Whistler Blackcomb adding timed hiking to summer operations

Competitive hiking is coming to Whistler Blackcomb this summer.

The British Columbia megaresort recently announced it will time hikers on some of its trails, allowing guests to see how fast they are moving and how they stack up against others.

The resort will use radio-frequency identification technology to record the times. Guests can create online profiles to record their hiking times, compete with friends and track their personal best.

The radio-frequency identification device is embedded in the resort’s summer pass. The passes are $49.95 (Canadian) per day or $69.95 for the season when purchased at least five days in advance. The passes are good until Oct. 12 and come with access to trails and lift rides.

The resort plans to send elite runners and hikers out to establish benchmarks for guests to compare themselves against on the timed trails.

The resort told the Canadian Press it hopes to have the timed hikes available by late June.

Three timing check-in points are planned. One at Whistler Peak, one at the top of Emerald Chair and one on Blackcomb Mountain near the Peak 2 Peak gondola terminal.

Timed hiking has already proved popular at North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain. The Grouse Grind is a 1.8-mile hike that ascends 2,800 feet and draws more than 150,000 hikers each year. According to grousemountain.com, the average time to complete the hike is 90 minutes, but novice hikers typically need two hours. The record is 23 minutes, 48 seconds.

The Grouse Grind has its own Facebook page. The resort sells Grind Timer cards with the identification chips that allow visitors to see how their times stack up. Times are displayed on a monitor in the lodge and on the resort’s website.

A Grind Timer Card is $20, which includes a transfer of your bag to the top of the hill. Timed hiking is one of several new services Whistler Blackcomb plans to add for summer operations. It also is adding electric pedal-assisted bikes to its rental fleet.

Also, Steeps Grill and Wine Bar, typically closed during summer months, will remain open this year. Resort officials say it will serve as the high alpine fine dining location while the Rendezvous Lodge and Christine’s Restaurant undergo renovation. Steeps is scheduled to open June 27.