Before the 2018 Winter Olympics began, Utah already had a winter games gold medalist. His name is Travis Whitlock.
Whitlock, 48, of Springville, came in first in the Winter X Games Harley-Davidson Snow Hill Climb event, on Jan. 28 in Aspen, Colorado.
It is the first time the Winter X Games’ extreme sports competition has included a snow and ice event for motorized bikes.
“It is an invitation event,” Whitlock said. “The committee does the invitation to riders. I am one of the older competitors.”
Not only is Whitlock one of the oldest, he is one of the most skilled and winningest riders as well.
He adds the X Games gold to 14 national championships and three world championships for dirt hill climbing.
Climbing on dirt and rocks, then climbing on ice are two very different things. It was Whitlock’s first time competing on the ice.
“I have a bucket list of things for me,” Whitlock said. “This is another thing come true.”
It is no surprise that Whitlock is a champion, he has been hill climbing since he was 4 years old and he started competing when he was 10.
“I’ve taught a lot of people I’ve competed against,” Whitlock said.
He noted that hill climbing is the oldest form of motorcycle racing and is more than 100 years old.
There aren’t many places legally left in the local area where Whitlock can take to the hills on his bike. There is a single track in Hobble Creek Canyon east of Springville and then there is the west desert.
The loss of track hasn’t stopped the sport from growing according to Whitlock.
“Hill climbing is getting more professional each year,” he said. “People are seeing how cool hill climbing is. Big horse-powered bikes do crazy things. It’s a pure adrenaline rush.”
With all of the years of doing 75- to 90-degree climbs and lots of mogul hills, Whitlock said he is very fortunate to come out with few scrapes.
“I’ve been pretty lucky and escaped serious injuries,” he said. “I’ve only had some broken bones.”
As for his bucket list of dreams, it would be a neat thing to add a Summer X Games hill climb.
For those who have lived a long time in these parts and remember when Point of the Mountain (Traverse Mountain) nearly touched Interstate 15, there was a tough competition there called the Widowmaker.
Whitlock said, “I was the youngest to go over the Widowmaker (hill) at age 15.”
It actually all started with his father.
“My dad got me into hill climbing. He now builds show cars,” Whitlock said. “My brother Brandon also competes.”
Several years ago, Travis was also invited to compete in France at the Montee Impossible Arette competition.
“No one had ever topped the hill,” Whitlock said. “It was super steep and gnarly.”
Whitlock was the first rider to ever top the hill at age 21 in 1990. For his efforts, he took home the grand prize of $60,500.
“That was a huge accomplishment and the X Games are right there with that event,” Whitlock said.
When he’s not riding or competing, Whitlock is the general manager of Whitlock’s Collision Repair Center in Provo.
Whitlock is the father of four children, three girls and one boy. All of them ride and three compete. There is Brooklyn Whitlock Smith, 23 (she provided the first grandchild), Alexa, 18, Landon, 10, and Tylee, 8.
Alexa has taken a first-place title in women’s professional hill climbing.
“It’s not about the accomplishments,” Whitlock said. “It’s getting the family involved and riding together and enjoying the outdoors as a family. Accomplishments are icing on the cake.”
Whitlock said if it wasn’t for some great national and local sponsors and family help, he would never be able to do what he gets to do on the bikes.
His national sponsors are Fox Racing, KTM Motorcycles and Maxima Oils. Locally, Escape Motorsports in Provo provides a great deal of help, as do Legends Vintage Motorcycles in Springville and Proven Moto in Heber.
Whitlock Collision and the family keep the business going while he is gone. They are the 24/7 support.