Oregon man dies in bike park

A 40-year-old man succumbs to injuries on May 30

An experienced mountain biker died after a crash in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park on Friday (May 30).

The 40-year-old man has been identified as Hood River, OR resident Matt Klee. He served as president of the Hood River Area Trail Stewards.

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Klee was in proper safety gear — including a full-face helmet and neck brace — when he lost control on a rock feature while riding the advanced Lower Whistler Downhill trail and crashed at the bottom. He was with four other friends at the time, including an emergency room doctor who immediately began CPR.

Park patrol was called to the scene around 4 p.m. and arrived about three minutes later. An ambulance met the crew on the mountain to transport the man to the Whistler Health Care Centre where a helicopter was on its way.  

He was declared dead at 6 p.m. after staff at the centre were unable to stabilize him. The exact cause of death has not been released, but it was trauma related, said Doug MacFarlane, mountain manager for Whistler Blackcomb (WB), the company that runs the park.

“I want to say on behalf of Whistler Blackcomb, we want to express our condolences to family and friends for the loss,” MacFarlane said. “It’s a tragic event for the small community of mountain biking.”

Klee a long-time rider and has had a “Triple Play” pass at the park since 2011. WB crews are investigating the feature for safety concerns, but say there were no immediately apparent issues. “That trail is one of the first we had in the bike park,” MacFarlane said. “It hasn’t changed in a long time. There’s nothing abnormal about it. It wasn’t in poor shape or anything… Any time we have a severe injury in the bike park we have a look to see if there’s anything we can do to improve.”

The death is the second fatality in the park’s 15 years of operation. The other incident happened in August 2002 when a 33-year-old Langley man crashed at the bottom of Crabapple Hits trail.

“It’s a real rarity,” MacFarlane said. “Obviously there are accidents, but fatalities are rare. Everybody is sad about the whole thing.”

In the wake of the tragedy, he said it’s important to remember safety tips —especially at the beginning of the season when riders of all levels are getting back into the sport after a long winter. WB offers an array of lessons, he added.

“Know where you’re going. Know which trails are appropriate for you and your progression… It’s typical this time of year, riders are starting on easier trails and working their way up,” he said.

More experienced riders should remember to hydrate and only head to the park when they’re alert. “Don’t over do it,” he said. “Like skiing, a lot of injuries happen at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s not worth doing the last run.”

Pay attention to what your body is telling you and don’t drag friends down runs for which they’re not ready, MacFarlane said. “We like people to have fun, play safe and be ready for what they’re about to do and not get themselves in over their heads,” he said. “But these fellows (involved in the incident) definitely knew what they were doing.”

For more mountain bike safety tips visit bike.whistlerblackcomb.com.

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