Downhill Mountain Biking

When I took up mountain biking two years ago I never imagined I would find myself biking at Fernie Alpine Resort. There had always been a level of intimidation, an idealized notion that downhill biking was only for the masters of mountain biking.

And I am no master mountain biker. Simply put, I am not hardcore. I am cautious, mindful and haven’t even had a bad bail. I stick to the known.

Until one morning late last August when, after much convincing, I join Ben and some other biking friends to FAR. Despite my wallowing to Ben that I am “just not that good” and that I will “slow everyone down,” I pack my full-face helmet and shin guards and head to the hill.

We unload our bikes, buy passes and then bike to the Elk Chair for our first lap. Until we reach the chair it doesn’t even occur to me that I’m not going to bike up the hill.

Biking up has always been a part of mountain biking. My least favourite part, but a part nonetheless.

Today, however, there is a chair to hook my bike to. And today I get to sit and enjoy a snack in the sun instead of biking in my granny gear for 55 minutes uphill, sweating like a maniac the entire way.

We reach the top in a matter of minutes, unload the bikes and then I follow our little bike posse as we head down the first trail. There are eight of us and leading the posse is Simone Bourassa, a woman I have put on a mountain bike pedestal of perfection for some time. She’s been downhill biking at FAR for the last five years.

Today she’s wearing a lime green full-face helmet and a neck brace. She is without a doubt the epitome of a mountain biking babe.

As I follow her and the rest of the crew downhill it dawns on me that this trail is no different than any that I’ve biked near town. The only difference is that when we reach the bottom we get to come back up again.

And again, and again.

For the remainder of the day we hop on the chairlift, ride up and bike down. Red Indian paintbrushes and yellowing grass from the summer sun align the trails. There are dirt berms and trails that run through beautiful forest.

And what’s more, I’m nowhere near tired. I feel as though my ability as a mountain biker has increased tenfold in the last few hours.

Nearing the end of the day we decided to head over Timber side. Timber Bowl is notorious for its more extreme trails and admittedly, I’m a bit afraid. But I suck it up, because being afraid is a farce.

We reach the top and take the Rumplestumpskin trail down. The sun is blazing even though summer is coming to a close and I’m so happy I’m able to share my first downhill biking experience with such a supportive group of friends.

One section of the trail goes over a rocky outcrop and although it’s intimidating, Simone and the rest of our group cheer for me on as I bike over and down the rocks. It’s amazing what a few moments of support can do for your morale and your skill.

We reach the last section of trail and as I’m rounding a corner I front-brake too abruptly and chuck myself over my handlebars. I can feel the dirt and rocks grinding into my helmet that protects the area around my jaw.

When my body comes to a stop, I sit on the ground and laugh. Completely unscathed, I’ve finally had my first real mountain bike bail. There’s mud up my arm and I’m tickled pink.

At the end of the day we throw a tailgate party. Beers, hamburgers and barbequed zucchini chips, and a whole lot of stoke.

“You killed it first time Timber side,” Simone says. “Be proud.”

She has just put me on my own little mountain bike pedestal and I swear the air is cleaner up here.

I’ve officially reconsidered what I said earlier about not being hardcore.

Fernie Alpine Resort has 37 mountain bike trails ranging from beginner to expert. Bike season opens June 28 and closes Sept. 1. For more information about ticket prices and trails visit www.skifernie.com.