The numbers are still being crunched, but Whistler Mountain Bike Park manager Brian Finestone is confident that this season will likely be a record breaker in terms of rider numbers.
"I would say it's unprecedented," he said. "The numbers aren't fully in yet, but it definitely set records. I can't remember having such great weather every weekend, all summer long. And there's always a rockslide or an accident or something on the highway that closes the highway and shuts us down a little, but we made it all the way through with no problems. Folks came and they rode, and it was great."
The number of total pass sales was up over last year, but the biggest growth came from three-day and six-day passes, as well as the new "twilight" passes that are good for extended play periods through the summer.
"We had a lot of good feedback from guys in construction or that are working nine to five and can't get to the park. They wanted to ride extended play all summer long, and a lot of people bought it — it didn't affect regular pass numbers, so we reached a group of people that didn't have that option in the past," said Finestone.
The park saw a lot of growth in other areas as well. Women's Wednesdays were a lot bigger than last year, and the park's DFX youth camps also grew significantly. "Then there's the fact that we basically grew beyond our capacity in the Phat Wednesday series, so we added more volunteers and number plates to accommodate that higher interest level. We added the Phat Weekend series in the fall. All things showed the level of dedication of our local riders in getting out to events," Finestone said.
The warm, dry weather was a double-edged sword for the park, though. While it likely increased rider numbers, it also meant more wear and tear on the trails. Bike Park crews did what they could to stay ahead of it.
"It was really about the fine balance of moisture management," said Finestone. "This year we had so little (water) that we brought out our own. Crews got creative using our snowmaking installations and some really long hoses, and we have a couple of new tricks as well. We bought a water cube for the back of our little 4x4 UTV to take it to the trails and deliver the water as we did maintenance chunk by chunk. Without those systems we would have been in some dire straits."
Despite the dry weather and fire hazard, crews also managed to open a lot of new trail this year. Most significantly, crews completed a lower section of Blue Velvet in the Garbanzo Zone, linking it up to Super Fantastic and Crank It Up. "That was a three or four-year endeavour to get that far, and there's still another section to go in next season. It's a big project, but it's going really well," said Finestone. "The Top of the World trail was originally supposed to be a three-year project, but this year we decided to finish building the whole thing so we managed to get it done in two."