Interview by Peter Keilty
Can you give us a brief history of Diablo?
Sure, Diablo officially started in 2003. I came up with the original concept along with my brother-in-law and partner Clayton Harper. I was originally working for Mountain Creek Resort as the director of terrain park design. I had always been a mountain biking enthusiast and had spent many years downhilling in Lake Tahoe prior to coming back to the east coast. Once Mountain Creek closed their MTB program in 2000 for two full summers, I tried to convince them to re-open it and I found that the best way to do that was to take on the project myself. I utilized all of my knowledge within the resort industry and specifically Mountain Creek to draft the business plan that would entice the management to let us run the program on our own.
In those early days did you ever envision that it would take off so much and be such a success?
In the early days, no, because we were originally looking to just open the mountain and build some trails so that ourselves and some of the locals could ride again. We definitely thought there would be a future for the
sport but we did not anticipate that the sport and Diablo itself would grow this quickly. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great news on all fronts Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the business is doing well and the sport is doing well.
Does being involved in the industry so heavily curtail your riding or do you still get time to sample your own product?
The first few years I did ride quite a bit, unfortunately, I have been off the bike and the snowboard for health reasons but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m happy to say that this year IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m back in shape and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m riding or snowboarding regularly, about 5-6 times per week. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be trail-riding or downhilling regularly this summer, and I guess the break has given me more passion to come back and start all over.
Diablo is probably best known for hosting the US Open. Are you surprised by its success?
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very nice of you to say. I am extremely pleased with its success. We originally started the US Open as a way to jump-start a portion of the industry. A lot of our friends and riding partners were competing professionally and we would hear stories about the lack of prize money and other excuses that some regional and national race promoters were using. After crunching some original numbers we found that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s definitely doable. We were pretty audacious in the very beginning Ã¢â‚¬â€œ our goal was to show the community that it could be done, prove to ourselves that it could be done, prove to the riding community that it could be done and to provide a world-class venue thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in the largest cycling market in the world, or at the very least in America, which is New York City.
Can you tell us a little about your plans for this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Open?
This year weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really excited to be introducing a dual slalom discipline. In our eyes and those of a lot of the riders weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been speaking to, dual slalomÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s definitely making a strong comeback. So weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to go full-force and offer it for the first time this year, and hopefully in the future weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be adding more disciplines and making the event bigger and better.
As well as the quality of the park itself, do you think that the proximity to New York has helped it to explode the way it has?
Absolutely. Our connection and our convenience from New York City is definitely a big bonus for our park. Also, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re able to utilize word of mouth I guess a little bit stronger than some other resorts, and we use a very viral marketing campaign, also.
What is the state of the East Coast riding scene in your opinion?
In the early 2000Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s I spent quite a bit of time out west, mostly in Lake Tahoe and Summit County,
Colorado. While the resorts there are certainly larger in stature and acreage, it definitely seems that the East Coast resorts are picking up more of the boom of freeriding and downhilling and I think the scene is the east right now is probably the strongest in the country. Not to say that other locales arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t strong, it just seems that the community in the east is a little bit tighter and the amount of reports that are offering this activity or speculating about offering this activity in the near future, the east is definitely leading the way in America.
Has there been a call for a greater amount of natural trails? Has there been a movement away from the
more groomed trails, or is it just two different types of riders?
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s definitely a movement toward groomed trails, however thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a large enough market still interested in the non-groomed natural terrain, and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re definitely going to cater to everyone involved. Both groups are a very strong part of DiabloÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s business and, even though the freeride side of things growing a lot quicker, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re definitely not scaling back on offering natural terrain as well.
This may be an impossible question, but where is the future of downhilling headed?
I actually see downhill and the sport of mountain biking in its infancy stage, so I often equate it to the sport of snowboarding in the mid-90Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s where some resorts were really embracing the sport and saw a vision, however, a lot of resorts still didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the full knowledge of what to build and what to expect.
Specifically terrain parks in the winter time, many resorts didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t offer them because they were scared of the liability or werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sure they were profitable, now youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really hard-pressed to find any resort in America or in the world for that mater that does not offer a terrain park to some capacity. I envision that most resorts will be offering freeride parks to some capacity in the next 10 years.