Wild, wild wet 

Strapped inside a giant hamster wheel, you feel the power of Fitzsimmons Creek

Amy Fendley straps up in preparation for a Hyrdro Bronc ride. Photo by Paul Waller
  • Amy Fendley straps up in preparation for a Hyrdro Bronc ride. Photo by Paul Waller

There is wildness in the heart of Whistler Village this year. You can experience a real B.C. river adventure on class four rapids, right between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, and be back on the patio to meet your companions faster than a speeding salmon.

Friendly and safe enough for even the most timid of couch potatoes, you can be a hamster for a day while rolling down Fitzsimmons Creek inside the world’s newest water wheel, the Hydro Bronc.

The rugged, eight-foot sphere is comprised of seven inflatable chambers and can spin you through a 45-degree range of motion in any direction. You won’t flip completely upside down, so sit back and enjoy the ride. Use the handles and walking track to navigate and steer. Run on the track for a really wild ride.

A unique, brand new all-weather experience, Canadian Hydro Bronc Tours have a minimal impact on the environment and a commitment to environmentally sustainable operations.

"We have an agreement with the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group to make sure that we don’t do anything that would affect the habitat," explained Eric Ridington, owner and operator of Whistler White Water, the company running the tours. "We’re committed to a zero net habitat loss policy of operating, so if we need to remove a piece of wood (for safety) then we mitigate that by creating fish habitat somewhere else. We are also not going to run the creek at low water when the bull trout are spawning, which is in October."

Ridington and his business partner, Paul Carus, appreciate the opportunity to run the test project in Whistler this year. "It would not have been possible without the co-operation of Whistler-Blackcomb, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Village Sports," he said.

How the Hydro Bronc tours are received will go a long way toward determining whether they will be permitted again next summer.

It’s taken more than a year from initial concept to fruition, but Ridington says the Hyrdo Bronc tours have been generating lots of interest. "It’s amazing how many obstacles we had to overcome but here we are, and we’re really getting a positive response."

My adventure begins in nervous excitement as I slip into a dry suit and safety gear. Securely harnessed within the Bronc, my heart leaps as I am launched into the raging white waters of Fitzsimmons Creek. Exhilarated I become one with the river. What was snow just hours ago splashes past as I grip the tethers and run in the surf, jumping waves and even riding over logs and boulders. You’ve never felt anything like this in your life.

I hear nothing but water, feel nothing but the flow of current and the rush of bubbles as the forest flashes past upside down in a flicker of sunshine. Uh, oh, now I’m spinning sideways in a hydraulic. Looking out through the churning Hydro Bronc, I see our guide in his inflatable kayak yelling instructions, as I remember to stop running and hold my feet firm on the track. Suddenly my Bronc lurches and I’m out of the hole. Yeehah, I’m on the waves again.

I pick up the feel of it without having to think it, and the oneness returns. Exhilarated again, I round a bend in the creek to see the catch point approaching as a swiftwater rescue-trained guide reaches out to corral me and my fellow Bronc riders at journey’s end.

A roller coaster through paradise, I wish I could just ride off into the sunset; me my Bronc and the waves.

Tours run every hour, on the hour, departing from Whistler Village Sports.

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