By Andrew Mitchell
It took a marathon of volunteer trail work and a $20,000 investment in a bridge from the RMOW, but Comfortably Numb finally opened to the public in 2004 — eight years after trail builder Chris Markle started to explore the area with the goal of creating an intermediate epic ride for Whistler.
This fall the trail has been officially designated an Epic Ride by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, an organization that works to preserve mountain bike trail access through the development of the sport and trail standards.
Previously 37 trails had received Epic Ride status, and just three of them in Canada — the Eagle Ridge Expedition trail outside of Vancouver, the Seven Summits Trail in Rossland, and the Mansfield Trail in Alliston, Ontario. Joining Comfortably Numb this year is the Santos Trail in Florida, and High Country Pathway in Michigan.
According to Scott Linnenburger, the Field Programs coordindator for IMBA, Comfortably Numb was an obvious choice for Epic Ride status. It’s definitely long enough — 24 kilometres of solid singletrack from the entrance near the Wedgemont parking lot to the finish in Lost Lake Park — but it also was built to a high standard. The fact that the trail has been embraced by the local municipality and received official Section 102 status from the provincial government also helped the cause.
“I love that trail,” said Linnenburger. “I actually got to ride it last year when I was up there. I think the first thing I noticed was that it’s all singletrack-based, backcountry cross-country riding. It’s definitely not a speedy ride, but really demanding.”
IMBA traditionally defines epic rides as long, backcountry excursions geared primarily to cross-country mountain bikers, but that has been expanded to include urban and freeride trails as well that are built and maintained to a high standard. Comfortably Numb meets both the old and new criteria, says Linnenburger, with enough freeride elements to make it challenging for almost any type of rider.
Comfortably Numb has not been added to the IMBA website yet as that section is currently being reworked, but should be up sometime this winter. By next year Whistler can expect to host more mountain bikers from around the world looking for epic experiences.
“We really do see more tourism to Epic Ride locations,” said Linnenburger. “Just looking at our own website hits, the most widely sought after information we have is where the best riding in the world is. Local clubs are seeing the same thing for trails that have been included in the past.”