The Whistler Mountain Bike Park officially closed on Monday, Oct. 8, after more than five months in operation. A huge turnout of riders came out to get in a few last turns and enjoy a few rare hours of sunshine.
According to Rob McSkimming, vice president of business development for Whistler-Blackcomb, it was yet another record year.
“It turned out to be our ninth consecutive record year, which is pretty good considering it was probably the most challenging year weather-wise that I can remember,” he said. “We were up about five per cent from the year prior, but with a little better weather — especially on the weekends — I think we would have done better than that.”
One of the reasons for the continued growth in ridership is the reputation of the park. According to surveys, roughly 20 per cent of park visitors this year were from overseas. Some stayed for a few days, while others stayed for the entire season.
“Even five years ago you couldn’t have imagined that, that we’d have 20 per cent of visitors from overseas, so it’s pretty unbelievable,” said McSkimming.
The park itself went through a few changes this year, despite the weather. One of the major breakthroughs was the opening of Lower Crank It Up, an intermediate flow trail which instantly became one of the most popular trails in the bike park. Also new this year was Karate Monkey, a more technically challenging trail used in downhill races.
In the Garbanzo Zone, work got underway on a new intermediate trail and sections of Blue Velvet that will link up with other trails next season.
As well, both A-Line and B-Line received a lot of maintenance this season, including erosion repairs and building new features.
However, not all construction went according to plan.
“We wanted to do more in Garbanzo but it was a tough year to build up there,” said McSkimming. “It took forever for the snow to melt, and it rained too much to get much done. That said we have the beginnings of a pretty exciting intermediate trail with Blue Velvet, and solid plans to link the area together next year. Putting a really entertaining intermediate trail up there is definitely a priority for next year, and next year we should be able to open up another section of Karate Monkey as well.
The impact of new trails, especially Crank It Up, has had the effect of spreading riders around the bike park.
“We don’t have trail counters, but there were probably days where Crank It Up had more people on it than A-Line,” said McSkimming. “Our hope for that trail was to make it an enjoyable experience for the mid-level riders, but another one of our goals was to be able to spread people out and make some other trails less crowded. With the Garbanzo zone we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to this year, but we still had more people riding up there than last year and I think we can do better next season. That’s a pretty big area up there which means riders will be more spread out, lap times are a lot longer which means less waiting in line. It keeps people out of the base area, which can get pretty crowded.”
McSkimming is also the manager of Gravity Logic, a consultation group of bike park staffers that provides advice and expertise to other mountain resorts around the world looking to develop lift assisted bike parks. The goal is to bring more people into the sport, many of whom will visit the park in Whistler.