Whistler Mountain Bike Park for the Soft-Core
It’s 9:15 am on Thursday, September 8 and I am on a “staycation”. You might think I would be lazing at the beach, hiking a trail with my dog, or lunching with some friends being that I am the poster child for soft almost non-adventure. However there comes a time in life when one needs to break out of their comfort zone and that time has arrived.
I’m on my way to check-in for Bike Park 101.
The night before I had a look at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park site and it states: “If you were ever curious as to why there are so many bikers crowded around the base of the hill with smiles glued to their faces, it’s because biking downhill is incredibly fun.”
Want to know my thought? Those are not smiles; their faces have been permanently frozen with fear at hurling themselves down 1,507 metres of vertical bike trails.
After I’ve been checked-in, kitted out in full-face helmet, protective armour and a fancy bike we are led to what I am considering Step 1: “out of the comfort zone and into the fire” – load the bikes onto Fitz chair to make our way up the Fitzsimmons Skills Centre where it will all begin.
Tip: walk faster than the lift is moving when loading!
Located at mid-station, the Skills Centre is set up for all levels of learning with open spaces for the beginners like me to narrow bridges and “skinnies” for those looking to advance their ability. Lucky for me, my group consists of myself and one other student; I consider this a private lesson!
Here in the Skills Centre, Ken, our fantastically patient guide (pictured above, right) teaches us all we need to know from stance to etiquette to safely embark on our descent.
Whistler Mountain Bike Park trails are marked the same as winter runs: green is easiest; blue is intermediate and black diamond for advanced, double black diamond for the really really good!
Our trail of the day is Upper and Lower EZ Does It. Mentally, I repeat everything Ken has just taught us:
“Be the bike. Relax. Let the bike do what it was built for. Elbows out, knees slight bent, pedals level. Remember, we aren’t looking for perfection – everyone started somewhere”
We rode through switchbacks, potholes, roots, bridges, on the eight kilometre descent. With every obstacle we came upon Ken would yell “Look where you WANT to go and your bike will follow” or what turned out to be the mantra of the day: “MARY, BE THE BIKE”. Frequent stops were made to check our comfort level, give us breathers, advise what was coming up around the corner and (always appreciated) kudos on our progress.
As we arrived at the base of the mountain, (accident free I might add) I’ve never had such a feeling of accomplishment and (like the website says) a smile was firmly glued to my face.