Do you know that deep grind you get in your gut you get before you face something that scares you? I know it well. It hits me before I do something related to heights, or when facing an emotional challenge. Okay, there are times I’d rather roll uncontrolled down a steep mountain than face a something emotionally painful. This week I got to do both – nothing like testing my fortitude! Bring it.
I only feel like discussing one of those here, so here’s the story of about my epic day facing fears on a mountain bike.
Mountain biking is a sport I’ve wanted to try for a long time, but honestly I shied away because I was afraid. This summer, I promised myself I would try it. I let the summer get away and suddenly fall was upon us. Then Canyons Resort in Park City reached out to me with an invitation to visit. When I realized they had a mountain biking clinic I was ecstatic. Time to face my fear and get on a mountain bike.
Would my ski season be over before the first snowfall? I was nervous walking up to the Canyons Mountain Bike Academy where I met my instructor, Christie Johnson, a 20-year veteran of mountain bike racing and a Level 1 Professional Mountain Bike Instructor (PMBI). Her demeanor began to set me at ease right away. Clearly, she knew her business; this was no side job.
The Canyons Mountain Bike Academy is located in One Sweet Ride where you can also book zip-line, hiking, and cross country bike tours. Clinics include Bike Park 101, 201, group and private lessons. All of the instructors at the academy are at least PMBI Level 1 instructors. This means they have training in how to teach mountain biking safely and effectively. Regardless of where you take instruction, I suggest you make sure the instructors are certified. I’m an educator and appreciated the progressive presentation of my lesson.
After Christie fitted me with protective gear, we headed outside for a lesson on some basics such as braking technique. Next, we headed to the Red Pine Gondola up the mountain where our bikes were loaded onto hooks to ride up with us. During the ride up, Christie shared that she used to fear downhill biking. Then she decided to challenge herself to make it her best event, and did. Hearing her story gave me huge confidence in her ability to tell me how to face my fears and get down the mountain safe and have fun in the process.
At the top, we practiced more basic skills on a shallow hill with Christie’s supervision to make sure we had them down before taking the High Meadow lift further up the mountain.
The Canyons Bike Park is in its third season and continues to grow. A variety of features add excitement to the flow and gravity trails designed in collaboration with Gravity Logic. The park consists of two Skills Parks and five levels of trails from easiest to expert. New in 2013 is a freeride trail called Split Decision, with wood ladder and bridge features.
My heart pounded as I released the brake and started down the trail, but I remembered what Christie said about trusting her instruction, and I really did. The easiest trail at Canyons Resort is called the White Rabbit, I thought of the song by Jefferson Airplane as soon as I heard the name. Was I tripping to do this? I was enjoying myself immediately, the fat tires rolled over rocks bumps with ease and I was gliding in a way I didn’t think possible on a bike, although some of the steeper spots and turns unnerved me. During one stop, Christie related mountain biking to life in that you need to relax and let it roll. Over controlling doesn’t make things go easier. Just roll over the bumps and absorb the shock, lean side to side… My heart yanked in an instant because I instinctively knew bumps were coming in my life. In fact, the prior two months had been full of them… I’ll stop there. Let’s just say I was ready to get off that ride, but it wasn’t going to be as enjoyable as my day at Canyons. Was I ready to roll with it? There’s no protective gear I could wear.
After two runs down the Rabbit, we moved to the green level Flying Salmon. I really liked the run, especially after receiving some excellent pointers on how to take the turns better. I picked up my speed and took a pretty good fall thanks to a misstep with my brakes. All part of the fun! It was still my favorite run of the day and it gave me the bruises I needed to prove I’d been out mountain biking.
Back at the bottom of the mountain, we played in the skills park on a teeter-totter, logs, and a mini bridge. It was incredibly confidence building and I was proud of myself for not only facing my fear but even getting to the point that I had a blast. I must give credit to Christie for that, she made the entire experience positive and comfortable. I was so pleased I hope to head back soon for the next level clinic. They are true pros.
As for my other fear, I didn’t get the news that night, but rather the next morning. I remembered what Christie said about rolling over the bumps but I still ended up with a few bruises you can’t see. It’s all part of this ride called life and that’s okay!
If you go:
Contact: Canyons Resort Mountain Bike Academy – 435.615.3442
What to bring: Pack a bottle of water, sunscreen and a jacket. Ask if you should bring anything else when you make your reservation depending on your specific activity.
Just need a bike? They have rentals as well.
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