Aug 29th
Rainbow Mountain Trail Maintenance. August 2011

One of the high lights for many of the guests who come and ride with Ticket2RideBC is the guided heli drop ride on Rainbow Mountain in Whistler.

However the season that we can actually ride the trail from the snow capped mountain down to the beach at Alta Lake is pretty short, and this season it has been even shorter due to the huge amount of snow during the 2010/2011 winter coupled with a cool May, June and July.

Typically we have run tours on the mountain from Mid July, but this season the first run will be right at the end of August, however as every season, before we can ride the trail, we need to inspect and maintain is so it is good to ride.

This usually involves the Ticket2RideBC crew hiking up the trail, often with a nights camping, and in fact this season Dan and Luke had already hiked the trail with the chainsaw to clear all the deadfall, but for this second trail maintenance session we were luckily enough to get dropped off at the top courtesy of our heli-drop partners Blackcomb Aviation, saving us about five hours of knackering hiking with all the tools on the way up.

Sean and Andy flying to Rainbow Mountain

Left at the top of Rainbow Mountain

The trail we ride on Rainbow Mountain has been established for many years now, however over the past few seasons we have been working hard to improve the sustainability of the trail on the mountain in line with the work with do with WORCA, SORCA and the PVTA on their trail networks.

In 2009 and in 2010 we spend a number of days up on the mountain putting in ladders over all the water courses to reduce the erosion as well as re-routing a traverse at the end of the upper trail that links into the Flank trail to remove a very eroded and dangerous chute that joined the flank trail.  

This season our project was to re-route a couple of the old school fall line chutes that have eroded into trenches down through the alpine section. It’s been something we have been looking to do for a number of seasons and in fact back at the end of the 2009 season we flagged out the desired path with Peter O’lochlann, however the snow arrived that season before we could get back to work on it and in 2010 other sections took priority.

For this trail maintenance mission I was joined by Ticket2RideBC team members Andy and Sean, as well as guests Gareth and Luke. As soon as the five us were dropped off by the helicopter we took in the awesome views from the top, on what was a blue sky day with hardly a could in the sky.

Andy, Gareth, Sean and Luke on Rainbow Mountain

Then we picked up the tools and started heading across the snow and on to the trail that runs down the alpine meadow, clearing some of the small rocks along the way and taking out some of the rocks that can cause riders issues on the first section of the descent.

Hiking down the Alpine section of Rainbow Mountain

After about 20 minutes hiking we came to the first of the three chutes that needed re-routing. The section was still flagged out from back in 2009 and Dan on his hike up the mountain a week earlier had done some brush cutting, so our work was simply to cut a non-fall line traverse to increase the flow and fun of the trail and remove the unsustainable element of the trail, which was now un-rideable due to the depth of the trench that has eroded with the snow melt.   

With the five of us working as a team it took less than an hour to re-route the trail and then we hiked on down to the second chutes, that also needed a complete re-route.

Again the trail was marked out and Dan and Luke had done some basic shaping and cutting, which left us with a fair amount of work to do, but with the team, it didn’t take too long at all.

Re-routing the fall line chute

So we picked up the trail building tools again and headed on down to the third chutes, which due to it’s sheltered position on the mountain was still full of snow, and as such un-rideable, so we skidded down the snow and moved on to the next section of the trail. Chute three needs a re-route in the same way as the top two, but with only four weeks of the season left and the large amount of snow on that section I think it will be a 2012 project.

Surprisingly the rest of the trail was very dry and with only the odd patch of snow along the route, it was all pretty much rideable.

I was pleased to see that the ladders and other drainage work we had done in previous seasons was holding up and has improved the riding and sustainability for all the riders who use the trails on the mountain.

Ladder work from 2010

As we left the alpine meadow section of the trail and moved into the tree line, we were joined by Ticket2RideBC guest, Julia, who despite here broken thumb which is in a caste, she had decided to hike up the trail to meet up with us.

The six of us then hiked out the rest of the tree-lined trail, pruning the bushes where needed as well as removing a newly fallen dead tree from the lightening strike section of the trail.

Removing Deadfall from the trail

Where the vegetation was more lush at the lower section of the trail before it joins the flank trail it was time to start up the petrol hedge trimmer to widen an over grown section of the trail which forms part of the re-route we completed last season.

Despite the additional weight of the hedger for the hike, the benefit it offers in terms of the speed it does the job compared to sheers; it was defiantly worth the effort in taking it along.

Out on the Flank Trail we had a quick snack before heading off down the “27 switch backs” trail which also needed a bit of trimming with the hedger as we walked down. Arriving at the car park back on Alta Lake road we were collected by Dan in the truck and were able to declare the Rainbow Heli-drop trail good to ride with the exception of chute three; however everyone enjoys a quick slide on the snow up there.

Now it’s time to ride some bikes up there before the snow is back in a month’s time!