The amount of effort that went into the expansion of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park to include the Garbanzo Express is staggering.
The expansion began almost a year ago, with work crews putting in long days over the past few months to put the final touches on the main trails, No Joke and Original Sin, for the June 26 opening.
They had to work around the melting snow and endure a cold and rainy May, but at last all the work has paid off, according to bike park director Rob McSkimming.
"This is a really, really big day for us," he said, after opening the park to media, VIPs and freeride team members on Friday. The official opening took place on Saturday.
"To stand here, after a year of work, and to finally be able to open this incredible area up to the public is just incredible. Ive ridden it myself, and I never cease to be amazed by the effort that went into making this happen."
The Garbanzo expansion adds 2,200 vertical feet, 700 metres, to the bike park, bringing the total to 3,400 feet. It also doubles lift capacity, adding another 43 bike carriers to the Garbanzo Express line. Because the lift is so much longer than the Fitzsimmons Express, that means only one in every four chairs is a carrier, but that could change rather quickly if its justified by ridership numbers, according to McSkimming.
"If we get busy, we can have the carriers in two weeks," he said.
The Garbanzo area mostly caters to intermediate and expert level riders, further spreading out a growing number of mountain bikers while giving beginner riders more room to progress in the lower park.
It takes about 10 minutes to ride up the Garbanzo, and 10 to 15 minutes for the very top riders to descend. From top to bottom, Garbanzo to the village, the Bike Park now offers descents of 20 to 25 minutes.
Shaums March, an American downhiller who lives in Squamish, says the added vertical will make a huge difference to competitive riders.
"Its definitely good for your endurance," he said. "All that riding really builds up your upper body strength which makes you a better rider. A lot of people think that going downhill is easy, but its hard on the body.
"When you do a five or six minute World Cup downhill race its full on. Having a longer run on Garbanzo gets your endurance up, and gets you used to all the hard stuff, all the technical sections the drops, step-ups, steeps, everything. The park is amazing for that."