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Big plans for bigger bike park

You might not be able to buy a house in Whistler for half a million dollars but you can...

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You might not be able to buy a house in Whistler for half a million dollars but you can certainly make some major changes to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park.

Bike Park Manager Rob McSkimming said there are a number of key plans on the horizon this summer for big improvements at the park.

Though they won’t be visible on opening day this Saturday, May 1, they’re coming down the pipeline throughout the summer months.

By enlisting the help of pro mountain bikers like Richie Schley, McSkimming is hoping to get a rebuilt bikercross course operational by the May long weekend.

Hundreds of truckloads of dirt have been piled in there over the past couple of weeks to help with the rebuild project.

"The whole bikercross is going to go to a whole other level," he said.

Another key objective this year is to focus on intermediate level riding. A new blue trail called Smoke and Mirrors should be ready in June but McSkimming said they are working on an A-line Mini-Me or an A-Line Junior (the name has yet to be determined) that will be fashioned after the park’s famous A-Line trail.

"Our objective there is to try and create a trail that has some of the thrill and excitement of A-Line but it’s just slower, smaller features, so that intermediate riders can get in there," he said.

The trail would allow riders to get their bikes in the air but in an environment where everything’s a little lower to the ground and it’s less intimidating than the original run, which is billed for advanced to expert riders.

"We’re trying to design it so the intermediate (rider) wants to ride it and the expert rider doesn’t," said McSkimming.

And then there are plans to take the unique design of A River Runs Through It and create something similar in the park.

For that they’ve hired Sean Dixon, the trail builder who rehabilitated the worn out areas of the trail last summer and added some new twists and turns.

"We kind of like River Runs Through It," said McSkimming.

"(It’s) just a real interesting stunt-infested trail, (with) lots of bridges and ladders and teeter-totters and one-of-a-kind things. Tentatively the trail is called Stunted Growth and we’re just trying to find the right place to unleash Sean’s talents."

Of course, the biggest change of all this summer is that expansion up to the Garbanzo chairlift.

The expansion, which will almost triple the vertical of the park, is set to open at the end of June, for experts only at first.

The first two trails have been built. One runs near Jimmy’s Joker called No Joke and another trail starts off as Duffman and flows into Goats, which is near the ski run Goat’s Gully.

The trails then go through the gladed ski run In Deep.

McSkimming said the lift drops riders off at the sub-alpine forest, which is interspersed with lots of rocks and some pretty breathtaking views.

"It is such a different place up there," said McSkimming.

"It really adds a whole other dimension to riding in the park.

"There’s something about getting up near the tops of the mountains that definitely adds to the whole experience."

McSkimming said if you can make it from top to bottom in 25 minutes, you’re doing well.

It’ll definitely get the arm muscles working, he added.

The bike park opens this Saturday. It will be open weekends only from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until May 22, after which it will be open for daily operations.

Season passes are on sale for $299.

This year’s day ticket prices are as follows: $39 for adults, $35 for youth and seniors, and $19 for children.

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