As Dorothy Gale puts it in The Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home.
I love Whistler’s trails, mountains and riding community, and choosing a favorite trail is like being asked to pick your favorite song—it’s dependent on mood, condition and company. Luckily in Whistler, there’s one hell of a set list from which to choose.
Micro Climate is one of the valley’s newest classics. This past summer it was adopted by Whistler Blackcomb and was a leg of the Enduro World Series Crankworx, but as recently as two years ago it was a mischievous, whispered secret. Dumping down the slopes of Blackcomb Mountain, Dave Anderson and Paul Stevens envisioned Micro Climate during the winter, imagining a ribbon of loam through the then-snow-covered forest. When summer came, the two rogue builders labored in secret, digging through Whistler’s notorious roots and rocks to create a winding hallway beneath yellow cedar and Douglas fir. It was a trail that could be ridden fast, but still allows appreciation of the stunning surroundings. And the best part? The sound of the nearby river accompanies the whole ride.
Whereas Micro Climate brings a speedy tempo, Cheap Thrills is a rowdy yet carefully plucked sneaker jam. Often overlooked by newschool riders, builder Eric Barrie didn’t waste time getting to Cheap Thrills’ chorus—the slow-speed tech begins immediately after it drops off the Flank Trail on Mount Sproatt, a steep series of rock faces flowing onto a narrow, fall-line ladder bridge over a creek. Miss a beat and you’ll fall 20 feet into the river. From there, it speeds up a bit, with more short, steep rock features into more skinnies, all in a dark, densely canopied forest. It’s the perfect type of terrain for local power couple Yoann Barelli and Katrina Strand, with plenty of spots to get creative and embellish on some of the trickier parts.
And then there’s the lift-accessed power ballad: Top of the World (TOTW), Khyber, Middle of Nowhere and Kashmir. It’s a mashup of world-class trails, new and old sections constructed by an impressive cast of trail builders, that is a gravity-lover’s dream. Top of the World drops from the southwestern ridge of Whistler Peak, and riders are immediately dwarfed by an amphitheater of peaks, glaciers and a hanging alpine lake. This section was initially roughed in by Gravity Logic, before stonemason Ken Melamed was recruited to armor the trail with elegant yet durable rockwork, guaranteeing its statute as a hit you’ll be able to play over and over.
The trail meets up with Khyber Pass as it rolls into the subalpine. Khyber is the original hiking trail used by early settlers to access Whistler Peak, and the wildflowers and meadows make the reasons for their line choice obvious. This piece of history is bracketed by a modern hit, an incredible new loam trail called Middle of Nowhere built by Tim Haggerty to connect to Johnny Barber’s Kashmir. Link it all together, and you have a 5,000-foot descent that leads you directly into Dusty’s Pub for a pint—one hell of a crescendo for possibly the best lap in Whistler.
As another pop-culture icon has said, “If you got it, flaunt it,” and few places in mountain biking “have it” more than here. Whether it’s Micro Climate, Cheap Thrills, TOTW or the countless other classics lining the sides of the valley, it’s pretty much impossible not to do some flaunting in Whistler. It’s just that good.
Cheap Thrills Loop
Top of the World Trail
Micro Climate Loop
The Robin O'Neill Gallery as originally published in The Sea to Sky Photo Book - Freehub Magazine Issue 7.3