Just as the first cuckoo marks the traditional start of spring, so the beginning of mountain biking's summer is marked by the opening of Whistler's famous Bike Park. Which is this weekend, Saturday 16 May.
With snow still on the ground on the higher slopes of the BC resort, there'll initially be 12 trails open including Lower A-Line, Crank It Up, B-Line, and Ninja Cougar. The first batch of opening trails are for "intermediate or above" skill level - more beginner-friendly stuff will be opening as the snow recedes. There's an updated list of open trails at www.whistlerbike.com.
Opening times are 10am-5pm daily until 19 June and then 10am-8pm from 20 June. 27 June is the scheduled opening date for the opening of the Garbanzo Zone, including new sections on the Blue Velvet and Freight Train trails and a completely redeveloped No Joke trail. You can also tackle the redesigned slopestyle, giant slalom and dual slalom courses. And if you want to hone your skills, Whistler's Air Dome 8,400sq ft indoor ramp park (complete with foam pit to help you get those flips dialled) will be open from Friday.
"At Whistler Blackcomb we’re lucky enough to have six months for mountain biking season. As all trails are covered in snow, the anticipation builds when we can finally clear the trails and get the Bike Park open," says Brian Finestone, Whistler Mountain Bike Park Manager. "The mud gates are about to open this Saturday and people are worked up into a frenzy with opening day anticipation. We’ve got lots of trails ready to go and are expecting a great start to what will no doubt be another fantastic season."
Obviously Whistler's a fair way from the UK, but it's a deservedly popular holiday destination - there's stacks of fantastic riding in the area outside the Park too, but you'd be bonkers to go all that way and not spend at least a couple of days in the Bike Park. Plenty of companies run Whistler-based trips aimed at UK riders, or just make your own way there. Early season adult day tickets for Whistler Bike Park are CDN$40, or there are various multi-day or all-season options. You don't even need to take a bike - full suspension bikes, helmets and body armour are available at Garbanzo Rentals in the Whistler Gondola building.
Everything you need to know about Whistler can be found at www.whistlerblackcomb.com.