There's mountain biking, and then there's downhilling. The latter involves descending mountains at warp speed astride bombproof, dual-suspension bikes while wearing elbow and kneepads, full-face helmets, and even body armor. For those types of daredevils, Whistler Mountain – host to more than 60 lift-served trails and a robust bike (and crash gear) rental shop – is arguably the best downhilling destination on the continent. And this summer, it got even better. We previewed the new Top of the World trail, a sick piece of alpine singletrack aptly named for its position at the apex. The three-mile expert trail opens up the mountain's peak zone to biking for the first time, bringing Whistler's total vertical drop to a rip-roaring 5,000 feet – the largest in North America.
To access the trail, take the Whistler Village gondola all the way up, and then get on the Peak Chair lift to the very top. Look for trail signs to the right. Starting in the alpine tundra at over 7,000 feet, the Top of the World rips racers down the backside of Whistler Mountain at speeds up to 40 mph, in full view of the craggy Coast Range peaks and glaciers. Before hooking up with the Garbanzo zone trails, full of built-up berms and jumps to maintain breakneck speed through the Mountain Hemlock, the new singletrack drops into areas not even open for skiing in the winter. The adrenaline fix finishes in the flowy coastal rainforest of the base area, where it's not uncommon to spot a black bear.
The Top of the World Trail opens late July/early August, and requires a separate lift ticket in addition to the Bike Park pass. Nicely, to preserve the integrity of the backcountry biking experience, the trail will be limited to 100 downhillers per day. [$15 in addition to bike park pass, from $56; whistlerbike.com]