My partner, Sean, and I love a good adventure. We have tried various things over the years to try and find “our” activities. We love skiing and snowboarding in the winter. And we love hiking in the summer. But we’ve also tried hang gliding and paragliding and sailing and motorcycle riding and love to cycle in general, but we had never tried mountain biking.
Mountain biking appealed to me because it seemed like a good way to experience riding down the mountain as you do on skis, only in summer. But it requires gear and a downhill mountain bike and so it just never was something we had tried, yet, anyway. Until this past weekend.
As 100% complete beginners, in our early 40’s, we went up to Big White Ski Resort and got fitted with bikes for our level and all the protective armour they had – full-face helmet and shoulder, elbow, knee and shin guards (surprisingly comfortable, considering) and we looked like warriors ready for battle.
From there we got signed up for a lesson. This I highly recommend – just like when learning to ski or snowboard, learning how to use the gear and where to go and the tips and tricks an instructor provides means you can learn SO much faster and avoid a lot of frustration and potential mistakes. We had the pleasure of learning from Steph from the Big White Ski School and she was awesome. Super patient, clear, kind, and made learning fun. We felt at ease right away and most importantly, in control of the bikes.
With all the cycling I’ve done on flat trails, like the rail trails in Boundary Country, nothing can quite prepare you for constant downhill riding – bumps, turns, and whoop-de-doos – the kind of thrill you get on your board or skis as you navigate the trails in the wintertime, are felt through the bike. It’s intense and adrenaline-pumping, but I kept enough brake on to feel in control the whole time while still enjoying myself a ton.
Steph took us to the Beginner Skills Area to get acquainted with “berms” – the banked turns that show up A LOT on the runs, as well as just generally gravity-fed trails and how to negotiate turns and loose dirt, moderating speed and staying in the right position to have the optimal control over the bike. I have to say, I felt like I learned so much in such a short time, it was pretty impressive. Sign of a great instructor! We soon headed over to the Bullet chairlift where we learned how to mount the bike onto the lift. I needed help from a kind lifty the first time but got it on my second try. We went up to the top and grabbed some pics of the beautiful alpine views, before heading to the beginner green run, Bumblebee. It’s a nice long run with ample time to take breaks and get tips and feedback from your instructor as well as have the chance to progress on your way down.
By the end of that run, it was time for beers and burgers on The Woods patio – a clear, sunny day, 25 degrees, made for that perfect village patio lunch to recharge. We gathered enough energy to head out on our own after lunch, back up to Bumblebee, to try our new skills and beat our previous time by half, feeling pretty good about how much we progressed in the one day. After we were finished riding, we weren’t quite done with the views, so we headed back up the chairlift to walk around up top and take some more pics of those Monashee mountains, and the Cliff in the summertime.
We topped the afternoon off with more patio beers and then dinner and drinks at Snowshoe Sams before collapsing into bed at the Inn at Big White for the night. It was nice not to drive back home on the same day, and let our muscles recuperate as well as just enjoy a mini getaway from Kelowna.
Long story short – if you ever wondered what Mountain Biking might be like, but didn’t think you could try it out – here is your opportunity. Total beginners are welcome and they know how to make you feel comfortable and have an awesome time your first time out. Go for it!
For those that are more interested in experiencing the trails by foot, there are beautiful hiking trails up in the alpine, complete with alpine flowers, deer and fairy doors, and you can get there via chairlift – another unique opportunity for those that love being up high in the mountains but might not be able or have the time to do long treks. You can even ride up and down if you don’t have the ability to hike at all, just like we did at the end of our day.
It’s a fantastic addition to any summer, close by for anyone living in, or visiting the Okanagan, Similkameen, or Boundary. Check out https://www.bigwhite.com/summer or follow @summerbigwhite and @bikebigwhite for pics and inspiration!