Whistler's mountain bike park and the trails surrounding it consistently set the bar for mountain biking as the premier riding destination in the world. While there is nearly every type of trail imaginable on the mountain, there has always been, according to bike park manager Brian Finestone, the need for a World Cup DH track. With the addition of more rideable terrain in the Creekside zone, Finestone and his crew are working to plan and build an all-new World Cup length and level DH track to Whistler. The track is not meant to replace the double black Canadian Open DH but instead serve a different purpose as a more technical and longer Proline, worthy of a World Cup DH race.
Whistler's 1199 DH Track is to be a "tip of the hat" to Canadian legend Stevie Smith. 1199 being Stevie's total World Cup points at the end of 2013, the year he became the first Canadian to win the World Cup overall title. Finestone says that he hopes the track will, like Stevie has for so many, be an inspiration for up and coming racers that may one day follow in Smith's footsteps.
The construction of the track is made possible by the expansion of the Creekside zone and will be a completely new trail in its entirety. Everything is still preliminary and pending approval from several parties, however, Finestone and his crew have done their homework and are hopeful that all goes to plan. In addition to the terrain being ideal, the fiberoptic network from when Whistler hosted the Olympics runs adjacent to the trail making it nearly turn-key for media infrastructure.
Starting near the top of the Creekside gondola, with the finish line below in clear view from the roll in, the trail descends 500 meters to just above the Creekside Village. The 2.5 km trail is slated to be in an untouched section of forest and doesn't cross any other trails currently on the mountain. I had the opportunity to walk the proposed line with the bike park trail crew along with Bernard Kerr, Claire Buchar, and Mick Hannah (all who have raced their fair share of World Cups) during Crankworx.
The terrain is what I would consider some of the best on the mountain. Scenery that is out of this world compliments steep, rocky, and gnarly passages down the side of the hill. There are boulder fields, rock gardens, old growth trees, cliffs, and beautiful dirt. The proposed line is properly steep and will have very little pedaling involved.
The walk was as much of Finestone and his crew showing and telling what they had found and flagged as it was a conversation between everyone there. There was conversation back and forth on all aspects of the trail - from how to make certain corners work for World Cup speeds to the best way to navigate the trail through chunks of forest in order to make it a race course that riders are not only challenged by but also excited about. Judging from the reactions, everyone was beyond excited at what has already been laid out from the line, to the terrain it follows, and especially the willingness of all parties to work together on the project.
Kerr said that many times, the racers do complain about the track for whatever reason - whether it's poorly laid out and designed or unsafe - and while promoters and designers are interested in their feedback, many times the changes can't be made within the short time window after a track walk.
In addition to being a track the racers are stoked on, the trail crew seems equally, if not more enthused about the project. Finestone said, "for the staff, it's one of the projects you dream about as a trail builder - to combine your vision with that of elite pros to make the ultimate race venue."
Pending approval and a few other projects in the bike park being wrapped up, construction on the 1199 Track is to start early as September with it being open next year. Finestone is hopeful that they are able to build the best DH track for the best racers in the world and one day attract a World Cup to Western Canada. After seeing not only the incredible terrain but also the unbridled enthusiasm and commitment he and his team have to the project, I have little doubt that they'll do it - as the adage goes, "if you build it, they will come."Please note - not only has construction not yet begun on the trail but once it does, it is closed. Please do not attempt to find the exact location of the proposed trail or ride it as doing so could cause major complications in environmental studies and the approval process. It's just not cool.