Tag Archives: downhill mountain biking

Biking Through the Decades

We’ve got a few more videos today!  We are currently planning our 3rd annual Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week, so what better way to get into the mindset than looking through some footage and photos from the 1980s and 90s?

First up is a video of mountain biking on Blackcomb Mountain from 1988.  It looks a little different than the biking that happens in the bike park today.

Klunkers to Crankworx is a slideshow put together by the Whistler Museum for Crankworx in 2012 showing the progression of the sport from the 1970s.

Our last video for today comes from the 1995 Cactus Cup.  This footage also doubles as an advertisement for Whistler Village as it was in the 1990s.

We’ll be making more announcements about Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week in the next few weeks!

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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

That’s A Wrap on This Year’s Mountain Bike Heritage Week

The past week has been a busy one here at the museum as we made our way through five consecutive days of events celebrating, what else, mountain biking in Whistler, during our second annual Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week.

The week started on Tuesday with “Transition: The History & Influence of Crankworx & Gravity Logic Inc.”  This Speaker Series event featured Tom “Pro” Prochazka of Gravity Logic and Nicole Freeman, project manager for Crankworx, talking about the origins of the two institutions in the Whistler Bike Park and how they both came to have international reputations and a global reach.

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

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Nicole Freeman, project manager for Crankworx, speaks to a crowd at the Whistler Museum.

The museum teamed up with Clint Trahan on Wednesday to offer a free photography class focused on capturing your own mountain biking photos and, so we’ve heard, Clint continued the discussion over drinks after class.

Clint Trahan speaks to room full of budding mountain bike photographers.

Thursday Toonie Race drew over 250 WORCA members for the weekly ride.

The bright pink was an easy choice for best retro gear outfit.

Thursday’s Retro Toonie Ride was a great time with over 250 riders.  Hosted with the Whistler Golf Club, Summit Sport, Whistler.com and the Whistler Bike Park, it didn’t feature quite as many vintage bikes as last year’s (not surprising given the course involved biking up and then down part of the bike park) but those riders that brought out their retro bikes and gear were all the more impressive for their commitment to the theme.

 

A classic Whistler jersey promoting The Cheakamus Challenge, a 70 km race between Squamish and Whistler, that first ran in 1989.

It’s not that often you see bikes like this one in the bike park these days.

Our winner for Best Overall retro ride & outfit.  It might have been the first time a bike with a milk crate has gone down Karate Monkey in the Whistler Bike Park.

On Friday the museum and the amazing team at Forlisë held a screening of The Collective, the 2004 film that continues to influence the ways mountain bike films are made today.  Jamie Houssian was on hand to discuss how and why The Collective was different than other films coming out at the time, as well as the challenges of using actual film (changing the film magazine every 2.5 minutes).

Filmmaker and producer Jamie Houssian.

The screening of The Collective at Forlisë included a discussion of the film with filmmaker Jamie Houssian.

The Whistler Public Library, Bike Co. and the museum offered a free bike maintenance class on Saturday afternoon (which luckily was bright, sunny and dry) which quickly filled up early in the week.  Part of anything you do is taking care of and maintaining your own equipment and mountain biking is no different.

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Bike maintenance workshop.

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As part of Mountain Bike Heritage week we also installed some temporary exhibits in Whistler Village.

Thanks to everyone who supported the week, by partnering, sponsoring, speaking or attending!  We’re already looking forward to our third Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week next year.

Sponsors & Partner Organization:

Resort Municipality of Whistler, GO Fest, 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, the Province of British Columbia

 

Dirt Designations: Whistler Mountain Bike Trail Names Part I

Variety, flow, inspiring views, minimal environmental impact, challenging and creative features, durability… there are a number of factors that go into a great bike trail.  Often overlooked, though no less critical, is the name bestowed upon a trail.

A good name sparks curiosity and fuels stoke.  Looking to ride a new trail?  Would you be enticed to ride something like “Winding Forest Trail” or “Trail #28” when “Wizard Burial Ground” is an option.

The best trail names don’t only put a smile on your face, but tell a good story while they’re at it.

Luckily for us, Whistler’s burgeoning cadre of trail-builders  is not only dedicated, visionary and talented, but they’re also fans of quirky, idiosyncratic trail names that add another layer of fun when ripping through Whistler’s forests.

The Valley’s Trails

The Whistler Valley has an incredible and often under-appreciated network of trails meandering through almost every nook and cranny of our valley.  The first routes were mostly reclaimed from decommissioned logging roads in the early 1980s but it wasn’t long before more industrious folks began building them from scratch.

The Whistler Valley in the 1980s didn’t have many sanctioned bike trails, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there.

The vast majority of trails came from countless hours of solitary, unpaid, back-breaking labour by renegade builders who simply wanted fun trails for themselves and may a few select friends.  Their efforts have been largely vindicated, as many of these technically illegal trails have retroactively become recognized.  Today, multiple builders are being hired and paid to create sanctioned routes.

Lost Lake Park – We begin where most riders are introduced to Whistler mountain biking: Lost Lake Park.  This series of trails was built by Eric Barry.  As we will see, musical influences often factor into bike trail names, and in this case Barry decided to name each segment of the blue-rated trail network after a Frank Zappa song, with psychedelic names like Peaches en Regalia, Zoot Allures, Toads of the Short Forest and Son of Mr. Green Jeans.

A number of less technical, multi-use trails pay homage to the logging industry, which played a major role in the early development of the Whistler Valley whose decommissioned roads unintentionally formed the backbone of the hundreds of biking routes that ensued:

Tin Pants – a heavy waterproof, canvas-type pant that protected loggers from the elements and their chainsaws

Molly Hogan – a technique used to splice together wire cables used by logging crews

Hook Tender – the supervisor of a logging crew

Donkey Puncher – the operator of the “donkey”, a slang term for the steam-powered machine used to haul logs around camp

Gypsy Drum – a big, strong breed of horse frequently used in logging operations

The Rest of the Valley

River Runs Through It – this reference to the popular 1992 film was deemed appropriate because, well, a river runs through it

Comfortably Numb – Whistler’s first official epic ride (it has actually been afforded the “Epic Ride” designation from the International Mountain Bike Association) a ride on this trail will leave your mind and body battered senseless.  The trail-builder, Chris Markle, was clearly a Pink Floyd fan, as one of only escape routes along Comfortably Numb’s 24-km route is called Young Lust.

Danimal – this westside classic is named after the trail-builder Dan Swanstrom, who also built River Runs Through It, much of the No Flow Zone and several other local trails.  Danimal has the distinction of having possibly the most ostentatious bike trail sign on the planet.  A solid granite plinth marks the trail’s entrance among others in the Stonebridge development high up on Whistler’s west side.  When work on this luxury neighbourhood was originally slated, anxiety beset the local riding community as it threatened a number of long-established (if not officially sanctioned) bike trails in the area.  In response to lobbying from WORCA, the RMOW decided to designate several trails as legal and thus protected thoroughfares and established a strong precedent for cooperation between the RMOW, the biking community and the local building community.  Since Danimal is here to stay, Stonebridge’s developer decided to embrace it and mark the trail in a manner befitting its swanky surroundings.

Dan Swanstrom emerges from the forest.

No Flow Zone – this collection of trails around Emerald offers a variety of frustrating, technical challenges.  Many of the trail names in the Zone warn the rider of what lies ahead: Shit Happens, No Girlie Man, White Knuckles, Anal Intruder (your bike saddle, that is)

High Society – this double entendre refers to its proximity to both the posh Stonebridge development as well as the pre-existing trail Legalize It (no explanation necessary)

Darwin’s – named in honour of the trail-builder’s (Eric Barry) dog, who was a puppy at the time

Tunnel Vision – this trail was originally built straight and fast, forcing the rider into this mental state

Cut Yer Bars – one of the Whistler Valley’s original bike trails, this classic ride used to be really tight, hence the instructional trail name

Ride Don’t Slide – this name is instructional (it is really steep and prone to erosion) although not in the way one might expect.  It was originally built as a climbing trail for trials dirtbikes, as is the case for a surprising amount of Whistler’s favourite mountain bike trails

Lower Yer Saddle – another instructional name, as this trail features mostly technical cross-country style riding, but with a few steeper features thrown in the mix

Bob’s Rebob – built mostly from reclaimed logging roads, this trail is named after past WORCA President Bob Eakins

See Colours and Puke – an old climbing trail that was later rehabilitated to work as a descent as well.  Simply climbing this trail might mess with your mental state, but the name is actually a reference to a very early cross-country race organized by Whistler off-road biking pioneer Doris Burma.  The race was always a challenging slog, but many participants were already hallucinating before setting of.  The physical exertion had nothing to do with it; this event was the predecessor of the Cheakamus Challenge, a gruelling endurance challenge in which the most common supplements are now energy gels and electrolyte powders.

Section 102 – this title refers to a change made to provincial law that made unauthorized disturbance of the forest floor (which definitely describes most trail-building at the time) illegal

Billy Epic – one of the oldest trails in Whistler, this was built by Bill Epplett

Binty’s Trail – named after long-time local Vincent Massey, who built this trail among others; Binty built this trail in the late 1980s, accessed by climbing up old logging roads that they had largely cleared themselves

Mel’s Dilemma – Binty and Richard Kelly are mostly responsible for this trail, with some help from Binty’s pre-school-aged son.  At the time, the two trail-builders were big fans of Scarface, and, for reasons long-since forgotten, had taken to referring to each other as “Mel”, a crooked cop from the film who meets an inglorious demise.  The dilemma is simply choosing your route through this snaking maze of routes.

Golden Boner – trail building can often be a lonely and thankless task.  Rumour has it that the trail builder was going through a bit of a lull in his love life at the time

Khyber Pass – this trail name was first applied to the backcountry ski zone which the bike trail cuts through.  Massey recalls how the name first came into use because, at the time (long before Peak Chair was built on Whistler) this section of the mountain was a long hike from the top of the t-bars.  “It was so far out there it was almost exotic, so we figured we’d call it Khyber’s after the famous mountain pass in Afghanistan.”

PhD – in the amount of time spent working on this long, steep and challenging trail north of Whistler, the builder could have earned an advanced post-secondary degree; most riders would agree that the trail was completed summa cum laude

Trail builder Dan Raymond poses with tools of the trade. Photo by Bike Pirate courtesy of WORCA

Rockwork Orange – for this trail, builder Dan Raymond put the cart before the horse and actually had conceived the name before building the trail.  This trail weaves its way through a particularly rugged westside mountain slope, linking up a number of rock bluffs and slabs.

Korova Milk Bar – a multi-layered reference, the title is a direct reference to the mind-altering drinking establishment in A Clockwork Orange, thus connecting it thematically to the previous trail.  Dan chose this specific reference from the ultra-violent novel and film because the trail was built in the same area as a long defunct ride called Dairy of a Milkman, thus enabling a lactose-themed literary homage to its predecessor.

Wizard Burial Ground – the final instalment in this three-piece epic ride draws its name directly from a heavy metal song by the band Umphrey’s Mcgee that Dan thought matched the intensity of the trail.  The fact that the trail ends in the vicinity of the Whistler Cemetery made it even more thematically appropriate.

Lord of the Squirrels. Photo courtesy of Dan Raymond

Alpine Dream Trail – this is the working title of WORCA’s major, multi-year project to build an intermediate-rated, climb-and-descend loop to the Sproatt Mountain alpine.  This title adequately expresses the trail’s epic potential, though some may consider it a tad generic.  In related news, Dan Raymond, the trail builder, is a strong believer that “the builder should be allowed to name a trail no matter who is paying for it.”  If he gets his way, Whistler’s next epic ride may very well be called, in typically cryptic fashion, Lord of the Squirrels.

Coming up: Trail Names of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park

Article by Jeff Slack

 

#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!

Revolution: Whistler MTB in Photos & Art

So we’re in the final countdown leading up to our first ever Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week. Here we’d like to focus on one specific event that we’re especially excited about, Revolution: Whistler MTB in Photography and Art.

This is a photography and art show we’ve organized that will be on display in the Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre (formerly known as Millennium Place) from May 16 th -June 13th . The show features some of the world’s leading mountain bike photographers, artists, and athletes, including the work of Sterling Lorence, Justa Jeskova, Reuben Krabbe, and many more.

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This photo by Robin O’Neill, portraying an epic climb on Whistler Mountain during the Samurai of Singletrack race, is one of more than 30 images comprising our Revolution MTB art show.

While the art on display is absolutely top-notch, the images have been selected to portray the full range of the Whistler MTB experience, including the strong sense of culture and community that exists here. Images range from alpine to valley bottom, in all weather and light conditions, with world-class pros and Average Joes, showcasing the trails, terrain, talent, and passion that makes Whistler a Mecca of the global mountain biking scene.

As with all shows in the Gallery at Maury Young, this is 100% free to check out, just head in at any time during the Arts Centre’s regular hours.

Artwork on display has been generously donated by the artists and will be available for purchase via silent auction, with all proceeds going to support mountain bike-related programming and archival work at the Whistler Museum. To check out all of the pieces, and to place a bid, simply head to: http://www.32auctions.com/mtbweek

This exhibit is produced with generous support from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and in partnership with the Whistler Arts Council.

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Even if you weren’t able to get one of your biking shots included in the show, we’ve devised a way for everyone to get in on the action. We’re having a mountain bike photography contest, with the chance to win a canvas print of one of the photos on display at the show.

Entry is easy, simply post your best Whistler mountain biking photos to Facebook or Instagram, tag the @WhistlerMuseum and #WhistlerMTBWeek, and you’re entered. The contest will stay open until May 31st , after which we’ll select our favourite for the grand prize. Easier than changing a flat!

We hope to see you at some of this week’s MTB Week events, kicking off Wednesday May 18th at 6pm at the Whistler Museum with “Dirt Masters: Whistler Trail-building Through the Decades” featuring panelists Eric Wight (Whistler Backroads), Jerome David (former WORCA Trails Director), and Dan Raymond (builder of Wizard Burial Ground, Lord of the Squirrels, and many more). Tickets are $10, $5 for members of WORCA and the Whistler Museum.

See you there, or on the trails!

The Origins of the Whistler Bike Park

It’s as good  time as any to look back at the origins of the Whistler Bike Park.

One of Whistler’s first mountain bike operators was Whistler Backroads, started by local resident and disillusioned breakfast server Eric Wight in 1982. They offered mountain bike rentals, sales and guided tours, operating from a number of different locations throughout Whistler during the 1980s.

As early as 1985 Eric approached Whistler Mountain about the potential of using chairlifts for summer trail access within the resort. It was obviously a great idea, but a little ahead of its time. There was still too much of a disconnect between what the average biker on the average bike could handle, and the experience that Eric was trying to provide.

Early mountain biking on Blackcomb Mountain. Greg Griffith photo.

Early mountain biking on Blackcomb Mountain. Greg Griffith photo.

Sometime around 1990 (dates can get a little fuzzy after a few decades) Whistler Mountain approached Eric about the possibility of taking over the guided bike tours they had been offering for the last few summers. Eric agreed, secured permission to build bike-specific trails (including Bear Cub), and within a few years (definitely by 1993) he finally succeeded in convincing the ski resort to run the chairlifts in summer for bikes. Blackcomb Mountain also experimented with lift-accessed mountain biking for a few years during the early 1990s.

The genius of Eric’s idea was becoming apparent by 1996 when opening weekend in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park drew more than 500 opening weekend riders. Yes, some riders will always appreciate the physical and technical challenge of a good uphill slog, but the comfort and convenience of a chairlift became a surefire driver of growth in the mountain bike world, just as it had for skiing decades earlier.

An early design for Whistler Bike Park ad, courtesy Whistler Backroads. Circa 1996.

An early design for a Whistler Bike Park ad, courtesy Whistler Backroads. Circa 1996.

Lift-accessed trails started from Olympic Station, most running down ski runs, while “two of the new routes even [took] riders right into the forest, with designers opening up old logging roads for the two-wheeled, knobby-tired set.” Also in 1996 in a separate guided tour for advanced riders, Eric’s guides invited guests to “bike the peak” by climbing access roads from the Roundhouse all the way to Whistler Peak. It wasn’t until 2012 that the Whistler Bike Park began offering lift-access to Whistler Summit and the new “Top of the World Trail.”

Despite this early success, Whistler Backroads was forced to change paths in 1998, when Intrawest purchased Whistler Mountain. Their contract was not renewed, despite the considerable efforts invested in building trails and growing the operation. They continued to offer guided mountain biking throughout the valley, but over time their focus shifted to water sports, especially guided canoe and kayak descents down the River of Golden Dreams, which they still offer to this day.

 

Next Wednesday May 18th, see Eric, WORCA trailbuilder Dan Raymond, and others discuss the past, present, and future of MTB trail-building in Whistler at “Dirt Masters: Whistler Trail-building through the Decades.” This is the opening event of our first ever Whistler MTB Heritage Week.