One reason why the Sea-to-Sky Corridor is a mecca for mountain bikers is that its climate allows for a long season, according to Peter Oprsal.
“The other thing is obviously the trails,” Oprsal told the Georgia Straight by phone from Whistler. “All the way from North Vancouver up to Pemberton, you have so many trails. We’re talking hundreds of trails to cover and a great variety of trails. Pemberton’s very different riding than Whistler and Whistler’s very different from Squamish and so forth—in a good way. They all offer unique choices and opportunities for one to explore.”
Oprsal is a coauthor (with Ryan Robertson, creator of the TrailMapps apps) of Whistler Mountain Bike Trail Guide and Squamish Mountain Bike Trail Guide. Like Oprsal’s Pemberton Valley Mountain Bike Trail Guide, which came out in 2014, these comprehensive new guidebooks were published by his company, bikepirate.
According to Oprsal, Pemberton is characterized by more advanced terrain that’s “dry and arid” in the summer.
“The trails are overall—you’re looking at 70 percent of them—advanced to expert trails, which offers a bit of excitement and really pushes experienced riders,” Oprsal said. “But it also does have some nice intermediate and a few beginner loops to do. But it’s really more of an advanced/expert area to go and ride.
Meanwhile, the terrain in Whistler is greener because of higher levels of precipitation. Some trails are loamy, some are rooty, and others are rocky.
Oprsal noted that Lost Lake Park offers a “huge network” of trails well suited to beginner and intermediate riders and those new to the area. Then there’s the Whistler Mountain Bike Park at Whistler Blackcomb, which he called one of the best bike parks in the world.
“You can go and do your downhilling, and then you can go and explore the valley trails,” Oprsal said. “And the valley trails outside of Lost Lake in Whistler are quite unique. There’s quite a bit of advanced terrain here to challenge the more experienced riders. There’s also some beautiful rides for more of the beginner to intermediate riders in the Whistler South area, as I call it in the books.”
Farther south, in Squamish, there’s an abundance of beginner and intermediate trails.
“Again, the trails are very different in character,” Oprsal said. “They’re very lush. You’ve got the huge cedar trees, incredible scenery, and just the very rainforest feel that you get when you ride some of those trails. There’s some incredible networks there that attract the beginner to the expert rider with so many trails to explore.”
Whistler Mountain Bike Trail Guide describes over 200 trails, while Squamish Mountain Bike Trail Guide contains information about more than 170 trails. Both “exhaustive” books feature suggested loops, trailhead directions, topographic maps, elevation profiles, and photos.
“In the Squamish and Whistler books, we really focused on creating a few loops for some of the bigger areas to give people an idea of how to best ride those trails, because, especially in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, the trails themselves might be a kilometre long or maybe 2k at the most,” Oprsal said. “You’re not going to just ride one trail. You’re typically going to combine a few to create a loop for the day.”
Trails are categorized by type (all-mountain, x-country, downhill, pathways) and given bikepirate (one to five skulls for quality), technical (beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert), and physical (easy, moderate, hard, extreme) ratings. Portions of the proceeds from the books are being donated to the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association and Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association.
“The trail organizations behind the trails are very active and constantly building and rebuilding and updating trails,” Oprsal said. “So there’s a lot of change going on in this whole corridor and keeping up to speed on that can be very challenging. We always reach out to the local associations to work with them.”
Oprsal moved to Whistler three years ago from Canmore, Alberta. He previous authored Find the Hidden Treasures: A Guide to Mountain Bike Trails in Kananaskis Country and two editions of Bow Valley Mountain Bike Trail Guide.
He plans to complete a second edition of the Kananaskis book, and keep on publishing apps and updating the bikepirate website.
Asked to reveal his favourite trail in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, Oprsal serves up a diplomatic answer.
“I always say my favourite trail is the trail I’m on at that point in time,” Oprsal said. “I love getting out on my bike. So it doesn’t matter what trail I’m riding. As long as I’m on my bike, at that moment, that’s my favourite trail.”