Three years before there even was a Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Dave Kelly and Rob Cocquyt were cutting trails on Whistler Mountain with Eric White of Whistler Backroads Adventures. Before that they were building trails in Squamish, including legendary Powerhouse Plunge, 19 th Hole, Power Smart, Pseudo Suga, and others with a distinctive freeride bent.
When Whistler-Blackcomb decided to open a bike park in 1999, Kelly, Cocquyt, and Tom Prochazka were the obvious choices to plan and build the new trails. Since then the size and scope of the bike park has increased every year, while ridership has increased by double digit percentages annually.
“When we built those first trails on the park in 1996 a busy day was 25 riders, and we were all making single digit hourly wages,” said Kelly. “I never thought in a million years that I would be heading to China or Norway or the Mediterranean to build mountain bike parks and making a legitimate career out of it.”
The success of the park has prompted other mountain resorts around the world to sit up and take notice, which more than two years ago prompted Whistler-Blackcomb to create the Gravity Logic group to serve as consultants for the growing lift-assisted mountain bike industry. They also hosted Gravity Logic forums in Whistler, inviting other resorts to take part.
Last week Gravity Logic’s principal employees — Kelly, Cocquyt and Prochazka — confirmed that Whistler-Blackcomb was transferring ownership of the company to their group.
“It didn’t really fit into (Whistler-Blackcomb’s) business model,” said Kelly. “They are a ski company that runs lifts, restaurants, and stores, but they’re not really in the business of being mountain bike park consultants.”
Kelly confirmed that the newly created Gravity Logic Inc. has a five year deal to provide trail design services to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, as well as to dozens of other clients around the world who are looking to build, diversify or upgrade their bike parks.
To that end, Kelly credits Rob McSkimming, Whistler-Blackcomb’s vice president of business development and the former managing director of Gravity Logic, for his forward thinking.
“The reason we did this is because Whistler is by far the most successful mountain bike park in the world, nobody else is even close,” he said. “Last year Silver Star had just over 15,000 rider visits, when we were over 100,000 — and Silver Star is one of the better examples.
“There is a parallel to the ski world. There are ski areas all over North America, but ultimately the goal for most skiers and riders is to come to Whistler and ski the mountains, which is how they’ve achieved over two million skiers visits a year. The sport of downhill, lift assisted mountain biking is still immature, but if we want to grow our visits to the bike park we need to grow the whole business. In that sense what’s good for Silver Star is good for us.