By Seb Kemp
Photos by David Peacock

First chair of the year, not often the best but this year it was different.

Twas the night before opening day, when all through Whistler,
Not a creature was stirring, not even Zog’s griller.
The bikes were hung in the garage with care,
In hopes that hero dirt days soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sending A-Line danced in their heads.
Lifties with a hangover, and kids in Day-Glo ware,
Powered up on beans and bacon, ready for first chair.

When out on the Fitzsimmons there arose such a clatter,
Putting the assembled rabble into such a fierce chatter.
Fired up was the old four man magic, spinning in a flash,
And hundreds of eager downhillers went off for their first crash.

Powered up, the conveyor belt of carnage and amusement spins again.

Unfavorable winter and spring conditions contributed to the sorrow of skiers and boarders in Whistler this year. However, this was at advantage of the bikers. High freezing levels meant big dumps resulted in big amounts of rain lower down in the valley. Then unseasonably warm April and May months help speed the snow melt too. Never before has the Whistler Bike Park opened all of its lower mountain trails on the first day of the season. Even a little rain in the week leading up to the big day helped the dirt pack and tack up nicely.

Downhillers from far and wide knew it was good and the queues on Friday were as big as a mid-August weekend. This meant lots of opportunity to catch up with faces that have been AWOL for the past six months. Some keen high schoolers even made their mark on the lift line at 3 a.m., bagging them the coveted first chair and first ride down A-Line, a trail just finished being raked by the trail crew as if meant for a king.

Everything was open and running very well.

By late Friday afternoon the clouds packed in a little tighter and rain began to fall. Most riders were content with their bounty of accumulated vertical so headed home or to the GLC for beef dips and beverages.

This weekend is a big one for mountain biking, what with the inaugural Enduro World Series round; the first UCI XC race; and the Berg Line freeride contest in Germany, but all of these elite level competitions don’t quite have the same impact as the opening day gathering for mountain bikers strung out on winter. The Whistler Bike Park will again introduce many new people to mountain biking, give people their first taste of easy gained mileage and offer riders a place to try things they have never before attempted. From the grassroots to globally recognized festivals, the Whistler Bike Park’s 135 days of opening will see more mountain bike action than many destinations see in 10 years.

Come as one and leave with more fun? Even the singles line filled up throughout the day until it doubled back on itself.

Opening weekend is like Christmas, birthdays and Halloween all rolled into one, and the party continues like this all summer long. The smiles, high fives and good cheers are testament to this.