Tag Archives: Mountain Biking

Whistler’s First Mountain Bike Race

This summer, as we made our way through digitizing the Whistler Question Photo Collection and I 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

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#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!

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!

Whistler MTB Heritage Week

Over the last three decades, mountain biking has woven itself into the fabric of our community and Whistler’s distinct biking scene has spread its influence across the world. To celebrate this proud tradition, the Whistler Museum is hosting our first ever Mountain Bike Heritage Week, a full series of daily events running from May 18-23rd.

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We will be holding three separate Speaker Series events, each focusing on different aspects of Whistler’s MTB scene, beginning with an ode to those unsung heroes of the biking world – the trailbuilders. Dirtmasters: Whistler Trailbuilding through the Decades will explore the past, present, and future of Whistler’s world class trail network.

With thousands of dedicated riders, it’s safe to classify Whistler’s biking community as a horde of raving die-hards. Find out how our local scene grew from niche to enormous at Whistler MTB: Building a Community, a panel discussion featuring local organizers, coaches, and more on Saturday May 21st. The Speaker Series trilogy concludes the following evening as we expand our view outward with Whistler MTB Gone Global, featuring local riders and entrepreneurs speaking firsthand to the worldwide influence and appeal of Whistler mountain biking.

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Riders climb towards Whistler Peak during the Samurai of Singletrack race. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Robin O’Neill

 

It is a mountain bike festival, after all, so there’s more than just panel discussions going on. May 19th, being a Thursday night, we’ll be teaming up with the leading institution of Whistler’s MTB community, WORCA’s weekly Toonie Ride. Riders will be encouraged to break out the spandex, the clunkers, and any other retro gear stashed away in storage that you just couldn’t bear to part with. The ride will begin at the bottom of Scotia Creek on Whistler’s westside.

For all the freeriders out there, we are organizing a free screening of the classic freeride film Kranked 3 on Friday May 20th at Forlise Whistler in Mountain Square. We’re especially excited to be able to include a filmmaker Q&A with special guests Bjorn Enga and Christian Begin.

A legendary rider on a legendary feature. Brett Tippie on Whistler Mountain. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Margus Riga

A legendary rider on a legendary feature. Brett Tippie on Whistler Mountain. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Margus Riga

Underpinning the whole festival is Revolution: Whistler MTB in Photography and Art, featuring some of the world’s leading mountain bike photographers, artists, and athletes, including Sterling Lorence, Justa Jeskova, Reuben Krabbe, and many more. Running from May 15th until June 14th at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, this exhibit will showcase the trails, terrain, talent, and passion that makes Whistler a Mecca of the global mountain biking scene.

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

Local riders enjoying the recent expansion of bike trails into the alpine. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Justa Jeskova.

Local riders enjoying the recent expansion of bike trails into the alpine. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Justa Jeskova.

The Whistler Museum will also be showcasing historic photographs and artifacts as we unveil a new display about Whistler’s mountain bike heritage in our permanent exhibit. Everyone is invited to come check it out during our regular admission hours or during one of the three evening Speaker Series events.

Everyone is encouraged to enter our Instagram contest, simply by tagging their riding shots with #WhistlerMTBWeek between now and May 23rd. Our favourite shots will be selected for great swag and prizes from our many awesome sponsors.

Of course it wouldn’t be a mountain bike festival without a ton of actual riding, so keep your ears and eyes open for a number of impromptu and informal group rides and bike park hot laps throughout the week.

Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week is produced by the Whistler Museum in partnership with WORCA, the Great Outdoors Festival, the Whistler Arts Council, and Forlise Whistler. It would not be possible without the generous support of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Province of British Columbia, Deep Cove Brewing, Chromag Cycles, Vorsprung Suspension, Whistler-Blackcomb, Whistler Bike Co., & David’s Tea.

Mountain Biking Back in Time

In the spirit of Crankworx and mountain bike culture in Whistler in general, we thought we’d dig up some vintage mountain bike footage. Here’s a video from the Cactus Cup Mountain Bike Competition in 1995:

Although we no longer hold the Cactus Cup, Whistler is home to the exciting and popular Crankworx, happening right now. Recently, our Assistant Archivist, Alyssa Bruijns, spent some time digging through the archives here at the museum to get to the root of mountain bike culture in Whistler. Below, Alyssa takes us back to the 90s to the origins of some of Whistler’s most popular trails, the bike park and Crankworx’s Redbull Joyride.

Cranking Through the Decades 

By Alyssa Bruijns

With Crankworx in full swing, all of Whistler has mountain biking on the mind. Whistler Museum and Archives is no exception: lately we’ve been reflecting on the history of the sport in Whistler.

The first trails in the area were built and cleared by riders themselves in the mid-80s, many of them incorporating gravel access roads and decommissioned logging roads where necessary. A 1993 article from our archives identifies Cut Yer Bars, Northwest Passage, Black Tusk climb, A River Runs Through It, and Lost Lake Park as ideal spots for riders who wanted to venture off-road at the time. A few mountain biking enthusiasts began running tours up Whistler Mountain  under the name Backroads Whistler. Some of the trails they rode were incorporated into the bike park we know today: for instance, Ripping Rutebaga formed the skeleton for what is now Dirt Merchant.

Since mountain biking had to be put on hold on the mountain while the new Roundhouse was being built in 1998, the employees of Whistler Blackcomb used the opportunity to pitch the idea for an more intensified bike park to Whistler Blackcomb. Despite some hesitance, Whistler Blackcomb agreed to begin building, although many trails were quite difficult for the average rider from the outset. As technology and rider ability caught up to trail difficulty, the sport burgeoned in Whistler, and Whistler’s trail-builders rose to the challenge in order to create new machine-built features and trails each season. It is from this base of expertise that Gravity Logic was born, a company that has contributed to trail design and building in bike parks around the world since its inception.

As mountain biking gained popularity into the 2000s, Whistler became known as a world-class venue due to the amount of overseas visitors, global media recognition, its plethora of bike shops and media blitzes. Whistler Mountain Bike Park is now a prime destination in the mountain biking world, and A-line has become one of the most well-known downhill trails worldwide, having grown to signify a style of trail including flowy dirt jumps and berms. In 2003, Richie Schley pushed Whistler to host a slopestyle type of competition that would use many freeride elements to form one show-stopping contest course. Upon approval, Schley designed the first Slopestyle Expression Session which would allow riders to choose their own lines and tricks. Now called the Redbull Joyride, this contest has become one of the favourite events of Crankworx for riders and spectators alike, especially with Sea-to-Sky resident Brandon Semenuk clinching podium spots nearly every year competing.

Crankworx has grown not only as a sporting event but also as an event central to Whistler’s culture. The film portions of the festival, the live music, the cheese-rolling competition, and the fan-fuelled spirit of Heckler’s Rock on the downhill course make Crankworx so much more than a mountain biking festival. As the birthplace of slopestyle and a yearly mountain biking bonanza, it is no surprise that Crankworx has engrained itself in Whistler’s history and culture. Certainly, summer is no longer ‘off-season.’

Tales of Mountain Biking from the Whistler Answer

There seems to be a brilliant zest soaring around Whistler lately as riders gear up and head to the freshly opened bike park. The park opened for the season on Friday, May 16th, and the joy is palpable; I swear I can almost taste the sweat and feel the dirt hitting the calves of each eager rider all the way from inside the museum. With this current excitement, I decided to have a look through a mountain bike specific issue of the Whistler Answer from 1992. What a treat!

Along with the so-90s cover shot and its slightly dated articles, this issue provides a slew of hilarious and relatable experiences with mountain biking in Whistler. With so many interesting facts and stories to choose from I settled on two to highlight below.

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In his article “Biking for Pleasure and Pain,” Bob Colebrook takes us on his bike buying journey, discussing his gear ignorance and honest desire to ride–something many of us can relate to. He tells of his past relationships, his learned vocabulary and his truly amazing connections made with numerous fat-tired friends.

Keeping it literal and not without an impressive knack for visual, Colebrook begins by describing the pleasure and pain of mountain biking, while ultimately focusing on the sport’s essence — fun. He continues by discussing his costly, sometimes torturous journey with gear, from the chafing and pinching of bike seats to finally understanding the word “treadle.”

I let out an audible laugh while reading of Bob’s financial struggles with his one hundred and fifty dollar bike turning into a six hundred dollar bike: “…I started thinking that maybe I could get a lot of taxi rides for six hundred dollars, and if I really needed to go to Lost Lake I could hire a few Sherpas to carry me up.” But of course, he assures us that it was all worth it. Without splurging on the bike, he never would have realized his great love that is Margaret (his two-wheeled beauty).

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Entangled in the article is also a list of the “Ten Crucial Things To Know About Mountain Biking.” I’m sure most of you seasoned bikers can get behind a lot of these, such as “Bike mechanics are like doctors, always seek a second opinion,” “Pedestrians should be banned from the Valley Trail” and of course “Don’t ride the Valley Trail drunk on a moonless night in the rain.” All very listWA-The Second Coming_Vol 2_Issue 6 _Page 23standard facts and practical tips, I’m sure.

Colebrook ends his article with an elegant and encapsulating statement: 
“Mountain biking is more than just recreation, more than just a way to spend unwanted dollars—it’s a hobby that makes masochism acceptable, if not desirable.”

 

The second piece from this issue that I’ve decided to include is very short and sweet. It concerns the reasoning behind bikers shaving their legs!

In “Bikers May Shave Their Legs, But Panty Hose Still Remain a Fantasy,” Grant Lamont discusses one of the “strange customs and bizarre practices that seem ridiculous to the normal person.” Need I say more?

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For the full issue (and many more issues), visit our digital archive of the Whistler Answer.