Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association trail director Jerome David is throwing down a challenge to members and members of Whistler's riding community as a whole. Through late September and early October, WORCA is hosting four volunteer trail days that will focus on building a new trail into the alpine surrounding Whistler, which would then descend on a little used trail back to the valley. It's being called the High Alpine Dream Trail.
"I've been talking to (WORCA trail contractor) Dave Fortier and we've both wanted to make a push for a line up into the alpine for a while," said David.
New trail building is not in WORCA's mandate, David says, although some new trail sections and connectors have been built in recent years as part of WORCA's "no net loss" policy. If any trail is lost or impacted by development, WORCA is committed to replacing an equal length of trail - sometimes working with developers and sometimes accepting cash in lieu.
The High Alpine Dream Project is different, according to David. For one thing, it will be built almost entirely by volunteers at no cost to WORCA. For another, he believes it fills a gap in the resort's trail map, with no other rides venturing above the treeline - something there is clearly a demand for, given the number of local riders that drive over two hours to access other high alpine trails.
In addition, there is already a descent in place that is being used, although the current access is difficult.
Inspired by some recent high alpine riding in Europe, David has been scouting out a route and is spending the next few weeks picking a line that will take riders above the tree line on the west side.
"It's quite a big project, so the more the merrier," said David. "A lot of people say they'd like to come out for a trail day and I say this is their chance to be part of something that will be pretty unique in the valley."
David said the goal is to build a "mellow climb" to the top, as well as a section of trails in the alpine that would lead to the descent. He estimates that a round trip could be five or six hours at a slower pace.
The days are Sept. 25 and 26 and Oct. 2 and 9. Volunteers should meet at the bottom of Stonebridge Road at 8 a.m., prepared to work for at least four hours if not longer. If all goes well then volunteers may spend the whole day.
If you can't make those days but still want to help out then contact email@example.com and leave your phone number - you can join in on other work days between Sept. 20 and Oct. 17.
If you're interested, come dressed for the weather and bring a lot of water and food. Sturdy footwear and gloves are a must, and any tools like picks, pulaskis, hand saws, garden shears and hand pruners are welcome - although WORCA can supply tools as well.
Much of WORCA's trail budget this year has gone towards maintenance of the existing network, with a significant amount of work going towards Comfortably Numb.
"We've taken out stumps and roots and areas that were getting damaged," explained David. "Some people would say we've dumbed it down, but it's really just improving it and making it smoother in places, because there has been some erosion in there. Right now we're advertising that trail as blue, and it was getting pretty black."
As well as grooming parts of the trail, WORCA has bridged a few wet sections - something that David says will make is possible to ride the trail a month earlier and a month later each year. Two new trail options have also been added: a safety bailout route has been added that would allow runners, bikers and hikers to bypass the middle loop - something WORCA is discouraging because that section includes some of the high points on the trail, but decided to include for safety reasons if riders have injuries or mechanicals, or run out of daylight.
Also, some work has gone into the Yummy Numby trail, with a new bridge on the way that will improve access to the trail and bypass the golf course. Designed as a climb - as well as another bailout option - Yummy Numby takes riders to the top of the Comfortably Descent, once known as Foreplay.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler's trail crew has also been working in Lost Lake.
David doesn't know whether the High Alpine Dream Project can be completed this year or whether it will take several years. A lot depends on the volunteer turnout, he said.
To date, WORCA has been getting around 20 volunteers for trail days, with Ticket 2 Ride and Bear Back Biking guiding companies usually providing at least half of the crew.
"I have to give a big thanks again to the guiding companies, they've really stepped up again this year," said David. "In the last few years they've been part of every big project. We couldn't have done any of it without them."
Whistler Outback Adventures is sponsoring one of the trail days on Sept. 25, providing food and refreshment to volunteers. If you would like to sponsor any of the additional work days, contact Jerome David at firstname.lastname@example.org.