Waking Up the Whistler Bike Park

May 14, 2013
by Reuben Krabbe  
 
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It would be grand if anarchy worked.


In anarchy we would have no taxes, no signs, no 'do', or 'do not'. However, certain aspects like vigilante justice don't work smoothly when you have differing opinions. Instead of anarchy we elect some sore souls to take the conflicting life of public policy, souls who take the heat for every move and motion.






The trail crew at Whistler Bike Park are the politicians of the mountain. They break their backs for meager pay, doing what they can where they can to make things good for all. However, in the court of public opinion, the politicians of the mountain are scapegoats. In lift line banter like: "I hate what they did to Schleyer," the real they who you are complaining about isn't some suit and tie elite on a yacht. It's a group of guys playing in the dirt to make great trails.




  Shawn Parker

  Pat Lebrosse

To deal with the rugged banter of the bike park public, spewing suggestions and critiques from over their handlebars in lift lines, the guys on trail crew developed a beautiful callous layer of sarcastic, witty humor. More often than not, their faces are dressed with wry smiles and the forest is filled with laughter scaring away birds and animals. You've gotta get all the bears off the lower mountain somehow, right?

  Horny grouse make their signature whump whump whump mating calls all day long.

bigquotesAfter work let's go down to the shops and get a six pack, of jokes.


As a tall person, there are few people I can call a friendly giant, but one is Peter Matthews. He stands at 6'5, has wit like Jimmy Fallon, sarcastic optimism few can match, and a voice that reminds you of Napoleon Dynamite.

And, I guarantee he can drop you on any trail.


Lift operations have a narrow window to perform a year's worth of maintenance before summer hiking starts.




bigquotesWelcome to Trail Crew. Nobody ever goes in, nobody ever comes out. Hashtag, Wonka. - Peter Matthews


bigquotesYeah, I'm not a big fan of building with grip plates on wood. Its sorta like building with a cheese grater. It'll just take scoops out of your skin if you fall. And, if you slide long enough it'll file down the bone. - Pat Labrosse



Trevor Berg's cowboy hat may make you think he'll be a gun slinging, plaid wearing, mullet waving man with a southern drawl; however he is one of the kindest and most soft spoken guys in the crew. I asked him if there is story behind his hat, expecting it was an ironic addition to his attire, or fantastic story from a night in Garfinkles. But, the truth is,
bigquotesIt's functional. It keeps the sun out of my eyes, and off my neck.
The... anti-redneck?




bigquotesYou head up Ninja Monkey (Ninja Cougar), you head up Light Dimmer (Fade to Black), and we'll meet at the top.


The snow in preceding months was good by Whistler standards, but not amazing. The real gift to the trail crew wasn't the volume of precipitation, so much as the temperatures. Many of the winter storms which moved through dropped very warm snow, edging on rain. In the previous two years snow was still found in the village at this time last year, instead snow is only on main ski runs and above the Fitzsimmons lift.

  Pat Labrosse

bigquotes...on the Shore, I was talking to a guy who was doing maintenance on Ned's. All he had with him was an axe and a sledgehammer. -Peter Matthews, followed by resounding laughter from all.



Waking up the bike park this year is more clearing and buffing than digging with machinery, and attacking the hill with hair driers. A new snowmaking system lining some of the lower mountain trails distributed artificial snow to different areas of the forest. The dense fake snow does a wondrous job of clearing dead trees and branches from the forest, landing on the trails below. Or, "The mountain did a great job investing in that new hydro-logging system eh?"



The main ski runs still have a decent amount of snow left to melt, thanks to hydro-logging.


bigquotes...You should probably introduce that tree to Paul. Give him a little talking to. (Paul=Pulaski)


bigquotesWow you cut through that quite quick.
Yeah, I'm quite manly
I know you're manly, you're dressed like a traffic cone!
- Peter Matthews, wearing plaid, to Shawn, wearing a high reflective shirt.


Jay Josling is a trail builder extraordinaire with heavy machinery. A top to bottom rebuild of A-line occurs most years, vanquishing stutter bumps and fine tuning the trail's flow.




At the river valley hill I learned to bike at, and later taught riding with Peter Matthews, there was a stunt named The Lantern. I heard about it from my brother before I even rode a mountain bike. It was a 6 foot roll down, built out of wood North Shore style. For years it intimidated me, even though rolling it required little to no skill, simply rolling slow and keeping your weight back. Before I ever got my chance to 'huck Lantern' (yes, those words at one point came from my mouth), the trail crew renovated it into a double roll down. So, you could both roll the stunt, or, gap to the second roll down, instead of simply sending it to flat.

And I complained, oh I was bitter. The stunt which stood as the iconic division between the hacks and the good riders was now a piece of history. Curse the trail builder.


I look back with nostalgic disappointment. I still wish I did huck the original Lantern. However what it taught me may be more valuable. New and old don't mean better or worse. Just different. The changes a trail builder may have felt worse for me, but they were better for a lot of other riders.

Trail style revisions aren't simply a dumbing down of an old trail, they're different and they both have their merits. Chances are, if you're pissed off about a trail revision, even more people are stoked on the new build.



bigquotes.... And it was named St Berg's Day, when Trevor Berg drove the snakes out of Whistler. He looked at them and said: Be gone, vile creatures!





Bike park anarchy would be a poor option compared to the work of these politicians of the mountain, happy, humorous guys whose work I choose to love. We high five buddies at the bottom of a run, telling each other how great one trail is, but sometimes turn and bite the hand that feeds by telling a trail builder that something they did wasn't perfect. When is the last time you gave a high five to the hand that feeds?



When the bike park opens next week, you can be sure to find me buying these boys a round at the GLC. You better find your local trail builder and buy them a drink too.


113 Comments

  • + 84
 As cool as sepia/ black and white photo look i think of them as sort of an easy way out... and colors are pretty.
  • + 57
 I actually think it's more difficult to take good photos in black and white, because you don't have the colors to show contrast.
  • + 31
 I liked the effect myself. I found it added a grungy feel to the photos. It goes well with an article about trail work Big Grin and just be glad he didn't use instragram filters lol
  • + 39
 I think Reuben is a badass photographer who can do whatever makes him happy. It's his work, you just get to look at it.
  • + 19
 Black and white photography is an art form in itself. Because you aren't dealing with colours, you need to place a special emphasis on the composition, shapes, different light tones (especially shadows), and basically find a way to keep the viewer's interest (since there's no colour)... all the while doing so whilst taking the picture and not afterwards in Photoshop. B&W is only an easy way out when someone takes a really crappy picture and wants to hide its flaws with grey. Doesn't make it a good picture by any means. It just makes it a still-shitty-but-not-as-shitty photo.
  • - 46
 Ya the b/w was not needed in this case, just get the trails ready for me and stop flappin.
  • + 20
 Americans, why so rude! And don't say it's sarcasm because we all know that isn't a Yanks forte.
  • + 8
 B&W it's a fusion between light, shadow, texture, and composition which creates Drama. You can have the best composition, but if your lighting is flat, so will be your photo. As simple as B&W may appear, it is yet so complex to achieve.. Props for Reuben for known that basic rule...
  • - 37
 Ya ok I have bfa from parsons and took photo 1 and 2, thats two years of b/w photo bs so who are you talking about? B/w is better saved for the gallery or catching a nice side boob shot artfully but boobs real big ones b/w but for art. Mountain bikes in b/w ehhhhhhhhh not feeling it. I guess you guys more dramatic about these wacky machines than us yolking yanks duh i dont understand b/w photos even after 4 years at a top rankin art school duhhhh.
  • + 15
 I've met rude people all over the world, and not all were American.
  • + 9
 I've also met Americans who excel at sarcasm.
  • + 13
 @Shishka .Photography 1 and 2, what's that? basic camera controls, how to upload photos and basic photophop skills? I've fired so many kids like you who come to the studio looking for a job, telling me about their super degree at blah blah blah college, and at the end of day one don't know shit about lighting, cameras, or studio equipment, or how to assist at all...
Tell you what son, a real artist don't have to speak about his skills or experience, for his work will speak for him far after he's gone. -Humility-
  • + 4
 Seriously though, I did hate what happened to schleyer. I miss that old sketchy wood drop directly below the lift, as well as the old sketchy wood drop on clown shoes...and old school. All the old sketchy wood stuff, really. I grew up watching guys on the northshore and on my first trip to whistler 5 years ago, I was stoked to ride all the wood and the higher drops to questionable landings. It was fun. The park is great now though, flows like crazy. I just wish they had left clownshoes or schleyer as the OG freeride trails...
  • + 0
 Yea exactly. There's a reason lots of colleges only offer introduction photography classes in black and white. No one's first camera ought to be a nikon d800. Better to start with the indestructible classic that could masquerade as a bludgeoning weapon. Think about how much better the riders are who started on hardships and not 8" travel dh sleds...
Rant over.
  • + 4
 Well now I know what I'm doing with my G3 rotors when I'm done with them.
  • - 6
 Photo 1 and 2 were full year classes about compossing gallery level shots, developing own film, camera techniques was the beginning of photo 1. Had to know your shit just to take that class at Parson. If you never heard of Parsons either 1. Your a hater jealous community college photographer, 2. Have no credibility in the art world. Anyone who know anything about art can tell you Parson is possibly the best/toughest art school on the planet. Thats why we have students from all over world dying to get in. Anyone can buy expensive camera and go in photoshop to desaturate a photo. Photoshop was not part of photo class at parsons. When you pay 50k a year they make you take a whole bunch of classes so you end up being a master of all mediums. Welcome to the art community.
  • + 3
 If you're legitimately talented, you shouldn't need to pay $50,000 a year to take photos. I'll use your same argument. Anyone can cough up money but it doesn't make them talented.
  • + 7
 shiska,
Its too bad that $50k a year didnt teach you respect and some proper sentence structure...
  • - 3
 Sentence structure cummon guys this isnt 3rd grade english class. I dont know about yoos guys but I post on the fly, sometimes while riding thru flatbush traffic. Further more my man went to Parsons, show respect or you look like a hater. No english class at art school fool. I went to Pratt Institute, the second best art school on earth so I know what he talking about. Photo 1 all depends where your taking it at. Sounds like high school class but actually quite serious at one of the highly acclaimed art schools in nyc like fit, parsons, pratt. If you dont know about them I wondering what rock you been hiding under.
[Reply]
  • + 41
 Just booked my plane ticket and hotel for my 1st trip in whistler... 1st of june can't wait my dream's are comming true!!!!!
  • + 23
 Sadly to say that the park is closed then. :/

Just a joke. Have fun
  • + 6
 I got screamed "Whaaaaat the f*ck" out of my office desk - and feel sorry for Evans-Kai at the first seconds Big Grin
  • + 4
 Im going on my first trip to whistler too this summer!!! im super stoked!
[Reply]
  • + 21
 I'm convinced. Will be buying beers for the Squamish crews
  • + 10
 Even a genuine thank you to your trail crew is appreciated Big Grin .
[Reply]
  • + 19
 I like the clock
  • + 16
 I read it "I like the cock" at first
  • + 5
 ugh. me too. and thought I was more mature than that...
[Reply]
  • + 12
 a high five to you mr. Reuben Krabbe and Pink Bike, thanks for the feeding me!
[Reply]
  • + 9
 Great article
Will be hitting the sweet dirt of whistler this year. its been a few years.
Sadly due to the fact my local mt. Has packed it in. Frown
Rip mt. Washington
Rip lantern.
  • + 3
 When are we going?
  • + 2
 Oh wow. Just read about that on their website. Too bad, sad to see that happen. Just another casualty of being taken for granted.
  • + 1
 Lantern! www.pinkbike.com/photo/1395884 . Sad to hear about Mt. Washboard.
  • + 1
 Old Lantern www.pinkbike.com/photo/302504 . And yes, Reuben was not the only one who used the word "huck" when talking about it. Classic Pinkbike: The size ranges from 6 to 10 feet depending on who you talk to.
  • + 0
 I got all next week off. Gonna get a clutch pit in the ford this week.
[Reply]
  • + 7
 Great piece! The prose and the photos were equally good. I could relate to the 'politicians' of the mountain having endured the barbs of the critics while trailbuilding myself. Thanks, keep up the good work...
[Reply]
  • + 5
 This article makes it seem like we need to feel sorry for these poor guys that get paid to build trails on Whistler mountain. I don't know anyone that wouldn't call that a dream.
[Reply]
  • + 8
 Great write up and amazing photography.
[Reply]
  • + 6
 warm fuzzy feeling inside me.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Defo understand what this article is trying to put across but there's just this whole vibe to it that screams hey look at how crazy and quirky we all are. There is a phrase I like to use when describing people who don't appreciate the hard work of others . . . . ' ungrateful c*nts ' but to be fair if trail building is your job then your reward is your wage just the same as my job so don't moan about what people say.
I don't understand the point I'm making do you?
  • + 1
 The pay is hardly a reward for all those long hours of hard work cuz more then likely people getting paid to do trail work aren't getting paid all that well. They do it for the love of the sport so it kind of sucks when people talk out of there ass on stuff they hardly know anything about.
[Reply]
  • + 6
 Nice piece. Well done guys.
[Reply]
  • + 4
 WOot! Stoked. Fortunate to live within 3.5 hrs or this place. Let the season begin, and let the wife be gentle with the honey-do list this year.
[Reply]
  • + 5
 So many great memories from my trip last year. I've said it before and I'll say it again - Whistler is Disneyland.
  • + 1
 yeah, i was in whistler last year, too. it was absolutely amazing, i never enjoyed riding as much
  • + 1
 Yeah last summer was incredible - I've moved to Australia now so it's a bit harder but ill be back next summer for sure Smile
  • + 6
 whisneyland
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  • + 1
 Another awesome pinkbike article. Can't help but feel jealous cause you guys don't have as much snow as us! I work as part of the Châtel Bikepatrol (the trail crew) and man there is a ridiculous amount of snow left! Didn't help that it snowed this morning! haha Hopefully this snow will melt before the opening on the 15th June! Man that season pass is expensive! Over here it's €230 for the Portes du Soleil (includes all these amazing bikeparks; Châtel, Morgins, Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Champery, Les Crosets)
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  • + 2
 That any of those guys have any energy left over are aren't too sore to ride after putting in so much work with shovels and axes is nothing short of superhuman. Ever spent time chopping wood? it's f*cking punishing work.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I was just wondering, went for a walk around, ended up looking at Crabapples, and it just seems to me the third hit seems to be pointed even further to the left on the lip, than last year, why's that? I mean, as long as you know it, it's not an issue, but since you can't see the landing, if you don't know and just follow the take-off, you'll have yourself a nice flight for some 15 meters landing right on the left side next to the actual landing, sounds (and feels) unnecessarily dangerous to me.

Not trying to complain, just wondering!
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  • + 1
 "Yeah, I'm not a big fan of building with grip plates on wood. Its sorta like building with a cheese grater. It'll just take scoops out of your skin if you fall. And, if you slide long enough it'll file down the bone"..........

OUCH!....
  • + 2
 Yeah...that comment of his left me with a horrible visual in my head!!Frown
  • + 2
 It sounds like something out of the film SAW lol
  • + 1
 It reminds me of the graters I've used to shred cheese that have taken some chunks of skin off my knuckles....multiply that times a hundred and your elbows, knees and shoulders are in for a world of hurt!!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Thanks for all the work guys and gals!. I actually enjoy the changes, as it makes this amazing park an evolving vision. I am excited to see what you have come up with for this year, and I am looking forward to a great season!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I spent the entire day running a saw clearing an orchard and bucking/stacking for firewood... something about this story just had a nice reassuring feeling that people who can work the land, use tools, and build beautiful things still have a place in this world. Great job.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Just moved to whistler for the first time, been listening to the lads working hard in the park all week. Absolute credit to these lads, they work hard for little to no thanks. The mountain is looking amazing!!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Wonderfull work , both pictures and trail.... black and white is always a big challange with light and shade and all.... bus as they say, go big or go home Keep on with the top notch work
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Has there ever been any kind of "Tip Jar" at the bottom of the hill in the lift line? I'd be up for putting money in.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Great write up PB. Whistler definitely on the hit list, and would be thanking those trail builders for sure. always looks clean.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 thats just my dream to join this crew!!!! Have a nice job guys!!!! i"ll be in whistler this year! Cant wait!!!!
  • + 2
 e aee Bruno vai que dia? to embarcando em Julho! abraço
  • + 2
 lucky bastards!!!

ps: massa!!! boa trip pra vcs!!!
  • + 1
 em agosto! dia 3!!!! vamos andarrrrrrr bikeeeeeeeeeeeeee
[Reply]
  • + 1
 cool pics, sets the mood! I agree! Buy your trail builders beer to say thank you!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Nice blog post/pics Reuben, thanks for sharing it & getting us stoked for bike season Smile
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Those guys are lucky id swap my day job for theirs any day!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Can I dig the trails too.......... pleaseeee
[Reply]
  • + 1
 It's posts like this that remind me why I spend so much time on PB. Such a great write-up and photos; nice work, Reuben!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Makes me want to quit my job working in the cube farm and get my hands dirty. Great photos!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 great article, Reuben. RIP lantern
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  • + 2
 Thanks Boys! All the hard work is much appreciated...
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  • + 2
 i will be there in two week for 3 month hell yeah it's gona be awsome !!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 $640 for a season pass this year!!!
$90 more than last year!!!
  • + 2
 I thought northstar in Tahoe was pushing reasonable at $329. Almost double for whistler?!?! It's probably double the fun tho....
  • + 1
 It takes big money to build, maintain, and run a park like whistler. People who invest that kind of money expect a return on their investment. Without fat cats bankrolling the park we would have to spend more than $640 a season to beat our trucks up and shuttle and build our own trails.
  • + 4
 for those of us that have moved to whistler for the bike park, and ONLY the bike park............. we would pay up to a 1000 dollars for a season's pass in the summer time. fact. even at a 1000 dollars a summer, it would still be a bargin.
  • + 3
 inflation happens on its own. Don't give the man any ideas. I do get what you are saying though.
  • + 1
 North star is horrible, still best in tahoe.
I cannot believe sun peaks is $350 and Whistler is $640!
I will be going to Sun Peaks if I go anywhere this year.
  • + 1
 Hey, the vast amounts of expansion plans they have for the next 5-10 years have to be funded somehow. I'm all for it! Its building on an already awesome experience. Sure overall, its a pretty steep price, but if you can afford it, do it, it's only contributing to the greater good. If you can't, then ride you local, and augment it with occasional trips out.
  • + 2
 BC tax has changed. We no longer have HST and have reverted to PST and GST. This means less tax on your season pass. It costs you the same, but $90 more goes straight to the bike park!
  • + 1
 I paid $550 last year... Why not keep it the same and keep more customers.
$50 does not = $100 (for early bird)
I am not gonna pay that much.
The 5 of us are most likely going to go to silver star and save the extra $300 and $150 each on rent.
$450 gets you a lot!
  • + 1
 I will come to whistler again when the price matches the resort.
  • + 0
 Firstly, You didn't pay $550, not when you include tax. The cheapest early bird/edge card rate was $500 + tax. This year they offered a limited amount of early bird passes a $550. With the new tax rates that means only $30 increase.

Costs increase, it had hardly gone up in years, marginal increases are a fact of life. I know my pay has increased more than the season pass has increase over the last 4 seasons. It's called inflation.

Silver star and a lot of the other parks are improving, and are definitely good for trips. But they don't have anywhere near the amount of in and out resort riding as Whistler.

My $0.02
  • + 1
 I don't know why, but I did not pay mas much tax as you are saying. I paid about $540 last year, maybe I got lucky?
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  • + 2
 Wakey wakey hands off snakey, it's time to go ride!
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  • + 1
 in Canada, you open bike parks as soon as sun shines without snow... in Italy we open bike parks in June/July... WHY?
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  • + 1
 Already have my seasons pass for the summer!!!
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  • + 1
 It's time to drop the cocks and grab the socks...TODAY WE RIDE!!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Trail builders are awesome!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Awesome article, keep up the good work Deter and co
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  • + 1
 awesome shots, can't wait to ride Whistler this summer!
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  • + 2
 Love the COP reference
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  • + 1
 i wish i was in canada...... my dream!
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  • + 1
 CAN NOT WAIT TO RIDE THIS WEEKEND!
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  • + 1
 Start digging boys, ill be there in august.....YEOW!!!
  • + 1
 You better do more night rides to get your legs ready!
  • + 2
 Stuff that, night rides clashes with my food intake....I love food so much..
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  • + 1
 missed the play-button on one of those pics!
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  • + 1
 How well do these lads get looked after for doing a gig like this?
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  • + 1
 Tick follows tock follows tick.........
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  • + 1
 whistler bike park is so cool i go back this year for sure !
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  • - 1
 Whistler is a great place to ride if you lack actual trail riding skills. These pics are sweet.
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  • + 1
 WOULD LOVE to go there
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