The Making of Whistler’s Dark Crystal Trail 1

We at Vital MTB love us some Scott Veach! If you've ever ridden Dark Crystal, you know...

Legendary singletrack doesn’t just happen. It takes passion, vision, creativity, and a commitment to hands-in-the-dirt work that never seems to end. This is the tale of Whistler’s Dark Crystal trail and the people who keep its storied fable alive and kicking.

When it comes to singletrack gems, the world might not have a more bedazzled quarry than Whistler, British Columbia. Guarded by high alpine peaks and dark old-growth forest, the mystical location is home to over 1,000 kilometers of legendary mountain bike trail.

One ride stands out. Dark Crystal descends nearly 700 vertical meters through a moss-carpeted wonderland on Blackcomb Mountain. Built in 2015 by Scott Veach and Ben Haggar, it has become one of Whistler’s iconic trails and as such, sees a lot of traffic. In keeping with its namesake—the 1982 cult animatronic fantasy film from Muppets creator Jim Henson—the legend of the Dark Crystal trail comes with both a blessing and a curse.

“We wanted to make something fast and flowy, with no surprises,” explains Veach, a web developer who relocated to Whistler from Santa Cruz, California in 2014. “A trail where everything linked together as naturally as possible. One where you could just let it go.” There-in lies the blessing: Those riders who grind their way up seven kilometers of steep, unrelenting gravel road to the Dark Crystal trailhead now have a wickedly fun, wildly challenging descent between their bars. The curse? Through countless volunteer hours of trail maintenance, Veach has pledged to keep the original vision of the trail secure.

The trail, nearly three kilometers in length, travels through a variety of classic Whistler terrain, dropping exposed granite slabs and navigating technical roots and rocks, linked together by loamy berms and natural booters. It’s a jewel paid for by passion. Veach estimates that 2,400 hours of volunteer labor went into building this hallowed ribbon of dirt, and an additional 120 hours are required each year to maintain it.

“I want people to enjoy their time on the trail, and I want to preserve that feeling of enjoyment. It’s not a pride thing, it’s more an experience thing. And I want that to be high quality, not just for me but for everyone who rides it.” 

So, for some 30 to 40 days a year, Veach puts on an 80-pound pack full of tools, jumps on his Bosch-equipped Trek Rail e-bike and in 30 minutes he’s at the trailhead—a crushing climb that used to take him well over an hour on his old mountain bike. “I call it the time machine,” chuckles the husband and father of two young girls. “It’s been a crucial tool in not only trail maintenance, but family maintenance as well.”

The story of Dark Crystal is one that deeply resonates with Bosch eBike Systems. “We’ve been in the bike business for 12 years now,” explains Steven Sheffield, a product management and business development team leader at Bosch. “In the early days of eBikes, many eBike opponents took the position that you need to suffer up the hill to enjoy the ride down. Today we see it differently. We believe you earn your turns by being a contributor, by participating in trail work, buy picking up a shovel, by supporting the next generation.

“One thing we’ve learned is that everyone needs to give back. We see that as a fundamental part of our role, whether it is building more trails or better trails, we just need to be a part of that community.”

To back up that commitment, Bosch donates time, bikes and financial support to trail builders and trail building associations, sponsoring trails—not just e-bike sanctioned trails—and loaning out e-bikes to land managers. “We want to support mountain biking overall,” continues Sheffield. “We realize that we’re all in this together.”

Credit: Bosch / photos by Sterling Lorence

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