The best trails in Whistler
‘Which do you think are the best runs in Whistler?’
It’s no wonder that they look to me for direction, though – this is the single largest resort in North America, with over 200 trails officially marked on the area map. That’s a lot of skiing! And it’s even more overwhelming when you take into account all the secret descents that can only be found by those lucky enough to have spent a decade or more scouring the intricacies of its labyrinth.
For better or worse I am one such veteran, so I think it’s about time I officially offered up my final word on the matter. That is, until a bunch of new lifts open (there’s always something new in the works round here) and completely changes my mind.
Without further ado, here are my top five descents that you 100% have to ride next time you make the trip to Whistler Blackcomb.
5. Blue Line
The perfect place to find your feet early in the morning, Blue Line is my go-to spot for the majority of the filming we do to create our ALLTRACKS ski technique videos.
Standing at the top, you’re at the highest point on either mountain. The air is wonderfully cold and the perfect corduroy straight after first lift always holds a dry squeak under foot. You couldn’t ask for better conditions if you want to work on your carving.
As you push along the top ridge, 180-degree, panoramic views capture the spectacular Spearhead Range – from Whistler Mountain to Black Tusk – all the way back to the Tantulus. This is a view to rival some of Europe’s best, and is all the inspiration I need begin my day in the ‘office’ (it’s a hard life, eh?).
As you peel off the ridge, Blue Line pitches over and quickly flattens out – the perfect profile for ‘rockstar’ turns – before getting very steep, very quickly. This is where I encounter my first real challenge for the day.
Am I able to hold this turn shape as I accelerate? Am I able to maintain concentration as the deafening roar of wind hitting my helmet enters my ears? Am I able to align my body to withstand anywhere between 2 and 4Gs of force now acting upon it?
If the answer to the above is still ‘yes’ for the remaining 3km rolling out in front of me, then I know I’m in for a killer day. Because it means I’m on!
With over 10 meters of annual snowfall, there are many days which don’t grant the opportunity to warm up on perfect corduroy. There a some days, in fact, which lead to a warm up which looks more like a frantic pole push from the top of first chair to wherever I sense the overnight show to have settled the most.
These are the days on which run choice is critical because you know you’re being looked at by other riders (friends not excluded) not as a fellow skier, but as a competitor.
When that happens, more often than not I find myself heading for a mid-mountain run on Blackcomb called Staircase. If entered from the north side, it begins with a nice little chute through the trees and then quickly opens up into a wide field of snow-covered moguls.
On big days they’ll appear to be gentle humps beneath a thick white blanket – but to me they represent the opportunity for multiple, consecutive and major face shots.
3. Gun Barrels
The cuts in the outer ridge of Harmony Bowl represent three of the best circuits on days which have received anything above 10cm of fresh snow. Although these runs take no more than four minutes to reach from atop the Harmony Express, they rarely attract a lot of traffic and I’ll often find fresh lines here well into the afternoon of any given powder day – or even the day after.
The steep entrance from the cat track above gives a sense of freefall as you move into the well-planned chutes below. ‘Well-planned’ because they’re cut just narrow enough to give you a sense of tree skiing, and just wide enough to give you the necessary space to move around, play with terrain and do all the other things that freeskiing in deep snow should be about.
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There are many other runs on Whistler Mountain that could have made this list, but for consistently offering up killer lines on powder days, the Gun Barrels have prevailed.
2. Lakeside Bowl
If you’ve never tried heli-skiing, let me tell you that notwithstanding the enormous carbon footprint you’ve left by the end of your day (along with an ironic implication for our sport), there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being placed deep in the backcountry, confronted with nothing but fields of fresh snow.
It’s a feeling so addictive that skiers and boarders alike often suffer from heli-ski withdrawal once they return from a day with Whistler Heliskiing.
To help soften this effect, I recommend a day on Blackcomb Mountain including several laps on a run called Lakeside Bowl. You’ll experience several of the same elements of euphoria normally reserved to those able to go heli-skiing.
Genuine backcountry feel – check. Endless fields of fresh powder – check. Optional cornice drops, cliffs and rollers – check.
The opportunity to shout at the top of your lungs ‘THAT WAS THE BEST RUN OF MY ENTIRE LIFE’ and genuinely mean it? Check!
Is it any wonder Lakeside Bowl makes my top two?
1. And The Winner Is…
It wasn’t even close. It was simply impossible to look past Surf’s Up when considering my number one pick, for on any given day this run holds the highest quality snow to be found anywhere on both mountains.
I should mention however, this trail is not for the faint hearted as its fall away prelude offers considerable exposure to a band of cliffs which hold a firm ‘no returns’ policy, if you catch my drift.
Once you carefully navigate its precarious entrance, Surf’s Up reveals itself to be a classic couloir, offering room enough for one pair of sideways skis (plus or minus an inch or so). This is where you’ll need to make a decision: chicken out and sideslip your way down, or man up and stamp your authority on this run by stomping out a few jump turns.
Either way, once you exit the chute you’ll be met with a steep, wide and slightly convex roll consisting of some of the finest snow known to mankind. Enjoy the next 20 turns or so, and once you finally reach the flats, be sure to look back for an awe-inspiring view of this great run, as well as the signature you’ve just etched upon it.
So let us know if you agree, or which your favourite runs in Whistler are….