Whistler’s Top of the World Trail: A Rookie Drops In
First off, you need a proper bike. Before uploading I’d considered tackling the “Top of the World” trail with my cross country bike. Perhaps a life-devoted mountain bike ninja master could rip Whistler Mountain’s longest, highest trail on a hardtail 29’er but as I bounced and bumped my way down the southwest slopes off Whistler Peak I was incredibly thankful for the high-performance rental Giant Glory bike my friend had talked me into. And the shin and knee pads.
The best adventures involve some element of the unknown. There’s always a unique thrill in doing something for the first time. Pedaling off the peak of Whistler Mountain for the first time, and dropping into North America’s first lift-accessed, high-alpine bike trail, I was surrounded by unknowns, most of them regarding my own abilities.
The Top of The World trail starts at 2182 m (7160 feet) with stunning panoramic views of jutting Black Tusk, the glaciated Coast Mountains and the shimmering lakes of the valley below. These are views and terrain I grew up with but don’t usually see without the soft blanket of winter on everything. What I’d find simple to ski down looks treacherous on two wheels and right off the hop the “Top of the World” trail presents two entrance options: “This way is hard,” the black-diamond trail signs seem to proclaim, ”and this way is harder.” New to the sport, I opted for the “hard” entrance. Let the adventure begin…
“It looks pretty loose so just watch your back braking,” warned Whistler ripper Chantelle Pellerin, who wrote the initial Whistler Insider post on the Top of the World trail when it opened in 2012. Chantelle rides almost every day of the summer so it was comforting when she offered to ride tail-gun and make sure I made it down all 4,926 vertical feet back to the GLC patio.
“Here we go,” I said. And off we went.
The trail itself is a treat. A mix of totally unique alpine singletrack and double-wide ski-runs. The Whistler Bike Park crew has been working hard to build way more single track for the second season. Riding past snow banks, splashing through creeks and weaving through stunted-growth alpine trees is just as exhilarating as the views of the Whistler backcountry and Corrie Lake.
Top of the World is bouncy and fun with a few tight corners and rocky sections but no huge drops or sketchy bridges to navigate (my weaknesses). I didn’t fall but definitely had to put a foot down in spots. My cross country skills were up to the task although the 5 km continuous descent left my hands plenty tired by the bottom. It was almost hard to hold onto my margarita.
The Top of the World is a true alpine biking experience—just the mountains, the sky, you and the bike (with no uphill pedaling to get there). Whistler only allows 150 riders per day on the trail so it’s best to book ahead for busy times (like Crankworx) but on an early Monday afternoon Chantelle and I didn’t see another rider until we arrived back at the bike park proper. The ability to link thousands of vertical feet of secluded alpine singletrack with your favourite bike park trails means Top of the World lives up to the hype and more. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind bike ride and a definite adventure.
Whistler Bike Park lists the Top of the World as a trail for “advanced riders” but it’s just one of many incredible trails in Whistler. Check out the online trails database and learn more about biking in Whistler for all ability levels. For a better look at the trail watch this Pinkbike.com Top of the World 2013 video.