No Real Genius

Even before it was finished, builders and riders alike knew A-Line was something special. Richie Schley gets a little taste of the now-famous trail before anyone else, while the trail crew’s Marty Gautrey uses an excavator to build even more jumps around the corner. Photo: Blake Jorgenson

No Real Genius Two Decades of Breaking Handlebars, Bruising Ribs and Blowing Minds

Like many others, my first experience with the Whistler Bike Park came through a bent set of handlebars and a severely bruised set of ribs.

They were neither my ribs, however, nor my handlebars. It was 2001, and my brother and a friend had journeyed to a place called “Whistler” a few days before. Even as casual teenage mountain bikers, we had heard rumors of what friends described as a “snowboard park, but with dirt.”

My brother’s description—of both the crash and the “bike park,” as he said it was officially called—followed in that same vein. “There was this one called A-Line, and there were so many jumps,” I remember him saying, referring to the not-yet-famous trail. “They were huge!”

He explained how all the other bikes were massive, with burly shocks and technology far beyond his hard-tail Gary Fisher. His mind had been blown, and—though I wouldn’t visit the park myself for more than a decade—Whistler’s legendary status was cemented vicariously in my own brain.

I wasn’t the only one. At the time, Vancouver’s North Shore, just a two-hour drive south of Whistler, was the center of the mountain bike universe. But soon images of icons like Richie Schley, Wade Simmons and Brett Tippie ripping steep tech trails and A-Line’s machine-built berms and tabletops began to appear in magazines and videos. Something was happening at Whistler, something beyond just a hot riding scene. It was a revolution, one that would progress the world of mountain biking to an entirely new level.

But its influence went deeper than that. Drawing from its skiing heritage and a group of dirt-oriented geniuses, Whistler would take a fledgling, ultra-elite sport to the masses, reinventing an industry and creating a culture that now stretches through the seasons and across the globe.

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The bike park doesn’t just cater to an older crowd; with a bike school, skills courses and a whole spectrum of trails, it’s bred an entire generation of young rippers that include the likes of Ian Morrison and Brandon Semenuk. A few future all-stars prepare to drop in. Photo: Sterling Lorence
Big hucks and skinny bars. During the first few years of operation, the bike park saw a small crowd of regulars—most from Vancouver’s North Shore—looking to push the limits, both of their skill level and the abilities of their bikes. A shredder duo gets sendy during the bike park’s early years. Photo: Sterling Lorence