Since day one, Whistler's bike scene has been weaving its way into the tapestry of local mainstream culture. In effect, it's turning Whistler into a global destination for mountain biking, credited with pushing the boundaries of the sport and shaping its future direction, while firmly anchoring Whistler's place as a world class, all season resort destination.
Credited more than anything, the decision and investment by Whistler Blackcomb to open the Whistler Bike Park in 1999 has made Whistler a household name in the mountain bike world. Featuring over 200 linear-kilometres of lift-serviced trails descending 4,800 vertical feet of berms, roots, drops, tables, hips, bridges, skinnies, gaps, wall rides and anything else riders can imagine, from the top of the Garbanzo zone. To this day the Whistler Bike Park continues to be the global benchmark with which all other lift-accessed bike parks measure themselves.
According to municipal statistics on visitation numbers, visitations rose exponentially from 18,583 in its opening season to 94,871 in 2006 with a slightly slower but continued growth each season thereafter. Biking in turn now pours millions of dollars into the local economy, creating a viable and vital source of income in what was once considered to be the off-season years ago.
Constantly evolving under the skilled and creative hands of the famed trail crew, the bike park continually pushes the envelope, setting new trends and proving that mountain biking's time in the limelight is here to stay. Over the years an increasing number of locals and visitors alike are just as excited, if not more stoked, for the opening of the Whistler Bike Park than they are for the first snowfall of the winter.
With part of the hand crew starting May 9 to get the mountain ready for its 13 th bike park season, I headed up to check out the progress that had been made so far with Bike Park Manager Brian Finestone. Sporting a freshly-minted goggle tan straight off of an amazing season of endless snow at his winter job as the Terrain Park manager, Finestone is tasked with opening the park by May 20 despite record valley snowfall. Juggling time and resources this year, Finestone has expanded his skill set by necessity giving himself a crash course in snowcat driving and excavator operation ensuring that machinery is being utilized seven days a week when operators aren't always available.
As we headed out from the maintenance hut and began walking around the bike park it quickly became clear that skis or a snowboard would have been a much better option for getting around than boots. The trail crew was still using a snowmobile to shuttle fuel down to one of their excavators deep in snow somewhere along Crank it Up. The light machine operators, however, had been making tremendous progress in putting a dent in the metre-plus snowpack that was still lining A-line and Crank It Up. The hand crew of five was also eagerly digging away at the areas machinery can't access.