Bike park wraps up a great season

After I moved to Invermere in late April, one of the first things I did was buy a winter season pass for Panorama.

Valley Echo editor Nicole Trigg on her visit to Panorama's downhill mountain bike park.

After I moved to Invermere in late April to begin working for The Valley Echo as the editor, one of the first things I did was buy a winter season pass for Panorama. A skier since the age of three, and a snowboarder since 17, I somehow feel incomplete without unlimited access to mountains of snow. I’m also passionate about backcountry adventures, but the convenience and exhiliration of hitting the slopes for a few hours on a big powder day before heading into work is a welcome privilege when living in, or close to, a mountain resort.

But as summer crept closer, my attention turned to Panorama as a summer destination, and the allure of the mountain bike park was something I just couldn’t resist. A former Whistler bike park passholder, I’ve since switched to cross country mountain biking after moving away from what’s considered the international mecca of downhill mountain biking. But after a trip up Toby Creek Road to check out the downhill trails, I decided a day in the park was a definite must.

Outfitted in the customary downhill protective gear and full face helmet, I headed to the Mile 1 quad chair with my rental  steed, a Norco Aurum high performance racing bike, and began my downhill adventure.

I came up with the plan to work my way from one side of the bike park map to the other, riding all the trails in between, which meant riding everything from easy greens to more technical blues, to the challenging black diamonds, and stopping to admire the artfully-designed double black wooden structures high above  the ground that a more expert rider could gracefully  sail over.

In B.C.’s downhill  culture, Panorama is known for its “old school” feel because of the steep terrain and flow of the trails.

“It’s completely different, but it’s awesome; it’s wide open, it’s very fast, a lot of variety,” Rockstar Bike Rodeo Dream It, Drop It contest winner Patrick Podolski told me.

A Vancouver resident, Podolski came up with the winning design for the park’s newest structure in the 2nd annual contest.

“I’ve never seen a ski resort where the management really cares that much about what the riders are thinking about,”  said bike park patrol lead Devon McDonald, who I met on one of my lift rides. “They’re trying to get as much rider feedback as possible and we really want to tailor this hill to be the best possible location for riders to come from all over and really enjoy the hills that they helped make.”

Overall, it was an amazing biking experience. The trails were in excellent shape and I was amazed by how much terrain they actually covered. The lifties were friendly and personable, helping load my bike and striking up conversation each time I returned to the quad for another lift up.  The comraderie between the bikers was second-to-none, with each of us revelling in the breathtaking views and adrenaline pumping through our veins.

Panorama’s bike park closed for the season on Sunday (September 2), which means only 9.5 months before it reopens for the 2013 season. Plenty of time to save up for a new bike and park pass!