In our ongoing "Best Bike Parks" series, we've shown some of the best bike parks from all around the globe – like Skyline in New Zealand and Highland in the United States.
Now, it's time to visit Whistler Mountain Bike Park, the granddaddy of bike parks. Quite simply Whistler offers an unbeatable experience that every mountain bike rider needs to visit at least once in their lives. Here are the 12 reasons why Whistler Bike Park is in a world of its own:
1. Above all others
Katie Holden rides off the 7,165-foot (2,180m) peak of Whistler Mountain, with the iconic fin of Black Tusk in the background. Yes, this is a lift-serviced trail with over 5,000 vertical feet (1,525m) of descent. What other resort can offer that? No one. That's who.
2. It rocks
With all due respect to other mountains, none are as legitimately "big mountain" like Whistler is. This is in the heart of British Columbia's Coast Range, and the terrain reflects the same diversity that brings millions (yes, millions) of skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, hikers and mountain bikers here every year. Everyone else is trying to do what Whistler does naturally: Be awesome. Most fail. Some come close but none match that elusive Whistler equation.
3. It’s mecca
What comes first: the status of being the best or the reasons behind it? Who cares! Whistler is mecca for gravity-loving mountain bikers and it has everything chairlift-junkies need, plus more. The culture of riding is as strong as it gets, and the average rider who lives here is probably better than 90 per cent of the locals at most bike parks around the globe. Of course, they'll probably tell you that, too...
Sound of Speed: Kade Edwards and Kaos Seagrave in Whistler
Young pretenders Kade Edwards and Kaos Seagrave go huge on the legendary Dirt Merchant trail at Whistler Bike Park.
4. You can get away from it all
Despite what you've heard about Whistler being busy (it is) and expensive (it totally is), the options for those who don't want to race with the rest of the rats are multiple. First off, much of the upper mountain is empty of park rats, who tend to stick to the more bermy, BMX-influenced trails of the lower mountain than the burly top section of the mountain.
Second: Beyond the bike park are more freeriding choices than you can imagine, from newbie to gnarly. Save money and elbow-bumping by taking a day off from the park. Third: A ticket at Whistler Mountain Bike Park buys you all the vertical your forearms can handle, so it's up to you to be as ready as you can be to shred every last dime out of that pass. Hint: You'll be tired before the lifts stop.
5. Crankworx, ’nuff said
It's mountain biking's biggest festival ... anywhere. It's fun as hell. It's inclusive. And it's been happening since 2004. It's where Joyridehappens. It's where the Air DH race happens. And it's where Brandon Semenuk rules like a deity among mere mortals. If you haven't been, go next year. No excuses.
6. Wide-open rippers
If you don't know already, Whistler Mountain Bike Park is built on the slopes of their ski resort. In the summer, the cleared ski runs turn into grassy, wide-open sections of trail populated with bears, gawking tourists and rental bike-riding men and women of every kind. It's heaven.
7. Gnarly terrain
Of course, not all trails are built on the ski runs. Many are cut out from the wilderness between trails. These are the sheltered sections of singletrack where berms, jumps, stunts and braking ruts gather together to challenge your best instincts. It's in the trees where the real riding occurs. Speaking of trees...
8. Trees, glorious trees
Let's be honest, most of what sets British Columbia apart is the trees. Beautiful, fog-gathering, wood-providing timber rises all around you as you ride Whistler Mountain Bike Park. It's part of what makes Canadian riding so special, and forests are also the reason the Great White North has such great dirt. And Canadian dirt is perfect for...
9. Big, beautiful berms
Everywhere! Every-darn-where! Whistler Mountain Bike Park trail-building crew is a band of merry, grungy heroes moving throughout the forest sculpting perfect berms. And while every bike park has berms, the ones at Whistler are gigantic. And around the corner always lies something special, most notably jumps.
10. Jumps... everywhere
We'd like to know the official count for how many man-made jumps are in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Hundreds? No, it's got to be thousands. Millions? Whatever the answer, it's more than enough for the most air-addicted rider to be satisfied.
11. Always moving forward
The same spirit that got Whistler out in front as one of the first mountain bike parks in the world over 17 years ago is the same reason that keeps it at the front. From trail building to infrastructure, Whistler Mountain Bike Park leads the way. This summer, the park opened the Creekside expansion, including an epic, grandfathered trail known as Ride, Don't Slide. Every year, the park gets bigger, better and burlier.
12. Aprés like you've never seen before...
Forget your dirty, local pub. Whistler knows how to party like you're on vacation, because you are, gosh darn it. The Garibaldi Lift Company, or GLC, is where riders wind down after a day of arm pump, before winding it up again in one of the 90 pubs, bars, restaurants or nightclubs that Whistler can brag about. And just like the lifts, the party in Whistler will go on way longer than you can.