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Bunny-hopping betties at Fernie Alpine Resort
I started mountain biking this summer. My friends warned me it is nearly as addictive as snowboarding, and the gear is a lot more expensive. Luckily, my friend had just upgraded her bike and sold me her old one for a great price. She invited to take me out for my first ride. I imagined a little pedal along the river. I turned up at her house ready to go. She looked at me. “Ang, you need a helmet. We can’t ride if you don’t have one. I’ll get you my spare.”
I thought she was being a little dramatic. I played along and we left her house an hour later complete with nerdy helmet and gloves.
Two hours later, after numerous encounters with Ridgemont roots, I understood. Mountain biking in Fernie is serious.
I now have all the gear, and I am totally hooked. The problem is, you have to endure gruelling single track up hill before you can enjoy the downs. Some of my ride buddies love going up. This is a mystery to me. During a ride last week where one of my friends insisted on heading up some particularly gnarly single track (we ended up pushing our bikes up most of the way) I had a mild tantrum. “I’m going home. This sucks,” I believe my eloquent words were. My friend, who seemed to be enjoying the uphill torture, turned to me and said, “You should try downhill Ang. You’d like the ski hill. You know there’s a women’s downhill course this weekend at FAR?”
I signed up the next day, and was there on Saturday, ready to ride the lifts and skip the misery. I got all kitted up with protective armour, full face helmet, and, of course, a super mean looking downhill beast of a bike. Jean Boyd, our instructor took me and the three other girls on the course into the parking lot for a skills session, where I learned basic but rather important stuff, like the correct riding position for downhill, turning and braking. Then we headed up the Elk chair for a quick run before lunch. First up, a scary sounding trail called Eville, which turned out to actually be a nice leisurely green run, with just enough steep and narrow parts to still be challenging to a beginner like me. My downhill bike ate up all the roots and rocks and cruised down the trail like it was on pavement. I was hooked!
Unfortunately, we had to stop for lunch, but after that it was back learning a few more skills, this time more fun stuff like bunny hops and drops, before heading off to ride some more trails.
By the end I was way more exhausted than I thought I would be just riding downhill, and totally addicted. The course gave me the basic skills I need to ride downhill, and Jean was very encouraging without pushing anyone to try anything they weren’t comfortable with.
I went round to tell my friend about it. “I want a downhill bike!” I stated, “You don’t have an old one of those you can sell me, do you?” She didn’t, so I have added it to my birthday wish list. Unless I get sponsored (might be a little old at this point) I can see many of my future pay cheques being passed on to Fernie’s bike shops.
Fernie Alpine Resort runs several women’s mountain bike camps with a qualified female instructor over summer. The next one is a two-day intermediate/advanced camp on August 18 and 19. For more information, contact the resort at 1 877 333 2339 or visit www.skifernie.com