Category Archives: Mountain Biking

Because you can do more than ski and snowboard in Whistler… you can also bike.

Mountain Bike Heritage Week 2017

For the second year the Whistler Museum is hosting Mountain Bike Heritage Week, a full series of daily events to celebrate Whistler’s distinct biking scene.  Over the last three decades, mountain biking in Whistler has grown to become not only a large part of Whistler’s business but also a large part of our town’s culture and identity.

Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week is produced by the Whistler Museum, with generous support from the RMOW, and in partnership with GO Fest.  Partners and sponsors include: WORCA, Whistler Bike Co., the Whistler Public Library, Forlisë, the Whistler Golf Club, Summit Sport, Whistler.com, Arts Whistler, Whistler Bike Park, Pinkbike, Chromag, Vorsprung Suspension, Coast Mountain Brewing, DavidsTea and the Province of British Columbia.

Event Rundown:
Speaker Series – Transition: The History and Influence of Crankworx and Gravity Logic Inc.
Nicole Freeman of Crankworx and Tom Prochazka of Gravity Logic Inc. will be joining us to discuss the origins and growth of two globally recognized mountain bike institutions with Whistler roots.
May 16 at the Whistler Museum
Doors at 6pm; Show at 7pm
Tickets $5

Photography Class – Shoot Like a Pro: MTB Photography with Clint Trahan
Photographer Clint Trahan will be providing techniques and tips to select and compose your own mountain biking photos.  Clint Trahan has been shooting mountain biking and more for over a decade, including events such as Crankworx and Enduro World Series.
May 17 at Maury Young Arts Centre (Arts Whistler)
Starts at 7pm
Free admission

Retro WORCA Toonie Race
Hosted by Summit Sport, the Whistler Golf Course, Whistler.com and the Whistler Museum, this week’s Toonie Ride includes prizes for best retro ride and outfit.
May 18  Sign in: Summit Sport; Après: Whistler Golf Club
Ride starts at 6:30pm
http://www.worca.com/toonie-ride-schedule/

Classic Film Screening – The Collective: A 16mm Mountain Bike Film (2004)
The Whistler Museum and Forlisë are hosting a screening of the influential first film from The Collective with a filmmaker Q&A and door prizes.
May 19 at Forlisë
Doors at 7:30pm
Entry by donation, with all proceeds going to WORCA trail maintenance

Bike Maintenance Workshop
Whistler Bike Co., Whistler Museum and the Whistler Public Library are teaming up to offer a bike maintenance workshop.  In this two-hour session, we’ll be talking techniques to keep your bike in working order and how to know when a trip to the bike shop is required.
May 20 at the Whistler Public Library
Starts at 4 pm Registration is required, opens May 1
Call the Whistler Public Library 604 935 8435 to reserve a spot

MTB History Exhibits
Learn about Whistler’s early mountain bike history through a series of small exhibits in the Whistler Village.
May 18 – 22
Located at Mountain Square, Whistler Village

We’ll see you there!

Whistler’s First Mountain Bike Race

This summer, as we made our way through digitizing the Whistler Question Photo Collection, I may have come across the Whistler’s first ever Off-Road Bike Race. The first race took place on June 20, 1982.

On that Sunday Morning, “seventeen keen competitors” lined up on the slopes of the Village Chair. The race course started on the slopes of the Village Chair. One competitor Mark Rowan recalled the race started “Le Mans” style, which meant competitors started from a standing position. “Racers ran down the lower part of the Village Chair before picking up their bicycles in Mountain Square,” Rowan recalled, noting that this was roughly near where the Longhorn Saloon is today.

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Chaz Romalis leads the pack during Whistler’s first ever  MTB race. Photo: Whistler Question/WMAS.

“The racers then headed out to Lost Lake and to the power line road which runs along the east side of Green Lake. From the Wedge Creek turnoff they headed back via Mons and the Lost Lake trail again.”

Jacob Heilbron said “The Whistler Race may have been called the Canadian Championships but there was no governing body for mountain bike racing at the time. As far as I know it was the first mountain bike race held in Canada.”

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Photo: Whistler Question/WMAS

It wouldn’t be until 1984 and the formation of CORBA (Canadian Off-Road Bicycle Association) that the first official Canadian Championships would take place on Vedder Mountain.

Heilbron said, “There were no rules, so I switched to a road bike and picked up around 3 places on the section of highway heading back to town. Then I switched back to a mountain bike as we crossed back into local trails and tried to find the lightly marked trail on the way back to the finish.”

The first prize was $1000 as recalled by both Chaz Romalis and Jacob Heilbron. The organizer of the race was Jon Kirk. Chaz mentioned “he was responsible for the Deep Cove Daze, which brought thousands of spectators to watch a crit race in the late 70s and early 80s.”

Heilbron also recalls “There was definitely some confusion about who had completed the entire race and what place they had finished.”

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Photo: Whistler Question/WMAS.

Chaz Romalis, owner of the Deep Cove Bike Shop in North Vancouver, recalls “ I was in second place and I was descending the hill from the Microwave Tower when I crashed out of the race.”

Mark “Straight-Ahead- Fred” Rowan unfortunately didn’t finish the race. He said, “I rode a cyclocross bike and my front tire caved in and I injured my face.”

The original article, appearing in the June 24, 1982 issue of the Whistler Question, mentions the winner of the race, “Tony Starck, 22, from Victoria had purchased his bike only 3 weeks prior.” Starck was the first Canadian Champion of Off-Road Bicycle Racing.

Second was Russ Maynard and third place went to Jacob Heilbron.

Enjoy Crankworx!

 

By John Alexander

#WhistlerMTBWeek wrap-up

Life is finally getting back to normal here at the museum, after the whirlwind that was last week’s “Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week.” This was our first time ever running this event, and it amounted to the largest coordinated event series the Whistler Museum had run since the “100 Years of Dreams” festival in 2011, which celebrated the centennial anniversary of Myrtle & Alex Philip’s first visit to Alta Lake.

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The Speaker Series kicked off with an evening discussion of trail-building through the decades, with Eric Wight (and friends) talking about the early days of Whistler Backroads and the first purpose-built trails for lift-accessed mountain biking on Whistler Mountain in the early 1990s, then Jerome David sharing his experiences and insights gained through many years as trail director and then president of WORCA, and concluded with current trail-builder extraordinaire Dan Raymond talking about his process, and giving some sneak peeks into his magnum opus, “Lord of the Squirrels.”

At the “Building a Community” talk, Charlie Doyle and Grant Lamont paid tribute to the many characters who helped mountain biking thrive in the early days, before it became sanctioned, legitimized and recognized as big business, then Chris Kent spoke of one of the great events of these early days, the Garibaldi Gruel.

In “Whistler MTB Gone Global” Paul Howard explained how being based in Whistler helped him create a global MTB coaching standard, Sarah Leishman shared stories from Ethiopia to the Enduro World Series, and Mike Crowe celebrated the Whistler Bike Park as a global phenomenon like no other.

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The Whistler Mountain Bike Park has come a long way since it’s origins in the early 1990s. Greg Griffith Collection.

The Kranked 3 film screening with filmmakers Bjorn Enga and Christian Begin made for wonderful reminiscing about this seminal time in freeride mountain biking. And, of course, Brett Tippie brought the party.

The retro Toonie Ride was a wonderful time and showcased some incredible vintage bikes and gear:

The photography show at the Maury Young Arts Centre (still up until June 14th) showcased the many facets of local riding through the lenses of some of the most talented photographers in the MTB world. The photos can still be purchased through online auction at http://www.32auctions.com/mtbweek

It was a wonderful time reaching out to a massive part of our community, and we’re glad we did. Mountain biking has contributed a lot to Whistler, and vice versa, but the biggest takeaway from the long weekend was the strong sense of community amongst the thousands of dedicated bikers in this town.

Thanks everybody who partnered, sponsored, spoke, attended, or otherwise supported the week! We look forward to repeating this event in 2017.

That includes (but is certainly not limited to):

Sponsors & Partner Organizations:

WORCA, Whistler Arts Council, Forlise Whistler, GoFest Whistler, Resort Municipality of Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb, Whistler Bike Co., Chromag,  Deep Cove Brewing, Vorsprung Suspension, Whistler Roasting, David’s Tea, Whistler Film Festival Society, Province of British Columbia

 

Panelists/Speakers:

Eric Wight, Jerome David, Dan Raymond, Bjorn Enga, Christian Begin, Brett Tippie, Ryan Leech, Charlie Doyle, Grant Lamont, Chris Kent, Paul Howard, Sarah Leishman, Mike Crowe.

 

Photographers/Artists:

Reuben Krabbe, Robin O’Neill, Brian Finestone, Nic Teichrob, Greg Griffith, Patrick Hui, Sean St. Denis, Mattias Fredriksson, Margus Riga, Vanessa Stark, Eric Poulin, Vince Shuley, Thomas Rasek, Mason Mashon, Ben Lees, Sterling Lorence.

Now that it’s done us museum staff are really excited about all the spare time we suddenly have to go ride our bikes!

The Garibaldi Gruel

One of the motivations behind our just-wrapped-up Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week was to connect with the local mountain bike community so that we can better celebrate what has become the leading summer pastime for the majority of Whistlerites.

We had a serious dearth of photographs, artifacts, and oral histories about the history of mountain biking in our community, and we are glad to say that this is now beginning to improve.

Among the few historical biking photographs we did already possess was a collection of mountain bike photos taken by local photography legend Greg Griffith from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Most of them were from a promotional shoot that showcased the riding of the day, including several gorgeous alpine shots high up on Blackcomb Mountain.

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This is why Lakeside Bowl on Blackcomb has its name. These trails are now part of the alpine hiking trail network on Blackcomb, but biking is not permitted. Greg Griffith Collection.

Also included were several shots from what looked like an epic competition that we knew very little about — until last Saturday night at our Speaker Series “Whistler MTB: Building a Community.” The evening began with local biking pioneers Grant Lamont and Charlie Doyle sharing stories about the early days, and paying tribute to the numerous individuals who were instrumental in the growth of Whistler into a mountain bike stronghold.

They were followed by Chris Kent, best known for his many feats on skis, but also an avid and long-time mountain biker. Chris also happened to be the organizer of the race in the Griffith photos, the Garibaldi Gruel.

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The last stretch of the opening bike leg, coming into the Roundhouse plateau on Whistler. WMAS, Greg Griffith Collection.

First held in September 1994, the race was ahead of its time and almost like a predecessor to today’s wildly popular Enduro race format, in that it required competitors to complete major climbs and descend massive vertical in serious terrain. On top of that, there was also a leg of alpine trail-running, nowadays tagged with the trendy name of “Sky-running,” sandwiched in the middle.

The course climbed more than 1,100 vertical metres on service roads from the Village up to the Roundhouse Lodge, followed by an 8km run over to Harmony and back. Riders then got back on their bikes, climbed Pika’s Traverse to the Peak, then descended Highway 86 all the way back down to the valley. The course was so gruelling that Chris wasn’t certain that anyone would even bother entering.

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The Last Stretch – Mathew’s Traverse, took riders from The Saddle to Whistler Peak, with the classic view of Black Tusk on their left hopefully distracting them (a little) from their physical suffering. Greg Griffith Collection.

His fears proved unfounded, with 120 entrants the first year — and roughly the same amount of volunteers. Kevin Titus, local marathon runner and multi-sport athlete won in an astonishing time of well under three hours, Mick Peatfield and Paul Fournier rounded out the podium.

The first year they enjoyed gloriously sunny weather, but the second running of the event was a different story. Heavy rain in the valley transitioned to full-on blizzard in the alpine. The weather forced the organizers to alter the route and forgo the climb up to Whistler Peak, and several competitors were forced to bow out early with hypothermia. Kevin Titus repeated as champion.

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The mass start kicked up more than a little dust on a hot September day. Greg Griffith Collection.

Unfortunately the event only lasted those two summers, but for those who participated the Garibaldi Gruel is fondly remembered as a challenging race that helped push the boundaries of what was possible on bikes in Whistler.

Have more MTB photos, memorabilia, or stories to share? We want to hear from you!