The Outsider: An overdue nail in the coffin for Heckle Fest

The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is now closed after an amazing summer, but not without perhaps the most notorious moment of its history resurfacing once again, this time through the lens of Vancouver YouTube jokers, IFHT.

Heckle Fest.

It began as a group of passionate (and unsurprisingly, Australian) mountain bikers getting rowdy during Crankworx and jeering passing racers at the Canadian Open Downhill. Over the years the notoriety grew and the images captured by photographers and videographers began to look more and more like a college frat party.

But it was all in good fun. As long as you took your shirt off when standing on the rock, most of the insults would stay directed at the downhill racers whipping past at stupid speeds and unfortunate chairlift riders overhead. The scene was one of hilarious tomfoolery with plated racers even pulling over mid-course to shotgun a beer with the crowd, all to deafening cheers.

Then things started to get a bit out of hand.

One particular incident I recall occurred while I was shooting the Canadian Open at Crankworx 2013 was an intoxicated, caped spectator doing something resembling a dance atop the rock. He tripped on his cape and tumbled down about three vertical metres onto the track. Bloodied but mostly unharmed, the caped heckler was the laughing stock of Heckle Fest before receiving jeers of his own to get out of the way before he got run over by the next rider on course.

The next year, a chain-link fence replaced the marking tape to keep hecklers a safer distance from fast moving mountain bikes and impending lawsuits.

But Heckle Fest had already grown into a monster, with the party beginning to be less about a mountain bike race and more about drinking, yelling and urging female hecklers to flash their breasts. When revellers allegedly caught wind that 2016 could be the last Heckle Fest ever (due to the aforementioned mayhem), shenanigans got dangerous. Park riders on the chairlift were no longer just on the receiving end of chanted insults, but were pelted with plastic bottles, beer cans, sticks and, according to some reports, D-cell batteries. A naked man — likely intoxicated — scaled the lift tower to the top.

Word quickly got out to Whistler Blackcomb staff, who promptly stopped the race, shut down the chairlift and called in the RCMP to disperse the crowd, citing that riding the chairlift through a gauntlet of projectiles was unsafe. Judging by footage from the IFHT video, it certainly was.

The founding fathers of Heckle Fest had already long abandoned the tradition, not wanting to be associated with such behaviour. Young Australians were definitely among the chief instigators at the 2016 Canadian Open, but to label the Heckle Fest as an Aussie fiasco is like labelling all Muslims as Jihadists. This shitstorm has been brewing a while, and any real Whistlerite should be glad to see Heckle Fest struck from the Crankworx event calendar.

Like many local mountain bikers, I had some of my most memorable Crankworx moments at Heckle Fest. But just like Gaper Day and the full moon parties, a fond Whistler tradition was overrun by a horde of assholes partying to excess.

So long to the (real) Crankworx Heckle Fest.

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