Fernie MTB Camp

At the end of June I spent a week in Fernie, BC at a women’s XC skills camp organized by Sacred Rides. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in my life! A solid week of unbelievable singletrack, challenging terrain, expert instruction, and amazing gals. WOW!

Riding bikes around the Canadian Rockies. Hella epic!
Riding bikes around the Canadian Rockies. Hella epic!

I flew into Calgary and met three other women at the airport as we loaded into the shuttle to Fernie. All total six women were signed up for the clinic. The other two were meeting us in Fernie. It was pretty apparent on our 3-hr drive from Calgary that our coaches for the week, Johanna Weintrager and Candace Webb, were going to keep us entertained to say the least! Not only were they expert riders, but they were a riot to hang with!

Fernie is a beautiful little town in the Canadian Rockies with abundant bike culture. Very cool people are helpful about offering up info on where to eat, what to do, and where to ride. We all checked in to the “OGS” (Old Grocery Store) lodge downtown for the week, which provided comfortable and efficient accomodations for a large number of people, including big space for lots of bikes!


Our first weekend we mixed in with the co-ed skills camp and spent some time at the dirt jump park in downtown Fernie learning some basic skills including playing on the pump track. I love those things! We split into various groups and hit the trails in the afternoon for our first taste of Fernie riding and wow! Trails presented amazing flow, fast sweeping corners, steep downhill, and grueling climbs. Excellent!

On the 2nd day I joined the morning ride group headed to Slunt, an impossibly tough 2hr+ climb with a mandatory steep hike-a-bike section. To say it was a workout was an understatement, but the views were stunning! Obviously, what goes up must come down and the downhill was easily the steepest and most challenging I’ve ever ridden. I completely shocked myself by not having even one incident. Amazing, especially if you know my tendencies for crashing.


After another big afternoon ride the weekend came to a close and we said goodbye to the co-ed clinic participants. For the rest of the week the ladies ruled. We spent three more full 6hr+ days learning how to roll big drops, corner with ease, pick up speed, climb up technical obstacles, and descend steeps I never would have attempted before. Aside from one day spent riding in the pouring rain perfecting our slippery root skills, nearly every day was 70-80 degrees and sunny. We ate incredible breakfasts and lunches prepared by Johanna and Candace, participated in morning yoga, and enjoyed dinner and beers on the town every night.

On our one rest day, I booked a whitewater rafting trip with the Canyon Raft company to take a Class IV rapids jaunt down the Elk River. I’ve never white water rafted before and eagerly anticipated the trip. I could write a whole entry just about this experience, so let me just sum it up by saying it was a freakin’ blast!! There’s nothing funnier than hitting Class IV rapids in a tiny little raft while thinking you’re going to die. I remember in orientation asking how often rafts flip and a guide said rarely.  Well, wouldn’t you know, with me in the raft that the probability would go up to 100%.  And sure enough, we did manage to flip the raft.

Rafting the Elk River in Canada. I can't believe I did this!
Rafting the Elk River in Canada. I can’t believe I did this!

The experience was certainly a bit terrifying. Everything was fine and then the next second I was underwater and not coming up.  After what seemed like an eternity I finally popped up, but trying to catch your breathe after dumping into 40-degree water is more difficult than you realize and all I could do was gasp.  I looked around and saw other people floating down the river, the raft upside down, and the guides throwing ropes out to everyone.  Somehow the ridiculousness of it hit me and once I grabbed the raft I couldn’t stop laughing! At least I know when I have life-threatening experiences my first reaction is to laugh hysterically. I sure wasn’t laughing for long though, my teeth have never hurt that bad in my life! And I ended up with an ear infection that raged for a few days. I was soon laughing again though when the guides told us the name of the rapid that bucked us: My Little Pony.  If you’re ever in Fernie, the Canyon Raft company is a must do!

Our last day at the camp our guide Johanna took us on a 6hr XC ride that she said would “change our lives.” Yeah, it was pretty damn amazing. For most people in the clinic it was their very first “epic” ride and some of them may never again do a ride that long. When we started the ride Johanna pointed up to an extremely steep, very gnarly downhill trail. She said a few gals in the last clinic actually rode down it. “No way” was my response and the other girls nodded in agreement. At the end of the ride, we finished up at the top of the downhill with two options down: the very steep way, or the mellow way.

Again, I said no way I was riding it. Johanna encouraged us to look at it and then make a decision. As I peered over the edge I thought, “Wow. That doesn’t look so bad. Shit, we’ve been riding stuff like this all week…” Another girl and I decided to go for it and with our butts all the way back on the rear tire, a huge helping of newly found confidence, and a massive adrenaline rush, we handled it like pros. That was easily the highlight of my week. Once at the bottom we high-fived each other and couldn’t believe we just did it.

Our whole group on the last ride of the clinic. It really did change our lives!
Our whole group on the last ride of the clinic. It really did change our lives!

It was difficult to believe the week was over. We parted ways at the Calgary airport over beer, thinking of all the smiles we had all week, all the amazing experiences, killer singletrack, and great friendships that were made. I’ll definitely be going back to Fernie again. Below are some links to pictures I took during the trip.

The most fun and amazingly talented mountain bike guides you could ask for!
The most fun and amazingly talented mountain bike guides you could ask for!