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.
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?
|After 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.
|Welcome to Trail Crew. Nobody ever goes in, nobody ever comes out. Hashtag, Wonka. - Peter Matthews|
|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. - 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,
|It's functional. It keeps the sun out of my eyes, and off my neck. |
|You 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.
|...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.
|...You should probably introduce that tree to Paul. Give him a little talking to. (Paul=Pulaski)|
|Wow 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.
|.... 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.