The Bounty Up North

Whistler Blackcomb, Gulf Islands, & Sentry Mountain Lodge

Apr 27, 2004
Outside Magazine
canada parks, adventures

The serenity of Sentry Mountain Lodge, BC    Photo: courtesy, Sentry Mountain Lodge

Mountain Biking
Whistler Blackcomb
British Columbia

So you call yourself a mountain biker. You rip local ribbons of singletrack, bunny-hop logs, and drop wheelies off rocky steps like a pro. But deep down inside, you know there's more. Those pictures of riders speeding over scarily narrow log bridges look like so much fun. Problem is, you're made of breakable bone, and the thought of busting a clavicle on some do-or-die jump isn't your style. Well, there's hope. This summer, Whistler Blackcomb opens about seven miles of new singletrack, accessed from the top of the Garbanzo lift, part of a network totaling more than 125 miles, with a whopping 3,200-foot vertical loss—arguably the largest downhill bike park in North America.

Here in southwestern British Columbia, the nexus of the fast-growing, thrill-based mountain-bike subgenre called freeriding, you can test your mettle at three separate areas that have jumps and stunt obstacles built by adults who know that injuries can mean lawsuits. No rickety teeter-totters built by a 14-year-old using garbage-picked wooden pallets here—the resort spent close to $750,000 building the trails. Pro riders like Richie Schley were called in to help design jumps, making sure they're solid and have good landings.

"We need to make things safe," says Whistler Mountain Bike Park manager Tom "Pro" Prochazka, whose 12-year-old son, Alex, braves every one of the park's dozens of stunts. "You'll get the same butterflies as if the net wasn't there, but we've taken out the element of danger. Last thing we want to see is a broken neck."—T. N.

DETAILS: Summertime Whistler Blackcomb lift passes cost $26 per day (800-766-0449, Full-suspension downhill bikes rent for $76 per day.

New Park
Gulf Islands National Park
Reserve B.C.

This 6,425-acre reserve, off the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island, has one of the province's highest densities of marine mammals. Kayak among harbor seals and the occasional killer whale; camp on any of eight islands.—Pieter vanNoordennen

DETAILS: 250-654-4000,

Hiding Away
Sentry Mountain Lodge
British Columbia

Your journal might read like this: "We flew in to Sentry Mountain Lodge by helicopter, dazzled by Kinbasket Lake and the Columbia Icefields. The bird dropped us at a cedar house, on a meadow at 6,920 feet, cradled by the Selkirks. Before settling in, we explored some of the lodge's 13 square miles of alpine meadows and interlaced ridges. A black bear and two cubs crossed our path in the distance, but otherwise we didn't see a soul. Afterward, we sipped Big Rock ales, basked in the alpenglow, and waited for Venus to pop out and guide us on a midnight hike." Of course, that would be just the first entry.

This hideaway, which you share with only seven other guests, feels like a European-style mountain home: vaulted ceilings, mural-size windows, and a piney kitchen in which your hosts rustle up cheese fondue and coq au vin. —Amy Marr

DETAILS: A one-week all-inclusive package (heli access from Golden, excursions, meals, and nonalcoholic drinks) begins at $1,280 at Sentry Mountain Lodge (250-344-7227).