“Pedal and paddle” – mountain biking and canoeing in Whistler, British Columbia. When I saw this activity listed as one of the activities on the itinerary of my recent trip to British Columbia, I couldn’t possibly NOT go for it. Admittedly, the other options for our only morning in Whistler were quite enticing, too (a spa in the mountains, zip lining in Whistler, hiking to Nairn Falls or playing golf, just to mention a few), but having two sporty outdoor activities in one and guilt-tripping myself over lazing about in a spa when I’m in a gorgeous place like Whistler had me choose mountain biking and canoeing almost instantly.
Almost, because I was wondering what level of fitness would be expected; visualizing the mountains I was getting a bit anxious as to what mountain biking in Whistler actually meant…; it’s British Columbia, it’s proper mountains, after all (the Coast Mountain range, to be precise).
Mountain Biking In Whistler
But, to my relief, Whistler Eco Tours were not expecting participants of Olympic calibre. I joined the group behind the Fairmont Chateau Hotel, where our tour guide was already waiting with all the equipment. One after the other, we were fitted with helmets, given our bikes and were briefed on how to adjust our saddles and use our brakes. Obvious, you would think, but apparently which brake controls the front and the back wheels is exactly opposite to how it works in Britain! Who knew! So as to avoid involuntary somersault off the front of our bikes, we all tested our brakes until we felt comfortable, and then headed off through Whistler Village towards the park.
What About Bears?
Of course, most people in the group being from Britain, the topic of bears had to be discussed before we got anywhere near a bush or tree. Our guide told us that sometimes bears could be spotted from the cycle path. But since he took the lead and rode ahead, he would get eaten first warn us in good time so we could take a detour or head back in the opposite direction. That whole discussion made me imagine dirt tracks and wilderness to the extent of having to wrestle tree branches and riding through the thick undergrowth when the route we took was actually quite a comfortable ride through residential streets to start out with, then paved bicycle paths through the woods, the park and around the lake. Still relatively at the start of our bike ride, we took the first stop at the golf course to gather everyone and take a scenic picture break, of which as many as we wanted were to follow. There are lots of golfing to be done in Whistler – it has four (!) championship golf courses.
Canoeing on Alta Lake
Shortly after, we ditched our bikes for canoes. Again, brief and to the point instructions on lifevests, how to paddle, and how to steer. And for the lucky ones like me, how to relax in the middle seat and take pictures. Not that I needed any instructions on that. And out on the lake, we went.
We took an epic tour of Alta Lake, paddling out in the sunshine, with big smiles on our faces. We paddled all across the lake, stopping here and there to take in the views of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains – you could even see the peak-to-peak gondola. The peak-to-peak basically links the summits of the two mountains, and it’s great for skiers and snowboarders as they can travel to the other mountain in just 11 minutes! I’d like to try that on my next trip, snowboarding there in the winter. But back to summer sports: we paddled into the nooks of the lake to watch some wildlife and had a heated debate on what lakeside properties were the most beautiful. It’s a tough choice!
We paddled back to Wayside Park, where we had left our mountain bikes, and devoured the yummy muesli bars our guides distributed. Soon after we hopped back on our bikes and cycled the Valley Trail, heading to our next destination, Rainbow Park, which even has a sandy beach.
Signs of bears
This sign at Rainbow Park is quite encouraging – if you are looking to find bears. Makes it seem like they are regulars. But alas, none to be seen sunbathing on the beach. So after another brief stop to take in the beautiful scenery, we hopped on our bikes to complete our tour and cycle back to the Fairmont. And just when we thought that was as close as we would get to a bear, we saw this:
This cycle path has “I was here” written all over it, in bear writing. Apparently, this is what bear droppings look like. Especially surprising to the German in me; Germans refer to liquorice as “Bärendreck” (bear droppings). There’s your cultural insight for the day 🙂
We completed our tour with a very scenic ride along the golf course with Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in the backdrop.
To be fair, this tour is definitely on the leisure side of things, not the full-on mountain bike fitness challenge, and thus also suitable for people with a lower level of fitness, or those that prefer having a recreational few hours of casual cycling with plenty of opportunity to take in the scenery and enjoy nature at a slow pace. There are no real mountains involved – there is a bit of downhill in a residential neighbourhood, but the track around the lake is flat and only before you reach the lake, and at the end of the tour there are short bits where you need to go slightly uphill.
If you’re looking for a more adrenaline-fuelled mountain biking adventure, this won’t be your chosen tour, but you could go downhill mountain biking in Whistler Mountain Bike Park that ends right in Whistler Village, or choose one of the more challenging tours offered by Whistler Eco Tours.
I’m almost sad that my next trip to Whistler will be in the wintertime. I am sure the snowboarding will be great, but I have gotten to know Whistler as a summertime destination and really liked it.
Getting to Whistler
Virgin Atlantic fly to Vancouver from London four times a week. Whistler is approximately a 2.5-hour drive from Vancouver airport, along the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway.
Disclosure: This activity was part of my #WhyYVR competition win. My trip to Vancouver was courtesy of Virgin Atlantic and Tourism British Columbia. However, all opinions are my own. Very special thanks to Tourism Whistler, Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Whistler Eco Tours for their hospitality.
Have you been to Whistler? What would you want to do there?