Advice requested: first time in Squamish/Whistler- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Advice requested: first time in Squamish/Whistler

    Ottawa guy here heading out to a business trip in Vancouver on May 27th, thought I'd extend that by a few days to (finally) enjoy the famed BC trails and check one of my bucket list item!

    First off, thanks to all who replied to all of the "planning a trip to BC" threads, these were greatly useful to learn about the trails and about the area.

    I plan to spend a couple of hours on Fromme and I will then be in Squamish for 4 days and 2 days in Whistler.

    I'm an intermediate rider in decent shape (~800km of mtb/summer), riding a base model stump Evo 29er. I don't mind climbing. If that's any indication to any of you out west, I love the flowy trails at Kingdom Trails (VT) and Vallee Bras Du Nord (QC), but most of the time I ride the trails in my backyard (Gatineau Park). So I assume pretty flat compared to BC trails.

    I'm not into DH + I need to minimize my risks (self-employed w/3 kids) so I'll have to avoid most black diamond trails and structures.

    I am mostly looking for amazing scenery and fun trails. Pinkbike's 24hr in Squamish article just blew me away. Pretty sure I don't have the time or skills to do the Disneyland trail, but I thought I'd try Elfin lakes and hope to have similar views.

    Couple of questions:

    1. I thought I'd get a local guide for a half day, but for the other days I was wondering if there are local bike rides organized during the week? Are the trails still busy during weekdays or will it be hours before seeing another human being (I'll ride by myself)?
    2. Do folks generally park at one of the parking lots showing up on trailforks and do a couple of trails, or do most just ride from the bottom of the trails and come back down to town?
    3. How's the wildlife in Squamish? Is it worth bringing bearspray / bell? I've come across plenty of the typical eastern wildlife while mtbing (ants, squirrels, tiny snakes, wild turkeys, deers and moose...), but I'm not really used to dealing with bears or cougars.
    4. Local breweries / after biking favorite spots?
    5. So many trails in whistler - what would be one not to miss? Are Top of the world / Kyber pass open or is there still snow up there? Are these DH trails requiring full armor or can they be biked using an AM bike?
    6. Any river/guide suggestions near Squamish for fly fishing? great scenery>catching fish, I do catch and release.


    Any help would be appreciated. Cheers!

  2. #2
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    Plenty of wildlife in and around North Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler: black bears, cougars (and the occasional grizzly in Squamish), so full critter awareness is important. Often bear spray will just blind the person using it, so it's better to avoid having an encounter that escalates to that level. Watch out for small bear cubs as that means there is a big bear nearby, and they will try and hurt you if you get close to the cubs. Cougars think of bear spray like Sriracha.

    On Fromme a lot of blue trails would be rated black diamond trails if they were in Quebec or VT, as they are more often than not a blue freeride trail not a blue XC trail in the sense that they might rate a trail any where else. The North Shore trails tend to be shorter, steeper and technical, and short on scenery (lots of trees) as they are deep in the woods. Blue North Shore trails may have low wood TTF's (under 2' high), with no bypass and higher features with a bypass or option line. They will often have very technical trail surfaces. A lot of blue trails would benefit from maximizing your body protection (as many BC Bike Race participants might attest to). If it happens to be wet (rain in the forecast for Thursday and Friday this week in North Van and Squamish), bring the stickiest tires you have as you will want good grip on wet roots, rocks and wood bridge decks. These are some scenes from a blue trail.

    Advice requested: first time in Squamish/Whistler-2011_1203new0002.jpg

    Advice requested: first time in Squamish/Whistler-2011_1203new0033.jpg

    Advice requested: first time in Squamish/Whistler-2011_1203new0077.jpg

    Squamish has more flowy trails than the North Shore and more options to loop together longer rides, Fromme will involve a lot of climbs on Mountain Highway to get back up to the trail heads for the descents.

    Whistler Bike Park is showing peak zone trails including Top Of The World as closed because of snow

    What's Open | Whistler Mountain Bike Park

    backed up by the webcams

    Snow Report, Weather, Hours of Operation, Trails & Cams | Whistler Blackcomb
    Last edited by rockyuphill; 05-23-2016 at 10:19 AM.
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  3. #3
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    I'll hit on your specific questions
    1. If it's nice weather there will be plenty of people out on the busier trails. Local rides would be the toonie rides (casual races) in squamish and Whistler, also Monday night rides in Whistler is basically volunteer guides taking groups out. See worca and sorca for details,you'd need to sign up for one of the associations but if you do a couple events could be worth it.
    2. Squamish the popular parking areas are the two first lots on Garibaldi Park Rd (like end of Phil and cam, and bottom of angry midget/Nelson's), end of Perth Rd (not much space, residential area), Alice Lake. Riding from town isn't a big deal either depending where you're coming from. Whistler everything is pretty close you can just ride from where you're staying.
    3. I ride solo without any 'animal protection' with with no worries, the trails are more dangerous than the wildlife. Black bears are wimps, they just run away from you. Cougars and grizzlies are extremely rare. Mosquitoes can be annoying in spring, bug spray isn't a bad idea but I forget it 90% of the time. Ticks are around a bit too.
    4. Whistler has tons of good bars/restaurants,depends on taste and budget, Whistler brewery is out of town a bit and close to lots of fun trails. Squamish I just chow down on mags 99 or the food truck (s) behind Canadian tire, I've heard Howe sound brewery is good, haven't been myself.
    5. Top of the world, Khyber pass are a ways off. With the way you describe your riding I would think twice about kyber pass (and that only gets you half way down, you either descend fire road or ride a couple other tough trails after) it's pretty hard. Suggesting specific trails is tough, I'd say some loop of part of comfortably numb (either the fore play loop or riding it backwards to Jeff's) is fun, riding the whole thing is a pain. The more basic stuff close to the village is a blast (lost lake zappa trails, cut yer bars). Newer trail called 'out there' everyone loves, aptly named because it's a bit of a ways out of town but you could combine it with kill me thrill me before, comfortably numb to Jeff's or something after to make a pretty big day of riding. Highline business time and all that in cheakamus is sweet (near the Whistler brewery too). Renting a DH bike and hitting the park in one of the lesson programs is a good way to make the most of it too, you say you're not into DH but the park has something for everyone, you'll have a blast ticking off the greens and blues, and in the programs learning to corner, jump, etc properly will be rad too.

    Was going to suggest checking out Pemberton especially because it's great there earlier in the year but you don't have much time!

    I don't know anything about fishing haha

  4. #4
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    Thanks so much for all the info! Really appreciate it! Pictures are worth a 1000 trail descriptions! Looks like some of the more technical trails in our area. Based on your description, it sounds like it may be worth my time to skip Fromme and spend more time in Squamish.

    lol - having never ridden in the area, I had no clue about the difficulty level of Khyber Pass! Looking at the webcam makes it pretty clear that it will be a while before these trails will be open!
    Kevin - I just had a look into the trails you suggested on trailforks; greatly helps with planning for the days that I will be in Whistler.

    not too sure about wildlife though! One suggestion to be cautious and the other not to worry! Love the comment about trails being more dangerous than wildlife lol

    Howe sound brewery looks like a very nice spot with a terrace!

    Didn't think about a lesson, might be a safe way to try some of the park trails. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Can't wait!!

  5. #5
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    I've had more bear encounters within 30m of my front door of my house in North Van than I have on the trails. About 80% of the time a young bear will head the other way if you come across it with enough time for it to react. About 10% of the time they will stand their ground either because they are cranky or just don't give a crap about your plans, and then you need to consider another route. And then that last 10% of the time is the unknown, if you are accidentally close to its food stash, or a cub, or it is really hungry or territorial, then you need to know enough about black bears to avoid doing something that will make the encounter worse. A bear can be like a drunk teenager with a knife.

    https://wildsafebc.com/black-bear/

    There have been cougar attacks on mountain bikers when the food supply has been low and they have been crazy hungry, riders can look enough like food to rate an attack, but more likely you may be between it and a deer kill that it has stashed off the trail nearby.

    https://wildsafebc.com/cougar/

    In either case, this is why it's good to keep an eye open for critters with teeth so you don't tick them off. You're also likely to see coyotes, but they are generally not an concern.

    For the kind of trails it sounds like you want to ride I'd skip Fromme and go straight to Squamish. The trails around Alice Lake are a good warm up for climbs to come in Garibaldi Heights. So you can do the Bob McIntosh trail out to the Dead End Loop, then up Rock and Roll, do at least one lap of Rob's and Cliff's Corners which will be the most fun you can imagine on a power line right of way trail (go ahead, do two laps). Jack's Trail is simple fun, then you could drop down Brackentrail (long ladder bridge ride with some elevation involved there) and drop out into the neighbourhood and ride north to Depot Rd to ride up Wonderland and then do White Rabbit clockwise before climbing back up to the Alice Lake parking lot. You could also skip the Brackentrail link and drop down the access road and do White Rabbit first, then Wonderland and come back up through Coho Park Trail. If you're feeling energetic there's more trails to try around that Alice Lake area.

    On day 2 you can tackle the ups and downs of the Garibaldi Heights trails above Quest University. There's a bunch of flowy new school trails and well developed climbing trails in that area. There's likely two days worth of riding in that area. Then there's the Valleycliffe / Crumpet Woods area to ride.

    If you have a few hours to spare on your way back through North Vancouver, there's some new blue trails on Mt.Seymour like Good Sir Martin (climbing trail), Forever After, and John Deer that are new school (less chunder), and you'll have had some practice on BC trails prior to tackling those.
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  6. #6
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    Get the phone app, we were pretty lost in Squamish without it:
    TrailMapps.com - Where The Trails Are - Vancouver, Sea to Sky (Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton)

    Haven't used TrailForks, so not sure how it compares.

  7. #7
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    Sorry 'bout the rain, Sunday is supposed to be drier. First real rain we've had in almost 2 months. This will be those sticky tire conditions for sure.
    I'm a member of NSMBA and IMBA Canada

  8. #8
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    Best couple of days I have had in a while!!

    Thanks again to everyone who provided some advice and info; it was very helpful!!

    I thought I'd post a few notes and pictures for the next guy heading out West...
    Make sure you have the trailforks app installed, it will really be handy to find your location on the trails.
    I have found excellent accommodation on Airbnb, especially in Squamish where I found a great fully-furnished little basement apartment (link) next to one of the trailheads.

    The trip indeed started on a wet note:



    SQUAMISH
    If you have time, I really enjoyed the scenery from the Sea to Sky gondola (did the hike up to Al Habrich: so worth it!):



    Squamish was a ton of fun and I have found the blue trails to be right at my level and a ton of fun: Pseudo-Tsuga (all parts), Roller-Coaster, Half nelson was pure awesomeness (definitely one of my top 3 trails ever!). There are some easy trails that are also really fun (Cliff’s Corners - pumptrack under the power lines).

    Near the roller-coaster trail and parking lot:









    In the black diamond department, Rupert was great, but the last part of crouching squirrel was too technical and steep for my abilities/enjoyment.




    Howe Sound Brewing | Craft Brewery | Squamish, BC is an absolute must after a ride. Great selection of beer, good food. I had a lamb burger and it was absolutely delicious (It better be at 20$ for a burger) and so pleasing after the ride.




    I confirm that the Elfin lakes trail is not yet rideable (well half of the trail anyways... ditched my bike behind a three and kept going to the top):



    A common sight in Squampton:



    So true:



    PEMBERTON
    Spent a day in pemberton killing myself up a 1000 meters ascent (Nimby trail) (some great views of Mt Currie at the top) and came down via Rudy's and Overnight sensation, and then a loop around Mosquito lake (Econoline, Cream puff, Moby Dick) (thanks to the great guidance of a semi-local guy that was kind enough to show me around):








    Found this little f***er on me after the ride:


    Good thing I had bought a tick removal thingy right before the trip. Make sure you pack one. They're only $10 at mec (link).

    Two days to go, and I can say this has been one of the best trips I have had!!

  9. #9
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    Awesome, always cool to post the 'outcome'. Reading your comments of the trails, a couple I suggested in Whistler could be tough.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevin267 View Post
    Awesome, always cool to post the 'outcome'. Reading your comments of the trails, a couple I suggested in Whistler could be tough.
    I did a couple of trails near the village which felt boring after spending a day in Pemberton riding Rudy's and Overnight Sensation... I decided to head back to Squamish and ride the Half Nelson and Full Nelson and hit the Howe Sound bewery once again instead!

    I had a ton of fun, and took some time to take some pictures:



    Just wish I could have stayed a couple more days!


    Quick note for others considering flying with their bikes: I rented a Biknd jetpack from my local bike store and despite not being in the best of conditions it protected my bike well. Cost was about 60$ for a week.

    I arrived early and the lady at the Westjet counter said "it's overweight but I won't charge you anything here; they might charge you when you arrive or on the way back"... I got away with that, for AirCanada though they automatically charge you $50 upfront (plus 30$ for a regular baggage, so $80 for your bike each way) for a bike when you check in your baggages.

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