Garbanzo opens new world to mountain bikers this Saturday 

The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is getting a whole lot bigger this weekend with the official opening of the Garbanzo Express Chair.

The expansion adds about 2,200 vertical feet to the park, bringing the total vertical to a North American high of 3,400 feet.

Crews have been hard at work on new trails off the chairlift, and the area will open with a modest three trails. More will be added over the course of the summer.

"It was a lot of time and effort to get this happening, so it will be pretty neat when that lift starts turning," said Rob McSkimming, the managing director of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. "It’s a little bit of a work in progress for us, but we like what we’ve got so far."

Crews put the finishing touches on the existing trails this week, finishing the ramp from the chairlift, and adding signs and trail markers.

The main trails are No Joke, which is located in the Jimmy’s Joker area, and Original Sin, which runs through Goat’s Gully and In Deep, near the site of the original bike park. If you’re a strong rider you can also head down Bear Cub and Pony Trail.

All of the trails are interconnected, which will give riders more variety until new trails can be completed. At this stage all of the trails are intermediate and expert, but there will be ways to go around the most challenging features and stunts.

"One of the things that people are going to notice is that the trails are a little bit different than down lower," said McSkimming. "First of all, there’s so much vertical, 2,200 feet, and the terrain is so much steeper than in the lower park that the trails are really long and winding. One lap on Garbanzo equals two laps on the Fitzsimmons Chair."

There will be a ceremony to open the Garbanzo Express on Saturday morning with a variation of a ribbon cutting ceremony. The winners of a contest, the bike park passholders with the most trips through the park this year, will get to ride the first three chairs up with two of their friends and a member of the bike park’s freeride team to act as their guide.

The rider with the most days this year rode the park 26 out of 36 days, making 210 laps. That’s works out to about 250,000 feet of vertical.

In addition to expanding the vertical and variety, the Garbanzo Express will also double the lift capacity of the park, resulting in shorter lines and less congested trails. Every year since its official opening in 1999, the Whistler Mountain Bike Park has set new records for ridership and pass purchases.

For more information on the park, visit www.whistler-blackcomb.com/bike/.

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