The Whistler Mountain Bike Park season kicked off without much snow remaining on the trails but the opposite is looking to be the case as the park prepares to close up for the season this weekend.
Monday, Oct. 14, will be final day of riding in the lift-accessed facility, putting the cap on what park manager Brian Finestone called an "unequivocally" successful season that started with a record number of trails open.
"It was a great season. It started off fantastic with the entire lower park open," said Finestone, who's hopeful riders will enjoy a different wrinkle to the trails over the final days.
"We're going to finish off with a little bit of hindrance in the higher terrain because of the early snow, but mountain bikers don't care. They love that stuff, anyway," he laughed. "I think to have your last weekend as a slip-and-slide in the snow and mud is kind of a cherry on top of the cake, really."
For Finestone, the long sunny stretch through summer was a big highlight, as it provided "postcard-perfect" weather for bike park visitors in July in particular.
"There were some water challenges for us on the trail side of things, but for anybody coming here, every day was that perfect day to ride the park," said Finestone, noting that his crew is used to having to work around fire danger ratings each season, so the effects of warm weather were not much different for park staff in that regard.
"Really, the difference was that there was no moisture for the entire month of July, so we had to find the moisture or import the moisture, which is extra work."
Park crews received some new equipment this summer, including a mini excavator and scaled-down dump truck known as a crawler dumper, that Finestone said was extremely helpful.
"It sped up our ability to build trail and do maintenance on trails," Finestone said of the crawler dumper. "By adding that to the mix, it really changed things. We sort of saw the light we'll never not have one of those again now."
Crews also spent some time this season working to improve the Top of the World trail that descends from the peak of Whistler, which had started to become muddy and blown out since it opened partway through the 2012 season.
"We went in there and sort of re-built it properly and added a bit more fun and flow to it, so people can look forward to that section being a little more exciting than it was," said Finestone.
The potential for expanding the bike park towards Blackcomb and Creekside was touched on in the recently updated master plan for Whistler Blackcomb. Finestone said an expansion proposal has gone forward to the board of directors for consideration and said his team will be ready to get working on any elements of the proposal that earn approval.
"We're kind of reaching our maximum capacity on some of our chairlifts, and that's kind of a no-brainer when you look at our lineups and the popularity of the park," said Finestone.
"Like anything else, we can pounce on (an expansion project) on short notice, so as soon as we get clearance to expand at all, we're ready to go."
Although Monday will be the last day of riding, the final weekend will once again feature the Chasse au Tresor. Taking place Saturday, Oct. 12 for the fourth year in a row, teams of two or four riders can participate in a bike park scavenger hunt that includes Instagram check-ins and a Thanksgiving feast at the end. Registration can be completed online at www.whistlerbike.com or on-site Saturday at the GLC at 10 a.m.