It’s Wednesday afternoon, the sun is warm and not a cloud in the sky as avid mountain bikers unload their bikes and prepare themselves for Mount Sima Yukon downhill riding.
It’s my first time riding down what is described to me as a “downhill course.” This means that instead of the usual “cross-country” riding, where you ride up and down, Mount Sima is designed purely for the downhill experience. Tyler Nichol, park builder; and Sam Oettli, operations manager, work on the hill to prepare various trails for the season; and, slowly, Mount Sima has become a popular place for riders.
Fortunately for me, I have my “Yoda” of mountain biking (Steve Reid), the new general manager of Mount Sima, who introduces me to the steps to riding a mountain-bike resort.
First step—getting on the chairlift
Usually an easy task, in winter, on skis—this task becomes somewhat terrifying in summer. The mountain bikers get their own chairlift, which means running, as the non-detachable lift swings around into position, and inserting your bike into the rack before the chair disembarks from the runway. Often, even those who are an “old hand” at mountain biking, at a resort, can miss the rack … meaning a jolty lift stop and some teamwork assistance.
Once the most stressful part of the experience is over, you can wait a couple of chairs and get on the lift. It’s a beautiful ride up, overlooking the vastness of the Whitehorse wilderness—the mountains, endless trees and the Yukon River. Spring is in full swing, with flowers blossoming and fireweed ready to burst and cover Mount Sima in magenta.
“So, when we get to the top … run!” Steve tells me.
“What do you mean?” I ask, perplexed.
As we approach the top of the chairlift, I see bikers and paragliders running off the chair. It’s a non-detachable lift, which means it doesn’t slow down for users to enter or exit. Members of the community, particularly those of the Contagious Mountain Bike Club, voluntarily built a wooden platform for mountain-biking season. It certainly comes in handy as you run out of the way of the chair behind you and hope not to get hit by its unrelenting drive.
We arrive at the top and I get an overview of the mountain-biking area with its variety of bike trails.
Next step—riding down
Steve advises that it’s not that bad and we begin our descent on the trail aptly named “Righty Tighty.” Yes—the trail goes to the right of the mountain and it’s tight (single track). We ride to the trailhead and Steve is off like the speed of light, as though it’s not straight downhill over a wooden ramp into a somewhat-sharp corner down a hill. His encouragement somehow makes me do it and we are off down the trail. Of course, I’m unable to keep up, but the twists and turns, the rolling features and the wooden boardwalks make it a terrifying yet exhilarating ride down. Mount Sima certainly develops features for all levels of riders to enjoy on their descent to the bottom.
On some sections I walk, and it makes me feel better seeing others who are also walking. The struggle to get out of the way of riders behind you, while trying not to fall over, is certainly a talent, and I think my bear bell (a.k.a. dinner bell) helps others know there is a slow rider on the trail.
After our first ride, my arms are already suffering from the relentless jolting over bumpy terrain. Yet, I run into a buddy, Christina MacNeil, from the Dirt Girls group, who is up for riding with me, and so we head up to go on another lap.
We head to the popular trail, “Drop the Clutch,” which is aptly named because the beginning goes straight down, round and round, and you hold on for dear life hoping to stay on the track. I hit my first spot, that I somehow successfully fall on but sacrifice Grasshopper to the brunt of the fall, rather than my body. I run after my bike and quickly get back onto the trail, so as not to get run over by another rider.
Finally … back to the base
It’s a busy evening as we get to the base, with people enjoying the warm, sun-filled evening. There’s actually a queue for the lift, with everyone enjoying the trails, particularly the new one that was built. Lulu’s truck, beer garden and music await riders, later in the evening, for food and drinks to enjoy after the rides down.
Mountain biking at Sima is certainly an experience worth undertaking—a great social atmosphere—and even if you are a beginner, it’s possible to get down and enjoy yourself.
Biking is available Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., subject to weather conditions. Paragliding opportunities are also available. For details, visit www.mountsima.com.