Slamfest to offer more courses

Mountain bikers will be relying less on peddling and more on gravity come next weekend's Sima Slamfest.

Mountain bikers will be relying less on peddling and more on gravity come next weekend’s Sima Slamfest.

On the opening day of the third annual event, participants will have the option of entering a chainless downhill race where the bike chains are removed, leaving gravity to do all the work.

“They’re pretty common, especially down in Whistler and places like that,” said race director Justin Mullan. “It’s honestly the best way to learn how to go fast, if you can’t peddle.”

The chainless race is just one of a few changes the event will feature in response to the additions Mt. Sima has experienced over the summer.

For the first time in it’s history, Sima made the move towards becoming a year-round resort this summer, creating downhill mountain bike courses and transporting riders and their bikes to the summit with the chairlift.

Because of an overheating motor on the chairlift, the new mountain bike initiative was suspended temporarily, delaying the organization of Slamfest. Although starting the event planning later than in past years, organizers say everything is back on track and are hoping for more riders than the roughly 80 last year and 65 in its inaugural race in 2008.

“We weren’t sure what the status of the lift was going to be, what the status of the runs was going to be,” said Mullan.

In addition, instead of using one trail for all events, all three of Sima’s trails will be used for Slamfest, but at different times, leaving the open ones to be used by participants between competitive runs and recreational riders.

“In the first year there was just one trail and the youth would start from about a third or half the way up the trail and run the lower portion,” said Mullan. “This year we’ve made some changes to that original Slamfest course that Contagious Mountain Bike Club built. The course that Sima built (this summer) will also be used as well.

“They’re talking about having it open for extended hours both days.”

Using the chairlift, instead of shuttling riders and their bikes up with vehicles, means less downtime between events, said Mullan, so less effort was put into providing entertainment at the base of the mountain, hoping people will spend time on the trails not in use for the races.

“Last year we had constant events at the bottom to keep people occupied while we were shuttling people up,” said Mullan. “Because last year there was a lot of down time while you had to wait for a truck to come and get your bike and take you up.

“Now with the lift open, people can just go out there and ride all day long. We’re going to shut down the run during the race, but everyone can ride on the other runs. You can do your race and then go on back up and continue riding if you want to.”

Entry fee for Slamfest, which takes place Sunday and Monday over the Labour Day weekend, is $40 and includes lift tickets for both days and entry into the races.

It has been a big summer for Mt. Sima – aside from opening mountain bike trails and offering summer activities for the first time.

In July, the resort received $1,555,880 from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency to build an adventure park.

The Mt. Sima WildPlay Element Park, as it will be called, will feature “a series of obstacles built on poles, suspended tightropes, suspended bridges, Tarzan swings, scramble nets and other different surprises at different levels through the forest, from anywhere from six to 60 feet,” said Craig Hougen, president of the Great Northern Ski Society, which oversees operations at Sima.

“These things have been put in all over Canada, all over North America and started, in fact, in Europe and are enormously popular. We expect it to be the same thing here.”

Included in the park will be the installation of two “ZOOM” ziplines. The first will run from the top of Sima to the peak of an adjacent mountain, running over a kilometre in length and propelling the passenger to about 90 kilometres an hour. A second zipline can then be taken back to the base of Sima.