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Whistler Olympic Park - Backcountry Access Rules #3303
    Date first written: 2013.01.29   Review Date:2017.02.27

Table of Contents
1. Preface
2. Two Separate X-Country Ski Operations
3. Parking Lots
4. Trailheads
5. Access Routes
6. Maps
7. History
8. Legal Jurisdiction of the Land area

1. Preface
This is a document providing "background" information regarding parking regulations at the Whistler Olympic park and Callaghan Country. However it is only background. Since 2016 and into 2017, the most up to date bulletins should be posted to Callaghan Valley Road. That road is a central point where any new info can be posted. In addition, you may make a posting on the particular feature such as a parking lot, but be sure and duplicate it with a bulletin on the Callahan road. Otherwise people don't know where to look for the latest information.

Now we can discuss this background document. It is a summary of how the rules work. It may not be as up to date as the actual bulletins in Callaghan valley road page, but it provides background information.

As you may know, all of the parking lots are in the Bivouac database, and members can make postings to these records. All of the parking lot "feature" records in Bivouac will be linked to this "background" document. If this "background" information becomes out of date, please email Robin Tivy and have this master document updated. There is also an excellent summary on VOC Backcountry Instructions. There is also an "area" record in Bivouac called Whistler Olympic Park.

2. Two Separate X-Country Ski Operations
There are two separate nordic skiing operations in the Callaghan valley: Whistler Sport Legacies (formerly Whistler Olympic Park) and CallaghanCountry.com. Together they form one big area, with Whistler Olympic Park on the east, and Callaghan Country on the west. Whistler grooms 55 km of trails and Callaghan an additional 28 km. The Callaghan Country trails are the ones in the Callaghan Creek drainage. The Whistler Olympic Park Trails are the ones in the Madeley Creek drainage. The problem for backcountry users is that to access the traditional backcountry trails you need to cross (and in some cases ski alongside) the groomed runs.

Two key backcountry trails leave from the Biathlon Parking Lot at the north end of the Whistler Olympic Park: the Beverley Creek Trail and the Hanging Lake Winter Trail. To drive to that lot you must go through the main gate. As of 2017, the main gate at Whistler Olympic Park is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm. There is a $16 parking fee per car for backcountry users, payable at the main gate.

3. Parking Lots
As of 2013, there are four main parking areas, three operated by Whistler Olympic and one by Callaghan Country. There is no overnight parking in any lot within either WOP or Callaghan country area. For overnight, you should use the Alexander Falls Parking lot.

  1. Biathlon Parking Lot
     This lot is at the north end of the road. As you can see from GMap, it is where the Beverley Creek Winter Trail and the Hanging Lake Winter Trail start from. To get to this lot, you must drive through the ticket gate and pay the $16 parking fee (2017). No overnight parking, you must be out by 4:30 or so when the gate closes.

  2. Callaghan Country Parking Lot
     In winter (when trails are groomed) it is for day use only. Once the Olympic facility closes in spring then people park in it for spring skiing.

  3. Alexander Falls Parking Lot
     As of 2017, a small plowed out spot for about 4 cars. This is intended for overnight trips and trips where you might not be back before the 4:30 gate curfew.

  4. Whistler Olympic Parking P1
     There are actually three parking lots near the Day Lodge, numbered 1, 2, and 3 on their maps. They appear on GMap as blue "P" symbols. You would park here if you were X-country skiing on the groomed trails. Note: Overnight parking is not permitted here. See Whistler Olympic Parking P1, Parking Lot P2, Whistler Olympic Parking P3

4. Trailheads
There are at least two backcountry trails that the people working at the Whistler Olympic park know about. And there are signs along some of the cross country trails which point to these trails.

  1. Beverley Creek Winter Trail

    There are 2 possible access points for the trail. (The trail proper starts when you leave the groomed run just west of the maple leaf bridge over Beverley Creek. There are two ways to get there:

    #a. Park at the Whistler Olympic Park Biathlon Range.
     Head northwest on the groomed trail, passing under an overpass (barely visible on satelite), and then curving around a hairpin to head south. (see satelite photos). Just as you curve south, there is a rough connector trail that cuts off and goes down through the trees to connect with the Madeley Loop which is below you and to the west. Once you emerge from the tree connector, onto the groomed Madeley loop, ski up it's edge till you reach the XC bridge over Beverley Creek. We refer to this as the "Maple Leaf bridge" because it has 4 metal cutouts of maple leafs on it. Once across the bridge, you'll see signs for the Beverley Creek Cross country route on your right. Here you leave the groomed Madeley loop and head upwards into the trees, following the orange markers.

    #b Park at the Alexander Falls Parking lot
     From here ski along Madeley Creek Loop XC trail to the Beverley Creek Bridge, about 2km. Just west of the bridge, pick up the trail in the forest on the righthand side. There is a designated snowshoeing trail (Madeley Explorer) that runs parallel to the Madeley Loop XC trail. See East Madeley Route.

  2. Hanging Lake Winter Trail
     There are three ways to get started on this trail: Biathlon Range Parking or Day Lodge parking.
     a. Park at Biathlon Range Parking Lot. Pick up the trail to the right of the Biathlon Scoreboard, which is located just east of the shooting range. The first part of the trail doubles as "Olympic Explorer" snowshoe trail.
     b. Park at the Day Lodge Parking lots. The day lodge is actually a good place to park if you are going to Hanging Lake. You can reach the hanging lake trail via the XC ski trails by following signs. The route is not as obvious as from the Biathlon Range so it's best if you know where you are going. The main advantage of parking here is to use the fireplace and change rooms at the end of the day. The distance and elevation gain are a bit greater but you ski along XC trails instead a rough ungroomed road.
     c. Alexander falls Parking
     (Longer but not subject to 4:30 gate curfew. From parking lot ski through gap in trees on east side of main Callaghan Valley road, cross first trail, then ski down second trail and loop around south end of the "toll booth loop". Then north past the east side of day lodge. (See #b)

5. Access Routes
There are two main trailheads: Beverley Creek Winter Trail and Hanging Lake Winter Trail. There are two main parking spots: Alexander Falls Parking Lot and Biathlon Parking Lot. Thus there are four possible "pairs" of parking lot-trailhead access. Which routes you use depend on what you are doing. The routes from Biathlon parking lot are shorter, but if you won't be back by 4:30 when the gate closes, use the Alexander routes. Bivouac Gmap now has the routes as yellow dotted lines. Use GMap with the "t8" basemap (OSM Cycle) background map to reconcile these routes with the X-country trail names. When going on a trip, download a gpx file with the routes, then follow the route of your choice.

  1. Alexander to Beverly
    1. East Madeley Route
       This route runs up the east side of Madeley Creek on groomed run.

    2. West Madeley Route.
       This route goes up the west side of Madeley creek. It goes for a short distance thru Callaghan Country. Best route for late return from Beverly.

  2. Alexander to Hanging
    1. South Skirt Route
       This route skirts around the south end of the toll booth loop on the main road, then uses Inside Passage to go past the day lodge.

    2. Through the Middle
       This route starts out going by the Filtration plant, but goes east right through parking lots just north of the Day Lodge, then continues northeast thru obscure x-country trails and ends on an untracked logging road.

  3. Biathlon to Beverly
    1. Biathlon to Beverly Access Route
       This route goes a short distance on X country runs, then leaves the trail and goes down a big drop in the woods to reach the eastern arm of the Madeley Creek groomed run. Then ski north on the edge of that and swing west across the bridge over Beverly Creek. Shortly afterward is the Beverly Lake trailhead.

  4. Biathlon to Hanging
    1. Short Hop
       Go northeast from the parking lot The official Hanging Lake trailhead is almost right at the Biathlon parking lot.

6. Maps
The best map for the backcounry trails is the GMap hybrid view. However, the individual X country runs are not labelled on this map. There are several PDF maps of the cross country trails. Unfortunately they are difficult to use or co-related to the Bivouac GMap Google maps because they do not have any lat-longs. The Whistler Olympic park divides the trails into two areas: "Madeley Creek Trails" and "Olympic Plateau Trails". There are then PDF brochure maps for each area that print nicely.

  1. GMap OSM
      In GMap most of the trails are on the OSM choice and labelled. However as of 2017 it is missing a few parts of the backcountry access routes.

  2. GMap Bivouac overlay
     (the GMap link in Bivouac) Bivouac has the two key backcountry trails, and all the parking lots. It also has the key X-country trails useful for accessing the backcountry. If you look up any feature such as Whistler Olympic Park - Day Lodge and then click the red GMap link, you'll see a map showing the backcountry trails such as Beverley Creek trail and Hanging Lake Winter trail. These trails are currently not shown on any of the other maps, although marked.

  3. Ski Callaghan map

  4. Olympic Plateau PDF Map
     This map shows only the Olympic trails and is not lat-long referenced. However it has trail names. Prints out onto a useable 8 1/2 by 11 page. As of 2017 there are minor things out of date such as still showing the backcountry overnight access parking lot near the water filtration plant.

  5. Ski Callaghan Paper map
     A paper map on 12 x 18 paper, printed both sides, which shows all the official X-Country trails in both Callaghan Country and Callaghan Country. This map is available at the Day Lodge in 2013. It's title is "Ski Callaghan". Does not show backcountry trails and does not have contour lines or any grid. Contents: It has the trail names labelled on it. One side shows the Callaghan trails, and the other side shows the Whistler Olympic Trails. Some of the "trails" shown for the Callaghan part are "wilderness route" - ungroomed, and in fact don't exist, such as routes up to "Telemagique Lake".

  6. Clark Geomatics Paper map
     This map shows both the ski trails and the backcountry trails. It is a contour map, with 25m contours.

7. History
History: The back country area around the Callaghan Valley Road was traditionally one of the foremost destinations for back country skiing in winter. In the 1970's and 1980's numerous trips in this area were regularly on all the club trip schedules, such as the BCMC (British Columbia Mountaineering Club), the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC), Alpine Club of Canada and countless private parties.

However, in the 1990's most of the Callaghan valley became overrun with snowmobiles, particularly machines with highly modified two cycle engines and no mufflers. These screaming machines soon dominated the area, and displaced the traditional self-propelled backcountry skiers.

Leading up to 2007, the government built an extensive nordic facility in the valley, in preparation for the Vancouver Olympics. It was referred to as the "Whistler Nordic Center" until the facilty was opened in 2007. and then the name was "Whistler Olympic Park".

Most importantly, the snowmobiles were finally restricted from dominating the area, and so the area was restored to being attractive to self-propelled sports like cross country skiing and back country skiers.

After the 2010 Olympics, an organization called "Whistler Sports Legacies" took over operation of Whistler Olympic Park after the Olympic Games. Since then, there have been a number of schemes to charge back country users, similar to what the operators of Cypress Bowl tried to do in the 1980's for people accessing Hollyburn. Initially there was a plan to charge everybody $6.00 to cross the trails to gain access to the backcountry. See Possible Charge of $6.00 to access backcountry from Whistler Olympic Park.

Then in 2012, the scheme was that all backcountry users must pay a $10 fee whether they use the XC ski trails or not. This excessive charge was not successful, and tended to discourage everybody and give the place a bad name.

In 2013, Bivouac member Scott Nelson and the FMCBC continued to work on the issue, and worked out a procedure with the Nordic center whereby back country skiers would no longer be charged individually, but only the car would pay a $10 fee for parking. The way it works is you get a yellow waiver form from the person at the gate, and leave it on the dashboard.

As of 2017 the fee was raised to %15/car for parking. This is the current scheme.

8. Legal Jurisdiction of the Land area
Legally, Cypress, Grouse, Seymour, Whistler/Blackcomb and WOP are actually different situations. Cypress and Seymour are park use permits administered by BC parks under the park act. Grouse is private land. Whistler/Blackcomb is mostly an alpine skiing recreation tenure, with small cookie cutter leases for the buildings. WOP is a big lease, which makes it unique. Callaghan Country (next to WOP) is a mix of a recreation tenure (like W/B) and a park use permit. The power to exclude users is not unique to WOP. All of the above entities, and other controlled recreation areas in BC have the right to manage access to their tenure. For example, WB does not permit access to the backcountry through areas where avalanche control is in progress. I think WOP was originally tenured as a lease because of the Olympics, but now that the Olympics are done the lease does not automatically expire.