Cycling the Whistler Valley Trail

The Valley trails in Whistler, B.C. provide over 40km of maintained multi-use trails connecting Whistler Village to Green Lake to the north, and Function Junction to the south.

Overview of the Whistler Valley Trail system. Download the detailed trail map from Tourism Whistler.

The trails are a mixed of gravel and paved paths which make cycling on them easy for anyone. The trails run through different settings such as within forested areas, alongside a road or lake, or in a meadow like along the hydro cut. The shade provided by the trees along most of the trails make the bike ride reasonably comfortable especially on a warm summer day.

Here are a couple time lapsed videos of my ride on a couple of the main trails.

Driving the Sea to Sky Highway

The Sea to Sky highway (BC Highway 99) from Vancouver to Whistler is one of my favourite drives. It is both picturesque, and fun to drive with all the twists and turns.

On this beautiful autumn day, I was heading to Whistler to check out the Turkey Sale, and was able to finally capture the drive in great weather conditions.

Update: The dashcam video of the southbound journey is now available.

Whistler Ski Run Topographic Map

My cousins from Toronto came over to ski and snowboard at Whistler over the last month.  I had the opportunity to pick up skiing again and accompany them up at Whistler a few times.

Whistler Blackcomb is pretty big, so one would usually look at a map to find suitable runs.  This is a sample of what is provided in the “Mountain Atlas”:

A portion of the official Trail Map/Mountain Atlas you get from Whistler Blackcomb

It looks nice and is mostly useful.  But for all the map geeks out there, can we find anything better?

Turns out that Google Maps conveniently has the ski runs in its map.  But there’s more: Google Maps in Terrain mode shows the contour lines like a topographic map!

“Topographic” map of Whistler Mountain (north is upwards — so the Village is towards the top)

Beautiful!  The top-down view makes it easy to see the actual orientation of the run and “behind” the mountains, and the contour lines makes the rate of descent visible.  So from here you can see there is a green run from the Peak—Mathew’s Traverse—whereas it’s not depicted on the trail map.

How do you get to the map?

Here’s the link: Google Maps Terrain @ Whistler
Alternatively you can search for the location you want in Google Maps, then open the menu at the top left, then select “Terrain” mode.

Terrain is one of the layers in Google Maps

The end is near for Whistler’s hydrogen fuel cell buses

In one week, Whistler’s fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses will be parked as their five-year pilot project ends. Nova Bus diesel buses will be replacing them as of April 1st, 2014.

The fleet of twenty buses is currently the largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses operating in the world. The fuelling station for the fleet is also the world’s largest hydrogen filling station.

A hydrogen fuel cell bus at Whistler’s Gondola Transit Exchange.

The hydrogen fuel cell buses were brought to Whistler by a five-year demonstration project sponsored by the federal, provincial and municipal governments, and the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. The buses arrived in late 2009 and the fleet commenced full operation in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The hydrogen fuel cell is a green technology as the only by-product is water. That means there are no harmful fumes emitted from the bus! In addition, the efficiency of the fuel cell is about 60-70%, which is significantly higher than the average diesel engine at 30-40%.

The world’s largest hydrogen fuelling station at Whistler Transit Centre.

One of the difficulties for the project was getting the hydrogen fuel from a green source. Up to this day, hydrogen is trucked in from a supplier based in Quebec. Although it is possible to produce the hydrogen fuel closer to home, using non-renewable resources to perform the electrolysis would negate the environmental friendliness of using the hydrogen fuel cell in the first place.

The hydrogen fuel cell demonstration project is deemed a success. The technology is still at its infancy so there’s high hope for it in the future. Although the hydrogen buses were environmentally friendly, the overall operating cost per kilometre far exceeded those of diesel or CNG buses. As the technology matures and the hydrogen infrastructure expands, hopefully the operating costs will decrease to something comparable to diesel or CNG.

For the twenty buses in Whistler though, let’s hope to see them repowered with a different engine (compressed natural gas maybe?) so that they don’t need to see the scrap heap so soon.

A Nova Bus diesel bus on the left, and the New Flyer hydrogen fuel cell bus on the right.

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