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· Tear it all out!
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Cycling celestial sites
Expansion makes acclaimed Whistler bike park the world's largest of its kind


Brian Morton
Vancouver Sun
July 12, 2004



CREDIT: Bonny Makarewicz/ Special to The Vancouver Sun
Ryan McRae flies through the new zone of Garbanzo Chair at Whistler Mountain Bike Park. New terrain adds 2,200 feet of vertical for a total of 3,400 feet -- a reason to cheer for both bikers and cycling-related merchants in the area.


For Whistler mountain biking aficionado Greg Ambrose, last month's expansion of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park -- which nearly tripled the terrain and opened up much of the top half of the mountain -- turned a riveting experience into something almost celestial.

"It's much more spectacular," said the downhill mountain biker of the expanded biking park, considered the best park of its type in the world. "The views and terrains are so different," added Ambrose, who was at the base of the bike park Thursday morning waiting to access the new trails.

"Being new, they're not so manicured and it allows for longer, non-interrupted runs. And it spreads the riders around on the mountain. It's much less congested."

More than anything in recent years, the opening of the expanded terrain on June 26 is expected to turn the sport into something approaching mainstream.

Rob McSkimming, the managing director of the bike park, said he's already noticed an increase in riders to a sport that's growing in leaps and bounds.

"Since opening the [expanded] park, we're already up 40 per cent [in riders] over the same time last year. This park is the largest of its type in the world and the day it opened, we had 1,200 riders, our biggest day ever."

On June 26, Whistler/Blackcomb added an additional 2,200 vertical feet of terrain to the existing 1,200 vertical feet on Whistler Mountain for mountain bikers. The addition means mountain bikers now have 3,400 vertical feet of terrain -- nearly triple last year's size.

The "Garbanzo Zone" features four new hand-built single-track trails and extends the park into the Whistler Mountain subalpine. Expansion was a response to rapid growth in the popularity of the bike park, in which visits increased by over 500 per cent since 1999.

Increased terrain means shorter lift lines, more space on-hill for riders, and access to a greater diversity of trails.

"The popularity of our park is sky-rocketing," said McSkimming. "With new technology, freeride downhill mountain biking is becoming more accessible, and more people are getting into the sport. The Garbanzo Zone will spread riders out on the mountain, and will provide expert and advanced riders with yet another unique downhill experience."

McSkimming said the new trails are longer, with better views, and the forest is mostly old-growth fir and hemlock. "A top-to-bottom trip takes riders through several geo-climatic zones and different riding experiences."

McSkimming said there were about 62,000 riders in the bike park last summer -- nearly six times the 11,000 visitors in the park's first year in 1999, but still just a fraction of the two million plus skiers who visited Whistler/Blackcomb this past winter.

Could the sport eventually rival skiing at Whistler?

"It's a drop in he bucket to skiing, but it could grow considerably," said McSkimming, who adds that the bike park's ridership is growing by about 30 per cent each year. "It's a niche market, and there's older riders, young, women and men. But there's a possibility that it could become a major worldwide sport. Remember, snowboarding started out slow and it's very similar. It's a core group that eventually became mainstream. We should have 80,000 this year and I think we'll have over 100,000 next year."

McSkimming said it's also relatively inexpensive for Whistler/Blackcomb to run the bike park, because riders use existing ski lifts to get up the mountain and a lot of the existing ski terrain is used by bikers.

"And then there's rental and retail," he added.

Kevin Ahearn, an employee at Fanatyk Co. Ski and Cycle, said the bike park's expansion has really helped sales and rentals. "Everyone loves it. It [the sport] is perfect for fat people."

Meanwhile, Whistler merchants report that business is up this year following a lacklustre summer in 2003.

"Last year was terrible, with 9/11, SARS, mad-cow disease," said Rhiannon Thomas, owner of Auntie Em's Cafe. "But this year it's busier. The people are definitely coming back."

Karine Lauze, assistant manager of Comor Go Play Outside, which sells clothing and sports hardware, agreed. "It's totally busy. The kids are riding the glacier all summer and they're mostly tourists. It's much busier than last year, when I had nothing to do."

Jacqui Figgis, reservations manager for Cougar Mountain Wilderness Adventures, which takes tourists into the back country, said business is up, largely because of corporate groups visiting Whistler.

[email protected]

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From:
https://www.canada.com/vancouver/story.html?id=25271b6f-3440-4c92-a106-e9fab9fa80fe
 

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Great quote from article:

Kevin Ahearn, an employee at Fanatyk Co. Ski and Cycle, said the bike park's expansion has really helped sales and rentals. "Everyone loves it. It [the sport] is perfect for fat people."

Hooray for Fat People! wonder if Kevin is a roadie?
 

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No, not really...

CraigH said:
A bunch of the Out-Spoken and I will be up there for Crank Worx. Are you doing anything for the Expo?
Way too busy with manufacturing the current production run. I'll be up there for the weekend and we might have one bike at the Magura tent for loan (a large frame) as it is the only prototype frame that isn't in full daily usage.

Otherwise, the production run is just going full tilt, and I'm running around like crazy working on getting these first bikes finished.

WC: I should be able to hopefully meet you on the 7th if you're around. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have to fly to Kansas and Memphis from the 2nd until the 6th for the day job though...
 

· Can't get right...
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I'll be up there Aug 26th thru sept 1st. I'm going crazy hitting Plattekill and Mtn Creek just waiting to get to a real mtn. We actually need roomates. I got a condo that sleeps 7 and a few guys dropped out. So thers only 3 of us going now so the cost is higher fo for us. Somebody must need a room right......
 

· I wanna talk to Samson!
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dannymonky said:
I'll be up there Aug 26th thru sept 1st. I'm going crazy hitting Plattekill and Mtn Creek just waiting to get to a real mtn. We actually need roomates. I got a condo that sleeps 7 and a few guys dropped out. So thers only 3 of us going now so the cost is higher fo for us. Somebody must need a room right......
me my dad and 2 of my freinds will be up there at taht time, might be interested...
 
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