My insane MTB trip to Whistler

Last week I visited Whistler Canada for the
second time in one summer, and that’s a big trip. There was a reason for this: Dirt Diaries. Dirt Diaries is a short film contest that
has been going on for the last 7 years at Crankworx. Each film must be 6 minutes or less, include
Whistler, and an athlete. In July I made my first trip to Whistler for
filming, and again in August to watch my film premier on the big screen at Olympic Plaza. All the films at Dirt Diaries featured breathtaking
cinematography, amazing production quality, and cutting edge riding. Not to mention, top notch storytelling. Mine somehow got third place, featuring an
unknown athlete that had never been on a mountain bike before. Having that film screened in front of a live
audience, hearing the reactions in realtime, and getting to compete against legitimate,
talented filmmakers, was an unforgettable experience. Should I get invited to compete next summer,
another double Whistler trip will be in order. Since Whistler is pretty far away, I tried
to pack in as many activities as possible for the second trip. The first stop was Seattle Washington, to
visit my friends at Diamondback. I had never visited their headquarters before,
and well, let’s just say it looks like a pretty good place to work. In addition to having many ways to blow off
steam, it was really dog friendly there. I counted about 7 pups just that day, and
they all looked pretty stoked to be there—well most of then anyway. Diamondback had set up a group ride at the
Raging River trail system, which I had seen the very early stages of last year. Through a collaboration between Washington
DNR and the Evergreen Mountain Biking Alliance, this logging area is now home to a challenging
and varied trail system. It was insane to see all this stuff get built
in just one year. The quality of the trails was amazing, and
we arrived while the dirt was perfect. Along for the ride was a photographer named
Riley Seebeck. He tends to work the entire scene rather than
focusing on the rider. It’s refreshing. Instead of thinking, wow I wish I could ride
like that, Riley’s photos make you think, “wow, I need to ride there”. Early on, we rode a trail called Invictus,
which started with a pretty interesting feature. This log looks like it can sort of launch
you, but if you come in fast enough you can actually clear the whole thing. Kind of risky, but really satisfying. It took the better part of a day to see half
of what Raging River had to offer, and it makes me really happy for the people of North
Bend. I hope to see more and more of this everywhere. Between the amazing trails, the great company,
and all the scenery, I’d have been content staying in Washington all week. But I had to be at Whistler the following
day. As we drove up into Canada, I noticed that
the incredible views I was used to seeing were obscured. It was forest fire season in BC, and you could
see it. Sometimes it looked like overcast when it
was really just smoky—not so good for breathing, but I’d be riding downhill anyway. This trip coincided with the grand finale
of Crankworx, which is a mountain biking event that begins every year in New Zealand and
makes its way through Europe and Canada. I always looked at Crankworx as a time to
avoid Whistler—when the lift lines are long and the place is packed with super aggro ninja
turtle downhillers, but it honestly didn’t feel like that at all. In fact, I probably saw more friends up there
than I would back home. Speaking of which, my favorite friend right
now is Eric Porter. He called me the week before to invite me
on a Heli Drop in Pemberton. This was all sponsored by Camelbak which worked
out really well since I didn’t bring a bag big enough for all my camera gear. Their new Mule had more than enough space
for three liters of water, all my gear, provisions, and oh my god this dude is strapping my bike
to a helicopter. Let’s talk about how a helidrop works. First you ride out to the helipad, they give
you a safety orientation, and you sign a waiver. Then they strap your bike to a helicopter
which you then get into. This wonder of engineering takes off and everyone
whips out their phones. If you want to talk, the headsets are there
to help you communicate. Loud and clear. Anyway, to the disappointment of many, they
don’t drop you out of the helicopter like a paratrooper. No, they land it right on the top of the mountain. Hopefully you were listening during the safety
orientation because the next part involves getting out while the blades are still spinning. Stay low. Next an assigned passenger removes the bikes,
everyone gives the thumbs up, and the chopper takes off with a really strong blast of wind,
leaving you and your bike on top of the mountain. I had never been in a helicopter before, and
I must say it was everything I ever wanted, and more. It’s so much more visceral than a passenger
plane. I mean, you have these headsets on, there’s
no lock on the door, and your bike is just sitting out there on the landing skid. Last time I rode with Eric he took me for
a ride in an Olympic bobsled, and this somehow topped it. Descending from up there was pretty awesome. Since the helicopter just dropped us off I
had no frame of reference for where we were. Everything was a surprise. Not a surprise? Tire problems. My valve somehow held air after this stem
mishap, and Eric managed to get an enormous puncture really early in the ride. This reminds me of another ride I went on
with Eric. his puncture was so large that he needed to
cut a nub off his tire and wrap duct tape around the wheel to keep it from popping back
out. We didn’t choose the plug life—the plug
life chose us. Eric lives for alpine singletrack, and I can’t
blame him. You start up top where it’s all barren and
rocky. In some places you’re lucky if you can even
see the trail. As the meltwater accumulates the terrain starts
to vary a bit more, and plant life starts to creep in. Eventually you make your way to alpine meadows,
glacial lakes, and forest. Further down the mountain, the smoke returned,
strangely and poetically in an area that had burned years before. It was kind of surreal. Without tree cover, that area had become overgrown
with brush which made it challenging to navigate. That whole day was insane. I’ve ridden high Alpine before, but never
something that felt this remote with nobody else out there besides our group. Don’t ever turn down a heli drop. Oh yeah, and later on I ran into Eric at the
downhill park, and guess what? He hadn’t done a damn thing to that plug
job. Duct tape for the win I guess. On my last day at Whistler I met with a couple
of friends I haven’t seen since last year, Matt and Jason. They had me on their interview show, Wheel
of Gnar. The show included a question and answer portion
along with a lap at the bike park. Later that day I caught the end of an event
called whip off, then I ran into this guy, after that I made good on a collaboration
that many of you have been waiting for. If you don’t know who Blake Samson is, he’s
a pro downhiller and host on Global Mountain Bike Network. GMBN releases a video every day which means
Blake has a serious work ethic. While at Whistler he was up every day at the
crack of dawn, taking notes and writing scripts at the coffee shop. With Blake was Jack. He’s a videographer for GMBN which means
he follows Blake carrying all their camera gear—and keeps up with him. Since it was getting late, we took the lift
higher up to get in as long of a lap as possible. For GMBN’s video we did a bunch of sketchy
lines, including some big scary rock rolls, and a lap on Blue Velvet where Blake kept
trying to pass me on the berms. It was hilarious, and it ended too soon. But I did squeak in one challenge before the
sun went down. The last time I was at Whistler I did this
trail, Dwayne Johnson, but on the second bit I took the easier side of the rock drop. There’s actually an alternate, much scarier
line that I had never tried. After following Blake for a bit, I felt confident
enough to let him tow me in. Keep an eye out for our collaboration next
week on Global Mountain Bike Network. Every time I go to Whistler is better than
the last. It’s a place where I constantly run into
friends, progress on my mountain bike, and have completely insane experiences. I’ll be back next year to conquer every
trail in the park, and hopefully run into some great people again. Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll
see you next time.