Crankworx is coming. It might only be February but plans are already afoot for Whistler’s biggest festival. This year I’ve taken over the running of Deep Summer and Dirt Diaries, as well as devising the most efficient way of destroying the spirits’ of riders at the Enduro World Series race that takes place during Crankworx. All this thinking about August reminded me of this piece I wrote for Tourism Whistler a few years back.
CRANKWORX SURVIVAL GUIDE
(I like to imagine) My grandfather was a plucky marine who once told me that, “Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” The irony was that one day he forgot his bus pass and had to walk to the bingo hall but didn’t make it because he had a massive coronary on the way.
Anyway, I live by his words and if you want to survive Crankworx and thrive at the worlds largest mountain bike festival then you have to prepare yourself.
The first thing you need to know is that Crankworx is about five things: feats of bravery, freebies, crowd surfing, socializing, and mingling.
Feats Of Bravery
The schedule of events is deep and colourful. There are races and competitions to suit almost every type of modern mountain biking style. From the pure roar of downhill races to the finesse and skill of head-to-head pump track races, and everything in between – including the world’s premier slopestyle event. More so, this is no pro-only show; with exception of just three events the competition is open to all comers. This is a unique opportunity to compete against the world’s top professional athletes on the same courses. But even if you aren’t star beating talent there is ample opportunity for success as there are categories to match all ages and abilities.
Even if just want to watch from the sidelines and stay out of harms way then each day there is a different event or competition to witness. Highlights include the Whip-Off World Championships, the Red Bull Joyride Slopestyle, and the Deep Summer Photo Challenge.
The Whip-Off Worlds is a must watch event. A whip is not a trick, just the expression of true style on a bike…in the air. A whip is where a rider, while airborne attempts to turn their bike and body around in the air and then bring themselves straight before landing. This event takes place on Crabapple Hits, the biggest jumps in the Whistler Bike Park. To see the action with your own eyes you’ll have to venture into the Whistler Bike Park so make sure you have your bike, lift ticket and perhaps a guide to show you to the wildest meadow in BC.
The pinnacle of the whole festival is the Red Bull Joyride competition where the Whistler Boneyard turns into a standing room only arena for the world’s biggest and most prestigious slopestyle event. The invited competitors attempt to outdo each other with aerial maneuvers over a series of monster sized “stunts” that when viewed in completion looks like an oversized version of Mouse Trap board game. Up for grabs is a chunk of a total $47,250 prize purse and come Saturday afternoon (18 August) watching the action first hand is a priceless experience. Get there early and bring the essentials – sunscreen, shade, soda – because you won’t want to miss a second of the action once it gets going because it is truly one of the best sporting spectator events on the globe.
The Deep Summer Photo Challenge caters to Crankworx’s more creative side, something that can be easily overlooked when the most creative thing a lot of Crankworxers do is mixing drinks. Six invited photographers and their team of riders are set lose in Whistler for three days and are tasked with creating a stunning slideshow in that time. The shows are revealed on the Whistler Olympic Plaza main stage and judges will award the best shows with a slice of the prize purse and the victor gets widespread adulation of their peers and the gathered audience.
This year the show takes place in the fantastic natural setting of the Whistler Olympic Plaza so get your ticket early (the show has sold for the past three years and this year there is $20 ticket area and a free area beyond that) and bring a chair and a picnic spread for an evening of inspiring imaginary. This years culture extravaganza also features the Go-Pro Dirt Diaries which is where six pre-selected videographers (determined by popular vote on pinkbike.com) will create and present original mountain bike movies filmed during Crankworx. The films will be judged by an all-star panel and the winners will be vying for their share of a $8,000 prize purse.
All the events are free but Crankworx is more than just events; this is a festival. On the first weekend of the festival there is a series of free concerts on the Whistler Olympic Plaza. The Bud Light Crankworx Concert series features Canada’s hottest and emerging bands, including Young Empires, Arkells, Said The Whale, Jets Overhead.
Also, most of the top bicycle brands will be displaying at Crankworx. Some will be revealing previously unseen products and others will have demo fleets so you can test ride some of next years hottest models. For free. Other brands hold prize draws and give aways so a stroll through the Whistler Village Stroll (which transforms into the Crankworx Expo arena) can turn into profitable wander.
Crankworx is a party atmosphere for sure. Each night there are parties and everyday there is reason to celebrate. The very best party of all is the least advertised and most roots gathering. Hecklefest began three years ago when a core crowd of spectators began to attempt to out cheer another section of crowd. It may seem like a wild gathering of Neanderthals with a mob mentality, but it is all done in good spirit and really typifies what makes Whistler such a melting pot for bicycle fanatics. About two-thirds of the way up the Fitzsimmons chair lift upon a huge natural rock drop that makes up a part of the Canadian Open Course, hundreds of shouting, screaming, jeering, leering fans will gather on Sunday 19 August and attempt to out do last years infamous shenanigans. To find it is easy: follow your ears. To read about it is one thing but to witness it is another thing entirely. Mark it on your calendar and bring some tape because you will might need to it to hold your sides in from laughing so hard.
Crankworx began in 2004 as a celebration of mountain biking that was hosted by Whistler. Over the years it has got bigger and bigger, so big that for ten days each summer the quiet mountain village of Whistler swells with the huge crowds of excited bicycle fans.
If you are thinking of visiting then book your hotel room early (www.whistler.com/), give yourself extra time to navigate Highway 99, and plan your eats and treats ahead of time. If you want to visit the fine selection of Whistler restaurants then make reservations beforehand because there maybe a lot of people who want to experience the delights of Whistler’s exquisite dining at that time of year. Likewise, if you intend on riding the Bike Park during Crankworx expect longer than usual lift lines and busier trails due to the increased number of riders and the race events which at times result in temporary trail closures. The best plan is to take in the events in the village and on the mountain during the day and then ride later in the evening. This way you miss the crowds, miss none of the action at the amazing events during the festival, and
If the action and thrills becomes too much then remember that Whistler is full of other less strenuous and more relaxing activities. Try a trip to one of Whistler’s many beautiful lakes where a dip in the cool water or siesta on the dock will revitalize even the most raged soul. Lost Lake is a ten minutes cycle ride from the village and has a snack kiosk, washrooms, showers, a large grassy and sandy “beach” as well as a dog friendly area and nude dock.
Crankworx is a gathering; for industry veterans, professional athletes, and bicycle passionate people. Whether you plan to meet up with old friends or make new friends on the chairlift it is a fantastic time to participate in the bicycle community. Each day there are poster signing sessions with the very top professional athletes so make a date to meet your heroes and you might find yourself rubbing shoulders with legends of the sport in the lift line. Whether or not you ride a mountain bike, you will find yourself intoxicated by the collective effervescence that the Crankworx festival atmosphere is famed for.