Mountain biking in Canada
I've spent the last two summers in whistler, British Columbia, living with my mate and riding whenever we could, it's the best way I could possibly spend my holidays. The place is just too sick!
By Dave Mitchell
I’ve known about Whistler since I first started mountain biking around ten years ago, even back then it was the number one bike park in the world. Over the years it’s managed to earn itself quite a reputation, known in the summer for its flat out and dusty trails and in the winter for its massive snowy powder days.
How long does each season last?
Each of my seasons have lasted around twelve weeks. The summer season lasts for a whole six months with the lift being open from May until October.
Funding the trip
Your time in Whistler will be spent doing three main activities, smashing laps out in the bike park, getting involved in the ‘apres’ side of the town, and then working to fund these two expensive pursuits. Finding work in Whistler is relatively easy, the town has such a high turnover of people in and out that there are always job vacancies coming up. I worked as a ‘food runner’ in a bar in the centre of town, which enabled me to scrape by and enjoy the main reason I was there, the mountain.
I think my favourite part of the season was whenever we headed out of the town and pedalled off to find the trails in the ‘other’ Whistler. Riding out of the designated boundaries of the bike park gave you a new view of the mountain and its surroundings.
Once you get out of the hustle and bustle of the town you realise where Whistler actually is – it’s an oasis in the middle of acres and acres of wild and untouched forest, and only by pedalling up onto the trails on the other side of the valley can you really see this. It’s a view of the town that most people won’t see and it was great to be able to get out and away from the controlled environment of the town and the park and to get a feel of what real Canada was like.
Whistler is all about the people, there’s simply nowhere better to go and meet new mates. Riding there is so sociable, if you head out on your own you will usually end up cycling down the hill in a good sized crew, made up of old and new friends you just met.
My time in Whistler has given me friends in countries all over the world. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you go with, or how you ride, you will inevitably come back from Canada with a whole new group of friends.
The only downside to Whistler is the injuries, everyone is pushing it and people do get hurt. Watching someone get stretchered off the mountain after you find them creased up on a trail is no fun. Injury is a risk we all know is there, but you only really enjoy yourself when you’re riding right on the edge, so you just have to put it out of your mind and keep shredding!
Within mountain biking, it’s often joked that doing a season will wreck your life, and this is no lie. Be warned, when you decide to go on a season you will have such an amazing time that you will forever be planning your life around when your next one is going to be.
If I had a top three tips to doing a summer season away, they would be:
- Get it sorted early! This means visa, housing, travel, and lift passes. The longer you leave it the more expensive it gets and the less likely you will get that important visa or decent house.
- Each day of the season should be lived like it’s your last! Any spare minute you get you should be on the lift heading up for another run down, pedalling off into the unknown to find new trail, or getting drunk with your mates.
- Make sure you don’t head end up just working instead of biking. This is a common trap many fall into in Whistler, and it is important to remember why you went there in the first place; the hill. Work as little as you can, scrape by in your super economy flat, spend whatever money you earn on keeping your bikes rolling and yourself full of food and beer.