Women take to Whistler’s trails 

Sold-out Sugoi Dirt Series camp has another successful weekend showing female riders the ropes

Catherine Sloan pulls up to a wooden makeshift stunt in Rebagliati Park and pauses just before she executes a perfect wheelie drop.

Under her full-face helmet and covered in biking armour, Sloan looks like the dozens of other women learning stunts around the small Whistler park under the blistering sun.

The fact that she’s more than 50 years old isn’t important when she can wheelie drop with the best, and the youngest, of them.

But her age does make her a little more cautious and anxious to learn the technical skills properly before she hits the trails.

That’s why she’s back at the women’s only Sugoi Dirt Series camp for the second time since she started mountain biking four years ago.

"When you’re that old you have to be cautious!" she said.

Whether it’s learning the technical skills like Sloan, or getting confident on a mountain bike or getting stoked about a new sport, these days women are coming out in droves to participate in the Dirt Series camps.

When Whistler girl Candace Shadley came up with the concept four years ago, she wanted to create an environment which was safe and supportive for women to truly learn the different skills to mountain biking.

"That’s my favourite thing – to give people skills and make it easier for them to learn," said the 32-year-old coach.

She started four years ago and since then, more than 650 women have done a Dirt Series camp. Every camp for the past two years has been full to the brim, a testament both to the popularity of the sport and the growing interest from women.

The camps run throughout B.C., in Alberta and in some northwestern states.

Participants come in all shapes and sizes and range in ability from first-timers to seasoned riders.

But they do have some things in common.

"For some reason they are all super friendly," said Shadley.

"(And) everyone who comes is active."

The camp is made up of two full days of mountain biking.

In Whistler, the morning sessions are centred out of Rebagliati Park and are followed by an afternoon trail ride, where the morning skills can be put into practical use.

Whistler’s mountain biking trails have a special significance for Shadley.

It was on these trails where she honed her own mountain biking skills years ago.

Although the camps now travel far and wide, Shadley said it’s nice sometimes to teach on familiar ground.

"The trails are really well-built and well-maintained and we know them really well," she said.

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