Travel Feature: The Insiders’ Guide To Whistler

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 5.34.08 PMWade Simmons, Brett Tippie and Richie Schley have been friends for more than 30 years. During that time, they became three of the most innovative riders on the planet. To no small degree, they were the guys who put British Columbia on the map when it came to mountain biking. Together, the three of them helped shaped the trails of Whistler Mountain in the very beginning. In 2010 the three were inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in recognition of their contributions to the sport.

This summer we got the chance to ride with them on some of their favorite trails in Whistler. Before we set out with them, we had briefly wondered if they still rode with the same derring-do that made them famous 15 years ago. It didn’t take long to realize that they still had it.

Locals---01Steep descent: Richie Schley leads Brett Tippie down one of the steepest sections of Green Monster, one of the trails the locals built on the outskirts of Whistler, well outside of the town’s famous bike park.

At one point they took us away from the main trail we were riding to show us another trail they had actually pioneered together many years earlier. It was a descent that was so high and steep that it looked all but impossible to ride. Our photographer actually tried to talk them out of riding it; it looked so dangerous, so potentially life-threatening. It was no big deal to them. They all rode down it without a second thought, then offered to ride down it again so we could shoot some other angles of it.

Locals---02Slippery when wet: Brett leads Richie down one of the steeper rock faces on Green Monster.

“Which of you guys was the first person to ride this?” we asked. None of them could recall. Clearly, any one of them could have done it. There were probably scores of steep trails and stunts like this one that the three had pioneered together. None of them were boasting or bragging. Not one of them was claiming to be better than the others, yet all of them were willing to take on any kind of challenge we came across.

These three are the gold standard when it comes to pioneering extreme trails. They helped put Whistler on the map. They all still rip, and they all know their way around the mountain.

Locals---03The Schleyer: The only rider of the three with a trail named after him on Whistler Mountain, Richie throws in a bit of style on Green Monster.

Locals---05One good turn deserves another: Many of the best trails in Whistler were purpose-built for mountain biking.


Talking with Richie Schley

EBA: What are your favorite trails on Whistler Mountain?

Richie: Dirt Merchant, A-line and Schleyer.

EBA: How do you and your friends choose which ones to ride when you are there?

Richie: I love jumping, so I usually choose trails with jumps.

EBA: How long have you been riding on Whistler Mountain?

Richie: Since they first started allowing bikes up. Probably 15 years. I was a guide.

EBA: Do you guys get free passes, or do you have to buy them?

Richie: I get a free one. They named a trail after me.

Locals---04That explains it: When you see how challenging the free, public trails are in Whistler, you can understand how the local riders have come to be so famous for their skills. Tippie takes the lead with Richie behind him.

EBA: Did you guys help create any of the trails on the mountain?

Richie: Yes, Schleyer.

EBA: Anything else?

Richie: I used to design the slopestyle every year. The slopestyle was my idea in the beginning.

EBA: What advice would you give to a novice rider who is coming to Whistler Mountain?

Richie: Start out on the green and blue trails, or take a Bike Park 101 course to get familiar with jumping, if you aren’t.

EBA: What advice would you give to an expert-level rider who is coming to the mountain?

Richie: Most things are built very well and predictable, so trust that the trails will flow once you drop in. Follow someone who knows the trails for the correct speed.

EBA: Who created the trails outside of Whistler Bike Park in the areas surrounding the town?

Richie: A bunch of locals who have a lot of passion for building trails.

EBA: What are some of your favorites among those trails?

Richie: Green Monster, Rock Werk Orange, Cheap Thrills.

EBA: What was the name of the trail in town that we shot with you and Brett?

Richie: The Green Monster.

EBA: How would a visitor to the area find the trails?

Richie: Most are on the trail maps. MBA: Are there maps to the trails in the bike shops or available online? Richie: Yes.

EBA: How important is it to ride with someone who’s ridden the trails before?

Richie: It helps a lot, because there are some seriously surprising situations. If you trust your ability and the rider leading you, it can make it all come together.

EBA: Some of the trails we checked out in town had long, super-steep sections that could land novices and even some experts in the hospital. What’s the best way to take on new trails in an area like Whistler where some of the trails are so challenging?

Richie: Take your time and piece it together one move at a time. Look at sections before you ride them.

EBA: What advice would you give someone who wants to explore the other trails in the area?

Richie: Taking a guide is always a good idea.

Locals---06Friends to the end: (Left to right) Brett, Wade and Richie take the gondola to the top of Whistler Mountain for the start of another epic descent.

EBA: How long have you guys (Wade, Richie and Brett) been riding together?

Richie: Since we were boys—35 years.

EBA: How did you come to meet each other in the beginning?

Richie: Brett and I went to the same school, and Wade and I raced BMX together.

Locals---13Steep drop: Brett leads Wade down a section of trail known as the “Pro Line Off Original Sin.” The three friends told us they couldn’t remember which of them rode down this trail first. All they could say for sure was that they were the first riders to do it. We didn’t doubt that for a second.


Talking with Wade Simmons

EBA: What are your favorite trails on Whistler Mountain?

Wade: My favorite trails on Whistler Mountain always change depending on conditions. That is really a tough question to answer. I do like the technical gnar and will usually be found in the Goats Gully, In Deep and similar trails, but I do like to mix that up with Dirt Merchant or a dirty A-line lap. Variety is best on the extreme spectrum.

EBA: How do you and your friends choose which trails to ride on the days when you are there?

Wade: It’s very specific; we usually just congregate at the top of the lift, and someone finally says, “Let’s go hit….”

Locals---09Dropping in: These guys might know the trails of Whistler Mountain better than anybody else in the world.

EBA: How long have you been riding on Whistler Mountain?

Wade: I’ve been riding the Whistler Bike Park since it opened in 2000. During the first couple years I was part of a “bike park team” that included the likes of Andrew Shandro, Thomas Vanderham, Richie Schley, Dave Watson and others, and we consulted with the bike park managers to discuss the vision and future of the park.

EBA: Do you guys get free passes each year?

Wade: I am lucky enough to get free passes each year. I still do a week coaching with Andrew Shandro’s Summer Gravity Camp, and that supplies me a pass. Having a family and other responsibilities, I don’t seem to get up too often on my own time, but fortunately, living so close in North Vancouver, I can sneak up from time to time to feed the addiction.

Locals---11Airing it out: Wade flies through the trees with the greatest of ease. Neither Brett nor Richie had ever doubled this section before, but they gave it a go too.

EBA: Did you create many of the trails on the mountain?

Wade: I have never created a trail in Whistler Bike Park. When we were involved in the first couple of years, we gave recommendations on what people would want to ride—in other words, features and things—but I think only Richie has a signature trail in the bike park.

EBA: What advice would you give to a novice-level rider who is coming to Whistler Mountain?

Wade: The advice I would give to a novice rider is to start slow and get to know the mountain well. It’s easy to get in over your head on the popular trails like A-Line and Dirt Merchant, but there is a high probability of crashing and taking yourself out. You need to master some skills before hitting the big stuff.

Locals---07Follow the leader: Wade leads Brett and Richie through a swooping set of turns coming down the Una Moss trail from the top of Whistler Mountain.

EBA: What advice would you give to an expert-level rider who is coming to the mountain?

Wade: The advice I’d give to an expert-level rider is to get off the popular trails and explore some of the super-technical lines. Some of my favorite trails, like Side Track and No Duff, are off the beaten track. Also, some of the blue and green trails, like Del Bocca Vista and Blueseum, are so awesome when you hit them fast; they turn into pump tracks with trail doubles everywhere.



Flashback to 2009

Some of the best riding we’ve experienced at Whistler happened five years ago on a day when it was raining in Whistler Village. Most mountain bikers at the resort were either sitting in their rooms, hanging out at the coffee shops or checking out the bike shops and other stores, waiting for the weather to clear.

Somehow, Wade Simmons and Richie Schley convinced us to grab our bikes and take the lift with them and Bryon Martin Jr. to the top of the mountain. They assured us it would be worth it, and they were right.

The normally long lift lines of Crankworx were non-existent that morning. The lift took us up through the clouds into brilliant sunshine, then dropped us off near the start of one of the most beautiful trails on the mountain. There we enjoyed world- class riding, high above the clouds, in bright sun, with crystal-clear blue skies overhead. It was an unforgettable experience. The riding was spectacular. The trails were completely uncrowded and in top-notch condition. Mountain biking doesn’t get a whole let better than that.



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