You’d be surprised how many people stare at you in gormless shock when you break to them the news that not all mountains cast in winter whiteness retain their frost in the summer. It’s like you’ve just announced that the Incredible Hulk really does exist. Yet, apparently, I’m the odd one for thinking of it as a platitude.
If you heard the word Whistler I imagine British Columbia skiing would be the first thing to spring to your mind, despite what I’ve just said, but the resort has a burgeoning variety of sports to enjoy in the summer months as well. Admittedly, not all of these things can be called a sport (bungee jumping, for example), but no one can contest the concept of sending yourself face first down a steep, jagged decline on two flimsy wheels being a challenge.
I stood at the bottom of the lift system on my first day staring with giddy amusement at Whistler’s resort map. Who on earth came up with lifts called the Excalibur Gondola, Merlin’s Magic Carpet and – wait for it – the Jersey Cream Express? It’s like the whole resort is offering itself as the butt of a joke.
Thankfully my lift was just called the Fitzsimmons Quad Chairlift, and I was saved the terrifying prospect of trying to get myself and my mountain bike onto it by a tremendously gangly lift attendant who introduced me to the bike racks that are attached to every other set of chairs on the cable. All I had to do was sit down at the right moment.
Having planned my trip, I expected British Columbia’s weather to be faultless. Sadly, I found it to be more adolescent that day, by which I mean it would spend ten minutes violently lashing out before storming off in a huff for a couple of hours, and then repeat the process entirely unprovoked. Even if the weather had been magnificent, however, I’d still have been a danger to the rest of the mountain.
If you think you can go downhill mountain biking just because you no longer need stabilisers, you’re wrong. I’m not even going to pass the experience off as enlightening or surprisingly good fun once I got the hang of it. I didn’t get the hang of it, and it wasn’t good fun.
If you had the misfortune of being in Whistler during that same week last summer, you’ll remember me as the rigid chap who made it down the mountain with locked wheels and a plume of black brake dust trailing behind. I’m pretty sure no one else has managed that before. I sported the same look of startled terror I imagine a fly has just before it makes contact with a 70mph windscreen, except my torture was prolonged.
I was ready to sack it in after that first run, but, out of sheer force of will, I sat it out another three days. By the time I had reopened the wound on my right elbow for the billionth time, I decided my wellbeing was just too important, and that I would learn to use a bike properly before my next assault on a mountain.