Since the Whistler Mountain Bike Park hosted 18,000 rider visits in 1999, the number of mountain bikers using the park has increased 60 per cent and 55 per cent over the last two seasons to almost 30,000 riders. On the busiest weekends of the year, the gondola was running at capacity from open to close.
This year the park will offer more lift capacity by using the Fitzsimmons quad chairlift in addition to the gondola during weekends and holidays, starting on opening day, May 18. This will increase the mountains uphill capacity by 50 per cent compared to last year.
The mountain bike planners will also ease congestion in the park with new trails and features. These include:
G-Force: A new expert trail combining the best features of A-Line with North Shore style stunts and obstacles.
A-Line Bridge: A new section with a 25 metre log bridge connecting A-Line to Crabapple.
E-Z Does It: A new novice trail with some uphill sections.
Whistlers Downhill Upgrade: The bike parks downhill course will be upgraded to World Cup standards.
Biker X: The Bikercross course will be redesigned and rebuilt for 2002.
New Flow Centres: North Shore trailbuilder "Dangerous" Dan Cowan will create two elevated skills centres for intermediate and advanced riders.
Construction on these new trails and features will begin as soon as the snow clears, and will be completed in time for summer.
"The trails that we built last year really struck a chord with advanced riders," says Park Manager Jason Roe. "Dave Kelley and his team of trail builders borrowed concepts from our winter terrain parks and BMX and North Shore-style trails to come up with a whole new breed of trail that cant be found anywhere else.
"A combination of steep drops, banked corners and a variety of jumps made trails like A-Line, Crabapple and Rippin Rutabaga the hit of the summer."
Work has also started on what is currently being referred to as the High Alpine Epic Trail. The trail includes a 5,000 foot vertical foot descent from the high alpine to the valley floor.
According to Roe, it will be "one of those experiences riders will talk about for a lifetime. A four to five hour tour that starts above the tree line, meanders around snowfields and glaciers, over incredible rock slabs and descents into lush coastal forests. It will define the word epic."
According to a survey conducted last season, the number of advanced riders using the bike park increased. The average rider was between the ages of 20 and 30, and owned at least one full suspension mountain bike. Furthermore, 60 per cent of the park users came from the Lower Mainland, which suggests that Whistler is on its way to becoming a destination resort for mountain bikers.
If the popularity of the bike park continues to grow, Whistler-Blackcomb is committed to growing the bike park.
"Whistler-Blackcomb is committed to pushing the envelope in lift-assisted mountain biking, and is just beginning to scratch the surface of the sports potential," says Rob McSkimming, the managing director of sports programming for Whistler-Blackcomb.
"At this point, we are only using a fraction of the terrain and lifts we have available. As long as the market is there to support it, we will continue to invest in the experience."
The Whistler Mountain Bike Park will be in operation every day from May 18 until Sept. 21, and weekends until Oct. 12.