Bike Park closes on a high note 

Rider numbers up 23 per cent

The Whistler Mountain Bike Park continued to grow in the double digits this year, with the total number of rider visits increasing by 23 per cent over 2004.

The park also had its busiest day yet, with more than 1,800 riders taking to the trails on one day during the Crankworx mountain bike festival.

"We’re more or less just waiting until the dust settles before we’ll know exactly how we did this year, but we’re happy with the way things went overall," said Rob McSkimming, vice president of business development for Whistler-Blackcomb, and the general manager of the bike park. "We continued to grow, which is a good sign, and people really seem to enjoy the kind of experience we’re creating."

Not everything worked out entirely as planned. The Garbanzo zone continued to be a success with the addition of new trails, including new sections of freight train.

However, due to wet conditions early in the season the A-Line style trail could not be completed in its entirety.

"We saw a real increase in numbers up there (Garbanzo). We didn’t get Freight Train complete, but we opened up sections a little at a time as well as some other routes, so there was always something new up there for people to ride," said McSkimming. "It’s our goal to eventually have all the same kind of riding experiences in Garbanzo as we offer in the lower part of the park, and that’s going to take a while to build, but for people who are into the A-Line style of riding with the jumps it was good year."

The Magic Park, two beginner runs on Blackcomb, was not as successful as Whistler-Blackcomb hoped "but it did build as the year went on," said McSkimming. "It was great to see four and five year old kids riding up there and having a blast, and we’ve decided we’re going to keep it up to continue to expand our age and ability spectrum of riding. It’s part of the sustainability and growth of the whole biking scene."

Park managers are looking at the possibility of building more trails to the area, as well as more features, like small jumps and stunts, for riders to build their riding skills.

The new Kona Jump Farm was a limited success, but the bike park is not giving it up either. Instead, the park will focus more on the progression and will include the type of jumps found on bike park trails.

"We still think that’s going to be a great facility, because riders can take the (moving sidewalk) lift up to the top and really build their skills. They can start small and build up to A-Line, then Dirt Merchant, and so on," said McSkimming.

Planning is already underway for next year. One priority will be to complete Freight Train and link it to A-Line to create a high-speed run with 3,400 feet of total elevation. Crews will also work on other trails in the area for different riding styles.

Another priority is to continue building a new practice trail called Crank It Up.

"Crank It Up has all the features you would find elsewhere in the park, only a lot smaller. That includes table tops, hip jumps, step-up jumps, drops, wall rides, stunts, boxes, you name it," said McSkimming. "We’ve found there’s a real interest for these kind of features, and not just at the expert level. We want to continue this down the mountain and hook it up to Heart of Darkness."

The season ended on a high note with the Joyride Huckfest on Thanksgiving weekend, said McSkimming, but otherwise the park is happy with the level of participation in events like the Wednesday women’s clinics, Crankworx, and the Phat Wednesday Downhill Series.

"Everywhere you look the numbers were up, and the feedback has been positive, which lets us know that we’re really on the right track, creating the kind of experience that people are looking for," he said.

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