here are more tips to get you on the bike in Whistler and enjoying our favourite summer pastime.
What is Mountain Biking Season?
Mountain biking season starts in April and runs until October – that’s one long season! Die-hards and those with bikes equipped for the snow will ride bikes year-round or even take their adventures south to Squamish or Vancouver’s North Shore.
Expect snow at higher levels until June or July. You may also run into friendly WORCA (Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association) volunteers working hard to get the trails ready for a busy season. The Whistler Bike Park opens mid-May which offers the unique experience of downhill skiing and downhill mountain biking on WhistlerBlackcomb all in the same day!
What Gear do You Need?
Depending on the style of mountain biking you’re looking to do, a downhill bike may be suitable to those looking to spend all summer in the lift-accessed Bike Park. Otherwise, an all-mountain or trail bike if you’re looking to do more pedalling and exploring Whistler’s vast trail network.
A full-face helmet is required for the Bike Park, whereas a half-lid works for cross-country riding.
Protection is highly recommended when learning to mountain bike, which includes knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves. Goggles also protect your eyes from dirt and branches.
No need to spend a ton of money on clothing when you’re starting out – simply wear clothing that’s stretchy and comfortable for working out in. Long sleeved t-shirts, shorts, or leggings will get you on your way until you gradually start accumulating biking gear.
Flat soled shoes will work when you’re starting out – running shoes with an arch won’t grip to the pedals quite like flat shoes and will cause your foot to slip off.
Missing something or want to try before you buy? Consider renting gear to start – mountain biking is a big investment when you add it all up and you want to make sure you like it first.
What do you Mean Cross-Country Biking?
It seems like a strange term – we know what cross-country skiing is, or cross-country running, but cross-country mountain biking? Simply put, it is when your adventures are pedal-powered rather than chairlift-assisted. It can also be called ‘trail riding’ or just straight up ‘biking’ here in Whistler.
There are four distinct cross-country areas in Whistler: Lost Lake, Westside -Sproatt, Cheakamus, and Westside – Rainbow. Each has a mix of green runs (easy), blue runs (intermediate), black runs (difficult), and double black runs (expert) to keep riders progressing and seeking new challenges.
Trails can be found by downloading TrailForks onto your phone, or by grabbing a map or trail book at a bike shop or from Armchair Books in Whistler Village. Even better, hire a mountain bike guide to show you the best trails in Whistler.
What is Whistler Bike Park All About?
The Whistler Bike Park is the number one lift-accessed bike park in the world with seventy expertly-crafted trails spread throughout four distinct mountain zones. It can seem intimidating when you’re at the base watching all the bikers fly down the mountain, but there’s plenty of green runs and practice areas to get you going. Group and private mountain bike lessons are a perfect place to start and so long as you know how to ride a bicycle, they’ll teach you the basics from loading your bike onto the chairlift to conquering corners, rocks, and roots.
Whistler Bike Park lift tickets start from $71 per day for adults, $63 for teens and seniors, and $41 for children. There’s also the option to buy a three-lap Sampler ticket to try it out with the option to upgrade to a full day, or an Extended Play ticket that gets you access from 3:30 PM to 8:00 PM only.
Why It Pays to Take Lessons
Taking a mountain biking lesson in Whistler will not only teach you the fundamentals of the sport but also help prevent injury and keep you from developing bad habits. Group and private mountain bike lessons are available throughout Whistler and in the bike park depending on which style you’d like to focus on. Certified instructors keep things light and fun and will get you hooked on the sport of mountain biking!
Here are some reasons why taking a lesson or hiring a guide will make your mountain biking experience that much better.
Instructors will start things off slowly with the basics of mountain biking such as body positioning, pedalling, and steering on flat ground before heading onto the trail. There’s no ‘jumping into the deep end’ here – they want to ensure you’re fully comfortable, safe, and knowledgeable about what’s ahead. Instructors all carry first aid certifications should you get a bump or bruise.
- Supportive Environment
Instructors want to show you their love of mountain biking in hopes that it will rub off on you too, and they don’t expect perfection right off the bat. They will motivate and inspire, and provide any feedback to get you riding comfortably and most efficiently. It’s an amazing feeling when you’ve been working on a feature or technique all day and you finally nail it – plenty of cheers and high fives all around!
- Qualified Coaches
All instructors are required to complete their Level 1 PMBIA (Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association) – a three-day long course where new instructors learn the tools they need to safely and effectively teach. Instructors can go beyond this and take their level 2 or 3 courses but at a minimum, they will hold their level 1.
- Break Bad Habits
Break bad habits early so they don’t come back to haunt you every time you’re on a bike! Habits such as sitting on your seat when riding downhill, not keeping level pedals, using more than your pointer finger to brake, or not looking ahead at terrain can develop into problems in the long run. Work with an instructor to maintain good habits while on a bike to keep that progression moving upwards.
Tips for the Beginner Hitting the Bike Park
With riders flying down the mountain, wearing all the body armour, and flying over jumps, there’s no doubt that looking up at the bike park can be intimidating if you’re new to the sport (or even new to the park!). Fear not, for mountain bikers are some of the friendliest folks around who just want to ride with their friends and are stoked to see people young and old learning to ride.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your day at the Whistler Bike Park.
- Take a Lesson
Whether it’s your first time on a mountain bike or first time in the park – take a lesson. It’ll teach you bike park etiquette, proper skills, and help you to navigate the trail network. Take an Intro to Bike Park lesson which includes a lesson, lift ticket, and rental for $185 to get you on the right track for your mountain bike journey, or just to try something new while visiting Whistler. Half and full day group lessons are also available for adults, teens, and children. Whatever your skill level, there’s always something new to learn by taking a mountain biking lesson Vancouver.
- Proper Gear
Lift attendants at the Whistler Bike Park will not allow people up the mountain without a proper bike or a full face helmet. Rent all the equipment at one of the many bike shops in town for safety and your own comfort while riding the trails. Make sure to tell staff that you’ll be taking the bike into the bike park – some companies do not allow for their trail or cross-country rentals to be ridden in the park as they can take quite the beating. Gloves, knee pads, and elbow pads must also be worn should you suddenly find yourself off the bike.
- Read the Trails
With Whistler Bike Park’s extensive trail list, where should you start? A handy trail progression scale on the mountain shows the progression from greens to blues, blacks, double blacks, and pro-line trails that you can inch up once you’ve confidently completed a trail.
The signage at the bike park is plentiful and informative, such as telling you the trail name and level, warning of merge points and drops, and small red flags on either side of a jump indicating you could get some air. When in doubt, ask a patroller, lift attendant or fellow rider for advice.
The first step towards learning how to mountain bike is taking the plunge and committing to that first pedal with friends or first lesson. From there, it’s amazing how encouraging friends, coaches, and strangers can be during all your mountain bike “firsts” and how stoked you’ll be to be learning a new sport!
Whether it’s during private mountain bike lessons, guided ride, or a camp, choosing Whistler instead of mountain biking lessons Vancouver will provide a perfect getaway paired with a new skill. It’s a journey, not a race – come to Whistler and hop on a mountain bike today!