Tag Archives: Whistler Mountain Bike Park

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

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.

WA-The Second Coming_Vol 2_Issue 6 _Page 1

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).

WA-The Second Coming_Vol 2_Issue 6 _Page 22

WA-The Second Coming_Vol 2_Issue 6 _Page 23

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?

WA-The Second Coming_Vol 2_Issue 6 _Page 20

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

Whistler MTB 20 years ago

So the Whistler Mountain Bike Park opened for the season yesterday! Mountain biking has quickly grown to become Whistler’s most high-profile summer attraction, but even before our ski lifts began shuttling fat-tire types up Whistler Mountain Whistler already had a well-developed biking scene. It’s just that hardly anyone knew about it.

Mountain Biking Whistler, early 1990s.

Mountain Biking Whistler, early 1990s.

For a little perspective we dug into our archives and consulted a copy of the 1993 publication “The Whistler Handbook.” In an article titled  “The Trails Are World Class But Few Know About It – Yet” local artist, sign-maker, and former editor of the Whistler Answer Charlie Doyle had this to say about the local mountain biking scene in 1993:

“Mountain biking in Whistler today is like skiing was twenty years ago. In those days the skiing was every bit as astounding as it is currently, but it hadn’t been dubbed “World Class” yet… All we had was the best skiing in the world and hardly anyone outside the Lower Mainland knew or cared anything about it.” Just to be clear, Charlie wasn’t complaining about this lack of recognition.

The article describes how Whistler decommissioned logging roads formed the backbone of the local trail network, frequently re-cleared by rogue bike enthusiasts to provide smooth climbs and trunk roads servicing an ever-expanding network of single track routes.

Newcomers to the sport will be surprised to learn how many of these trails had already been built in 1993. Some of Whistler’s bike trails might even  be older than most of the people riding today!

An early x-country race on Whistler Mountain, early 1990s.

An early x-country race on Whistler Mountain, early 1990s.

Griffith img070 large

About as technical as downhill descents got at the time, many of the images from in this collection show the racers walking their bikes down this section. Way up in the Whistler Alpine, early 1990s.

Among Charlie’s suggestions were now-classic trails such as Cut Yer Bars (“offers a truckload of technical drops, obstacles, climbs and slalom descents”), Northwest Passage (“runs like a roller coaster across creeks and big sweeping corners”), the Black Tusk climb (“not to be missed for those who love gut-wrenching climbs”) and a few Westside favourites like A River Runs Through It (“you may never want to leave”).

A poster for

A poster from an early Loonie Race (late 1980s). These weekly summer rides still run to this day (although inflation forced them to be re-branded “Toonie Rides” a few years back) are now massive social events, often with hundreds of participants.

As an aside, Charlie noted that “the municipal government has yet to be convinced that the bike scene can provide sufficient retail kickback to jump on the bandwagon.” Since that assessment the RMOW has clearly seen the light, as it is widely considered a case study in the positive impacts that follow from local government support for mountain bike trail networks. Interestingly, the first place Charlie suggested for prospective riders was Lost Lake Park, which is now a municipally-operated bike park.

Fast forward 20 years and Whistler’s biking scene is firmly in the situated in the mainstream.  As the trail network expanded, all the accompanying markers of “world class” status Charlie referred to are here as well: overseas visitors, global media recognition, dozens of dedicated bike shops, and media blitzes that are as calculated and labour intensive as the trails themselves.

For more info on the history of local trail-building, check out WORCA’s trail history article, and “Quest for the Holy Trail” run in the Pique last summer. 

And for fun, we’ll re-post this classic clip from our archives, showing some sweet mtb action from 1988: