Few sports have grown as quickly or in as many directions as mountain biking, and in many ways Whistler has always been in front of the curve. Trails like A River Runs Through It changed the way people looked at bikes, while the Whistler Mountain Bike Park - now in its 11 th year - changed the sport entirely. Mountain resorts across North America and Europe are scrambling to recreate that experience, as a way to earn revenues as well as to meet a growing demand from riders.
Staying on the forefront is hard work, but Whistler has an ace up its sleeve - the Crankworx freeride mountain bike festival, which runs Aug. 7 to 15. Crankworx, this year in its seventh edition, has broken new ground in freeriding time and time again, creating the slopestyle format and bringing back once popular events like the dual slalom and updating the format for today's style of riding.
There is a dirt jump contest, a park jump contest, a trials competition, and several varieties of downhill racing, ranging from super-fast machine-built tracks like the Air Downhill to the long and technical Garbanzo DH. There is a cross-country race, an uphill-downhill super D contest and this year two new events - a pump track competition and Richie's Rally, an event designed by Grant Lamont and Richie Schley that takes the super D format to a whole new level with brutal climbs and super-technical descents on Whistler's west side trails.
According to Crankworx general manager Jeremy Roche, they regularly consult with pro riders and pro teams before adding or changing events. The goal is to stay on the cutting edge.
"We're going into our seventh year of Kokanee Crankworx and we really work hard to remain relevant and new," Roche said. "We feel it's really important to adapt to the times and bring in new events and new event formats, and making sure we have the most exciting lineup of events of any major festival in the world."
The pace of registration for Crankworx events is ahead of last year. Most of the events that are open to the public are expected to sell out. As well, the festival is confirming the participation of the top riders and factory teams from the World Cup downhill and freeride circuits.
This year more effort has been placed on the spectacle, making events more spectator-friendly.
"We have the legacy of the Olympic fibre optic line on Whistler Mountain, and we're going to put it into use to have live coverage from the top of most of the race courses," said Roche. "We're able to create a robust video-on-demand service and webcasting for every (on mountain) event during eight days of Crankworx.