Behold, the end of the universe:
“But don’t worry, A-Line diehards, you’ll still be able to ride it just as fast as you ever did, but what you’ll find is new shapes, better flow, and jump shapes you’ve never imagined before.”
Here’s some free advice: when someone in a position of authority starts their message with “don’t worry,” start worrying. The video goes on:
“For those just making their way into the A-Line skill set, what it’s going to offer is jumps with a friendlier shape, so you’ll be able to hit the jump and have a better sightline, you’ll be able to keep the speed on the trail so that everything flows through for everyone.”
That kind of makes sense I guess. A-Line is pretty advanced, what with all the big jumps and high speed, so wouldn’t it be cool if you could have a similar “A-Line style” trail experience, only at lower speeds and with lower consequences?
Oh… wait. I guess that already exists. Never mind.
Here’s what I got out of this new video:
- A-Line is getting dumbed down.
- There will be even more jamokes on Aline now (jamoke roughly translates to “Joey” for the Canadians in attendance).
- This is the end of everything that is good and holy.
It’s officially time to burn your bike, reject society, and move out to the hills to eat squirrels, reprocess your urine, and live off the grid. Picture Gary Busey from Black Sheep. Do that.
Riders have progressed. Bikes have progressed. Between the hugely increased capabilities of the modern mountain bike and the general progression of our sport, the average trail bike rider is capable of enormously more than anyone could have imagined 15 years ago when A-Line was built. Watch a video from the original Red Bull Rampage in 2001. Trail riders in Bellingham are hitting drops and gaps bigger than that on weekdays after work on 125mm bikes now. Everyone is riding bigger and faster than they ever have.
What that means is that, if any changes should be made to A-Line year to year, obviously the direction should be bigger and scarier to keep up with modern riders. And for as long as A-Line has been a trail, that’s been the management principle. Bigger gaps, faster berms, more hang time, and by default, higher consequences every single year. And people loved it. In years prior, there was this crazy thing called a “filter” at the top to keep jamokes out. A drop, a jump, any sort of mandatory pucker moment to weed out the riders who really shouldn’t be on A-Line. If you can’t handle a three foot drop, probably 25 foot table tops at 20 mph isn’t your jam. Seems to make sense, right?
As A-Line got bigger, faster, and scarier, Crank It Up was introduced. Instead of dumbing down A-Line, a dumber, slower, smaller version of A-Line was introduced as an alternative. The fast people got to keep their fun playground, and the slow people got their own mini-sandbox version of the same trail. Everyone wins.
In this regard Whistler and A-Line have been the last bastion of reasonable thought. While A-Line kept getting bigger, the rest of the world was handing out participation medals to everyone in the little league tournament, dumbing down your local trails, and keeping the Oregon speed limit at 65 mph. Try getting a new bike park opened in the Western U.S. Hahahahaha!!! I kid, I kid, obviously that’s impossible, because, you know, fish and stuff.
These salmon died on the banks of the Sandy River shortly after the Forest Service met with Timberline Bike Park in 2010 to discuss a potential bike park.
Until now, the management principle at Whistler was to give the fast people what they wanted (more hangtime, more gnar, more speed, and more steep), provide a wide variety of trails for riders of every skill level, put in place basic filters and guidelines to keep slow people off gnarly trails, and then step back and let people make their own decisions. If you rode A-Line as a jamoke, you probably broke your collarbone on the first tabletop or got yelled at as somebody passed you in a berm. Good. Kill yourself.
And you know what happened with all that freedom? Big smiles, lots of hospital trips, and billions of dollars in revenue. And that’s a tradeoff we’ve tended to be okay with.
Make no mistake, there is a cost to freedom. Someone from our local riding community died this past summer riding a big rock slab in Whistler. It’s a tragedy, it’s a huge loss to the Hood River community and to his family, and it’s regrettable, but I didn’t hear anyone suggest that Whistler close all their rock slabs or make them flatter. It’s the risk we choose when we go ride, and Matt was a longtime advanced rider who knew what he was doing.
I don’t know what made Whistler Bike Park change their guiding principles. Maybe it was lawyers, maybe it was IMBA, or maybe it was a calculated revenue-grab by evil new management looking to cater to the mediocre. Maybe it was Matt Klee’s death. Who knows.
A rare picture of the weekly Whistler Trail Crew Meeting.
My hunch is that the “no’s” won the day. No’s always win. You know when you and a bunch of friends want to go out to lunch, and you’re all proposing different restaurants, and that one friend that no one likes vetoes whatever suggestion you come up with? “No, I don’t feel like Mexican, it’s too greasy,” “No, I don’t feel like a sandwich, too much gluten.” “No, I don’t feel like…[insert literally any suggestion you can come up with] because [insert ridiculously choosy reason].”
But because you’re all a bunch of pussies, you don’t do the right thing and beat the shit out of “no guy” until he either stops hanging out with you or learns to eat a $5 cheeseburger and like it. No, you suck it up and try to reason with “no guy,” until you realize thirty minutes later you’re going to spend $30 again on sushi and hate yourself. All you wanted was a cheeseburger, and now you’re eating cold rice with imitation crab at $6 a plate. Tea is $3? Really?
The “no guy” always wants freaking sushi. Because $30 for lunch seems reasonable.
In the video, the trail crew bro justifies the trail “improvements” on A-Line by saying “you’ll be able to keep the speed on the trail so that everything flows through for everyone.” Wait… what?
A-Line clearly isn’t for everyone. It’s for advanced riders. If you’re not an advanced rider, either stay off A-Line or kill yourself. Everyone knows that. Everyone except for “no guy.”
You’re almost never going to see the “build us bigger jumps please” contingent orchestrating a letter-writing campaign to the boss at WBP, holding a candlelight vigil for bigger jumps, or chaining themselves to excavators until they get bigger gaps on A-Line. Most people realize that their preferences are just that: preferences, subject to compromise in any group decision making process. We can’t always have our way, so unless we see some fundamental violation of human dignity we’re not typically going to be a pain in the ass.
“No guy” on the other hand? He can hang in there for the long haul, because in his eyes everything is a fundamental violation of someone’s rights, and he can never be wrong. “No guy” is constitutionally incapable of acknowledging the validity of other people’s preferences. “No guy” has staying power, coming from a deep, abiding sense of self-righteousness. Chaining himself to excavators is right in “no guy’s” wheelhouse, but normally “no guy” doesn’t have to go to that extreme. Normally he just repeats the commonly understood costs of a policy until those costs seem intolerable, and then he proposes an alternative policy and pretends there are no associated costs. Think “Mothers Against Drunk Driving
” but for trail building. Sort of like IMBA. Works nine times out of ten.
“No guy” is the worst, and once this behavior is learned, it will never go away. This is why you should beat the shit out of the next guy who suggests sushi for lunch.
Soap in a sock: because you care about A-Line.
No matter the cause of Whistler’s philosophical reversal, it’s a sad day for mountain biking and the official end of an era. Apparently Whistler Bike Park has reached peak gnar, and we can expect the bike park to get slowly dumbed down from here.
Instead of remembering and building on what made it great, Whistler Bike Park will now be catering to the existing skills of the mediocre instead of inspiring them to improve to the level of the great.
If I die riding my bike because I hit a tree, please don’t automatically cut that tree out. If I die overshooting a jump, please don’t remove that jump. If I didn’t want to hit the jump, I wouldn’t have.
Keep sending it. Robot out.