The trip from the base of Whistler Mountain to the Roundhouse Lodge takes about 25 minutes on the gondola. But why ride when you can run?
Back in Whistler for a third year, the Nike ACG Five Peaks Trail Running Series is again hosting a run to the Roundhouse, using the mountain bike park, access roads, and the ski runs as the route to the top.
According to Kathryn Stanton, the director of operations for the B.C. Five Peaks, the Whistler Five Peaks event is the official Canadian qualifier for the World Mountain Running Championships.
The result is that the course is always modelled on the championships. Last year the course was a much easier but slightly longer route on Blackcomb Mountain.
"One year the course has to be mostly vertical with a minimum 3,500 foot elevation gain and the next year it has to be a rolling course with two 800 foot elevation gains," said Stanton.
"The Five Peaks was chosen because we have a good reputation for trail running competitions and our terrain is more than rugged enough. A lot of the cross-country courses out there just arent difficult enough to pick a team for the worlds."
The bad news is that 2004 is the vertical race with a minimum 3,500 foot gain actually 3,816 feet. The good news is that it can be done. In 2002 the top racer completed a 12 km route up Whistler Mountain in just 56 minutes and 13 seconds. The average racer was just under an hour and a half, and the last of the 200 runners fell over the line an hour after that.
There is also a beginner 5 km route this year, which is included in all of the Five Peak Series races.
"Were trying to get people off the road and onto the trails," Stanton explained.
The exact course for the 5 km event has yet to be determined, but Stanton is hoping to start and finish the short race at the Roundhouse Lodge. The longer base-to-Roundhouse run could take place on the same route, which includes the dirt road to the Ho Chi Min trail, Golden Triangle trail and Crabapple trail to the top of the Fitzsimmons Chair, followed by a course that winds its way up Expressway, Bear Cub, Pony Trail, Papoose and Upper Whiskey Jack.
Maybe a dozen of the racers will be going for the World Mountain Running Championships says Stanton.
"We like to throw a good wrench into it because there are a lot of strong local runners that have the advantage," she said.
According to Stanton, participation in Five Peaks Trail Running Series, which take place in Ontario, Alberta and B.C., is up almost 20 per cent this year alone, and has been growing every year.
"I think people are just tired of road running, you can only do so many races so many times, and theyre looking for something different," she said. "People are realizing how amazing it is out there, and there are endless trails to choose from you can just run forever.
"Its such a great workout, too. A lot of people are getting into it because you get a lot stronger when you run on a trail."
In Whistler you can pick up a registration form at the Nike Store/Mountain Adventure Centre in the Pan Pacific Lodge, the local sponsor of the race. You can also sign-up online at www.5peaks.com.
You can register until 9:30 a.m. on race day for a small extra fee, and the event gets underway at 10 a.m.