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.
Each week we really enjoy sharing stories, events and photos from Whistler’s past through the Museum Musings column in Pique Newsmagazine. This column offers a way to share far more stories than would be possible in our physical building. In 1980, another Whistler institution had its own column in another Whistler newspaper, the Whistler Question, that they used to share knowledge and information each week. This was “Get Ski-ed on Blackcomb,” written by various employees of Blackcomb Mountain.
In preparation for the official opening of Blackcomb Mountain in December, the first “Get Ski-ed” column was published in the early fall of 1980. Though the main purpose of the column was stated as “to keep you informed on the most up-to-date skiing ideas and hints to further your skiing education,” the column also offered a way to introduce members of the Blackcomb team and new programs to the public.
“Get Ski-ed” was kicked off by Dennis Hansen, a 29 year old Level 4 instructor who had previously worked at the Grouse Mountain Ski School. He joined Blackcomb as the director of Ski-ed, “a new focus on ski education offering programs for everyone.” Hansen shared his tips for getting in shape before the winter season, stating that getting in shape by skiing was not recommended. Conveniently, this article coincided with the introduction of a “Get fit for skiing” program for adults offered by Ski-ed.
Running or jogging was the preferred way of getting in shape for Bob Fulton, the assistant director of Ski-ed. He recommended varying your running rout to prevent boredom, using a run as a chance to take in the scenery around Whistler’s many trails.
Over October and November, Fulton and Hansen shared tips for buying equipment (“The most important part of your equipment for any level of skier is your boots.”) and maintaining current equipment. From minor ski tuning to how to wax skis, they encouraged skiers to prepare for the upcoming season and continue taking care of their equipment throughout the season.
In total, seven of Blackcomb Mountain’s “Ski Pros” were introduced through the Whistler Question column by the end of 1980. Linda Turcot and Jose (Pepo) Hanff discussed the Molstar Race program for recreational racers and how to start racing as an adult skier. Rob McSkimming offered tips for skiing smoothly with less effort, taking inspiration from Swedish racer Ingemar Stenmark. Jani Sutherland, Ski-ed’s Kids Specialist, gave parents helpful tips for getting their kids ready for ski lessons. Her advice included such practical matters as ensuring they were send to a lesson with Chapstick, Kleenex, and contact information for a parent in the pockets. Sutherland also provided information about buying equipment for children and advised parents to pay attention to their own form when skiing, as children learn through imitation.
Perhaps the most practical advice provided by “Get Ski-ed” column that year was from full-time Ski Pro Cathy MacLean, who wrote her article about how to ride a chairlift. According to MacLean, “first thing to do is try to find a person who has ridden a chairlift before, and is willing to go up with you.”
At the time, the “Get Ski-ed” column, like the earlier articles by Jim McConkey in Garibaldi’s Whistler News, blended advice, information, and promotion of Blackcomb Mountain’s events and programs. Today, however, they offer insight into changes in equipment technology, the teaching of skiing, and even the individuals who worked at Blackcomb Mountain in its first year of operations.
In a previous post we shared the stories behind the names of some of the bike trails in the Whistler valley; today we’ll be sharing some more stories, this time focusing on the trails of the Whistler Bike Park.
Whistler Bike Park
The Whistler Bike Park has been a major factor in the progression of freeride mountain biking for nearly two decades. One could argue that the names bestowed upon its several dozen trails have been just as influential. They would be wrong, of course, but that’s beside the point.
Still, the titles found on the trail map are full in insights into the trails and, even more so, to the characters that brought them to life. As long-time park rider and trail builder Peter Matthews puts it, “The best names always come up during trail building. A lot of time for banter; everyone’s tired, light-headed, dehydrated, cracking jokes.” Not surprisingly, pop culture references, heavy metal and playful ribbing at the expense of their peers feature heavily.
The trail crew’s jokes and banter have a tendency to go a bit further than popular tastes might appreciate. There’s a whole gaggle of unofficial trail names and other inside jokes that never made it onto the official trail map and, for obvious reasons, will not be included in this article. For those you’ll have to ask the builders themselves.
B-Line – B-Line is the name of a type of explosive detonation cord which can be used to link charges together or used as an explosive on its own. When building this trail a generous amount of explosives were used to remove a stubborn tree stump and, though early bike park visionary Dave Kelly confirmed that other explosives were used in this case, the name stuck. Also, as the trail was the bike park’s new showcase Beginner Line, the name seemed apt.
A-Line – a machine built flowy jump line that followed B-Line’s suit, this name was an obvious choice for the new “Advanced Line”.
Crank It Up – on this moderate-but-flowy jump line you can maximize the good times by pedalling aggressively, hence Crank It Up. A name starting with the letter “C” was appropriate as this trail could also be though of as the “C-Line”.
Ho Chi Minh Trail – this trail was designed and named by Eric Wight (owner of Whistler Backroads) who was the original mastermind and creator of life-accessed biking on Whistler Mountain, operating there until Whistler Blackcomb took over operations in 1997. Sections of the trail ran down the middle of Lower Olympic through grass up to 1.5 m tall, reminiscent of scenes from the Vietnam War.
Heart of Darkness – this trail name builds on the Vietnam theme established by Ho Chi Minh; plus, it can get fairly dark in the section along the creek where it can get surprisingly intense for a flowy blue run.
Clown Shoes and Dirt Merchant – both of these trails reference the movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Captain Safety – there are conflicting reports as to which mountain employee it was who had the healthy zeal for injury prevention; some say he was a mountain patrol higher-up, other a bike park manager. Either way, he took his job very seriously, sometimes to the dismay of trail crew. This trail is named after him.
Mackenzie River Trail – named in honour of the late Duncan Mackenzie, an esteemed trail-builder and ski patroller who died tragically in an avalanche in December 2011.
Original Sin – named by original bike park manager Rob McSkimming. Multiple meaning and wordplays are at work here but it is also considered the original trail in the Garbanzo Zone.
Schleyer – named after legendary freeride mountain biker Richie Schley, while alluding to equally legendary thrash metal band Slayer
Joyride – the name “Joyride” recurs often in Whistler. This trail was built in 1998 by local biking luminaries Chris Winter and Paddy Kaye, the latter of who had founded his own trail-building company also named Joyride. A few year later a local mountain bike festival was created and called, you guessed it, Joyride. This festival was the predecessor of today’s Crankworx festival whose showcase event is a slopestyle competition which still bears this name, and Kaye’s Joyride Bike Parks Inc. remains one of the world’s leading mountain bike trail-building companies.
Del Boca Vista– in yet another pop culture reference, this trail’s name is derived from the Florida condominium complex in Seinfeld where Jerry’s parents and, for a time, Kramer had retired to. Life here would hopefully be relaxing, fun and leisurely, just like this trail.
Angry Pirate – trail-building entails more than just crude jokes and high fives; it also involves a lot of back-breaking work and the potential for some serious bodily harm. One builder received this nickname after experiencing an especially unfortunate series of events while working on this trail. First, while walking through the woods, he stepped on a wasp nest and angered the hive. During the ensuing chaos he tripped and stumbled downslope, injuring his ankle, but not before he got stung by a wasp very close to his eye. These mishaps left said trail-builder with an eyepatch, a heavy limp and a sour mood.
Devil’s Club – while building this trail the park crew had to contend with this infamous coastal bush which grows dense, tough and covered in nasty thorns
The “Asian Trilogy” – all three of these trails were named by trail crew veteran Andrew “Gunner” Gunn:
Samurai Pizza Cats – named after the American adaptation of the anime series Kyatto Ninden Teyandee which originally aired in Japan
Ninja Cougar – the trail like to joke that Jesse Melamed (one of the trail-builders) required this special type of bodyguard due to his esteemed political position as the then-mayor’s son
Karate Monkey– this trail name maintains the “martial arts/animal” theme from the other two trails, but whether there is any deeper meaning is unclear
Blue/Black Velvet – simply put, these trails were designed to ride as smoothly as possible
Blueseum – this trail was built through the same section of forest as a long-neglected trail full of derelict wooden structures. Riding this new trail gave the impression that you were passing through a freeride bike stunt museum. The trail is blue-rated and this creative portmanteau title was conceived.
Afternoon Delight – the park crew was on fire this day, building most of this trail in a single afternoon
Funshine Rolly Drops– simply the most playful, friendly-sounding name the trail-builders could brainstorm
Duffman – duff is a term used for the soft, thick layer of organic material often found on a Coastal forest floor. When working on this trail, the park crew had to contend with an especially thick layer of duff and thus took the opportunity to shout out to the highly enthusiastic beer mascot character of The Simpsons fame.t
Detroit Rock City – some trail names come easy; this trail features a long, committing rock ride and so borrowing the title of the famed KISS song seemed appropriate
Fade to Black – named after the classic Metallica song, this trail was intended to demarcate the transition from blue-rated to black-rated single-track. Let’s say the trail-builders got a little carried away with this one, including a sizeable mandatory road gap that is most definitely double black material. Some riders prefer to call it “Fade to Pro Line”.
Freight Train – the name refers to the freight container stunt that bikers can jump on and off of, but the title has been given further meaning from the fact that riders have a tendency to ride this fast and flowy jump run in tight formation, like a freight train running down the tracks
Tech Noir – evidently some trail-builders are fans of Arnold “The Gubernator” Schwarzenegger, as this is also the name of a bar in the original Terminator film. Cover charge is optional.
Dwayne Johnson – another memorial to the musclebound, this trail feature a huge rock and was a perfect opportunity to honour everyone’s favourite wrestler-turned-actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
The Manager – an optional pro line in Duffman named after then-bike-park manager Tom “Pro” Prochazka
D1 – the various models of excavating machines used to build the trails are named according to their size: “D35”, “D50” and so on. This trail is named after the smallest excavator in the park crew’s arsenal, the shovel, because this seemingly machine-built path was built completely by manual labour.
Too Tight– as the name suggests, this trail is very narrow and winding; countless riders over the years have face-planted after catching their handlebars on an adjacent tree trunk
Little Alder – this short run cuts through a picturesque alder grove
Fatcrobat – among the diverse array of characters who have worked for the bike park over the years, one particular gentleman went through extensive gymnastic training in his youth. As his years progressed he lost his trim figure but he retained a surprising amount of his athletic talent. This trail is named in honour of this rotund gymnast.
Drop-In Clinic– named after the steep rock roll “drop-in” entrance to this short connector trail
Top of the World – this name is self-explanatory. As the first bike park trail from the summit of Whistler Mountain, a ride down here leaves one feeling elated. If this name doesn’t convey the same tone as the other bike park trails, it is because the park crew didn’t come up with this own. This trail’s construction was an exciting new attraction and upper management wanted to convey an inspiring image to attract more visitors.
A few weeks ago we profiled Stephanie Sloan, freestyle superstar and featured presenter at our upcoming Speaker Series event “Celebrity Athletes and the Growth of Modern Skiing.” The event will explore how professional skiers have harnessed their top-level skills and name-recognition to introduce cutting edge techniques to skiers. This phenomenon has long been a major driving force for the sport, otherwise, we would all still be doing telemarks and stem christies.
Here in Whistler, the first high-profile skier to hitch his name and skills to the new resort was Austrian ski-racing star Toni Sailer, who began operating summer ski camps on the Whistler Glacier in 1967. The following year big-mountain ski pioneer Jim McConkey was hired to run the Whistler Mountain ski school.
Then in 1970, fresh off her historic gold medal performance at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, Nancy Greene and her husband Al Raine built a cabin in Whistler and became heavily involved in teaching skiing, promoting the sport, and developing the resort.
The following image shows the coaching staff at the 1969 Toni Sailer summer camp. Sailer is back row, 2nd from right, and Nancy Greene is front row, 2nd from left. Almost all the other coaches were World Cup level racers.
This trifecta of early ski stars set the standard, but there have been countless others over the years. One who has most skillfully made the transition from competition to coaching is John Smart. A moguls specialist John was a two-time Olympian, 13-time World Cup medallist, 3 time Canadian Champion and World Pro Champion during a career spanning from 1987-1996.
In 1992 he founded Momentum Ski Camps which focused on training the next generation of freestyle ski champions every summer on Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier. Today, Momentum is bigger than ever, having fully embraced the Freeski revolution and hosting some of the sport’s biggest names as their coaches each summer.
But some might say the real highlight of John’s career came in 2013 when he taught renowned Canadian ranter Rick Mercer how to jump onto an inflatable crash pad.
Rounding out the panel discussion will be Rob McSkimming. Rob brings several decades of experience in the ski industry to the table, including a stint as a coach at Dave Murray Summer Ski Camps in the 1980s.
Rob went on to become the snow school’s general manager for several years before moving onto his current position with Whistler-Blackcomb as VP-Business Development. Clearly, Rob has a wealth of knowledge that will complement John and Stephanie’s recollections on the panel.
We hope you can join us on Sunday February 21st for “Celebrity Athletes and the Growth of Modern Skiing”! The event is being held in conjunction with International Ski History Day, being organized by the International Ski History Association who will have a delegation in attendance. They’re also offering a full-day ski package, concluding at our Speaker Series, that is incredible value. Details available through the above hyperlink.
When: Sunday February 21st; Doors at 6pm, show 7pm-9pm Where: Whistler Museum (4333 Main Street, beside the Library) Who: Everyone! Cost: $10 regular price, $5 for museum members and W-B Club Shred.
We expect this event to sell out, so make sure to get your tickets early. To purchase tickets stop by the museum or call us at 604.932.2019.