Pete Matthews, bike park manager says that, “Everything has gotten bigger to accommodate more people. Four years ago, we redid A-Line and made landings and berms bigger and taller, and have done more to accommodate new riders. A-line will see thousands of riders per day and trails like Heart of Darkness see even more. In fact, Heart of Darkness is the most ridden mountain bike trail in the world. Originally it was a single track loop trail, but today it’s a 25 foot wide road with jumps. The bike park crew size has doubled in the last few years to keep up. Ten years ago Whistler was a ghost town in the summer. The amount of people visiting the park has completely changed the town, housing market, job market and more.”
The bike park has actually grown beyond what the Whistler Trail Crew can keep up with. New expansions like Creekside and Top of the World have only been possible with the help of Gravity Logic’s team of builders who are able to create new trail while the Whistler Bike Park crew are able to focus their efforts elsewhere. According to Pete Matthews, this is especially helpful, since, “Things don’t wear out in accordance to a schedule. We tried having scheduled maintenance, but things kinda just wore as they wore, so we’re always identifying trouble spots and repairing as needed.”
Each day, the crew has a meeting where they go over areas that need work in the park, or issues people have noticed while riding. They also go over safety issues with the park’s risk management team, which they use to identify spots that need changes. “Our safety team is able to identify hot spots of where things are happening,” said Pete Matthews. “We just re-did the jumps on A-line at the top right under the lift since it was a hot spot for injuries. We ended up widening everything out and making the jump and landing larger for overshoots and to be more forgiving for new riders. That’s been a hard thing. It was difficult to push the concept of bigger jumps actually being safer. Bigger landings and taller and longer is safer, which was always a hard sell for our safety team. They’re all on board now though and it’s been awesome.”
When asked about how the crew builds trails, Pete emphasized that it’s all based on feel. That said, the mechanics under their construction have changed substantially. At this point, Whistler Bike Park essentially builds their trail bases like a roadway, with similar compaction methods and allowances for above and under ground drainage. Up top for the actual features though there is no pre-set arc or measured size elements. The new Dirt Merchant expansion for example, was made entirely through feel and the trail crew’s years of experience in trail layout and building.
It should come as no surprise that the guys on the trail crew (including the park manager Pete) shred harder than most of us ever will. Having the bike park in their yards, and being able to take a lunch break lap on their favorite trails means these guys rack up serious miles over a season. Collectively the crew will descend millions of feet each year. It makes them the perfect candidates for testing the limits of products that brands seek to improve – brands like Ride Concepts.