By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated August 2015)
Where: Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler, BC, Canada
Description: The 5 Peaks Whistler Blackcomb Enduro Course trail race is normally 10.6 km (6.6 miles), but this year it was shortened due to extreme weather on the mountain. Winds were so high (gusts of 115 km/h) that they shut down the gondola, so those of us who opted to do the race regardless of conditions had to ride up on the chair lift. The Whistler race is usually the most scenic of the Five Peaks trail races, but all of the long-range views were obscured by cloud. There was also heavy rain on and off, and it was very chilly.
Given the conditions at this year’s race, the organizers made the wise decision to combine the shorter Sport and Enduro races into one 6.5 km course for safety reasons (it would have been difficult or even impossible to rescue injured runners on certain stretches of the longer Enduro Course; plus, they wanted to get us off the mountain as soon as possible). They also brought several buses up the mountain so that racers and volunteers would have somewhere to shelter before and after the race (the Blackcomb Lodge was closed for renovations). It was cold for the racers, but even colder for the volunteers who waited at trail forks to guide runners (I was very impressed with all the volunteers who stood out there in the wind and rain cheering us on). We were lucky because the storm quietened substantially during the race (apparently, we ran right through the eye of the storm). After the last racers crossed the finish line, they got everyone off the mountain quickly and shut it down as the storm regained its intensity.
Normally, this race is run on beautifully sunny days and provides incredible views, and there is an awards ceremony afterward, as well as tables with snacks, but this year we just did the race and got out of there quickly. I’ve included some photos from the stormy 2015 race and others from last year’s sunny race for comparison. I plan to run this race next year, so I’ll update the description and photos when I have the opportunity to see the Whistler Blackcomb scenery in all its glory.
If we’d run the regular 10.6 km Enduro Course, it would have included Alpine Walk, Overlord Trail, Lakeside Loop, Decker Loop, Marmot Trail, and 7th Heaven Road, with an elevation gain of approximately 645 meters (2,116 feet).
Time: The fastest time was 32:28 and the slowest was 1:42:50, but these times are representative of the shorter Sport Course rather than the Enduro Course.
Cost: $79.99 for adults (discount for seniors, half price for kids), plus a $15 fee for the gondola ride up (if you’d like to do more trail races, you can save money by purchasing a 5 Peaks Season Pass)
Difficulty: As with the other trail races, there were rocks and roots and hilly sections, but nothing too challenging in terms of technical terrain for experienced trail runners (if you’re new to trail running, either practicing on trails before doing the race or choosing the shorter Sport Course option is recommended).
Required Equipment: Running shoes with good traction, comfortable running clothes, sunglasses and sunscreen if you’re prone to burning (or rain gear, if conditions are bad); they provide a couple of water/aid stations (one at the start-finish area and one along the course), but bringing your own water is recommended, as they try to keep disposable cup use to a minimum during the Five Peaks races for environmental reasons.
- The course provides plenty of amazing scenery.
- You’ll get a great workout with all the elevation gain.
- The event is very well-organized, with friendly, enthusiastic volunteers directing in places where trails fork.
- Race photos are made available for free on Flickr.
- This race is more expensive than the others in the Five Peaks series (though still less expensive than a marathon).
- There are no dogs allowed on the course.
- You don’t get much swag with this one – no medals other than the top three finishers of each gender (overall and for each age category). Everyone else got a pair of running socks and a couple of little promotional items.
- Don’t bring headphones or walking poles – they’re not allowed on the course.
- See the Whistler Blackcomb 5 Peaks Race page for more information.
2016 Update: I did this race again in far better conditions. I’ve added some new photos in the gallery below.
For more great running events in BC, see the main Activities page.
*Conditions, routes, awards, and prices may have changed since the time of this writing.