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Event

Whistler Bike Park Opening Day 2020

Words Tim Coleman
Photos Tim Coleman
Date Jun 30, 2020
Reading time

Every year I eagerly await Whistmas, one of my favourite days of the year. This is the day that the Fitzsimmons Chair roars back to life in the spring, spreading cheer through the woods of Whistler Mountain. I am an avid fan of the Whistler Bike Park. I've spent hundreds of days on the trails, almost always with a stupid grin plastered all over my face. But this year has been different, hasn't it? 2020 has been a real son of a diddly, and due to the COVID-19 virus, Whistmas was postponed. Then, just a week or so ago Whistler announced it would be opening on June 29th. FREAK OUT! But then the rumours started flying. You're going to have to book a 4-hour window to ride, like booking a tee time. You're not going to be able to ride with buddies. There won't be any jump trails. Nightmares. So I'm here to report on Whistmas 2020, to tell what is actually happening in Whistler today.

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Ready for the Whistmas 2020 Mask Party.

Better late than never, right? I got to the bottom of the lift at about 9:15 am, which was 45 minutes before the lifts were due to start running. I'm not going to lie, as an opening day it felt a bit strange. There were folks eagerly waiting the first chair, but the energy was muted. The big SRAM booth isn't here, and there is no pump up music blaring out across the plaza. I wandered to the front of the line to see who'd be camped out for first chair.

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The line at 9:15 am Whistmas 2020. Is that guy Longhorn carnage, or prepping for first chair? I went to find out.

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Turns out Caden and Benny had been camped out since 7:30 last night. Legends!

As the time approached 10 am, and the lifts started turning, the energy increased. The first riders came down Lower A-Line to cheers from the plaza. The berms were buffed, and the first tracks were laid. Whistler Bike Park 2020 was officially under way.

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Early wird gets the burm.

Lift Lines

The line to get tickets was probably the worst. Whistler has limited staff to sell tickets. Your best option is to buy tickets online. This won't greatly improve your wait, but if everyone buys their tickets online it'll substantially reduce the time to service each customer. So for the greater good, please purchase your tickets online before getting to the bike park. It only takes a couple minutes, and you can even fill out the waiver.

Lift lines peaked at a 20-minute wait for the Fitz chair, and no wait all day for Garbo. By the afternoon, the lines for the Fitz chair had subsided to a 10-minute wait. Creekside and Peak chair are not running. From chatting with some of the hosts the official word is Creekside Gondola and Peak Chair won't open this year, they simply don't have the staff. But the bike park is trying its best to open those chairs. It's hard to gauge how lines will be given it was a gorgeous day today, opening day, but also a working Monday.

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When have we ever seen...

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...these corners in such good condition?

Whistler Bike Park Trails Status

Trails-wise, everything is open except black and double black jump trails. So no Freight Train (pouting), no Crab Apple (sniffles), no A-Line (tears), and no Dirt Merchant (sobbing). Consolation prizes are that Dwayne Johnson and Lower A-line are open (thank you!). These trails are known to produce the most serious injuries, and Whistler has decided to gradually open them. Some folks have been critical saying that the hospital is empty, so this reason is bunk. But put yourself in a bike park patroller's shoes. There will be new protocols and policies for dealing with injured riders on the hill, and I think a staged approach to work out those protocols isn't a bad idea. This also aligns with the provinces gradual reintroduction of risk. I'm as gutted as everyone else, but I think we just need to be patient. That aside, the trails that are open are incredible. Some of the best conditions I've ridden in the bike park. Almost all the trails have been touched up and the dirt is best described as HERO.

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First thing this morning and already someone was being helped off the mountain. Thank you to the bike park patrollers for the amazing job you do!

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A ton of work has been done, and is being done on the trails in the bike park. The Family Cross was being built today before our eyes.

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From a procedures perspective Whistler / Vail have done a great job. Even the bike wash has been thought out. Spraying that jerk that cut you off will be harder this year.


What is open, is incredible. Some of the best conditions I've ridden in the bike park. Almost all the trails have been touched up and the dirt is best described as HERO.

Relics

Maybe it's because we're always riding fancy new bikes, but what turns my head these days is cool old bikes. I love old bikes, and for some reason you always see some wonderful relics turn up to the bike park. We rarely see stuff like this on the local trails. So the bike park line is like game watching for me, and here are some of my favourites:

Mask Game

Who wore it best!? I went with the gucci, coffee shop spec, reusable cotton jobby. Whistler was handing out surgical types. Some pulled out ski masks. Others went with the buff. What would your mask setup be? I'm not convinced on the best solution, so please comment on your preferred solution in the comments. What I will say is pulling the mask off at the top, and taking that first breath of fresh mountain air is extra good ... like really good. Bring a fun mask up with you and sport some style. It's fun checking out everyone's mouth covering solutions in the line.

Pricing

From looking at online discussions, to chats with friends the pricing for the bike park this year has been .... errrr ... contentious. The price for a season pass is the same this year as last year, and day tickets are now $80. Given that less of the park is open, for shorter hours, and with 7 weeks of the season missing, some folks were expecting discounted prices. That seems like reasonable logic, until you put yourself in Whistler's shoes. Whistler / Vail have had to spend a ton of time and effort working out COVID protocols and policies. On top of that Whistler is struggling to find staff, in and out of the bike park. But yet the bike park wants to offer as good a product as years previous. Having a number of folks integral with the bike park I don't get the sense that the pricing is a money grab in any way. The people running the bike park are passionate about the bike park, and excited for it to open. To drive this point there is no active marketing for the bike park at the moment, they're wanting to open the bike park because they know how important it is to the local community. Is it expensive? Absolutely. But there is no other place I'd rather ride a bike. Folks easily spend $100 a day to go skiing, for the same numbers of hours, and I'd argue the Whistler Bike Park is more fun!

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What a beautiful place, on a gorgeous day. And there is no better place to put the Slayer through its paces. Look for a review on the Slayer coming soon.

Pro Tips

Lift Tickets: buy online, and try to get to the ticket line as early as possible. It'll be a long wait at 10 am.

Get there early: especially if you're buying a day ticket. Ticket line opens at 9am. Get your ticket, have a coffee, and get some runs in early.

Bring a rad mask: and hopefully cut down on the disposable waste of the one time use masks.

Water: I couldn't find any water fountains on the hill or at the bottom of the lift. So bring a water bottle, you can fill up at the top and bottom, and stay hydrated.

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Yeah bro!

All said it just feels really good to ride a chair lift, and ride these trails with some friends. The masks are a bit weird at first, but I quickly got used to mine. The tan lines are going to be wild this year! The limited trails is a bummer, but Whistler is working to open everything as quickly as possible. While Whistmas 2020 won't go down as the best ever, I had a ton of fun today.

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Comments

agleck7
+1 Tim Coleman
Agleck7  - June 30, 2020, 10:51 a.m.

Thanks for the on the ground reporting.  Had my first whistler trip planned for this summer, but not feeling hopeful about the border being open.  Still nice to get a sense of what's going on there.

Reply

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - June 30, 2020, 11:33 a.m.

You're welcome. I saw so many unanswered questions and speculation, I was compelled to see what was going on, and report back!

Reply

Kieran
0
Kieran  - June 30, 2020, 2:06 p.m.

Thanks Tim. Maybe I will make a trip this year. My main beef with the pricing is that if COVID disappeared tomorrow and all was back to normal I'd bet that the prices would remain the same.

Do you know if the sampler pass is still available? It was a staple in my family with younger kids and wife wanting to ride but not for the whole day.

Reply

Timmigrant
+1 Kieran
Tim Coleman  - July 1, 2020, 1:58 a.m.

@kieran that is a great question. There was a three lap sampler ticket on the website not long ago, but I can't see one now. You'd be best to call Whistler Blackcomb and ask if that option still exists. I personally loved the three lap sampler to get a vertical bump, ride some things out of the bike park, ride some valley trails, and then return to the village for a lap or two in the Fits zone.

Reply

DanL
0
DanL  - June 30, 2020, 6:23 p.m.

Did you have to fill out waivers in-person or can they be done online with ticket purchases?

Reply

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - July 1, 2020, 1:54 a.m.

I believe you can do them online, which will save time at the ticket booth. Both are possible, but if everyone does them online much time will be saved for all.

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