Working as a guide at Whistler Bike Park – Blog 1
Every year Peak Leaders run a 3-week hiring camp at Whistler Bike Park. Those Peak Leaders trainees that are successful in obtaining the IDP level 2 qualification and manage to secure a working tourist visa are offered jobs as guides at Whistler Bike Park. This May the majority of our trainees managed to secure guiding jobs for the summer; one of these trainees was John Inman. As John possesses some top-notch blogging skills we asked him to keep a diary of his experiences living and working as a guide in Whistler over the summer. By the sounds of things John is definitely ‘living the dream’.
After the celebrations of passing the course on Sunday, we all packed-up and took a quick lift to ‘The Springs’, Whistler Employee Services, to have a chat from Tom Radke (our boss) about the things we needed to do to be formally hired and in the system. Then, thanks to a few helpful shuttles from Mark at Bear Back Biking we all managed to move-out of the course accommodation over to Glacier Lane Staff Accommodation. In fairness we spent most of our first week of freedom taking time to sort all of the admin needed to get us working, things like getting a Canadian bank account (Scotia Bank at Creekside were super helpful). Nevertheless we still had plenty of time to lap the park.
Later that week, we were given our staff passes (and all the discounts that came with it) and started to do some lesson shadowing. Watching actual clients and lessons provided really valuable experience, as although we had learnt the common mistakes and issues with clients during the Peak Leaders course. It was a new experience seeing paying clients making mistakes compared to our course mates faking bad technique. It was also good to also see how real lesson’s ‘flow’ and to see the typical routes that guides can take clients, who are a bit above the basic ‘101’ beginners lesson program, down. We were also given the chance to shadow the sales department in the Guest Relations building to improve our sales technique. After all that shading our first week after the course ended with getting some free staff kit from Tom Radke. We have to wear this kit while teaching and guiding, which has made most of us begin to feel pretty ‘pro’.
Once kitted-out we began shadowing as many sessions as possible to gain valuable ‘lesson’ experience so that we could start working and earning money! Often this meant getting down to the lifts early in the morning and hanging around for the whole day, sometimes just to watch one lesson in the afternoon. As the weather was nice none of us could really complain! With this experience we all began to get our own lessons. The weekend that followed turned-out to be one of the busiest of the season with nearly every new guide getting their own lesson! I was stoked to get my first ‘101’, and the group I was teaching seemed to really enjoy it, I left equally stoked! At the start of the course it was hard to imagine the job after, but Mike and the other coaches did a really good job getting us to feel comfortable teaching a group.
The following week kicked-off with some staff training; familiarising ourselves with radio protocols, what happens if we get injured, and the rules of being an employee in Whistler Blackcomb. Although a bit tedious it was all really important stuff, and made more bearable by a free breakfast (thanks again Tom). After that there was yet more waiting around looking for work, not helped by poor weather with a few days of solid ‘UK-esque’ rainfall. Some of us took this as an opportunity to have a few rest days away from the bike, as we’d been riding nearly every day solidly for over 4 weeks. Nevertheless, resting didn’t stop us from taking some trips down to the air dome for the guys to work on their backflips and 360s.
After a couple of days resting we were all itching to get back on our bikes, and luckily it coincided with the opening of the Garbonzo zone, the upper mountain chairlift and its trails. We jumped at the chance to do some ‘trail orientation’ given the lack of tours going out. It’s fair to say that the length of these trails, and the fun we could have, blew us ‘new comers’ away! Following a slow Saturday in terms of business, in part due to the Tough Mudder event in Pemberton, Sunday the sun was out and there was lots of business. I took a half-day lesson in the afternoon guiding two little kids from Washington (7 and 9 years old), I had a great time teaching these young shredders! Seeing them both enjoy riding so much made it a really satisfying lesson to teach, and is one of the really rewarding experiences you get working as a Whistler Bike Park guide. A great days riding and teaching to finish off another week, bring on next week!