Legendary singletrack doesn’t just happen. It takes passion, vision, creativity, and a commitment to hands-in-the-dirt work that never ends. Whistler’s Dark Crystal trail and its builders are that story.
When it comes to singletrack gems, the world might not have a more bedazzled quarry than Whistler, British Columbia. Guarded by high alpine peaks and dark old-growth forest, the mystical location is home to over 1,000 kilometers of legendary mountain bike trail.
One ride stands out. Dark Crystal descends nearly 700 vertical meters through a moss-carpeted wonderland on Blackcomb Mountain. Built in 2015 by Scott Veach and Ben Haggar, it has become one of Whistler’s more iconic trails and as such, sees a lot of traffic. In keeping with its namesake—the 1982 cult animatronic fantasy film from Muppets creator Jim Henson—the legend of the Dark Crystal trail comes with both a blessing and a curse.
"We wanted to make something fast and flowy, with no surprises," explains Veach, a web developer who relocated to Whistler from Santa Cruz, California, in 2014. “A trail where everything linked together as naturally as possible. One where you could just let it go.” There-in lies the blessing: Those riders who grind their way up seven kilometers of steep, unrelenting gravel road to the Dark Crystal trailhead now have a wickedly fun, wildly challenging descent between their bars. The curse? Through countless volunteer hours of trail maintenance, Veach has pledged to keep the original vision of the trail secure.
The trail, nearly three kilometers in length, travels through a variety of classic Whistler terrain, dropping exposed granite slabs and navigating technical roots and rocks, linked together by loamy berms and natural booters. It’s a jewel paid for by passion. Veach estimates that 2,400 hours of volunteer labor went into building this hallowed ribbon of dirt, and an additional 120 hours are required each year to maintain it. “I want people to enjoy their time on the trail, and I want to preserve that feeling of enjoyment. It’s not a pride thing, it’s more an experience thing. And I want that to be high-quality, not just for me but for everyone who rides it.”
So, for some 30 to 40 days a year, Veach puts on an 80-pound pack full of tools, jumps on his Trek Rail e-bike and in 30 minutes he’s at the trailhead—a crushing climb that used to take him well over an hour on his old mountain bike. “I call it the time machine,” chuckles the husband and father of two young girls. “It’s been a crucial tool in not only trail maintenance, but family maintenance as well.”
Next time you drop in on Dark Crystal, and all your focus goes into keeping the rubber side down, as you whiz through fluorescent green singletrack bliss, take a moment and pay homage to the forces that crafted this beauty, and the passion that keeps it gleaming.
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Produced by Andrew Shandro
Directed and edited by Matt Miles
Additional cinematography by Scott Secco
Sound mix by Jason Chiodo
Writing by Mitchell Scott
Photography by Sterling Lorence