Circa 2006, the state of mountain biking’s gravity-fueled cutting edge was Whistler
and a few ski resorts nestled between the Swiss Alps and the French
Alps. But the difference between what was happening in Europe and what
was happening in Canada was pretty much maple syrup vs. high fructose.
The latter, “bad stuff” was Europe, because they viewed gravity as a pro
thing. Build it for the pros and let the masses hit it and see if they
Welcome to the land of no liability lawyers! The trouble wasn’t just
people getting hurt — tThe gravity scene wasn’t growing, because the
reputation was that it was all gnar and no fun.
Whistler had a totally different recipe: Build every jump, double,
g-out, steep, wall ride, ladder bridge, and gap with A, B, and C bailout
lines. If you couldn’t handle the pucker factor, there was always an
easier way down. The idea was progression, as in progress, so that after
a week at Whistler you were sending stuff that on day one freaked you.
It made Whistler blow up, because the place is Disneyland for riders.
There’s something there anyone can ride, even if you’ve never shuttled
in your life.
Now, at long last, American mountain biking is edging toward
Whistler-style parks. Now online are lift-served operations at Stevens
Pass, Washington; Aspen and Snowmass; and in Park City, Utah. In the
East there’s New Hampshire’s Highland Mountain Bike Park, a model for
taking a defunct ski hill, forgetting the ski biz entirely, and just
focusing on lift-served mountain biking.
What took so long?