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Enter the Sampler Pass. Says Roche, “With the Sampler, we created a product that makes the bike park experience easier to access. It’s almost a bit of a challenge to people. So, you don’t think the Whistler Mountain Bike Park is for you? You don’t think the bike that you ride on the trails in Pemberton, Squamish, Whistler, is good enough? Why not take three runs and get back to us on that.”
While the opportunity might have been an obvious one to exploit when the report came out several years ago, trail infrastructure isn’t hatched overnight. At $30,000 per kilometer of trail, there’s a lag between concept and completion.
Admits McSkimming, “The bikers are pushing things faster than any other part of the bike industry… The bike manufacturers are very quick to react. The experience providers, and I would count us amongst that, are much slower to adapt. It takes a long time to figure out what’s going on, how to build something, what permits you need. There’s a much greater demand for a certain rider experience, and there’s a gap. We have some of it, but we need more.”
That so many of Whistler Blackcomb’s senior people are keen bikers or mountain bike advocates has certainly helped the development of the product over the years.
Says McSkimming, “You see in other resorts that if the decision makers don’t have that connection or understanding to the culture, it’s really tough. Here, everyone is pretty outdoors oriented. Even if they’re not a big park rider, they still get it. At most resorts you can have the passionate rider, but if there isn’t someone to translate that into business sense for the business people, you’re going to have trouble getting the buy-in.”
McSkimming and Roche were both original members of one of Whistler’s hottest intellectual properties, Gravity Logic, a mountain bike park consulting and design firm founded two years ago. This summer, Gravity Logic spun off into an independent entity owned by its other three members, Dave Kelly, Tom Prochazka and Rob Cocquyt, who’ve been critical to the development of the bike park from the outset.
I run into Tom Pro at the top of Garbanzo Chair. I’m five runs into my first Bike Park experience, and eager to compare notes with my winter-brainmap of the upper mountain. I ignore the sign that says Experts Only, but almost crash-tackle Tom when I see him, asking for advice on the least suicidal way down of the black trail options on offer. He’s just back from consulting in the Ukraine and is heading over to check in on a trail building crew to see how they’re progressing.