Guest Blogger : Nick Hewitt
“Go big or go home.”
We’ve all heard that saying, but the truth is in Whistler’s terrain parks you can go any size you want. With over 150 features spread across four different parks of varying difficulty, Whistler has over 99 acres of jib-jump-and-huckable terrain set aside for skiers and boarders who flock here from around the world. The Whistler Blackcomb Parks team is constantly working and tinkering with features to ensure quality, safety and variability and the results are nothing short of outstanding.
All the parks are easily found in accessible areas with nearby, sometimes purpose-built, lifts so follow the signage until you find yourself surrounded by riders who are wearing jackets/hoodies/t-shirts that look several sizes too big (as if Mom has bought the clothing for them to grow into). It’s a stereotype, but often it’s also true.
There are 4 separate terrain parks covering specific ability levels and the entrance to each has detailed explanation of what you can expect to find within.
Big Easy Terrain Garden (Blackcomb)
This beginner-level park includes boxes, rails, hips and jumps on the smallest scale and is great for learning the basics. Found by hanging a left off the run Last Resort, you’ll find that even advanced riders will head into the Big Easy occasionally to try something new on lower-risk features. From the bottom you’ll need to ride out to Solar Coaster for the quickest way to loop back around to the top.
Habitat Terrain Park (Whistler)
This park is the longest in terms of consecutive features, which fork off into three sections – Cougar (Small), Chipmunk (Small, Medium), and Bobcat (Medium). The length of this freestyle area also combines conveniently Whistler Mountain’s Emerald Chair, which requires very little deviance from the park route in order to run quick laps.
Choker Terrain Park (Blackcomb)
This park includes medium and large jumps and jibs and is wide enough to be four features across in certain areas with access to the Snowcross course and Superpipe. The views from the Choker park are incredible – this is the spot to get park photos with picturesque views of the Village below.
Highest Level/XL Terrain Park (Blackcomb)
These pro-level jumps and jibs are as big as it gets in Whistler so it’s no surprise that helmets are mandatory. This is also where the most talented and daring skiers and boarders flock to throw down big, burly tricks for your viewing pleasure.
The Blackcomb Choker and XL terrain parks also have the added benefit of the Catskinner Chair running right over the larger features, affording uploaders some excellent views of the action below. However, if you’re looking for a quicker chair to upload on, dropping a little further below the park to the faster-running Solar Coaster Chair is often a speedier way of getting top-side.
As with many such highly specialized environments, the Whistler terrain parks require a certain etiquette that differs slightly from the rest of the mountain. To help initiate the unfamiliar, here are some Whistler Terrain Park Survival Tips (because with all the hucking and sliding going on there is a fine line between participant, spectator, and obstacle).
Whistler Terrain Park Survival Tips
1. Whilst helmet usage is only mandatory in the XL park, it is highly advised regardless of what level features you’re attempting – nothing ends a day on the mountain quicker than a knock to the head. Numerous locations in the Village will rent helmets but the best bet is to just buy one for frequent use.
2. Regular park riders take pride in a good, flowing, uninterrupted run so it pays to look uphill and check for incoming skiers/boarders before approaching any features.
3. Calling your drop-ins (with a quick shout or an arm up in the air) is advisable and ensures only one person is approaching a feature at a time.
4. Clear the landings as soon as possible. Incoming riders often can’t see the landing areas, so getting out of the way is key to avoiding a collision.
5. As features are changed frequently, always speed-check jumps and boxes before trying anything complicated.
6. Don’t step too far out of your comfort zone. Real progression comes with patience and practice. Trying to skip a step can result in injury, even with the smaller looking features.
For expert instruction, Whistler Blackcomb run park-specific lessons known as the Showcase Progression Sessions designed to build the freestyle skills of intermediate to advanced riders.
For those who would rather watch the action than try to duplicate it, check out the weekly Fire and Ice show every Sunday night at the base of Whistler. Those looking to test their skills can sign up for the Park Rider Ski and Snowboard Sessions competitions each month and of course, Whistler’s greatest show of the year is the World Ski & Snowboard Festival Big Air, which sees all the best professionals in town for the biggest show on snow.
Go big or go small, it doesn’t matter. As long as you go have fun.