WS Interview – Whistler Bike Park Guide

The Whistler Season Interview – Whistler Bike Park Guide

As Spring is well underway, and excitement for the opening of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park grows (May 16th, 2014), took the opportunity to speak to a past member of the Whistler Bike Park guide team, John Butler, from Auckland, about his experiences working day-in, day-out, in the world’s most famous mountain bike park.

WS: Given its reputation, a lot of folk will be looking to come to Whistler to work for the summer, and some will doubtless be hoping to work as a Whistler Bike Park Guide. For those not familiar with what it may entail, it sounds like a dream job. Would you say that is the case in reality?

JB: Shy of becoming a pro athlete, working for Whistler Blackcomb is the stuff dreams are made of. As a guide I thought that. I can’t speak for people in any of the other positions, especially not the lifties or patrol who have to clean up our mess.

WS: Sounds pretty good then! Surely there must be quite an application process for a position with such responsibility? What was it like given that you are from New Zealand?

JB: The recruitment process is a little bit of a marathon if you’re on a temporary work visa and need to establish yourself in Whistler first. But it’s all jumping through hoops and isn’t overly difficult for anybody who speaks English as their first language. One must apply through the website and attend any/all courses needed for the position though. The Level 1 and 2 mountain bike instructor courses are thorough and a great chance to meet your fellow guides. Level 1 being very basic and what you need to know as a guide so as not to end up in a lawsuit. Level 2 is much more theory about riding techniques and proved to be very useful for future guiding/coaching positions. It’s all stuff that I do instinctively as a mountain biker, but struggled to teach others.

John Butler at work, Top of the World trail, Whistler Mountain Bike Park
John Butler at work, Top of the World trail, Whistler Mountain Bike Park

WS: That sounds pretty thorough. So once you are qualified, are you given a set rota, or have you got to scout for work?

JB: Working as a guide is very casual, and you only reap what you sow. There are days that you are scheduled to work and guarantee a bit of income, but the days you choose to turn up on your own accord could be fruitless or result in a full 6 hour ride with complete shredders. The level of rider proficiency varies in extremes, as does the amount of work available for guides. Thank god Canada has a tipping culture otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to eat some days – no joke. Customer service is highly valued and is rewarded as such.

WS: That may come as a surprise to some people heading here, but the positives have got to outweigh that, right?

JB: Yeah, for sure. Obviously the main perk of working for any mountain is having your season pass paid for. To make sure this actually happens, be sure to turn up and lock down a job at the beginning of the season. After that, your work kit is all supplied by Whistler Blackcomb, including Dakine riding gear, tyres and brake pads as you need them. This can save you a fortune! Subsidized food and bike parts at the GBB make life that little bit sweeter too. Everybody loves a staff discount!

WS: Final thoughts?

JB: Probably the final, almost unspoken perk is working with a bunch of like-minded people who make it that much better to work for Whistler Blackcomb.

Thanks to John for that insight into working as a Whistler Bike Park guide. Look out for further interviews with seasonaires and residents to find out more about life in Whistler!

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