“No friends on pow days,” goes the winter mantra. After an exceptionally dry season in the Bike Park, this saying started to count for something this summer as well.
Yet, on a clear blue day following a night of rain, on the last weekend of the season when the trails were in their finest condition (the tack!), one local pro downhill racer postponed her first ride on the brown pow to discuss her achievements and women’s riding with SPIN.
Kyleigh Stewart hails from Kamloops and at 17 has been turning heads for her downhill skills for a while. She has been on the racing circuit since the age of 12, but only got “serious” the last couple of years as she started securing sponsorship from the likes of Dissent, Schwalbe, Commencal and a score of other brands.
Last month Stewart was featured on Pink Bike, the largest online community and compendium for everything mountain biking. A two minute segment featuring Stewart riding Sun Peaks shot by local filmmaker Max Loukidelis made “Video of the Day” and already had over 6,600 views.
It showcased Stewart’s fearless riding and stylish maneuvers, including a “suicide no-hander,” which she is especially proud of.
“That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” she said.
The video is just another achievement Stewart squeezed into her season alongside winning National Championships in the junior women’s category in Invermere in July, making the podium at the BC Championships and Crankworx, and scoring an invite to the Mountain Bike World Cup in Montreal.
It was a slower season for Stewart, who chose to compete less and focus on having fun with her bike while balancing other work and life commitments. Staying injury free was also a bonus, according to Stewart.
In shifting away from racing, Stewart’s goal for the future is to progress into an ambassador for the sport. Already a role model for other young women in biking and with a following in the community, it’s a perfect role for the talented shredder.
Stewart already has ideas on how novice, especially female, riders can be encouraged to get more involved in downhill mountain biking.
“More local, fun events to target beginners and locals would help people progress to the higher level of racing and riding,” she said, and also referred to the Bike Park’s lack of beginner terrain as a setback.
“Typically women look at the possible outcomes more than men, which can hold a person back in this sport,” Stewart pointed out.
She suggested following the lead of other resorts, like Whistler, that host free ladies nights that include coaching, discounts on passes and gear and après events.
The pro rider has plans to shoot a trail bike video at Harper Mountain this fall and travel on to the Yukon to film a biking adventure video series next summer. The future looks bright for Stewart, who has a lot more potential for air time, online and on the trails.