Posted by: Feet Banks
WARNING: reading this article may make you quit your job, move to Whistler and live the” irresponsible” life you always dreamed of. And we won’t stop you.
For at least the last couple generations, the go-to trick to avoid growing up (while also dodging social criticism and parental shame) was quite simple: stay in school, attend some kind of post-secondary institution. Hit grad school if that is an option (or start on that second degree) and basically put off the real world for as long as possible, all in the name of higher learning.
And once that was over, you’d move to Whistler, get a night job at a bar or restaurant, ride every day and live the dream as long as possible. In an ideal scenario you’d somehow luck into a way to survive in the mountains without ever punching into that dreaded “real” job.
The good news is you can now skip three or more of those steps thanks to the Whistler Adventure School, a trade school offering real career training for mountain jobs you actually might enjoy doing, with a campus already set up in the place you want to move to once you finish school.
The Whistler Adventure School offers a handful of different career training courses but as spring hits Whistler they’ve just started their first Bike Mechanic course of the season.
“The focus is to offer a professional level course that you can take and learn to be useful in a bike shop environment,” says instructor Steve Reid. “To be able to deal with most things that walk through the door.”
The Whistler Adventure School campus, located in Whistler’s lively Function Junction neighbourhood, contains all the tools and equipment needed, including different kinds of bikes to work on and Steve has formal bike tech training from the UK and years of professional experience at the Delta Bike Company..
“Bike mechanics are dealing with an increasingly technical and expensive product,” Steve explains. For proof look no further than Whistler bike events like Crankworx or Outerbike.
“Things are not as simple as they used to be. The prevalence of electronics in the industry means more and more we are using computer diagnostics similar to what is used in the auto industry. There are bikes that we plug into a laptop before we get any traditional tools out.”
Steve says his trick to a successful career amidst all this progression is to instill students with solid mechanical practices and a systematic approach. “Rather than the specifics of individual products I try to teach sound practices that can be used on existing tech as well as new products,” he explains. “Repetition is also important for learning, and having the safety net of an instructor right there to guide you if you make a mistake.”
Now in his second year of teaching the 4-week “Bike Mechanic” course at the Whistler Adventure School, Steve says students range from “people who want to get the skills to competently work on their own gear to those who are already ski techs or something and looking for a summer career that still fits their lifestyle.”
Ski Technician, and Ski/Snowboard Construction are also offered on the Whistler Adventure School’s 15-course curriculum.
“Right now we run two courses a month with 4-8 people per course,” says Eric Hughes, operations and marketing manager for the school. He adds that they are seeing a lot more international enrollment and graduates are jumping right into the work force or starting their own businesses.
“We had two students fly up from Utah last winter,” he says. “They wanted a custom ski building course and we were the only people in North America who would teach it to them. They flew up and were so stoked. They couldn’t find this kind of instruction anywhere and here they were learning it in Whistler. They dreamed of starting their own ski company back home and now they’ve just produced their first pair out of their own factory.”
He adds that Bike Mechanic graduates have stepped into jobs and that local Whistler ski shops are already waiting for graduates from the upcoming Boot Fitting Course this autumn.
After just over a year of operation Eric seems happy with the natural, organic rate of growth and expansion. “The students we have are very satisfied,” he says, “and we are seeing a lot of success stories.”
As more people figure out they can make a career out of their daydreams, there should be plenty more success stories to come. Anyone feel like going back to school?
The Whistler Adventure School offers courses on everything from Mountain Guiding to Social Media to The Business of Sport, with professional multi-course programs as well. Check out their website for more info or sign up for a custom Ski/Snowboard Building “education vacation” at Whistler.com