CRANKING IT UP | Whistler Reshapes Trails with an Eye on Progression

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\"Whistler's<\/a>Whistler's iconic A-Line now begins with an all-new \"filter\" drop.<\/strong> | Photo courtesy Whistler Mountain Bike Park.<\/em><\/p>

WHISTLER, BC \u2014 So you want to clean A-Line, Whistler<\/a><\/strong>'s iconic, high-speed jump trail? The trail boss at Whistler Bike Park knows you do. This season's changes to the most popular trails were designed to foster rider progression without an ER visit. Trail crews are putting a fresh face on perennial favorites Crank It Up and A-Line, and building a new flow trail slated for early July completion.<\/p>

Early-season bikers have seen a few of the changes such as A-Line's filter drop and moderated jumps, but the tweaking and tuning is ongoing as crews toil to complete numerous projects in the Fitzsimmons Zone, as well as open the Garbanzo Zone ahead of the scheduled date, June 20. (The Fitzsimmons Zone is the lowest of Whistler's three designated bike sectors and boasts the largest number of trails from beginner to pro line. The Garbanzo and Peak Zones are the middle and summit sectors with terrain suited to advanced riders.)<\/p>

\"WHISTLER<\/p>

Features like the step-up remain allowing advanced riders to send the left hip high and far while intermediate riders can hone their skills on the right. <\/strong>| Riders: Peter Matthews and Trevor Berg, photo by Mark Mackay, coutesty Whistler Mountain Bike Park<\/em><\/p>

\"Crank It Up got a top-to-bottom facelift,\" said Brian Finestone, bike park manager. \"We're still working on it and have machines in there today.\"<\/p>

The intermediate flow line, which starts looker's left of the Fitzsimmons chairlift, is a friendlier version of the old Crank It Up. All the jumps were tuned down. While one rider groused that the line was \"dumbed down,\" most surveyed during Memorial Day weekend had no complaints about the revamped trail.<\/p>

Whistler local Samantha Rahn took the long view. \"I think it's good for the long-term health of the park,\" she said. Her hope is that the progression-based changes will prevent \"the weekend warriors who visit Whistler four times a year from following a buddy down a trail and getting heli-ed out.\"<\/p>

\"2015-Whistler-Samantha-Rahn<\/p>

Some advanced riders feel certain trail features have been \"dumbed down,\" Others, like local Samantha Rahn, think it makes the trails safer for everyone. Sam has no trouble finding a thrill on the hill, whether it's on the snow or the dirt.<\/strong>| Photo by Nancy Kim<\/em><\/p>

Finestone points to a wide gap in what should be a linear progression of difficulty in the existing trail network. \"It's a quantum leap in skill level from being able to ride Crank It Up, having to clear 15 to 20 feet, to being able to ride A-Line, where the jumps are 35 to 50 feet. The skill and speed you need is a significant notch up,\" he explained.<\/p>

Crank It Up More is the new line designed to bridge that gap from blue square to black diamond terrain. It's rated blue (intermediate), but perhaps navy blue would be more accurate. On the new trail map, the 1.4-kilometer jump line branches off rider's left of Lower Crank It Up, paralleling CIU until it connects with Heart of Darkness. Park officials are mulling whether to outsource the work or keep the project in-house. Once the decision is made, machine excavation will begin the one-month process of roughing in to buffing out.<\/p>

\"WHISTLER<\/p>

A-Line still has plenty of high-speed, big jumps and even a technical section near the bottom.<\/strong>| Rider: Molly Welsh, photo by Coast Mountain Photography<\/em><\/p>

From the Fitz chair, riders can spot A-Line's new filter drop. It's a swank, wood structure with a gabled portal to the pitched drop. It meets Finestone's criteria for a proper filter, a feature that is \"visually intimidating without being inherently dangerous.\" The new, permanent structure is positioned off to the side of the ski run, so crews won't have to dismantle and rebuild the drop every season.<\/p>

The jumps immediately following the drop were downsized, in keeping with the theme of progression, allowing riders to ease into bigger air. A wider trail and new-school jump shapes offer better sightlines, both forward and laterally, to give riders the confidence to approach them with more speed. Lower A-line is next up on the makeover list.<\/p>

\"2015-Whistler-Mountain-Bike-Park-A-Line-Drop<\/p>

The new \"filter\" drop on A-Line is meant to be \"visually intimidating without being inherently dangerous.\" <\/strong>| Photo courtesy Whistler Mountain Bike Park<\/em><\/p>

Progressive change is underway on beginner terrain as well. Machine crews are moving dirt to regrade EZ Does It, a green trail which will feature some wider singletrack options. Golden Triangle, a blue trail that has fallen out of use according to Finestone, will be overhauled and downgraded to green from top to bottom.

Rahn, who had just competed in Whistler's Crud 2 Mud race, believes the park is doing a fine job providing a continuum of difficulty for all levels. \"There will always be something to progress to.\"<\/p>

by Nancy Kim<\/em><\/p>

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