Want to Teach Mountain Biking in Whistler?

Mar 20, 2014 at 10:20
by Peak Leaders  
Fancy working at one of the best bike parks in the world this summer? Then get yourself onto our Whistler Bike Park Instructor Academy that runs in May over three weeks and start your career in the Mountain Bike industry! Here is a little guide on what to expect from the course, and some advice on what kit to take and admin you need to do to secure your job.

Sending it after a hard days work
Want to start teaching people how to shred and get paid for it?

This course will equip you with all the skills you need to teach not only the basics to beginners, but also jumps and drops to intermediate and advanced riders. It is coached by some of the best coaches in the industry, guys who have been teaching in the bike park from day one, the perfect people to learn from. Not only do you get this expertise, but this course is also the priority hiring course providing the majority of new guides for the mountain!

(If you are planning to stay on to work for Whistler Blackcomb, your job for the season will be dependent on you passing the course and having a short interview with the head supervisor of the Bike Park. Because of this we can’t 'guarantee' a position but as long as you have what it takes you will be offered a job).

Check out this short video edit of our 2013 Hiring Camp:

Views: 8,984    Faves: 28    Comments: 1

What level should your riding be at before you begin the course?

Whilst it is important that you have a decent riding ability, you don’t have to be the next Danny Hart or Sam Hill before the course. Ideally, you should be comfortable at riding at minimum blue and red grade DH trails in the UK, as well as hitting medium sized jumps and drops. Although there is opportunity to develop your own riding during the 3 weeks, this is mainly focused on fine-tuning your demonstrations of skills and manouveres that you will teach to clients.

If you feel like you want to develop your riding as well as earn qualifications and a potential job at Whistler Bike Park, check out our longer rider development and hiring camp that starts later in the summer. (www.peakleaders.com/course/whistler-mountain-bike-coaches-camp)

Peak Leaders Crew 2012

What equipment do you need?

A full suspension downhill or freeride type bike would be ideal, or an all mountain bike with 150mm+ travel. You’ll rack up A LOT of laps in the park during your time on the course and the rest of the season, and you will be able to enjoy it a lot more on bigger bike with more suspension! Not only will it give you more confidence riding on the big features of the trails and new terrain, but your clients will also be using these types of bikes so it will benefit with your explanations during teaching.

A full face helmet, along with elbow and knee pads are the minimum requirement for safety (riding every day takes it's toll!). A decent rain coat to keep you dry (it can be quite wet in Whistler in May) is also a great shout, as well as a few spare shorts and jerseys. A medium sized riding pack is also useful to have, since you will want to carry some spares while out riding, and it's even better if it comes with a water bladder for those scorching summer days on the hill.

What training and qualifications do you acquire on this course?

The 3-week course centres on the ‘Instructor Development Programme’ levels 1 and 2, that gives you everything you need to become a strong and confident guide. This is a qualification that is geared towards Bike Park and gravity-fed skills and guiding, although some of the content covered does cross over to the cross-country and trail riding disciplines (guiding and basic riding skills). This means you can guide outside of the park and broaden your horizons!

The IDP level 1 covers material that allows you to instruct beginners in the fundamental skills of downhill mountain bike riding, such as: body positioning, basic cornering and bike handling skills (steering and braking). Additionally, it provides you with the elements needed for a good lesson, such as: client safety, risk management/ emergency planning, guiding on trails, lesson planning, teaching and learning styles as well as all the theory behind all the technique you cover.

Whistler s top coach Mike Johnstone giving the trainees the lowdown
Covering some theory (don’t worry, you don’t have to have a degree in physics for this bit!)

Level 2 covers skills for more advanced riders, and allows you to teach intermediate and advanced riders the progressions and maneuver breakdowns on jumps, drops and high speed cornering. It also concentrates on more high-level skills like tactics (line choice), mental focus and pressure control (pumping).

Whistler in May

There is also a weekend course providing you with a First Aid qualification, which is compulsory for working in the park (if you have a First Aid qualification already check before you head out as it may be valid for working). This 2 day course over a weekend provides you with all the basic First Aid knowledge that you are required to know, and is internationally recognised.

Which other Bike Park's recognise the IDP level 1 & 2?
Currently Whistler Bike Park is the only resort that recognises the IDP level 1 and 2. However, as the course leader (Mike Johnstone) has been teaching in a number of parks across North America, it shouldn't be too long until it is recognised at other resorts as well. If you want to instruct and guide in Europe then our 'Coaches Camp' in August is more suitable as it includes the CTC qualification which is recognised across Europe.

Who is training is delivered by?

Your course leader will be Mike Johnstone, an immensely experienced rider and guide who has been working in mountain bike coaching since Whistler Bike Park started. One of the first few professionals in mountain biking, Mike previously raced at a very high level before putting his focus on guiding and teaching.

He (literally) wrote the book on bike park instruction and guiding, and has been around a number of other parks in both the USA and Canada teaching instructors. This really shows in his teaching, and he gives hints and tips to making a good lesson great, and keeping your clients safe.

There are two other guides that assist with the teaching, Duncan Mainland and Javi Munoz, who both have extensive experience not just coaching in the bike park, buts also as ski and snowboard instructors.

The three of them together really provide a well run course, and their collective experience is an invaluable asset in helping you to become a strong and confident bike guide.

Mike Johnstone the course leader transferring his wisdom
The immensely experience Mike Johnstone

Mike Johnstone the course instructor showing the hot lines
...with plenty of steeze to match

How can you work in Canada? What VISA do I need?

As a non-Canadian resident, you’ll need to apply for a work VISA in order to be employed over the summer. The Canadian government runs a program called ‘International Experience Canada’, which is the best way to get a VISA. Available to those between 18-35 (although it does vary between countries), it allows you to work for up to one year in Canada. Currently, if you are from the UK you can only apply for two IEC initiatives.

For a more info relating to your specific country, check out

If you applying from the UK, usually there are around 5,000 places, and you complete your application in a two-stage process.

For the first stage you need to secure a 'Kompass Account'. This only concerns your basic information and checks your eligibility for the IEC program. These are released online in three ‘rounds’ (of around 1,300 visa’s each) and it is best to keep checking the website from the December before you want to do the course to find out when these are. It is really important you find out when these release dates are as it is the only time you can apply for the program!

Once you have completed and been accepted by the first stage, you then create an account and finish your application on the Canadian government website. For this you need a few more documents, including a copy of your passport, your CV and a police check from the UK Association of Police Offices (around £50). Then once you have all these you submit your application (costs $150 CAD). After that you should hear back within a month whether your application has been successful and get your VISA to enter Canada!

For more info on applying from the UK, a guide and FAQs on the process, head over to www.canadainternational.gc.ca/united_kingdom-royaume_uni/experience_canada_experience/index.aspx

What’s it like working for Whistler Blackcomb over the summer? What is the Pay like?

If you have no prior guiding experience before you complete the hiring camp, the pay rate is usually around $14 per hour. If you have worked guiding people before (such as through the CTC program in the UK) then you may get a little bit more. This is pretty reasonable, and if you work hard you can live comfortably in Whistler over the summer.

Where can you stay?
In terms of accommodation, your best bet is to stay in the Whistler Blackcomb Staff blocks a short ride down to the village. If you land a job once the course has finished, you can enjoy a sweet employee discount on rent (the staff rate is around $180 for 2 weeks, or $220 for the public). If you have a large group and want to stay a bit closer to the village then you can look into getting a private place, but this is normally more expensive and can be hard to find if you try and sort it mid season.

How much free riding time do you get?
There is plenty of time to ride outside of work, and although it can get busy during July and August (peak of the season), the lifts are open until 7.30/8pm during these months so you have time to smash laps after work! Nice to ride at this time as well since it is usually not so hot.

Business is usually a little slower during Crankworx since so many people want to spectate all the events and check out the trade stall, which allows you to do the same! Great time to check out what tricks are being thrown down on the slopestyle course, checking out the latest bikes on display at the trade stands or enjoying free samples of clif bars and coca cola being handed out!

What is the deal if you wanted to work at Whistler the following summer? Can you get a Sponsored VISA?

Unfortunately, Whistler Blackcomb cannot sponsor VISA applications for bike park employees (unlike for the ski side of things), however, there it no problem with reapplying for an IEC VISA the next year or two after your first season and then apply to Whistler Blackcomb as returning staff (just keep an eye on the job section of the Whistler Blackcomb website).

If you aren’t from the UK and your second IEC visa depends on having an offer of employment, have no fear, just mention this to the employee office and they might be able to sort you out with a letter for your application for the next season.

What is the accommodation set up in Whistler for the course?

We have partnered up with Bear Back Biking for your accommodation during the course. These guys know how to look after mountain bikers, providing a home to some of the Scott sports sponsored athletes during Crankworx and Polygon pre-season testers. Their chalet has a killer bike workshop housed in the basement, a patio equipped with BBQ and hot tub and en suite rooms, all located only a 10 minute ride from the lifts. They also provide breakfast and dinner to keep you fueled throughout the course (as well as afternoon cake for when you get in after a hard days riding), and the food is top quality.

Bear Back Biking at Chalet Alta Vista
Bear Back biking's Alta Vista Chalet

images for Peak Leaders Coaches Camp
The workshop is prime! (More bike storage on stage right)

So come join us in the summer! For further information on the course, head over to our website www.peakleaders.com/course/whistler-coaches-hiring-camp


  • + 51
 Gotta love the bike industry, hey wanna pay 5000$ to maybe get a job thats a few $ more than minimum wage? What's that you flew here with your bike as well? didn't get the job? shoot!

The argument that you're getting paid to ride doesn't hold much validity either, you're getting paid to follow rental riders down easy does it and fix their flats, you're essentially a sherpa of the bike park, except for the fact that you need a 5000$ rig which you buy and maintain to do your job.

for christ sakes the course costs more than tuition for a semester at university!

Dear internationals that want to experience Whistler for a season, come here and get a serving job. You'll meet more people, make more money, it won't cost you 5000$ to maybe get hired, you work at night so you can shred all day. And perhaps most importantly your bike won't get thundered, and you won't go through a million sets of minions following fat people and small children down crank it up.
  • - 3
 Just a question but what University is only 5000 dollars a semester?
  • + 1
 My university, Idaho State University is about 3500.00 a semester, and as a graduate student I pay an extra 565.00. People here complain about the tuition going up a hundred or two dollars a semester when they don't realize that most universities can charge double or triple or more than that for a single semester.
  • + 4
 @g-off7 Actually, they are a bit more than a sherpa. Having been guided by 2 over there, one of which was Duncan himself, even though we were not bad riders, they were smashing the whole time and showing us how to do the same, down the medium to full on stuff. Sure they will get noobs, and have to show them elementary aspects, but they will also get gun, gunner, gunnest riders and take them to the next level also. Smile
  • + 3
 I guarantee you that your experience is far from the norm. I guided in Vancouver for 4 summers, and 95% it was pretty elementary stuff and slow runs down blue trails. Don't get me wrong it's still riding and you still have fun, but there is a very large difference between riding for you, and riding for someone else.

also almost all Canadian schools are under 5000$, provided you're a Canadian citizen.
  • + 9
 Even professional degrees in Canada are cheaper than a basic undergrad degree in America. I think an MBA is still like 22K a year and medical school is max 15k a year whereas I think non-state schools in the states can be 50K a year tuition for undergrad. Frightening the amount of debt Americans face for even a basic degree, especially considering the overall state of the US economy.
  • + 3
 In the UK all the universities (including Oxford and Cambridge) are capped at £9000 a year. The fact that people in the US are paying $50,000+ is scary.

Also g-off7 I like the idea of being a waitor or bar staff. Got to be better than paying all that money up front and then not even recovering the cost
  • + 1
 you're dreaming if you think MBA programs in Canada are $22k. They start at mid 40 and go up from there (not including books or association fees)
  • + 1
 University in is free in Scotland and Europe for Scottish people. Its so good.
  • + 2
 Anywhere in canada
  • + 1
  • + 2
 OR, I could just ride my bike and offer free tips to people who are interested. costs less and is more fun
  • + 1
 You could but, strictly speaking, one wouldn't really count that as a job.
  • + 1
 my university including housing and a meal plan is around $42,000 a year.
  • + 25
 4813$ CAD. Hopefully I'm reading it wrong, because I'm sorry, but F*** that. I am hoping to work at Whistler this summer and looked into this as a possibility a few months ago. At that point it was a few hundred dollars cheaper. The amount you'd make working for a season would barely cover this course.
  • + 8
 Even with staff housing on the cheap, buying food, medical insurance (non Canada residents) and bike repairs can be very costly!

If you're going out to work for a full season, even if you work full time; take plenty of money with you.
  • + 2
 Yeah i dont see why you would pay that money. I was there for two seasons and earned what I would consider very average money. I kept my bike running quite easily despite being allergic to maintenance. If you actually service your bike yourself you can comfortably get lots of riding without going broke. Plenty of jobs that will enable you to ride at least 2 hours on your work days. And two hours in Whistler is a lot if you spend your time wisely. If i knew then what I know now I'd definitely learn more in a season.
  • + 4
 More like they are promoting training courses than offering jobs.
  • + 1
 Don't forget that if you're looking from Canada, the exchange rate wills screw ya. It was better a few months ago, but has been getting progressively worse for us over the last 12 months. I flew back to the UK recently and was exchanging at 1.87 CAD to 1 GBP Frown
  • + 1
 Being someone who was born in the UK but lives in Canada now, your better off making quite a lot of pounds with the current exchange rate, coming over here getting a job with the Whistler mountain (for the lift pass) and then just biking for a few months. The server route which g-off7 pointed out isn't a bad way to do it either but no pass. Also when you get to Whistler don't be surprised to see stupid rent prices, albeit probably lower than London.
  • + 1
 $5000 thats more than how much i made working for a season in whistler
Might as well save the money and just ride every day
  • + 6
 I'm planning to go out the summer after this one (summer 2015).

I have to say I'm not overly sold on the idea of becoming an instructor. $4300 up front cost and then only $14 an hour. Working a whole summer you might not even recover the cost of the course :/

Unless you have plans to work multiple summers you're much better going out there and getting a job elsewhere in my opinion - unless you can persuade your parents to pay for the course Razz
  • + 2
 One year work visa... What a joke!
  • + 5
 I lived my dream in whislaaa Thanks mike!!! Thanks tom!!! Hope to see u again Mike johnstone is the best bike instructor ever!! You guys should follow his training course!!! Frenchy scooterman!!!!
  • + 4
 I found this course earlier in the year and am totally sold on it! (5 week course). Maybe for you Canadians it does seem like a total rip off but for someone from abroad (me) it seem like the perfect setup to see all of Whistler with a big group of like minded people, ripping on bikes during the days, chilling in a cool house in the hot tub having a bbq in the evenings and just having the perfect summer imo. Im just graduating and don't want to start a carrier yet. I want to enjoy what the world has to offer for a while first and here its all in one big package. Also with the prospect of a job at the end of it or even at various bike parks around the world, I'd say thats a pretty sick way to live for a few years!
  • + 1
 You doing the course? im booked up, just having a look around see who else is on the 5 weeks course. time needs to hurry up!
  • + 7
 14 bucks an hour hahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahaa. Were talking Whi$tler.
  • + 3
 If you rent a place with three other people and cook your own food. You can survive on 14 bucks an hour at Whis. Booze, bling and eating out will cost you huge. Live the dream people.
  • + 7
 $5k for 3 weeks of riding, meals, lodging and instruction. That's not terrible. $14/hr, that's Starbucks money!
  • + 1
 I'll agree it isn't massive! But you do often get decent tips, plenty of discounts on bikes/gear/spares/tubes/tyres/lunch and if you land a private lesson you get paid more. Plus at the end of the day you ride your bike and get paid for it.. Oh and you get a season's lift pass as well (definitely the best part)
  • + 4
 Yeah, in the grand scheme of things $5k isn't too bad for what you get. The downside is that it makes it a no-go for a student looking for a cool summer job
  • - 7
flag peakleaders (Mar 20, 2014 at 11:41) (Below Threshold)
  • + 1
 Yeah man that's the only issue. Being a liftie is a good alternative. Get your lift pass free and the hours are pretty good so you can get plenty of riding in!
  • + 3
 You are better off getting a job at Starbucks... Seriously, if you have this kind of money saved, you are better off applying for the VISA and moving out to BC on your own dime. 5 grand for a 3 week clinic?! Wow! I could make that money last for an entire summer and ride everyday.
  • + 3
 But you wouldn't be a qualified coach at the end of it.
  • + 2
 @Hwulex, correction: you might still be qualified, but you wouldn't be "certified"! Like that makes a difference in the real world....
  • + 2
 If you actually want to get a job coaching biking one day, I'm sure that makes quite a difference! I know a lot of people that are total shredders, incredibly fast, but could never effectively teach somebody else how to ride; "Follow me" and "do what I do" aren't valid coaching techniques. Understanding bike and body movements, why you move how do on your bike, and mostly being able to break a technique down in to digestible replicable steps is important, as is having more than one way of delivering your point as the same thing doesn't work for everybody. Saying the same thing over and over 50 times isn't going to work if the 'student' just isn't getting what you're saying. Being good at something doesn't make you a teacher.
  • + 3
 I think everyone is missing the point, the course isn't just to work one season in the bike park. Do the course once, work as many seasons as you want. In saying that I think I'd rather do the CTC training and have an internationally recognised qualification. Hopefully they can get this course recognised at more park around the world, that would add to the value.
  • + 1
 Yeah he IDP is designed for people that want to work at Whistler, the course focuses more on gravity-fed riding. If you want to work at Whistler you need to gain the IDP qualifications and with it you can work multiple seasons.

If you want to work at different mountains around the world then the CTC is an awesome qualification to have, it is more of an all-round course and focuses on different terrain ad styles of riding. We also run a 5-week course later in the summer which includes the IDP levels 1 & 2 and the CTC, which is more for those riders that want to qualify then go on to teach/guide at other mountains.

  • + 2
 If I was 21 again, I would do this in a heartbeat. Living in the staff quarters might be too rough for me now, at the ripe old age of 32, but as a 21 yr old? It would have been da shit. And I had no financial clue whatsoever so I would have just sold my car and forked over all that cash and then bummed dinners and beers off dudes all summer. Bad ass.
  • + 2
 Not necessarily too late, I did this course in its inaugural year in 2009 and then came back in 2010 at age 29 to work as a coach, moving in to staff housing for the summer. Four years later I'm still here, though I moved out of staff after that first summer and winter. Staff is a lot more empty and chilled in summer, and not quite the raucous party-town it is in winter. I jacked in a good job, sold all my crap and moved from the UK and am now a permanent resident and looking to buy property here in the next year or so.
  • + 1
 Wow, that sounds awesome! It makes sense that the summers would be more chilled, I only have minimal experience with the summer bar scene, but yes, it was not nearly as wild as I am sure it probably gets in the winter? I hail from a resort town (Lake Tahoe) and the mountain bike park scene at North Star is definitely way more lo-key then most of the ski season. Congrats on your success, very jealous... after spending 6 years in grad school, I don't think I can abandon my current career BUT it sure is tempting! Good luck on the house hunt! Let me know if you need anyone to help break in the guest-sleeping accommodations Smile
  • + 1
 Depends on your field too. I'm lucky in that I studied Computer Science so am pretty mobile when it comes to finding new work, either local or just freelancing online. After 2.5 years here I secured a job in the mountain IT dept which, whilst is never going to match city wages or potential, I do get to have a 'proper' job that pays well enough and still live in the mountains. Let me know if you're ever in town, we'll go shred.
  • + 1
 Hwulex, absolutely... computer science is definitely a great way to go for job mobility. I currently do scientific research and need to be attached to an institution for the $$ funding.. but I still have a really good amount of flexibility, so I am lucky. Like you, in the past I have settled for lower wages to live where I want to live and do what I love. Environment is everything! I'll be in Whistler a lot, getting a pass. I have some girlfriends that live up there too, so places to crash. Let's shred for sure! Smile
  • + 6
 I'm signing up. Would be the best job ever!!!!!
  • + 1
 Hahaha . You can live on 14 bucks a hour in whistler.Even if you live in staff I know about 100 people that moved here to ride and all the do with s work just to pay rent I lived in whistler for years and you need money and lots of it ,
  • + 1
 Think i mostly understand what u meant.
  • + 1
 Seriously. Whistler has the longest lineups, costs the most, and the trails are beaten to shit! (The trail crew works hard, but the trail just gets chewed up so fast because of high traffic on the trails). so before you dislike this comment go ride one of the other bike parks in BC a see for yourself.. Whistler is by far the worst in my opinion. My personal favourite is Silverstar.
  • + 3
 SHhHHHHHHHHH!!! Icksnay on the Silver-bay.... Im with ya on this one... SS is rad.
  • + 1
 if you got $5000 to spare...buy seasons pass, live off the rest for 3-4 months. get a full season of REAL riding in, not even have to work at all. Buy a $5000 lottery ticket for a $4000 jackpot haha
  • + 3
 The other option is the in-house WB course, costs about $700 and finish it in a week, if they still do it...
  • + 2
 I'm not sure if they still hire out of those courses. Maybe if they have experience already.
  • + 1
 Oh hey guys! Yeah I think Dylan's right. Although the whole hiring thing is pretty relaxed if they think it will be busy
  • + 4
 Its official, whistler is only for rich fucks from other countries
  • + 3
 Took an instructor clinic from Mike in Winter Park 2 summers ago, the man knows his stuff!
  • + 2
 I took this training course in 2011. If anyone has any questions, feel free to drop me a message.
  • + 3
 Planing to teach summer of 2016 can't wait!
  • + 2
 I'll teach for free!! Your 1st lesson-go ride your bike!
  • + 1
 That was a magic summer in Whistler, I miss that place so badly!!! and i din't pay 5k to work there!
  • + 3
 Hahahaha 5000$ f*ck That
  • + 1
 You could live in whistler for at least a month with 5k
  • + 0
 Oh man... I'll do that when I'll be done with college!!! It looks really nice
  • + 1
  • + 1
 $7192.59 Australian Dollar - hmmm
  • + 1
 If i do this would it be recognized in Europe?
  • + 1
 The IDP qualification is the certification you need if you want to work at Whistler. It has been developed by Mike and the guys at Whistler Bike Park to focus specifically on the kind of terrain they have there. If you want to work in Europe then one of the best qualifications to have is the CTC qualification. This is more of an all-round Mountain Bike guiding qualification. If your dream is to work as a guide at Whistler Bike Park and have the option of guiding/instructing at European mountains we have a course that includes both the CTC and IDP 1&2 qualifications:

  • + 1
 Wonderfull thank you! 2 more years and im 18 Big Grin
  • + 1
 You can do the course at 16 with the permission of a parent or guardian, we have a designated course leader who organises the course and offers support 24/7. But it completely depends on whether your folks are happy with you travelling half way around the world on your own at that age!
  • + 2
 i lived all around europe so i could always ask Big Grin
  • + 1
 Is this course still on!?! really want to get involved
  • + 1
  • + 0
 my dream.... o_o
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