The options for the top women's dirt jump riders are few and far between.
But this year's Great Outdoors Festival is adding an option here in Whistler. The brand-new jump jam, slated for May 15 at the Whistler Dirt Jumps Park, will be a Freeride Mountain Bike Association (FMBA) bronze-level event, and will be the only competition on tour with an event for women.
Trish Bromley, in particular, is excited. The Toronto resident first came out to Whistler in 2009 to "do the whole ski bum thing," but soon fell in love with the bike park and now comes out for summers as opposed to winters.
She started out as more of a downhill rider, but then began to embrace the slopestyle and other freeride disciplines, and is glad to see emerging opportunities to advance her career there.
"This is the first time I've seen a specific women's category for an FMBA event," she said. "I'm excited to see who comes out for that. There are a lot of really talented ladies in the Sea to Sky corridor so I'm hoping to see quite a show."
Bromley said there are a fair number of dirt jumping events offered, just not on the FMBA circuit or staged at a high level.
"When you go down into California, there are tons of events geared to ladies to build participation, but this is one of the first at a competitive level that really allows us some place," she said. "A lot of the other events I've been to, the onus is on participation, so you'll see smaller features and clinics beforehand that encourage the progression and then a celebratory jam at the end.
"This is an FMB (Freeride Mountain Bike) event so hopefully it'll be fun to see the girls competing and throwing down as opposed to holding pom-poms and cheering everyone else."
Bromley noted she's happy to cheer on all riders, but appreciates the chance to compete herself.
She feels now that she's headed in a more competitive direction, she can access events more easily, as it was more difficult to find a way to break out onto that level.
"Once you're in the scene, you always have your nose into all that's happening," she said. "It's harder to get to them, so it's really exciting that there's one happening in Whistler."
Crankworx Events Inc. general manager Darren Kinnaird sits on the FMB advisory board, and when the organization sought to add more grassroots bronze-level events, particularly in North America, Kinnaird saw a fine fit.
"It seemed like a good opportunity for us to do something like this," he said. "We have the facility. We have the expertise around here and can provide an opportunity for up-and-coming riders to participate in an FMB event."
He explained FMB takes a fairly hands-off approach with lower-level events like those at the bronze level — there isn't any mandate regarding whether an event can offer a women's division or not. He added, though, that Crankworx hasn't been able to offer women's competitions in certain events because sponsorship can be difficult to secure. With increasing numbers of women in enduro and downhill competitions, though, Kinnaird hopes the tide is turning.
"We knew there was a big demand for it and we're glad to see more women riding in this," he said.
Kinnaird said there are 40 spots available for athletes intending to compete in pro and amateur men's and women's categories.
"It's a loose format to start off with and we'll start to pare it down to the top riders," Kinnaird explained.
Bromley hopes to be among them, and feels she has a shot with her familiarity with Whistler's surfaces and a boost from the local crowd. She also hopes plenty of young people who come to watch find themselves interested in taking part someday.
"Hopefully it'll draw quite the crowd and a lot of girls will come and see that it's possible," Bromley said. "What happens right now, having just guys' categories at things, girls don't really see other girls who are competing. Hopefully it'll be able to hook a few more girls into it."
Other new events planned
Two other new tournaments will be part of GO Fest this year.
The Whistler Tennis Academy will host a tennis tournament from May 15 to 17 at the Whistler Racquet Club and the Fairmont Whistler Tennis Courts. The men's and women's singles events in the open category will see $1,000 in prize money go to the winners.
As for the amateur categories, men's and women's singles and doubles will be offered as part of the tournament. The men's tournaments are rated 4.0 on the National Tennis Rating Program point system. There is a 4.0 women's doubles tournament, as well as 3.0 women's singles and doubles tournaments.
There will also be masters doubles events in the men's, women's and mixed categories for those 50 and over.
As well, there will be a GO Volleyfest at the Rainbow Park Beach Volleyball Courts on May 17. There will be a King/Queen of the Beach contest where players sign up individually for two-on-two volleyball and are assigned a new partner each set. There will also be a co-ed four-on-four tournament.
"We were thinking of great summer and spring sporting events that locals and people who visit love to participate in that are outside of the usual," Kinnaird said. "Disc golf last year was a great success and it's going like gangbusters this year."
Registration for all events is open at www.greatoutdoorsfest.com.
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