The Whistler Mountain Bike Park opens for the season on Friday, May 16, and trail crews have been working hard to get as much of the facility ready for the first day of operations.
And after spending the past few weeks shovelling, digging, shaping and everything else that's needed to get North America's premier lift-accessed mountain bike facility ready to ride, Brian Finestone is pleased with the progress.
The bike park's manager said that the majority of the lower park will be open when downhillers start loading their bikes onto the lifts starting Friday. That means many favourite trails in the Fitzsimmons Zone — A-Line, B-Line, Crank It Up, Easy Does It and others — will be ready for shredding.
"The bulk of the lower park will be open," Finestone said Monday, May 12. "There are a few (trails) we want to see how they dry out... If they can dry out on their own, then we can offer them up, even if it takes 'til Saturday for that to happen, we'll certainly keep adding trails as we can. Our intention is to get as much of that Fitz Zone as we can open."
It's taken more than 500 man-hours of work from Finestone's staff to get the park ready for Friday's opening. Although a portion of that time is spent clearing snow off the trails, there are also portions of the park that the team is finding surprisingly dry.
"It's already looking late-June-ish deep in the forest," said Finestone. "It's a moisture game. Not having enough is almost as bad as having too much. We'll watch and see what happens, but we're already talking about how we'll water trails down if they stay too dry."
Meanwhile, Finestone said they've already taken a snowcat up to the Garbanzo Zone to clear trails at higher elevation.
"If we're already moving snow up there... that bodes well and I think we'll have lots of trails to offer when we can open up the Garbanzo Chair," he said.
Getting as much of the park open for Friday was important not just to offer a wide selection of trails for opening-day riders, but also because the park will be hosting a race on Day 1, likely for the first time in the park's 15-year history. The GO Fest Enduro is one of the first events of the new May long weekend festival, and will feature three stages in the park on Friday evening.
However, Finestone said there hasn't been any added pressure to get the park in shape for that race.
"The GO Fest guys have been amazing," he said. "They've just said, 'You tell us what will work and what will be available.' We've said, 'Let's get it open, get a good feel for the conditions of the trails and then we'll put together a track.'
"In this case, they can have pretty much any trail they want... I think they're putting together a good course, and once we open those doors, we might as well have a race."
One notable change this year will see the bike park open for Extended Play right from the first week of the season. Starting May 19, the facility will stay open until 8 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday, until the longer hours are offered seven days per week, starting June 14.
"That adds a lot more riding for people who bought the Twilight Pass, or passholders in general," said Finestone. "To offer that right off the beginning is a new product for us that I think people will receive well."
There are a couple of dates on the bike park calendar to circle before the end of the month. The Crud 2 Mud Downhill, a long-running hybrid race fusing skiing or snowboarding with cycling, returns on May 24. Later that week, the Phat Wednesdays race series presented by Kokanee has its first of nine events of the summer on May 28.
Visit bike.whistlerblackcomb.com for all bike park and event information.