Want to be a Bike Park instructor?

Apr 28, 2011 at 0:06
by Lee Lau  
Introduction

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.

High speed cornering distracting peak hikers.

Views: 9,200    Faves: 35    Comments: 4



Instructors to instructors

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!)

Mike Johnstone and students (he's second from right surrounded by Brits


What is taught in the course?

What is it?

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."

Alpine is waiting. Picture by Mike C


Where and when is it held?

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 - 29

Level 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.
More classroom shots.


What certification do you get?


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.


Riding steep rock rolls instruction.


What are the course requirements?

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.

Focusing on the trail and not the scenery is part of what the student learns.

Course requirements (cont'd)

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

Alpine singletrack in Harmony

Course requirements (cont'd)

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.

Dropping down to Babylon

Course requirements (cont'd)

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.

Ladder bridge to rock to roll practice.


How to make a living doing this?

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.


High speed cornering practice

Making a living (cont'd)

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

Views: 5,698    Faves: 10    Comments: 1



85 Comments

  • 18 0
 Getting to ride everyday as part of your job completely overshadows the fact that you aren't getting payed millions. I could easily get payed stuff all to do the thing I love most as a living.
  • 13 0
 SWEET! Im the guy in the blue criminal t-shirt riding a glory! that was some trip
  • 1 0
 wow thats nice man! seems like a veeery long descent! how long was it? cheers!
  • 1 0
 its about a 45 minute ride i would say. 1:30 hours if you include the flat or hiking bits though
  • 3 0
 so stoked that im on pinkbikes home page Big Grin
  • 2 1
 Thanks for being such willing photo subjects guys!
  • 5 0
 haha remember that ride we did off the peak racing the lighting, then getting trapped coming down in the cloud as lighting is flashing around us. I will NEVER forget that ride, so much fun! Except for the hail as we approached the base, thank god for full face helmets for that part lol.
  • 5 2
 cool story bro
  • 2 0
 Is whistler open already?
  • 1 0
 dirtmanwhistler mann that was the most amazing day of my life! never will anything top that we had the hole bike park to ourselves!!! and it was such heavy rain!!! Big Grin best day ever!!!

No problem Lee ohh im gunna be in capilano in september so we should go for a ride sometime!!!
  • 2 0
 it opens on the 20th to public. that video definitely isn't from this season, seeing as theres still tons of snow on the mountain.
  • 1 0
 fuck thinking and working for a job that i can do for many a year, i'm defiantly gonna be an instructor!
  • 1 0
 yh that storm day was without a doubt the best ride ive ever had and unless i win the world championship it wont be topped.
  • 4 0
 Interesting. Point of Interest, none of the pictures or Video is from An IDP course. They are all from Peak leaders. You will not be doing your IDP lvl 1 or 2 in the Peak area. Also doing lessons/Guding on the Peak requires 2-3 Shadowed sessions where you follow Mike Or Tom, usually Mike. Then they have to Clear you for Peak sessions. Last, the only people who do sessions down Khybers or Bikes by Babylon is Mike and Tom. Other than that, show up everyday regardless of if your scheduled until Tom tells you to go home.
  • 1 0
 When was the peak open to public? looking at my BP trail map it only goes as high as the roundhouse.
  • 1 0
 It's not open to the public, it is only for use by High lvl Guides with Clients , Peak leaders, Special occasions( IE Media shoot, Sponsor event, Industry Individuals) and WB staff on training sessions.
  • 1 1
 You might see the peak open to the public without patrol/instructor escort for 2011.

Buy an extra lift pass for the peak chair and up you go!
Stupid ideal imo as its a recipe for disaster and Khybers and RDS will get destroyed and WB will have to extract people!

Not that it matters though as the peak wont eb rideable before he park has closed at this rate Wink
  • 4 0
 Guys/girls

This is the BEST job I have EVER had and will probably will ever have, getting paid to ride bikes kicks ass. But a warning to you, living in Whistler is pretty expensive so if you do want to come out.... make sure to save a few grand that you won't blow on parties or bike gear. Guide work is touch and go, some days and weeks are rocking busy, other days and weeks its a ghost town (so you can ride those days).

If you are coming to whistler for a visit and think you might want to do bike park instructor/guiding, look up Tom or Mike or just ask any guide to point you in the right direction to them. (Tom is a bit of a ghost at times....you see him, then he is gone milla-seconds later).

One of the best parts about this job, when people ask you what you do for a living..... "I teach mountain biking", I have had so many people say they wish they lived our lifestyle out here when they are stuck in an office.
  • 3 0
 all i want to do is teach thats why i took the course last year with mike!! i dont care about the pay its the lifestyle and man is whistler just the best (and i mean BEST) place in the world!!! i will do anything to teach and it has been my ambition since i was like 9 haha!
  • 1 0
 How much expensive is the live cost in whistler?
  • 1 0
 I dont live there but from the 7 weeks i was there it was super exspensive and the amount of parts i went through was insane! went through 9 derailluers and had my wheels trued like 6 times ohh and snapped the bolt holding my brake leaver on and took out like 10 spokes when my derailleur snapped into the spokes haha! foods exspensive too!
  • 1 0
 yaouch, my intend stay for 8 mouth, I need a good job or i will bankrupt!!!
  • 3 1
 I'm right at the other end of the spectrum compared to whistler, I do a little guiding (throw in my meagre tuition skills for free) in the Forest of Dean uk for young uns. Best I can earn is £120 for a full day but it's so rewarding I really don't care
  • 2 0
 Apologies for the late response. I was surprised by the level of interest and had meant to cover the IDP instructor development program at a very high level so skipped out on some detail. Here is more detail to answer the questions raised (info is from various people in bike park operations and Mike. Again thanks to Nelson and BikeNation for fielding some of the questions:

Pay: Yes there is a probation rate for the first $40 hours, which can be 3 weeks for some, and then it goes up depending on their points. Points are based on courses taken, previous experience both here and abroad, other teaching qualifications, and First Aid training. Points can put the pay between $11 - $19 per hour. A work day is from 2 – 8 hours. Anyone with their Level 2 should have enough experience and points to put them in the middle of the pay structure. Guides do get paid more for certain types of lessons but that is something they would learn once working, as this would not be a concern for most rookies.

First Aid: First Aid is not included because it needs to be WorkSafe BC OFA recognized and that would add another day and more money. Plus we found that many people already had their First Aid from other jobs or activities.

Staff Accommodation: Here is contact info to get more information: www.whistlerblackcomb.com/employment/contact/index.htm

Other Level 2 courses: Confirmed that WB recognizes other Level 1 courses, but at this time WBP only allows IDP Level 2 instructors to teach jumping, drops and Black trails on Whistler Mountain so you must take some module of the IDP Level 2. If someone has another Level 1 or 2 course from another area that is taken consideration on a case-by-case basis. (as not all courses cover the same material or are even DH specific).


Hope the article and the followups have helped
  • 4 0
 lol I'm not sure about the song in the 2nd video. pretty freaking weird haha.
  • 1 0
 Is this talking exclusively about being an instructor for Whistler Bike Parks own tuition program, or is it talking about all instructors in Whistler irrelevant of who they are employed by? I'm not coming to whistler, just curious
  • 1 0
 whitetux - from the article:

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.

Currently there's no standard certification body
  • 1 1
 "or is it talking about all instructors in Whistler irrelevant of who they are employed by? "

essentially yes, if that employer is a bike park travel partner and have their guests/customers riding in the park hen their guides must have idp1/2

examples of guiding companies in Whistler who's staff must have IDP1/2 are MMR, Bear Back Biking and Endless Biking and T2R

No other companies are contracted to commercially/legally guide or coach in the bike park.
  • 1 0
 i always thought the highest one could go on a bike is round house? how / when is peak accessible to ride because ive only ever bought fall passes but this year im here all summer and want to go ride stuff like kybers! is that only open for instructors and their riders or everybody? if anybody has an answer its much appreciated!
  • 1 0
 superttrinier - it'll be a late opening this season. Probably around 5m + of snow at the peak this year and it snowed more on us on Saturday. There are some trails in the works but it takes a long time to get them up to shape because the riding season up top is so short. Rides to the Peak are accessible for instructors, for guides, for special occasions - like for us to shoot for media
  • 1 0
 B-line wasn't the first trail in the Bike park. There where a lot of other trails like Crabapple, Ho-chi-minh, Fantastic, Crack addict, and Joy Ride to name a few. It was years before B-line was made. B-line was the first machine built trail that was wider than single track with berms though, which spurred on the building of trails like A-line and Dirt Merchant. I don't know why I care if you didn't get that fact right, but I thought I'd mention it.
  • 1 0
 pudding I got that historical nugget from Dave Kelly. Those trails you mentioned were in existence before the bike park came into existence. They were then incorporated into the park. The first trail specifically made for the bike park was B-line hence my reference
  • 1 0
 Sorry, I wasn't aware that they classified the year B-line opened as the official opening of the WBP since it was open for riding years before. I guess I am wrong.
  • 1 0
 No problem! Another nugget. The first year the park was "open" it was run by a contractor - Whistler Backroads I believe. It took off right from day 1 and the next year the bike park was taken over by Whistler/Blackcomb. Before the bike park was officially open guys like Tom Radke guided people down some of the trails that you mentioned but there was no actual park. Back in the days of 3" travel downhill forks and V-brakes
  • 1 0
 The first year I rode the bike park was with a group called STORMBC operated by Chris Colbeck, Dammiann Skelton, and others. We used the Whistler Kids lodge between Olympic station and the top of Fitzsimmons chair as our club house. There was barely anyone up there riding. Far cry from what it's like today, but the trails are better now. I think I had a GT timberline hardtail with RockShox Indy S forks at the time, it was sweet. Oh yeah, and a pass only cost $50 for the summer.
  • 1 0
 There's no better way to spend your life then involvement with cycling, nobody ever forgets how to ride a bike, encouraging riding on any level builds community. Since most cannot do this everybody should make it their goal to help get somebody on to or back on a bike. The more the merrier.
  • 1 0
 I might be missing something, but this does seem really expensive way to make sure you have an adequate teaching technique and to make sure your not a douche bag. Theres not even a first aid course included.
  • 1 0
 Your getting trained to be a teacher and you should already have the first aid training as it is one of the requirements to take the course
  • 4 0
 shit that writing was fucking huge !
  • 3 0
 I need to move to up there. Whistler makes Omaha Nebraska look uber Lame. Loving the BOLD PRINT its so in your face (=
  • 3 0
 i wonder if i could teach ultra low speed endo's...i've got those nailed!!!!!
  • 1 0
 so i went through capilano u and endless biking now how do i get hired to be an instructor? getting hired and who and how it happens wasn't covered
  • 1 0
 Troyburgundy, sorry if that wasn't clear. If you've got your Level 1 you can take the Whistler Level 2. If you've got your Level 2 you have to take a course component to still get approved to work for the bike park as an instructor. I'm not sure what the component is but if there's interest I'll check into it and find out. As for actually getting hired - maybe check with Whistler HR?
  • 1 0
 Regardless of if they have EB or MBO, they still have to do a lvl 1 IDP to be hired as it shows them how we do things in the bike park. there is a special thing that happens tho, which i can't mention opening if you have MBO or EB. Plus i already Msg'ed troyburgundy about this Smile
  • 1 0
 nelson - i got the info from Mike so I'll check. It might be that I wrote down the wrong info and if I did I'll edit the article. There's lots of questions here - more interest in the instructors course than I thought. Thx for helping field some of the questions! Yah I took a lot of alpine pictures and video but there's already so much coverage about "regular" sub-alpine bike park teaching that I thought it'd be good to mix it up.
  • 1 0
 No, your article is very good and informative. I did enjoy reading it Smile also i was more than happy to answer what i could when i saw something i had an answer to. The pictures are great as well, but i didn't want a new or aspiring instructors showing up and being let down when they get taken up to the skills center at Olympic(mid village gondola station) for IDP lvl 1 or Down A-line and DM for IDP lvl 2, but not to the Peak or high alpine. I'm sure mike gave you the right information as Peak leaders (the guys in the pictures) Get taught both IDP 1 and 2. But just standered IDP 1 and IDP 2 do not get to ride the Peak in their courses.
  • 1 0
 Interesting article.
Whats the going rate for a guided/intructor ride in Whistler for someone comfortable on Blue runs (I´m saving for a trip over there..)?
  • 1 0
 are there gondolas to the top? or chairlifts only??
never been to Whistler bike park yet
  • 1 0
 there are both
  • 1 0
 thanks
  • 2 0
 That looks like an amazing place to ride. (obviously)
  • 1 0
 You pay so much money on courses and only get $11/hr for a Level 1? Man, cruel world.
  • 1 0
 thats the base/Probation rate, once you hit 40 hours your pay typically goes up.
  • 1 0
 Oh I gotcha. That'd be such a fun job
  • 4 0
 Having been one of the guides earning minimum last year I can honestly say I earned enough that it was worth while. There are other benefits to the job that I wont get in to but the big one is riding 10 hours a day 7 days a week all season and meeting some incredible people, to this day my best friends in whistler have all been guys and girls I met through guiding, it really is a dream.
  • 1 0
 Yup, the people you meet in this job are some of the coolest people to ride with. Me and Bikenation along with a few of the other guys have had some really fun rides and a little different Razz You made more than base rate after your Probation too, right Bikenation? plus another thing that isn't mentioned is you get a little extra pay for Private request Lessons. If anyone has any questions about guiding/Instructing for the Mountain, that aren't answered in this article, feel free to Msg myself. I will try to answer to the best of my knowledge.
  • 1 0
 Just curious, do you have to find your own place to stay or is there lodging for instructors?
  • 1 0
 there is Staff accommodations, but they fill up quick, so yea usually you need to work out your own place. But if you go on the WB site and look under employment, there should be a link that tells you about Staff accom and who to contact.
  • 1 0
 Thanks a lot, deffinately would consider this as a job after getting some post secondary education.
  • 2 0
 Once you've done the courses, is it easy to get a job?
  • 1 0
 Depends how well in the course you do and how much you impress mike and Tom. I am sure if you are really interested there are ways to get you learning sooner than later. Your still in school aren't you stainer ?
  • 1 0
 I'm done in June, but I need to get a little better before I consider becoming a guide..
  • 2 0
 I was gonna say work out some form of work study through your school to come shadow the guides.
  • 1 0
 That would be sweet!!! pity about graduating....
  • 1 0
 I'm sure you can figure something out
  • 1 0
 interesting article, i was pondering how to go about doing this a couple of weeks ago
  • 2 0
 HELL YEAH Big Grin thats me on the session Big Grin Big Grin im so happpyy!!!
  • 1 0
 So, if I were to come up to Whis from California and take all 3 courses, could I get a job this summer?
  • 1 0
 As long as you are legally able to work in Canada it's quite possible - but that's another topic entirely!
  • 1 0
 That is so weak…..your supposed to RIDE UP before being rewarded with that juicey singletrack.
  • 1 0
 haters gonna hate.
  • 1 0
 I just want ride this alpine trails!!! no matter if don't recive the certificate in the end of the course
  • 2 1
 Good read and videos! Love my instructing job! (at EB none the less =D)
  • 2 1
 for me could be very good summer job jejejej
  • 1 0
 Would be a dream come true
  • 1 0
 is khyber pass a fairly easy to find trail?
  • 1 0
 no its kinda hard but unless your with a high up guide you have to walk for like4 hours to get to it or with a guide you can just get the tourist lift up.
  • 1 0
 Makes it seem like it's a life of guiding in the alpine. Wat eva.
  • 1 0
 Nice Recognizing the MBO! Good to see.
  • 1 0
 MBO grads are everywhere Wink
  • 1 0
 MBO is a good program with industry-recognized quality grads and look for an article on the course some time in the future
  • 1 0
 I've been finding that a lot of bikeparks aren't recognizing our teaching and guiding experience at all, however being a young program with constant changes it'll be exciting to see what happens in the coming years for sure.
  • 1 0
 Whistler does. as for the others, they really don't have a foot to stand on, there is no standard set and there is no certification, so they can really say anything about what they recognize and what they don't. Be like us saying we don't recognize them as a bike park cause there is no Certification for what a bike park is.
  • 1 0
 Totally but there will be as things grow I know that the vast majority of the mountain bike community away from BC doesn't even know that people are getting trained but as things grow i am sure we will see great things happen.
  • 1 0
 Just give me a bike, food, beers and i work for free!





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