After having spent almost a whole week on Vancouver Island, we took the ferry back to the mainland and decided to ride north into the mountains. Vancouver to Whistler is a route we have driven many, many times on our snowboard trips. We haven't been back since the 2010 Winter Olympics and it was very interesting to see the changes the province made to accommodate such a world-class event.
Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler
Highway 99, or at least the part between Horseshoe Bay to Pemberton, is also known as the Sea-To-Sky Highway and is *the* motorcycle destination highway on the Canadian West Coast. Fast sweepers hugging the coastline overlooking Howe Sound used to be a two-lane undivided highway, and I remember there used to be lots of accidents from motorists either not paying attention or trying to pass on blind corners. We were very surprised when we found that most of the Sea-To-Sky was now a divided four-lane highway! Sweet! Trying to keep up with Neda was a full-time left-lane affair as I watched the bottom of her Touratech panniers scoop lower and lower to the pavement on each turn.
Olympic rings at Whistler Village
The scenery is astounding in the summertime, it was hard keeping an eye on the turns in the road when just to our left, the sheer drop to the waters below and the mountains on the other side of the sound provided constant distraction. Further up the highway, we started to notice other tiny Olympic changes: all the signs announcing the small towns along the Sea-To-Sky were now on smart, shiny, engraved rocks. Very snazzy! When we arrived at Whistler Village, we noticed a hubbub of activity. Lots of young people milling about, which was strange since it was the off-season. We quickly discovered that we were in the middle of Crankworx 2012, the "Colosseum of freeride mountain biking"". So many events were going on, downhill racing, dirt tracking, trials, etc. But the event that caught the most attention was the tricks and jumps.
We must have spent half the day watching the mountain bikers launch themselves off a platform 50-feet from the ground, perform physics-defying feats of acrobatics and then land on a huge downhill dirt ramp, all against the backdrop of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. I don't know much about mountain biking, so I'll do my best to provide commentary from my point-of-view:
I'm sure this wouldn't be too much harder to pull off on a fully-laden R1200GS...
25,000 people in attendance for Crankworx 2012
This was a popular trick. It must be easy or something...
At the bottom of the landing ramp, the large crowd screams their appreciation for each trick
Most of these athletes were performing while not feeling very well.
Many young people commented that they were sick. I felt sorry for them...
This event was like synchronized swimming, but with bikes.
And without the water. And not at all very synchronized...
I was told this one is called a Superman, not sure why.
Crankworx is a 10-day long event at Whistler mountain, and we stayed to watch the events for two days, commuting back and forth from our campsite less than 30 kms north in Pemberton. Although motorcycle parking was free in Whistler, the food was far from free...
Sea-to-Sky Highway north of Whistler to Pemberton on the way back to our campsite
On a sad note, the province's Olympic committee must have ran out of funds for the smart, snazzy stones announcing the towns north of Whistler, where tourists rarely ventured. Our arrival in poor ole Pemberton is heralded by the same old metal sign that's been there since before 2010...