It all started with a couple of 10-year-olds, along with a handful of world-class pros and some 30-odd mortals. They all stood on the same line, ready for the running, the Le Mans start of Crankworx Colorado’s kickoff event, super downhill. Three hundred or so yards of initial climbing quickly separated the pack and a sprinkling of rain turned to hail by the time riders hit bottom.
Spectators and sunshine were sparse on the first day of the inaugural Crankworx Colorado. But over the next two days, big athletes flooded Winter Park Resort for the three-day mountain bike festival.
Held each summer, the event is modeled after Whistler’s noted Kokanee Crankworx in British Columbia. The festival includes downhill, cross country, big air and slopestyle competitions.
“There’s really not many slopestyle events in the U.S., and none of them have the caliber of Crankworx,” said Willy Warren, pro downhiller and Kona bikes rep. “Crankworx coming into Winter Park is a huge deal. It’s sparking a new style of biking that
really supports the resort atmosphere.”
It should come as no surprise that Winter Park Resort is operated by Intrawest, the same company that owns much of Whistler and facilitates Kokanee Crankworx. But at least someone’s supporting the sport. Just days before the 2007 Colorado festival, the U.S. Forest Service proposed legislation encouraging land managers to boot bikes off the Continental Divide Trail. As mountain bikers fight for CDT rights, ski resorts are realizing the future of bike parks.
Whistler’s bike park has grown over 500% since it opened in 1999, and though the numbers of biker visits are still a far cry from skier visits, it’s obvious that resort folks are catching on. Winter Park has made Colorado Crankworx an annual event, and new downhill trails are under discussion.
Resorts showing big profits from bike parks is “a big deal for mountain biking in the U.S.,” said Travis Brown, pro racer and Trek product developer. “If more resorts realize that, [it means] a huge level of growth for mountain biking that we haven’t seen yet.
“Winter Park is probably the most progressive ski area as far as installing a bike park and actively pursuing trail development. I think it’s inevitable that we see resorts go in this direction,” said Brown.
Brown and Warren both agree that resorts attract more diverse crowds than back-country trails.
“[Festivals like Crankworx Colorado are] a great time. It’s a family atmosphere, not just racing and riding,” said Warren. “There’s stuff that everybody can participate in. The trails are set up for any level of rider to go up, get on his bike and see what these athletes are doing. We encourage anybody to come and check it out.”
As for the younger ones who lined up at last year’s super d start, they might be the ones winning World Cup events in years to come.
If You Go
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State