The brand manager of a major bike component company recently told me, “What every mountain biker guy wants is a girl who rides.” Which is probably true. Pursuing the trails you love with the one you love really is a dream materialized into reality and pedaling right there along beside you.
But—that’s not why we were here.
“We” were 65 gals donned in armor and full face helmets or Spandex and XC lids ready to get our schralp on. And “here” was Whistler Mountain Bike Park (and the valley) - the perfect training grounds for freeride, downhill and cross country progression. We were attending a session of The Dirt Series — the renowned traveling women’s mountain bike skills camp, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Whole story inside
,Pause for a moment and reflect: That’s 10 years of teaching women all over Western Canada and the U.S. the fundamental skills and technique for shredding all types of terrain on a burly squishy bike. It’s impressive that a women’s mtb camp claims such legacy and growing success given that the sport as we know it was just figuring itself out a decade ago.
The year The Dirt Series sprouted, it catered to a mere 100 skill-hungry mtb gals attending a few Whistler-based sessions. The program was created to encourage women’s participation in the sport. It’s more than achieved that goal.
Today, the camp boasts 16 annual stops throughout B.C., Alberta, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Colorado. Nearly 6,000 lady riders - from beginners to advanced - claim more confidence on a big bike and more stoke out there on the trails thanks to The Dirt Series.
This year Trek jumped on board as title sponsor and the camp is charging toward its second decade of learning the ladies on handling, style and even bike maintenance. Still, you should know, this is hardly the softer side of mountain biking.
The Dirt Series’ success lies in a camp agenda that’s dialed. The two-day weekend sessions consist of morning skills clinics and afternoon trail riding. The coaches - who are all infused electric personalities - represent some of the sport’s finest female rippers. And they’re stoked to drop some detailed knowledge about movement technique and on-bike thought-processes for taking control of your riding in any type of the terrain.
Our Whistler session proved both challenging and rewarding. Whether we wanted to learn dirt jumping, descending, skinnies or climbing we received individual attention to dial in those proficiencies. Some ladies had never felt the squishy sensation of full-suspension before. (Consider that addict born.) For many camps, the coaches haul in their own structures and stunts - logs, drops, skinnies, ladders - to teach with.
If you come lacking the proper gear (protection, hydration packs…a bike, maybe?), no worries, rentals abound. The Dirt Series sponsor list reads like an mtb army. Race Face is on board with ladies-specific armor; Bell’s got your brainbuckets and Dakine, your hydration packs. And then of course there’s Trek’s burly 8-inch beasts corralled and waiting to be taken out and let loose on those trails.
But backing like that for The Dirt Series isn’t a surprise. Candace Shadley, The Dirt Series founder and director explains: “It seems that there are always more women wanting to get into mountain biking, and always more shops, more resorts, and more towns wanting to give those women what they want,” she says. “Every year we get requests for more camps, so we'll keep working with those, and doing everything we can to keep running a super pro program.”
It is a good time to be a woman mountain biker. And the reality is that the female riding community is huge. Much larger than most of us in Whistler realized - until we were standing among ourselves, storm trooper-to-storm trooper, pony tails draping down our backs. What we did know was that we were all in it to win it, to shred some gnar - the rocky sections, the steep roll-downs, garnering our first feet of fresh air under the tires. And we were stoked when our new friends triumphed, too. The smack of high-fives echoed through the alpine peaks and down through the cloud-blanketed valley. Even in the misty mornings our smiles shone brightly. Over the course of the weekend, our muscles grew weary but our confidence grew hardy.
Toward the end of camp, I approached Courtney Nash, one of our inspiring instructors and a trail builder in her hometown of Bellingham, Wash. I asked her what she observes in us campers throughout the session, from her side of the teaching model.
“Progession and transformation,” she responded quickly. Then with a wry smile, she added: “Exultation.”
Yeah...she gets why we’re here.
To attend The Trek Dirt Series yourself visit www.DirtSeries.com
for the more details, photos and registration. Pst - guys, there are a few co-ed camps, too.By Adrienne Schofhauser