Eighteen years ago the first Crankworx was held in Whistler Village to roaring success. As the Crankworx World Tour is back in town this month we are throwing back to the original Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival, which started in Whistler in 2004.
We cannot talk about the start of Crankworx without first mentioning Joyride and Whistler Summer Gravity Festival. Joyride Bikercross was first organised by Chris Winter and Paddy Kaye in 2001. Four riders simultaneously jockeyed for lead at full speed down the course featuring tight turns and fast jumps. It instantly drew the crowds. Joyride continued in 2002, then was incorporated into the week-long Whistler Gravity Festival in 2003 – combining all the disciplines of gravity-assisted mountain biking including Air Downhill and Slopestyle. In 2004 the Whistler Gravity Festival rebranded to Crankworx.
Crankworx started as a way to pull together all gravity-assisted mountain bike disciplines and events, bringing all the best mountain bikers together. The idea was also to showcase the bike park. Rob McSkimming who was the managing director of Whistler Mountain Bike Park at the time, approached Mark ‘Skip’ Taylor who had experience working on the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. According to Rob in 2004, “Crankworx was designed so we could strive to be on the progressive edge of mountain biking.”
In 2004, Crankworx took place July 22 to 25, with concerts, pro-rider shows and an expo throughout the four days. Events included the Air Downhill along A-Line which was in its third year. The bike park had newly opened the terrain to the top of Garbanzo and the Garbanzo Downhill was another signature event, along with the BC Downhill Championship and the Biker X.
Definitely the most popular for spectators was the slopestyle. The course, which Richie Schley helped design, featured a road gap, wall ride, massive teeter-totter, step up to scaffolding, and huge gap jumps and drops. Prior to the event Rob McSkimming said of the course, “You should see what they are building for the Slopestyle session. It looks like an Olympic facility. There are some features in there that are hard to imagine riding let alone throwing tricks on.”
There were many memorable moments during the competition. Kirt Voreis left an impression, falling off his bike on top of the teeter-totter. He was able to keep both himself and the bike on the teeter-totter and continue the run after the fall.
Spectators will also remember Timo Pritzel from Germany who went really big, massively overshooting the funbox transition near the bottom of the course and flying over the scaffolding. As the Whistler Question explained, “He did clear the scaffold, but bailed his bike in mid-air and landed the old-fashioned way, which looked to most of the spectators like a guy jumping out of a two story building.” He broke his wrist and ankle in the crash, and placed second in the competition.
In an impressive underdog story, Paul Basagoitia took top honours in the 2004 slopestyle when he was 17 and relatively unknown. He had a background in BMX, no sponsors and no bike, so he borrowed a bike from friend, Cam Zink, and went on to win the contest. In an in interview from Pique Newsmagazine at the time, he said, “It was awesome, it was only like my fifth time on a mountain bike, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Still on the progressive edge of mountain biking, the evolution of the Crankworx from 2004 to today is evident in the village this week. Whistler has again come alive in celebration of all things mountain biking and no doubt legends will continue to be created.
We all remember when Whistler Blackcomb announced that they would exchange the 25 year old Village gondolas with new and bigger ones in the fall of 2014. The old cabins found new owners all over the world. But do you know the history of all the lifts at Whistler Blackcomb? Slide on and take a gondola ride through the ages.
The first lifts were built on the south side of Whistler Mountain (what is now known as Creekside). By fall 1965, several lifts were installed, including a four person gondola, a double chair lift, and two T-bars.
With the opening of Blackcomb in 1980, a long-lasting rivalry started between both independently owned mountains. This led to a race to build lifts with the motto “higher, faster, and safer” in mind.
Whistler was large, highly departmentalized, more Canadian and European as well as more traditional. New to the business of skiing, the Vancouver based Hastings West Group took over Garibaldi Lifts Limited. In contrast, Blackcomb was young, tight, US-dominated and half controlled by the Aspen Corporation, whom were already experienced in the ski business. Blackcomb ski runs were designed to follow the fall line whereas Whistlers runs were designed more so to side-run the mountain.
In the following years, a marketing battle between both mountains was up and running. When Blackcomb installed its alpine 7th Heaven T-Bar in 1985 it became North Americas only “Mile High Mountain”. The new area opened up, including four powder bowls, wide open glacier skiing, and it also provided visitors with a vertical mile (1,609 meters’/5,280 feet) of skiing. A year later, Whistler Mountain responded with a high alpine triple Chair lift called Peak Chair, opening Whistler’s highest peak (1,530 meters’ (5,020 feet). The new alpine area provided experts with some of the most challenging runs in the world. In 1996, Whistler became the only resort in history to be simultaneously named No. 1 by Snow Country, SKI and Skiing magazines. However, even more exciting was the news announced March 1997 when Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain merged to form one big mountain company, which is today well known as Whistler-Blackcomb all over the world.
With the Peak2Peak opening in 2008, Whistler-Blackcomb finally broke two world records and is recognized in the Guinness World Record Book 2015 as the highest cable car above ground (436 meters above the valley floor) and the longest unsupported span between two cable car towers (3.024 kilometers). For skiers and boarders it is now easier to access the high alpine terrain on both mountains. But even for sightseers it is redefining the mountain experience in winter and summer by very impressive views and an incredible experience.
Those 50 years of lift history show: Competition drives innovation; but when two former rivals team up, they can move mountains and bring great peaks closer together.
Explore Whistler’s lift history on the map.
Map locations 1, 2 & 3: It all started in Creekside
4, 5 & 6: The ancestors of the Emerald Chair
7 & 8: History of Franz’s Chair
9: The Whistler Village Gondola and its early sisters
10 & 11: Developing the Olympic Chair
12: Reaching out to Whistler Peak
13, 14, 15 & 16: First chairlifts on Blackcomb
17: History of Jersey Cream
18: Up to 7th Heaven
19: History of the Magic Chair
20: Opening the Harmony Bowl
21: Preparing the way to the Glacier
Installation of Peak2Peak, Symphony, Fitzsimmons & Garbanzo
Many thanks go to Rod Nadeau and Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd. who helped gather information about Whistler’s lift history.