Kelly McGarry

The Epic Potential of Bike Parks

Epic Potential

We thought we'd consider the growth potential for bike parks around the globe. As 10 days of epic action at Crankworx comes to an end for another year, it’s clear that the bike park world is getting bigger and better - at least as far as Whistler is concerned. It's the benchmark; the standard to which all others should strive. And it has been for years. Whistler's reputation was built on snow sports, yet more and more people now come for the winter but stay for the summer. Last year they passed their 1 millionth visitor. They have a finely honed park management structure led by Brian Finestone (read his blog to get an idea of just how much this involves). Their promotions are slick thanks to a hugely professional and dedicated marketing team. They embrace beginners and have nailed the coaching programs and bike rental logistics to cater to this market. And they have a trail crew numbering 18 (yes, really 18!), recently releasing their latest in a long line of pro-mo videos showcasing a few of the heros from behind the scenes. Just in case you've not seen it, here it is...

So, the big question. Why are there not more bike parks on this scale all around the world?

Especially in Europe. I mean surely there's a huge market just crying out for it isn't there? If we look at it in terms of numbers... The population of the Vancouver and Seattle metros (greater urban areas) are about 2.3 and 3.5 million respectively, so for arguments sake lets estimate about 6 million people are within a 4 hour drive of Whistler. Everyone else has to fly there. Think about it – the place is relatively isolated from large populations. The population of Switzerland on it's own is nearly 8 million and big cities like Munich, Strasbourg, Lyon and Milan are only a few hours drive from the mountains.

Pick up Whistler and drop it in the Alps and it would be completely swamped! Sure there are the stand-out bike parks in Europe. Les Gets has the history. Les 2 Alpes, Leogang and Châtel are making names for themselves with rapidly expanding trail networks and major events staged over the past couple of years. But it's not unfair to say that there is nothing on the same scale as Whistler. So just maybe, there is simply an epic potential for a bigger bike park market in Europe and the rest of the world?

But just how big can it go? South America – surely a sleeping giant? Russia? China!? There's even a bike park on the map in India so why the hell not!? Can bike parks really be the summer equivalent of ski resorts, on the same kind of scale? Skiing did not begin as a recreational sport, but rather the need to get from A to B in locations where snowfall made this difficult. You would never have predicted dedicated holiday resorts to cater purely for those who get a kick out of skiing and wanted to do it for no other reason than fun!

Is not cycling a direct equivalent? Whilst bikes originated as a mode of transportation we have turned them in to recreational products and are now demanding dedicated facilities for us to use them – for fun. So is it really so far fetched to say that one day bike parks could number the same as ski resorts, and get the same number of visitors? Could families take a bike holiday in the same way they take a ski holiday, and spend the week on the trails at Trestle in Colorado or Fassa in Italy?

I think so. I think it's starting to happen. And I think it's flipping awesome! Bit by bit bike parks are working this out and committing to the cause, offering package deals with accommodation, building more beginner and intermediate trails, and investing in this huge market segment. There are some stragglers, but ultimately rider demand will ensure they get with the program. And to get them moving, they could do a lot worse than checking out how it's done down the Sea to Sky highway in BC!

If you have a different take on the potential scale of the bike park industry let us know and leave your comments below...

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