Big White taps into local talent to build mountain bike park near Kelowna

Brothers Bas and Tom van Steenbergen design and help construct The Joker, one of the first ever mountain bike trails at Big White

  • Oct. 5, 2016 1:00 p.m.

The van Steenbergen's are among the top riders in the world



If mountain bike riders feel the urge to smile or laugh when ripping down one of Big White’s first professional mountain bike trails next summer, they will have talented brother tandem Bas and Tom van Steenbergen to thank.

The brothers, coming off hugely successful years in the professional mountain bike world, designed and helped construct one of the first ever mountain bike runs at Big White, which is set to open with four downhill trails next summer, a first for the resort which has long stayed away from jumping into the mountain bike world.

The Joker—named by Bas, who at 22 is two years older than brother Tom—is a winding thrill ride that could leave you laughing, or shaking your head, at its culmination.

“It’s a bit of an inside joke,” said Bas. “It’s different styles of riding. You never really know what it’s going to be like.”

Big White announced this week that it will open the first four runs of its bike park in June of next year and has a plan for a full-fledged mountain bike park. It’s a swift change in policy for the resort, which had closed for the summer up until two years ago when it opened the village and an area for hikes.

But with mountain bikers continuing to flock to Silver Star’s popular and nearby mountain bike park, and the huge Whistler mountain bike park a major summer attraction, Big White decided to get into the game earlier this year, at the urging of its president,

“Through the years, I have become an avid gravity mountain biker and often I find my family traveling long distances to ride great trails,” said Peter Plimmer, president of Big White. “So, I have to say that this project is as much a personal lifestyle decision as it is a business decision. We want to have an awesome place to ride close to home and I believe the personal meaning of this project to our family will differentiate us from other lift-served riding destinations.”

Once the decision was made to get into the mountain bike business, the resort approached world class trail builders in Whistler for information and then were put in touch with the Van Steenbergen’s, who since arriving in Kelowna from Holland in 2010 and graduating from OKM, have taken off to ride amongst the best bikers in the world.

Bas, a downhill rider, was fourth overall on the Crankworx downhill circuit this year, while Tom, more of a trick rider, pulled off the first double back-flip and perfect score in the sports history this summer.

Tapping into that kind of talent was a no-brainer for Big White.

“When we started talking about building mountain bike (trails) none of us had the skill set to do this yet everyone knew there were these local guys that were unbelievable,” said Big White vice president of marketing Michael Ballingall. “There’s all kinds of history at Big White where founders or long time individuals have ski runs named after them and the mountain bike park is going to be the same,” with a local flavour thanks to the involvement of the brothers.

For Bas Van Steenbergen, getting the chance to put his stamp on Big White’s new mountain bike park was a bit surreal. It all came together extremely fast, he said. Both Bas and Tom had video projects they were working on, including with Red Bull, and were looking for locations. Big White was already moving forward and the two sides came together. Red Bull filmed the riders on the new runs at Big White in a soon-to-be-released video.

“It was crazy how fast it came together,” said Bas. “The resources we had and the all the guys who helped us really knew what they were doing. It was super exciting, even just to have another bike park close by. I think the run is quite different than what people have ridden before. I think it will be really awesome.”

Ballingall said the project so far is over $1 million to get to this point with the four trails expected to be open June 24, 2017.

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