As May rolls around in Western Canada thoughts turn to biking. For many people in Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor the Whistler Bike Parks' opening is synonymous with the start of a busy riding season. This year the Whistler Bike Park
is slated to open on May 20th
Many Pinkbike readers won't need instruction. But some of you have asked on the boards how to become an instructor. The purpose of this article is to explain how one the WBP's Instructor Development Program
(IDP) can aid you in obtaining gainful employment in the world's premier bike park or other bike parks around the world.
Instructors to instructors
High speed cornering distracting peak hikers.
The instructor's course is brought to you by Terramethod
. Terramethod is a partnership of Mike Johnstone and Tom Radke. Both have lots of experience. Tom started guiding on the mountain before there was a bike park way back in the early 90s. Mike worked in the WBP since its inception in 1999 (B-Line was the first trail!)
What is taught in the course?What is it?
Mike Johnstone and students (he's second from right surrounded by Brits
The IDP program' was initially established to standardize internal training for WBP instructors. The course's popularity has resulted in Tom and Mike being also asked to teach others (hence Terramethod). In considering whether to take the course, it's important to note that unlike many other camps (eg the Camp of Champions
), this course is NOT necessarily designed to let you get more rad, but to teach you how to teach and assess you on how you can impart knowledge to others. Indeed from the WBP page on instruction
: "These programs are designed for riders and guides who would like to develop and improve their teaching skills and tactics in a mountain bike park."
Where and when is it held?
Alpine is waiting. Picture by Mike C
Classroom and outdoors instruction is the WBP, rain or shine. From the WBP Instructor Development Program (IDP) site; the schedule is as follows:Level 1
: May 27 - 29; June 27 - 29Level 2
: May 30 - Jun 2; July 2,3,9,10 (split course); Sept 6 - 9
Mike in the classroom
Details are further presented on the WBP instruction page, but here is a summary:
- Level 1 is a 3 day course of which there are 2 days of instruction & practice (classroom and outside with the majority of time being spent outside). The remaining day is assessment ie giving a lesson and guiding. The emphasis is on coaching basic entry level fundamental skills that involve staying on the ground.
- Level 2 is a 4 day course that builds on Level 1 and is targeted (obviously) at teaching higher level skills. These skills involve air-time and higher speed; the best way to think of it is in terms of teaching someone comfortable on B-line to move up to A-Line or Freight Train. As with Level 1 the last day is assessment, but 3 days of "classroom" time gives you more opportunity to work on skills such as jumping (physics, theory, lesson plan to safely teach jumping); high-speed cornering and drops.BE WARNED
that not everyone passes. Mike and Tom are fair, but demanding teachers. Having said that, most students are motivated and it isn't too tough to get stoked about the subject matter.
This student doesn't want to pay attention and might not pass.
What certification do you get?
More classroom shots.
There is no governing body for mountain bike instruction. So there is no recognized standardized certification. Of course, you are taking an instructional course from a fairly well known bike park, but there is no guarantee that the IDP Level 1 and 2 courses are transferable to other locations.
Conversely, note that you must have your Level 1 course before taking a Level 2 course. WBP does not accept Level 2 courses taught by anyone other than its internal IDP program instructors (with the exception of the Endless Biking program where WBP does require EB instructors to take an additional component). WBP does accept Level 1 courses where the emphasis is on safe instructional method. This includes courses taught by other well-known schools including, for example the Capilano University MTB Operations program
and the Endless Biking instructor courses
What are the course requirements?
Riding steep rock rolls instruction.
An obvious requirement is the course fee. Fees are subject to change, but are currently as follows; IDP level 1 - $ 266 and if you need a bike park ticket $ 366; IDP level 2 - $ 324 or $ 458 if you need tickets.
Another requirement is for the student to have a first aid ticket. The minimum requirement is for a student to have taken an 8 hour first aid course. The standard St Johns first aid course or OFA Level 1 course fits this bill. Those with higher first aid qualifications get a bit more pay.
Course requirements (cont'd)
Focusing on the trail and not the scenery is part of what the student learns.
Students have to be competent riders. Although the emphasis is on teaching, it would naturally be hard to demonstrate skills without having some level of competency. Accordingly the quoted rider skill entry requirements to take the IDP program courses are usually the least of a student's worries. Having said that, Level 1 course can be taken by anyone who is at least a solid intermediate rider ie can do blue runs with confidence. Level 2 students tend to be much more comfortable, experienced and solid foundationally on their bikes
Course requirements (cont'd)
Alpine singletrack in Harmony
Students must be at least the age of consent in BC (19 years old). They must have their own accommodation. If you want to work with children you must undergo a criminal records check.
Course requirements (cont'd)
Dropping down to Babylon
Last but not least, students must have their own bike and know how to maintain it! Requirements are stricter for Level 2 than for Level 1. Level 1 students must know basic bike maintenance, must have a bike-park worth bike and wear at least a half helmet, gloves, knee and elbows and have a basic repair kit which they know how to use. Level 2 students must have somewhat higher bike maintenance skills, must use a full-face helmet, eyewear, knees/elbows and gloves.
How to make a living doing this?
Ladder bridge to rock to roll practice.
I've left the most important thing for last. You won't make Billions doing this, but you might have some fun. Approximate pay is $ 11/hour for Level 1 instructors and high teens for Level 2s. Instructors get tips though and those are hard to quantify. The more experience you have the more you get paid. First aid also bumps you up the pay scale.
Rookie instructors usually start by shadowing other instructors. Level 1 instructors tend to start out by taking beginner-level students out on green and blue trails. These students are taught on-the-ground fundamental skills. You may get never-evers!
Level 2 instructors usually have some experience and (obviously) take higher-level students out to more difficult trails. Level 2 instructors also take students out to alpine trails, where most of the photos and videos in this article were shot.
Making a living (cont'd)
High speed cornering practice
Work is variable according to bike park traffic. The park tends to be very busy in July and August. May and September are slow months, but as with most things in life, fortune favors the bold. By this I mean that instructors who have social skills and can sell themselves are usually very busy.
The vast majority of instructors get their students in the rental shops. Rental packages are priced to encourage students to get coaching. WBP has encouraged this in an effort to enhance the user experience of the WBP particularly for beginner/intermediate riders. Instructors are encouraged to hang out at the rental shops. Coaching is bundled into the rental package so that the additional incremental outlay is small (eg coaching might be $ 5 - $ 10 more on top of the cost of an all inclusive bike, armour and lift-ticket rental). At that price, its no wonder that a busy bike park means busy instructors.
The primary target market for instruction/coaching are first-timers, beginners and/or renters However, other bike park programs, such as women's programs, coaching/skill clinics, private lessons and private guiding also does generate significant work for instructors; but these opportunities usually go to the more experienced instructors.
More high speed cornering, but in lush singletrack practice - picture by Mike C