Although the official opening is still two weeks away, the soft opening for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park on Saturday, May 1 was a huge success with excellent conditions on many trails, record pass sales, and a smooth transition for mountain staff.
"You couldnt have asked for a better day, weather-wise," said bike park director Rob McSkimming. "It was sunny, but not too hot, the trails were in great shape, it was really ideal.
"I just think weve been having a warmer spring this year, and people are more into riding than they were at the same time last year."
The popularity of the bike park itself has also been growing, with rider numbers up 50 per cent each year.
This years opening day saw more than double the number of riders on opening day last year. Although there were a few sizeable lineups in the early afternoon, for the most part the park could handle the traffic, even with the majority of trials still closed.
"I thought our guys did just and amazing job on the first day, everything was going as well as it was on the last day of last season, from the maintenance guys getting the ramps ready and the bike racks on the lift, to the tellers and validators, to the patrol guys and trail crew I thought it was exceptional," said McSkimming.
The park will continue to expand operations in the coming weeks. They hope to have Dirt Merchant and some of the trails on the west side of the park open for this weekend, but only if they are safe to ride.
By the official opening on May 22, the majority of the park will be open including the biker cross course and the Boneyard Slopestyle Park at the base of the mountain.
The Garbanzo expansion will open on June 26, adding 2,200 more vertical feet of terrain, more lift capacity, and at least three new trails. More will be built once the snow clears.
New trails are being built on the lower mountain, with a focus on intermediate level riders. One of the trails is a tamer version of A-Line with smaller features and easier turns. Another is Smoke and Mirrors, a blue trail that should be ready in June. In addition, trail builder Sean Dickson has been hired this year to build a trail similar to A River Runs Through It that is tentatively being called Stunted Growth.
The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is also seeking public feedback on a series of new features designed by Dickson for the Boneyard Slopestyle Park. Every Monday this May a new feature will be added to the Web site, that will be rendered in 3D. You can also use your mouse to guide a model rider over the feature to get an idea of its size.
Riders will be able to provide their input, and the most popular will likely be incorporated into the Bike Park.
"When I built these models I never would have assumed that they would be showcased in such an innovative manner," said Dickson. "I think its great that the bike park is allowing riders to vote on their favourite features."
You can check out the models online at www.whistler-blackcomb.com/bike/features/.
The bike park is open on weekends only until the official opening on May 22, when operations will go daily, with lifts running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Extended Play will start on June 16, with the park opening until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Early season pricing is in effect, and pass discounts are available for winter season pass holders and WORCA members.
Opening weekend will also see the first event of the season, the third annual Crud to Mud Downhill. With categories for solo riders and teams of two this popular race includes a GS course for skiers and snowboarders followed by a rip down A-Line. The exact course will be finalized before the race as the skiing conditions are assessed.