The Catamount chair, where Toby Barrett says beginners should start their day to build up confidence and skills. (Michele LaPointe photo)

Getting down the hill when you’re over the hill

As two older women, Christina Benty and Michele LaPointe aren’t your typical downhill mountain bikers

“Are you actually going to do that?”

Standing on top of the world at the peak of Kicking Horse Mountain, Christina Benty turned around to see an incredulous couple looking at her. Pointing down the hill, they were in disbelief when she said, “Yes.”

Decked out in head to toe in body armour, covered in mud, with her friend Michele LaPointe by her side, Benty had aspired to do one thing on that Thursday that would scare her. As a mountain biker, she decided to give downhilling a shot.

And while she says she had fun, she also says her outing was enough fear for a lifetime.

“It was on a bit of a whim, it had never crossed my mind until I was up there hiking the other day and I was like you know what, why not,” said Benty.

“I wasn’t arrogant enough to think I could do it, but it was more of a curiosity about it. There’s little kids doing it, so why not give it a try?”

She called up LaPointe and they decided to give it a try the next day.

And while they knew they were in for a rough ride, they weren’t quite prepared for what the mountain had to throw at them.

“I thought, well we’re going downhill, we won’t be using muscles, I really thought you just have to break and that was it,” said LaPointe.

“Every part of me was tense from top to bottom, my hand was a claw at the end of the day.”

“You know what though, I’m proud of both of us,” reflected Benty.

“I have no regrets in doing it, absolutely none and I feel like we really accomplished something.”

As women in their 50s, Benty and LaPointe aren’t what you would typically picture of downhill mountain bikers. Despite worrying that they would stick out, the staff at Kicking Horse helped get the novices suited up and ready to go for their adventure down the mountain.

“Everyone we talked to was super supportive and super nice,” said LaPointe.

“Giving us tips and helping us with our gear, I couldn’t even lift my bike onto the chair lift but the staff were so helpful and got it up for me.”

The number one tip the pair can give to beginners is to relax and enjoy the ride.

Toby Barrett, manager of revenue and guest experience at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, says it’s also important to dress appropriately, with good sturdy shoes.

Barrett says that beginners can check out rental packages online and encourages them to book in advance to ensure that they have all the right sized gear in stock.

At the end of the day, Barrett says that it comes down to mentality and confidence, a sentiment that was echoed by both Benty and LaPointe.

At the end of the day, while the sport is hard and the hill is gnarly, they’re welcoming beginners all the time.

“It was great to see the two of them, we get a lot of people who have never done it before and it’s always exciting to see new people coming to try it out,” said Barrett.

LaPointe says that as a beginner, all the staff made her feel safe and welcome.

“After the first run when I was just sitting there and Toby saw me and came running over,” said LaPointe.

“He wanted to know all about how we did and if we we’re going to go again, it was great.”

“We were disappointed that there wasn’t a cheering section at the bottom of the hill, but everyone was so great and helpful,” joked Benty.

Barrett says the hill is always looking to welcome new bikers and will be offering a free mountain biking ticket and a 20 per cent discount on rentals to all locals during their community week at the hill from Aug. 31 until Sept. 4.

“It was great to see how gung-ho they were and determined to make it happen, while being cautious in their approach,” said Barrett.

“They were smiling ear to ear and having fun, which is really what the name of the game is.”

While Benty and LaPointe don’t think they’ll be going up again any time soon, both are glad to have endured the experience.

Biking

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Christina Benty and Michele LaPointe pose at the top of Kicking Horse. (Michele LaPointe photo)

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