The Whistler bike park? What’s that? It’s hard to imagine someone saying that these days, when Whistler is internationally recognized as a mecca for mountain biking with over 200 kilometers of bike park trails and countless kilometers of cross country. But it took awhile to get here. When settlers first started arriving in Whistler, the bicycle was a new invention. Fast forward to the 21st century, and the vanguard of mountain biking is about to hit the world stage: heli-biking. But let’s back up a moment. How did we get here?
Bikes developed fatter tires, drum brakes, and better suspension for off-road adventures in the 1970s, but the sport had a long way to go before it was widely recognized by the public and the media. In 1985 when Backroads Mountain Bike Adventures began offering tours in Whistler most visitors had never even seen a mountain bike, let alone ridden one, recalls founder Richard Kelly. 1990 saw the first Mountain Bike World Championships, and mountain biking was added as an Olympic sport at the Atlanta Games in 1996, with a cross-country event for men and women.
While mountain biking was establishing itself as a recognized sport on the world stage, Whistler was quietly developing what would become one of the most sought after mountain biking destinations in the world. The Whistler Bike Park opened in 1999 with a handful of trails. The park saw only 11,000 visitors in its first year. Needless to say, that number has grown. Mountain biking in Whistler now draws almost as many visitors as its headliner snowsports: skiing and snowboarding. In addition to 274 kilometres of bike park trails, the areas around the Village, Lost Lake, Alpine Meadows, and beyond are criss-crossed with trails to suit every ability. Now, you can enjoy mountain biking in Whistler at any level, from a cruisy ride around Lost Lake, to loading your bike on a helicopter for a once in a lifetime heli-drop biking adventure. Whistler is also host to several events celebrating the sport of mountain biking.
Check out one of these expo events, festivals or races dedicated to mountain biking. And next time you put your feet to the pedals, think on this: you are about to experience a high point in the evolution of mountain biking thanks to the visionaries who developed the sport into what it is today, hard tails and all.
WORCA events, visit worca.com
Monday night social rides
Thursday evening toonie rides