Since we started Mountain Life: Coast Mountains almost a decade ago, mountain biking has essentially taken over the world. So it made sense that the first 13-page SuperFeature we’ve ever published in the mag be about biking. This eight-part online feature comes from the Summer 2015 “Wheels & Water” issue and we feel they give a good glimpse of the scope and quality of riding offered in B.C.’s South Coast. Ride on!—Feet Banks, editor, Mountain Life: Coast Mountains
Read previous articles form this series here:
STEMMING THE SLIDE
Breathing new life into one of Whistler’s classic trails
by Vince Shuley
Whistler is a town brimming with recreational rites of passage — and the Whistler Mountain Bike Park has several of its own initiation features to graduate riders from advanced enthusiasts to bona fide Whistler shredders. The committing step up onto the Freight Train containers or the balls-dropping roll into Drop-In Clinic can quickly separate the field, as can old-school roller coaster, Joyride.
For years, Ride Don’t Slide has been heralded as the bike park boundary trail separating the sheep from the goats. Originally built in 1980s by trials dirt bikers revving up the south side of Whistler Mountain, the steep and eroded fall line sections eventually had downhill biking initiates hanging onto their brakes for dear life, only to erupt in hoots and hollers as they flowed into the next corner. As the Bike Park lifts reached higher up Whistler Mountain and manufacturers built bikes with more brawn, time (and increased usage) was not kind to Ride Don’t Slide.
“It wasn’t the most environmentally conscious [trail] for going down,” says Bike Park Manager Brian Finestone. “When it required you to ride up to the Peak and down to it, back in the day, it didn’t see that much traffic because of its level of difficulty and access.”
“Whenever you [build] a reverse grade in the trail — even if it’s only two feet long — it allows the trail to spill water and you’re guarding against the trail becoming a creek bed.” — Tom “Pro” Prochazka, Gravity Logic
However, once Top of the World trail opened in 2010, Whistler’s Peak Chair began uploading mountain bikes into the high alpine and accessing Ride Don’t Slide no longer required a 20 to 30-minute uphill push from the Garbanzo Zone. As traffic inevitably increased, Whistler Blackcomb chose to invest resources into upgrading the popular out-of-bounds south side route rather than block it with deadfall or leave it in a state of purgatory.
“We wanted to preserve the old line where it was environmentally sustainable to do so and offer a ride-around option that’s single, black level as opposed to double black,” says Finestone. “By splitting the difference and filling some of that erosion concern, it will make the trail more sustainable.”
Finestone has more than enough on his plate keeping the 72 trails of the Bike Park maintained, so Whistler Blackcomb (WB) contracted local trail building think tank, Gravity Logic (whose founding members are responsible for most of the early Bike Park trail designs), to overhaul several sections of Ride Don’t Slide. In keeping with contemporary trail design and sustainable practices, the upper section of the trail now follows the contours of the landscape and allows ample drainage to avoid damage from the frequent rainstorms experienced on the West Coast.
“The problem with the trail was that it didn’t snake its way down, it was pretty much going straight down,” says Tom “Pro” Prochazka of Gravity Logic. “That makes it difficult to use the existing footprint, so the first kilometre up the top is brand new. Whenever you [build] a reverse grade in the trail — even if it’s only two feet long — it allows the trail to spill water and you’re guarding against the trail becoming a creek bed.”
In keeping with contemporary trail design and sustainable practices, the upper section of the trail now follows the contours of the landscape and allows ample drainage to avoid damage from the frequent rainstorms experienced on the West Coast.
On top of enabling Ride Don’t Slide to stand up to the abuse of long-travel downhill bikes, the investment is also aimed at making the trail accessible to more users by building alternate options to the burly rock faces that Ride Don’t Slide is notorious for.
“[Whistler Blackcomb] is super proactive about that kind of stuff,” says Prochazka. “They realize that people coming off the Peak are going to ride Ride Don’t Slide. They’re identifying a trail that exists that could be a lot better, that could be a really good experience for a lot of riders who pay to get up on the mountain.”
The link-up of Ride Don’t Slide with Top of the World in the Peak Zone and BC Trail in Creekside give mountain bikers their very own lift-accessed “Peak to Creek” run that starts with a panoramic alpine vista and finishes at Dusty’s. Now that sounds like a pretty sweet rite of passage.
Note: Ride Don’t Slide is not within the Whistler Mountain Bike Park boundary, and as such is not patrolled. Always ride with a friend and carry sufficient tools for basic repairs on the trail.
DFX: THE NEXT GENERATION
The Future of Downhill Starts at Age 4
By Kristen Wint
Jacob Coleman started riding in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park’s DFX Club at age five. Four years later, in 2014, he found himself atop the first ever Crankworx Kidsworx Downhill podium, a champion in the 7–9 Mixed Division category of a race that saw over 100 kids testing their grit on the bike park’s famous B-Line trail.
“It made him the first local supergrom to pull a Crankworx Kidsworx gold medal,” says father Jason Coleman, adding that finding and winning a Downhill race in his age category had been one of Jacob’s goals almost since he first started riding in DFX Club.
DFX stands for Downhill, Freeride and X-Country and it’s an in-demand summer camp with coaching in all aspects of mountain biking. They now accept four-year-olds who can send it, and in 2014 added a Phat Kidz race series to give Whistler youth a feel for the DH competition circuit. That Crankworx added the Kidsworx DH race (the only one in Canada) that same year worked out just as well for Jacob and his fellow DFXers.
Jacob credits much of his winning run to time spent walking the track with Cory LeClerc, DFX guest coach and owner of Squamish-based C4 Rider Training. “I learned more about racing in that one day with Cory than I would all season,” Jacob says. “Picking good lines, when to brake, where pedalling matters and where it slows you down, all made me see that sometimes slower is faster.”
The Crankworx win and extra time spent with LeClerc got Jacob noticed. He was invited to join a Cycling BC two-day talent-spotting camp called the DH Future Champs Camp held in Squamish and Whistler in September 2014. The camp was designed for riders aged 13 to 18 who were entering the DH race circuit, but Cory saw value in adding a rider who was still several years away from being of age. “Jacob is my Zander 2.0,” says LeClerc, referring to Whistler local and Norco Bicycles Factory Team Rider, Zander Geddes. “Rather than starting to learn how to race once he’s of age, we want him showing up at BC Cup races at 13, ready to win.”
While 13 seems decades away for ten-year-old Jacob, he says he hopes for an invite to the 2015 Crankworx Whistler Fox Air DH Kidsworx event (10 to 13-year-old division) for a chance to rip the same trails as legendary riders Stevie Smith and Brandon Semenuk. While he waits, he’ll be shredding park laps all season long.