In the middle of winter, when Whistler Mountain is completely covered in snow and packed with skiers and snowboarders hitting the trails, it’s almost impossible to imagine that the world’s largest slopestyle mountain-biking competition will take over the area in just a few short months.
But that’s exactly what happens when the Crankworx World Tour and Red Bull Joyride comes to town in the summer. The competition takes over the base of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, creating The Boneyard, a carefully-constructed dirt course of jumps, turns, and launching points for the bikers to compete on.
The construction doesn’t happen overnight. The building and shaping of the course usually starts in May for the August competition, and it takes an incredible feat of effort by everyone involved to transform the mountain course for Red Bull Joyride. From an estimated 5,000 labor hours, 1200 cubic meters of dirt moved, and over 900 machine hours of work, there’s a lot of factors that go into the construction of the course.
‘It’s a massive jigsaw puzzle’
“We basically start building the slopestyle course once the snow clears, and they’ll actually start pushing snow out of the way to start the dirt work,” said Crankworx executive producer and consultant Mark “Skip” Taylor, who helped build the event into what it is today. “We start with the main floor line of the slopestyle course, because it’s the biggest build, and then we add in the rest.”
But it’s not just about the actual course, either. The video, audio, and production capabilities help make Red Bull Joyride a worldwide event.
“We start the scaffold towers and that stuff about two weeks before the event,” Taylor said. “Then the broadcast team get set up with cameras and all that, as well as audio for about five days before the event. And even during all this time, it’s just a massive jigsaw puzzle we have to put together. We have a bunch of different channels recording the action, and we get everything out and uploaded for the fans watching around the globe and here in Whistler.”
While Whistler is known for its skiing and snowboarding, Red Bull Joyride has helped make the mountain just as well-known for its bike trails and competition. In fact, Red Bull Joyride has become one of the busiest times of year for the mountain.
“Other than Christmas, this is the biggest weekend, the busiest weekend of the year,” Taylor said. “It’s amazing seeing a winter ski resort transform into something big for summer and give people that kind of experience. Whistler has one of the most famous trails in the world for biking, and it’s also great to have pros as well as amateurs out there qualifying side-by-side with all their heroes. It’s very participatory and engaging, and the backdrop is amazing.”
History in the making at Red Bull Joyride
This year, the Red Bull Joyride competition was one of the most competitive and exciting that the event has ever had.
Riders Nicholi Rogatkin and Brett Rheeder went back-and-forth through the entire competition—just like they did through the 2018 season—culminating in a historic win for Rogatkin, who became the first-ever winner of the Triple Crown of Slopestyle. The drama lasted through the entire competition after Rheeder took a late lead, leaving Rogatkin to go for the win on his final run. And he came through with flying colors to make history.
“This is another one of those slopestyle events that’s an instant classic,” Rogatkin said to Red Bull after his win. “It was so entertaining to watch and even more entertaining to be a part of.”
Major growth and evolution of Red Bull Joyride
Taylor has watched Whistler, Crankworx, and Red Bull Joyride grow over the years from a “bare-bones” operation into something that’s broadcast all around the world and brings in tens of thousands of people to Whistler. Taylor said that the original budget for the first event was around $300,000, and that now things have grown “probably over 10-fold,” and that webcasting has evolved so much that people on the other side of the world can watch.
“It’s amazing to have 25-to-30,000 people here and seeing the highway get backed up for miles and miles,” Taylor said. “ It’s the biggest event of the year, and Joyride even is bigger than the Olympics when they were here. The Olympics had five, six, 7,000 people here, and when Joyride comes in, it’s just so much bigger.”
Another person who has been front row to see the growth at Whistler and Red Bull Joyride over the years is legendary freeride mountain biker Darren Berrecloth. Berrecloth, who was born in British Columbia, has watched as things have gone from a “grassroots event” to the “largest slopestyle mountain-biking competition in the world.”
“I remember one time a while back, we were in about to start one of the events and one of the organizers told us that the Sea-to-Sky Highway was backed up basically all the way to Vancouver,” Berrecloth said. “So many people wanted to drive up to the event for the day, and we were looking at the crowds and it really doubled in size, it was just incredible.”
The future is bright for Red Bull Joyride—and mountain biking
Even though things have grown in a major way over the years, Berrecloth and Taylor are both excited about what the future holds.
“I’m riding for Canyon bikes now, and obviously they’re my sponsor, but at the end of the day I chose them because I just really like their bikes,” Berrecloth said. “I mention that because these days, the bikes out there, the new models and new technology has opened up the sport to everyone instead of for guys and girls just like me. “It’s grown the sport in and allowed more people in.”
“Something that’s evolved over the last few years is with Kidsworx,” Taylor said. “It’s blowing up and there’s been massive family participation in mountain biking. You see lots of mother’s, father’s, sons, and daughters come in here together. It’s really cool because it’s the future generation of the sport and we feel like that’s growing. They are passionate and it’s been amazing to see that grow along with everything with Crankworx and Red Bull Joyride.”
Next year, everyone will be ready to do it all over again.