Bike Park gets bigger, more expensive 

Opening day set for May 1

The bad news is that the price of riding in Whistler Mountain Bike Park has gone up again this year, almost $4 for a day pass and $50 for a season’s pass.

The good news is that a pass gets you a lot more this year as the park continues to expand. With the opening of the Garbanzo Zone this summer, the total vertical will almost triple from 1,200 to 3,400 feet while lift lines get shorter with the addition of a second lift.

"We are spending a schwack on Garbanzo this year, in addition to all of the other stuff we’re doing, and that’s part of the reason behind (the higher prices) for sure. But we think people will find that with those additions that we’re still providing pretty good fun, excitement and enjoyment for the money," said Rob McSkimming, managing director of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park.

This year opening day is set for May 1, and it’s unlikely that the park will be open before then. This week crews started to clear snow from the popular A-Line and B-Line trails, hoping to dry them out in time for the opening.

The park will only be open on weekends until the May long weekend. After that the park will open seven days a week.

Whistler-Blackcomb is kicking off the official opening weekend with Bike Bash 04, which will include the third annual Crud to Mud Downhill. In this race individuals and teams of two will race on skis and snowboards from the top of Raven to Olympic Station before switching to bikes for a descent of the A-Line trail.

Bike Bash 04 will also feature a new bike industry expo. "Kind of like a Turkey Sale for bikes," said McSkimming.

The Garbanzo Zone has just two trails at this point, but McSkimming hopes to have between three and five trails by the time the chair opens on June 26.

"Crews will be working upwards, following the snowline to get as many trails open as they can for June 26," said McSkimming. "I forget what the average speed is per kilometre for the trail builders, by we’re looking to have somewhere between eight and 10 trails open by the end of the summer."

Most of the trails will be advanced, but the park hopes to also include slower trails for beginner and intermediate mountain bikers as well.

If all goes well, McSkimming expects rider numbers to continue to increase. Over the past five years the park has seen the number of visitors increase by 500 per cent.

"That’s where the trend’s been going. We hope Garbanzo coming online will help create some more excitement and we hope to increase our numbers maybe 10 or 15 per cent over last year, which would be awesome. I think we can do it in a way that spreads people out more, with smaller lineups, less congestion of the trails, more lift service and more trails to choose from," said McSkimming.

This year the price of a day pass to ride the park is $39, up $5 from last year. Multi-day passes will also be available this season with prices still to be determined. Youth passes for kids aged 13 to 17 are $35 and juniors 12 and under are $19.

An unlimited seasons pass is $299, a $50 increase over 2003. Whistler-Blackcomb winter season’s pass holders, including single mountain passes, spirit passes, weekday passes, 15-visit passes, parent passes and Whistler Kids passes, can get you a discount – $19 for single day passes ($20 off the regular price) or $249 for a season’s pass, which is $31 more than last year.

2004 WORCA members will be able to get the same discount.

Extended Play passes, which are good from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., will be $29.

The hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Extended Play nights are Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays starting June 16.

Daily operations will run from May 22 until Oct. 3, then on weekends only until Oct. 11.

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