While the snow continues to fall in the alpine, warmer temperatures in the valley will likely mean an early opening for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. The official opening date is Saturday, May 20, but the park should be open weekends starting on May 6.
"Our original soft target was April 29, but I dont think were going to make that given how much snow we have down here," said Rob McSkimming, vice president of business development for Whistler-Blackcomb. "A lot is depending on the weather. Im optimistic we will hit the May 6 date. We have our equipment coming in any day now, and pretty soon well start moving snow out and maintaining, repairing any damage on the trails and hopefully getting them dried out."
Only the lower park off the Fitzsimmons Chair will be accessible until the Garbanzo Zone opens in June, and runs on the lower mountain will open only after theyve been cleared of snow and passed inspection.
The Bike Park has posted double-digit growth in terms of rider numbers over the past six years, and is continuing to open and improve trails.
According to McSkimming, a major focus for 2006 is completing the Freight Train run on the Garbanzo Chair, as well as other spurs and connector trails between existing runs. Because construction also gets underway on the Olympic skiing runs, McSkimming says a new run will open parallel to the Garbanzo Chair.
"We will have some challenges with the Olympics, so were definitely going to be working around that," he said. "One way to do that is to move things over a little with a new run were looking at almost under the Garbanzo Chair."
Another focus is the completion of the Crank It Up trail on the Lower Mountain. Crank It Up is billed as an intermediate trail with some of the same features found on more advanced runs, including boxes, bridges, dirt jumps, wall rides and other features, but built smaller for riders who are still progressing.
"I think one of the things weve recognized is that were pretty good on the upper end for the advanced riders, and weve got the Magic Park and Easy Does It on the low end, so it was important to continue to add interest and variety for the middle end. I definitely think Crank It Up fits that need," said McSkimming.
The Magic Park will also be upgraded with more features for beginning riders. The goal is to keep riders in the area for a few more runs, building their progression, before they move on to the Whistler Park.