All good things must come to an end, and the Whistler Mountain Bike Park season was very good indeed.
It started well, for one thing. Record warm days in May opened up the lower mountain, and even the Garbanzo Zone, a lot earlier than in the past few years. That allowed crews to spend their time working on the trails rather than shoveling snow off of them, which was the case the previous three years. In 2011, crews had to carve through almost three metres of snow to open up trails in time for the May long weekend.
June wasn’t a great month for weather, but nothing West Coast riders can’t handle. And summer was generally hot, dry and perfect for riding — conditions that helped downhiller Adam Billinghurst log one million vertical feet in just 58 days, a personal mission of his that has apparently inspired other riders to try and beat that mark next season.
“It was a fairy tale summer for sure,” said bike park manager Brian Finestone. “We haven’t had one like that in a while and the conditions have never been better.
“It came crashing to an end with all this rain and snow and low freezing levels. The snow did chase us out of the Top of the World trail faster than we thought, and it’s been trying to chase us out of the Garbanzo Zone, but we’ve been pushing back. Overall though, it’s been a very successful summer.”
Mountain bike trail building efforts focused mainly on reviving some of the original trails in the Garbanzo Zone with a few new additions here and there like a new section of Blue Velvet.
This year the bike park upgrades got a little boost with the purchase of some new machinery that Finestone said would also influence the scope of projects next year as well.
“We added another piece of digging equipment to our fleet and we added a mini dumptruck as well,” he explained. “It’s called a crawler dumper, and the amount of dirt we could move around to build things and recap trails was amazing and made all the difference in the world. We may even get a second machine next year to keep our jumps and bumps in good repair and manage our maintenance more efficiently.
“It’s a bit like the winter when you have grooming and snowmaking on the mountain, instead we’re bringing in dirt and grooming it so our guests have a nice surface to ride on, and everything is maintained to a high standard.”
Whistler Blackcomb’s master plans also include plans for the expansion of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park — either by extending the park to the lower part of Blackcomb, or opening the current park to include the Creekside area. It’s unknown when that expansion could get underway, but Finestone said it will be a huge job and will have to offer the right mix of experiences for riders.
“To execute that kind of thing would be a massive undertaking, it’s not as simple as it might sound, and we have to look very closely at our mountain bike product and the people that are doing the sport,” he said. “The demographics are changing. It’s a lot more family than it used to be, for example, it’s not just the hardcore demographic anymore. It seems like everybody has discovered biking and the bikes themselves are evolving to meet the needs of the average rider, as well as the hardcore racers and freeriders.”
The bike park is also looking to boost its events. According to Whistler Blackcomb events manager Seb Fremont, who spoke at the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association annual general meeting recently, the bike park recently purchased new timing equipment that opens up new possibilities for different kinds of races.
They’re also looking to add more Phat Wednesday downhill races and other events — such as enduro races — next year. Details will be announced in the spring.
The bike park schedule was busy this summer with eight Bud Light Phat Wednesday races on the calendar, two enduro events (one of which was cancelled due to weather), a Phat Weekend race in the Garbanzo Zone, the Crud 2 Mud opener, LTR (Learn to Ride) events, Women’s Wednesday, Men’s Night (Tuesdays) and Crankworx. During Crankworx, the mountain hosted the Canadian Open Enduro, Air Downhill, Garbanzo Downhill, Canadian Open Downhill, Giant Dual Slalom, Dual Speed & Style and Red Bull Joyride. The only remaining event is the annual Chasse au Tresor, which takes place this weekend.
Bike park scavenger hunt this weekend
The Chasse au Tresor on Oct. 12 is a scavenger hunt in the park for teams or two or four. Riders tour from location to location, doing activities, solving puzzles and taking pictures that they will post to Instagram (so every group needs at least one phone). It’s all about fun, although there is a bike park pass up for grabs this year. All participants are eligible to win draw prizes from bike park sponsors, including a Rock Shox fork, Sram drivetrain and more.
The cost to participate is $10, and advance registration is available online and Whistler Blackcomb Guest Relations. Day-of-event registration is also available at the bottom of the bike park from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. You need a bike park pass to participate, and discounted passes are available for $16.
There’s a rider’s meeting at 10:30 a.m. that’s mandatory, followed by the event from 11 a.m. until around 2 p.m.
That night the GLC is hosting the Chasse au Tresor afterparty and traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner, plus three mountain bike movie premieres, for a cost of $25. This is the last big bike park party of the season, and extra tickets are available to the public. Visit www.whistlerbike.com.