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Whistler’s way

My camping spot for the night.

Made my way up the Whistler way recently. Wound up the Sea-to-Sky and into the enchantment that abounds in that elemental beauty. I went solo—something border patrol gave me the scrutinizing eye for. When I told them I was sleeping in my car for the weekend, thought I was done for. Thank god I had a story: Attending a women’s mountain bike camp, sir. Hence the bike on top of the car, the sleeping bag and that little can of pepper spray… Actually that was the truth. I was fortunate enough to score a story assignment for Freehub mag that found me attending The Dirt Series— a traveling women’s mtb skills camp. They’ve  got the teaching thing dialed in the ten years they’ve been at it. (And I’m not one much for hotels if not needed, thus the car-camping.) The mtb camp was thrilling and I came away with a bag full of technique for riding a squishy bike. But that’s all you get for now. You’ll have to wait for the story dropping in the next issue.

There were 65 of us in all, waiting for the camp to kick off

Whistler though, wow. The mountain seems big with snow on it. Take away that soft blanket of smooth contours and a rolling flank, and the mountain’s intricate terrain is all the more detailed. It’s bristled and millions of trails are chiselled out, manifesting themselves all over the hillside, skinny and fast. As seems to be the Canadian way, blue squares are really black diamonds elsewhere. We of course rode B-Line and Crank It Up, among many other trails. They’re fun and fast, not too technical, but as gnarly as you make them with their swoopy berms and flowy jumps. Especially Crank It Up (and its lower Heart of Darkness). What can I say about the popular trail that hasn’t been spurted out about in eager storytelling to the bros at home? As you sail through the line, rising with each steep lip, you feel like little wings are growing out of your back, lifting you higher and higher, before falling back to earth with a bit of smash that shoots you forward to the next dip and lip. The trick is harnessing the speed and controlling for solid landings so the pony doesn’t get away from you.

Trickling in from the gondola for our morning skills clinics

We were blessed with bluebird the first day–making more glorious the deep valley that fades into the distant beyond, the towering peaks still snow-patched amid blue pine, and (did I mention?) the black bears, who lounge contently in summer’s surreal placidity up there. We saw two cubs (!) scampering through the alpine slopes in bloom. And deer resting under the chairlift. Creatures habituated to man’s presence. They know we’re just here to ride. It’s a peaceful co-existence, but it just makes Whistler all the more awe-inspiring. You almost let out that huff of a laugh. Or it’s more of a giggle that escapes the soul of the hardcore shredder.

The second day brought heavy mist in the morning. Then the weather became a symphony of sun, rain, wind, big white clouds, spitting gray ones, and then sun again, all orchestrated above and around us. We dashed and darted amid it, energized by the rays, cooled by the drops.

Driving back down the Sea-to-Sky; it’s hard to watch the road with scenery like this

Whistler is good for the soul. The drive up there is a peaceful ascent into pure beauty, the way Nature intended it. The atmosphere and scenery captures you once you’re there and lets the entire body and mind open up and breathe. It’s adrenaline-induced riding along challenging trails, and it’s invigorating. In the winter Whistler is a bit of a god’s playground with its layered powdered peaks that make the horizon a line of jagged points. But I’d say the area’s no less jaw-dropping in the summer when the colors are more vibrant, the passion to shred is just as alive and the spirits of man and nature co-mingle as they should in a mountainscape that breeds the savage as well as the tender.

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