Dirt Designations: Whistler’s Mountain Bike Trails Part II

In a previous post we shared the stories behind the names of some of the bike trails in the Whistler valley; today we’ll be sharing some more stories, this time focusing on the trails of the Whistler Bike Park.

Whistler Bike Park

The Whistler Bike Park has been a major factor in the progression of freeride mountain biking for nearly two decades.  One could argue that the names bestowed upon its several dozen trails have been just as influential.  They would be wrong, of course, but that’s beside the point.

Still, the titles found on the trail map are full in insights into the trails and, even more so, to the characters that brought them to life.  As long-time park rider and trail builder Peter Matthews puts it, “The best names always come up during trail building.  A lot of time for banter; everyone’s tired, light-headed, dehydrated, cracking jokes.”  Not surprisingly, pop culture references, heavy metal and playful ribbing at the expense of their peers feature heavily.

The Whistler Bike Park, shown here in 2000, has changed a lot in the almost two decades for which it’s been open.

The trail crew’s jokes and banter have a tendency to go a bit further than popular tastes might appreciate.  There’s a whole gaggle of unofficial trail names and other inside jokes that never made it onto the official trail map and, for obvious reasons, will not be included in this article.  For those you’ll have to ask the builders themselves.

B-Line – B-Line is the name of a type of explosive detonation cord which can be used to link charges together or used as an explosive on its own.  When building this trail a generous amount of explosives were used to remove a stubborn tree stump and, though early bike park visionary Dave Kelly confirmed that other explosives were used in this case, the name stuck.  Also, as the trail was the bike park’s new showcase Beginner Line, the name seemed apt.

A-Line – a machine built flowy jump line that followed B-Line’s suit, this name was an obvious choice for the new “Advanced Line”.

Crank It Up – on this moderate-but-flowy jump line you can maximize the good times by pedalling aggressively, hence Crank It Up.  A name starting with the letter “C” was appropriate as this trail could also be though of as the “C-Line”.

Ho Chi Minh Trail – this trail was designed and named by Eric Wight (owner of Whistler Backroads) who was the original mastermind and creator of life-accessed biking on Whistler Mountain, operating there until Whistler Blackcomb took over operations in 1997.  Sections of the trail ran down the middle of Lower Olympic through grass up to 1.5 m tall, reminiscent of scenes from the Vietnam War.

Heart of Darkness – this trail name builds on the Vietnam theme established by Ho Chi Minh; plus, it can get fairly dark in the section along the creek where it can get surprisingly intense for a flowy blue run.

Clown Shoes and Dirt Merchant – both of these trails reference the movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Captain Safety – there are conflicting reports as to which mountain employee it was who had the healthy zeal for injury prevention; some say he was a mountain patrol higher-up, other a bike park manager.  Either way, he took his job very seriously, sometimes to the dismay of trail crew.  This trail is named after him.

Mackenzie River Trail – named in honour of the late Duncan Mackenzie, an esteemed trail-builder and ski patroller who died tragically in an avalanche in December 2011.

Original Sin – named by original bike park manager Rob McSkimming.  Multiple meaning and wordplays are at work here but it is also considered the original trail in the Garbanzo Zone.

Schleyer – named after legendary freeride mountain biker Richie Schley, while alluding to equally legendary thrash metal band Slayer

Joyride – the name “Joyride” recurs often in Whistler.  This trail was built in 1998 by local biking luminaries Chris Winter and Paddy Kaye, the latter of who had founded his own trail-building company also named Joyride.  A few year later a local mountain bike festival was created and called, you guessed it, Joyride.  This festival was the predecessor of today’s Crankworx festival whose showcase event is a slopestyle competition which still bears this name, and Kaye’s Joyride Bike Parks Inc. remains one of the world’s leading mountain bike trail-building companies.

Del Boca Vista – in yet another pop culture reference, this trail’s name is derived from the Florida condominium complex in Seinfeld where Jerry’s parents and, for a time, Kramer had retired to.  Life here would hopefully be relaxing, fun and leisurely, just like this trail.

It’s possible to get injured in many different ways in the bike park, including on Angry Pirate, though most of the time an actual bike is involved.

Angry Pirate – trail-building entails more than just crude jokes and high fives; it also involves a lot of back-breaking work and the potential for some serious bodily harm.  One builder received this nickname after experiencing an especially unfortunate series of events while working on this trail.  First, while walking through the woods, he stepped on a wasp nest and angered the hive.  During the ensuing chaos he tripped and stumbled downslope, injuring his ankle, but not before he got stung by a wasp very close to his eye.  These mishaps left said trail-builder with an eyepatch, a heavy limp and a sour mood.

Devil’s Club – while building this trail the park crew had to contend with this infamous coastal bush which grows dense, tough and covered in nasty thorns

The “Asian Trilogy” – all three of these trails were named by trail crew veteran Andrew “Gunner” Gunn:

Samurai Pizza Cats – named after the American adaptation of the anime series Kyatto Ninden Teyandee which originally aired in Japan

Ninja Cougar – the trail like to joke that Jesse Melamed (one of the trail-builders) required this special type of bodyguard due to his esteemed political position as the then-mayor’s son

Sun’s out, tongues out on Karate Monkey.

Karate Monkey – this trail name maintains the “martial arts/animal” theme from the other two trails, but whether there is any deeper meaning is unclear

Blue/Black Velvet – simply put, these trails were designed to ride as smoothly as possible

Blueseum – this trail was built through the same section of forest as a long-neglected trail full of derelict wooden structures.  Riding this new trail gave the impression that you were passing through a freeride bike stunt museum.  The trail is blue-rated and this creative portmanteau title was conceived.

Afternoon Delight – the park crew was on fire this day, building most of this trail in a single afternoon

Funshine Rolly Drops – simply the most playful, friendly-sounding name the trail-builders could brainstorm

Duffman – duff is a term used for the soft, thick layer of organic material often found on a Coastal forest floor.  When working on this trail, the park crew had to contend with an especially thick layer of duff and thus took the opportunity to shout out to the highly enthusiastic beer mascot character of The Simpsons fame.t

Detroit Rock City – some trail names come easy; this trail features a long, committing rock ride and so borrowing the title of the famed KISS song seemed appropriate

Fade to Black – named after the classic Metallica song, this trail was intended to demarcate the transition from blue-rated to black-rated single-track.  Let’s say the trail-builders got a little carried away with this one, including a sizeable mandatory road gap that is most definitely double black material.  Some riders prefer to call it “Fade to Pro Line”.

Freight Train – the name refers to the freight container stunt that bikers can jump on and off of, but the title has been given further meaning from the fact that riders have a tendency to ride this fast and flowy jump run in tight formation, like a freight train running down the tracks

The bike park has grown considerably since its beginnings and even more trails are underway.

Tech Noir – evidently some trail-builders are fans of Arnold “The Gubernator” Schwarzenegger, as this is also the name of a bar in the original Terminator film.  Cover charge is optional.

Dwayne Johnson – another memorial to the musclebound, this trail feature a huge rock and was a perfect opportunity to honour everyone’s favourite wrestler-turned-actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

The Manager – an optional pro line in Duffman named after then-bike-park manager Tom “Pro” Prochazka

D1 – the various models of excavating machines used to build the trails are named according to their size: “D35”, “D50” and so on.  This trail is named after the smallest excavator in the park crew’s arsenal, the shovel, because this seemingly machine-built path was built completely by manual labour.

Too Tight – as the name suggests, this trail is very narrow and winding; countless riders over the years have face-planted after catching their handlebars on an adjacent tree trunk

Little Alder – this short run cuts through a picturesque alder grove

Fatcrobat – among the diverse array of characters who have worked for the bike park over the years, one particular gentleman went through extensive gymnastic training in his youth.  As his years progressed he lost his trim figure but he retained a surprising amount of his athletic talent.  This trail is named in honour of this rotund gymnast.

Drop-In Clinic– named after the steep rock roll “drop-in” entrance to this short connector trail

Top of the World – this name is self-explanatory.  As the first bike park trail from the summit of Whistler Mountain, a ride down here leaves one feeling elated.  If this name doesn’t convey the same tone as the other bike park trails, it is because the park crew didn’t come up with this own.  This trail’s construction was an exciting new attraction and upper management wanted to convey an inspiring image to attract more visitors.

Article by Jeff Slack

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One response to “Dirt Designations: Whistler’s Mountain Bike Trails Part II

  1. Pingback: Canadian History Roundup – Week of June 11, 2017 | Unwritten Histories

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