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Monday, July 23,2012

American Resorts (Finally) Chasing Whistler Bike Park

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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 can survive.

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?


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