Mountain bikers were not the only ones navigating new paths at the Mt. Sima Slamfest on the weekend.
Mt. Sima, the host of the downhill mountain bike race, accomplished a couple of firsts.
Never before had the ski resort opened its facilities for a summer sport, no less one involving such elaborate organization.
Also, on a grander scale, the race was the first of its kind in the territory.
“A few downhill riders approached me and asked if there was a downhill style race planned for the mountain bike summer schedule,” said Devon McDiarmid, president of the Contagious Mountain Bike Club.
“I said, if you guys are willing to organize it, I’ll help from the club as far as insurance and that kind of stuff.”
The race has been on the drawing board since early in the year, but it was not until the election of the new board at the start of July that things started to come together. That’s when volunteers started devoting evenings and weekends to carving out the race trail that snakes down the mountainside.
“Greg Taylor and myself have been working out here every weekend,” said Justin Mullan, the race director. “Sometimes there’s two or three of us, sometimes there’s 10 or 12 of us. There’s been about 200 or 300 man-hours put into this trail.”
Mt. Sima has made headlines recently with the election of a new board of directors and a $25,000 grant from Whitehorse.
“That’s when everything took off, right after the new board came in,” said Mullan. “They said, just go ahead, we’ll just keep an eye on things.”
“We’ve wanted to do this stuff for a long time,” said Peter Wright, a Mt. Sima board member.
“This is the way of the future for Mt. Sima. It’s been happening down south, so we want to have this stuff every year.
“(Opening trails and chairlifts to bikers in the summer) is what we are hoping to do, it’s certainly in our plan. It’s just a matter of time before we get to that point … The board wants that to happen, the community wants that to happen.”
Mt. Sima is not the only ski resort turning its attention to summer sports.
“(In BC) almost every major ski resort has a bike park,” said Mullan. “Whistler was the first one, they’ve been operating five years longer than others. As of recently, they make more profit in the summer than in the winter.”
“If you look at European ski towns, many can only exist if they operate in the summer because they’re running out of snow in the winter,” added McDiarmid. “They can maintain their lifts and staff by offering mountain biking and summertime activities.”
The Slamfest featured 67 riders, including 10 juniors riding the roughly 0.6 kilometre course.
The two-kilometre-long adult course, running from the summit to the resort’s chalet, provided participants with plenty of muddy twists and turns, as well as a few manmade jumps.
“It’s steep, it’s fairly technical, but it’s rideable for most moderate to advanced riders,” said Mullan.
The adult race was split into two divisions in both of the men’s and women’s divisions, the big bike and the small bike.
The small-bike category was for hardtails, or bikes with less than five inches of suspension or “travel.”
“The course got faster in some places and slowed down in others,” said Greg Taylor, who rode the course in two minutes, 44.75 seconds to win men’s big-bike race, speaking of how the rainy conditions Sunday affected the course.
“I think with the conditions changing, everyone was on an equal playing field.’
“It was pretty cool that they organized it,” said Alison Perrin, who won the women’s big-bike event with a time of 4:12.33, and who only took up mountain biking last summer.
“Hopefully they can keep it going. Everyone said they had a great time.”
With such a great reception by the public, with dozens of spectators combing the mountainside for good views, racers and organizers are already declaring the event an annual race.
“Definitely an annual event,” said Mullan, expressing his hopes for the future. “More so, (we’re hoping) Mt. Sima will open its doors for lift access, or even shuttle access, during the weekends in the summer, so we can get riders out and they can charge their lift fee like they normally do.”
Last year, Mt. Sima cut the ski season short after technical difficulties with its sole chair lift and other less serious problems.
Mt. Sima will be holding its annual general meeting Sept. 9, at which time it will be determined whether it will be opening for ski season.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, there’s big decisions being made as we speak,” said Wright.
“Right now, we’re applying for more grants and trying to get Sima set up in a position where we can throw ourselves to the future.”
Male big bike
1st Greg Taylor 2:44.75
2nd James Splinter 2:46.08
3rd Tyler Coghill 2:46.15
Male small bike
1st Spencer Skerget 3:07.29
2nd Ninja Splinter 3:07.67
3rd Jesse Reams 3:22.86
Female big bike
1st Alison Perrin 4:12.33
2nd Erika Sharp 4:31.58
3rd Carmen Wong 4:32.37
Female small bike
1st Sydney Vanloon 5:01.53
2nd Kathryn Mullen 5:53.54
3rd Jen Meurer 6:25.63
1st Colin Kabanak 0:58
2nd Adam Waddington 1:05
3rd Nic MacDougal 1:12