Louder Than Words

Coach Lindsey Richter leads a crew of women toward Whistler’s Fitzsimmons lift on their way to the A-Line Women’s Only Session. The day’s low-pressure vibes easily translate to high levels of progression.

Louder Than Words On the Front Line of Women's Freeride

The girls next to me are giggling.

Turning to find the source of their elation, I’m greeted by two big grins. Noticing my curiosity, one of the gals, who couldn’t be more than 16 years old, points to the line in front of her. It’s full of women with their mountain bikes, and it snakes out of view. “How could you not be excited looking at this?” she says. I laugh and nod in agreement, sharing her excitement. This is the sixth-annual Liv A-Line Women’s Only Session. The line probably would have been longer too, but Crankworx capped today’s attendees at 150 for safety reasons.

Pedaling toward the entrance of A-line in the mid-August heat, I pass mother-daughter duos, athletes, coaches, groups of friends and solitary riders along the way. Despite the reasons that brought them to Whistler, they’re contributing to a common goal: cultivating sisterhood within mountain biking.

Once given the cue, tey fly by, cheering as they go. Finding a break in the commotion, I sneak over to the first drop for a better angle to photograph. That jubilation dissipates with the next group that appears. Instead of gliding over the lip, they dismount and scrutinize the feature. With them is Lindsey Richter, a coach on hand for daunting features like these.

Richter has found that most of her students aren’t incapable of hitting these things. More often than not, the problem is they just don’t know how to approach it. She breaks down the technique and then rounds out the lesson by gracefully hitting it.

Her students follow one by one, each successfully overcoming the obstacle. The hesitation is gone and smiles are all around.

Back in 2007, Crankworx launched WomenzWorx, a multidisciplinary contest that tested female athletes in tech, speed and style. The style component was even held in the legendary Boneyard Slopestyle course, which featured big drops, step-ups, gap drops and wall rides.

“It was diff erent and fun,” Claire Buchar, an original WomenzWorx competitor, says. “Instead of going against the clock, we had the freedom to play around on some slopestyle features, pick our own lines and express our own style, which remains a big part of why I ride.”

Despite participation from herself and other prominent female riders like Lorraine Blancher, Stephanie Nychka and Casey Brown, the event eventually lost steam after its second go in 2009. “I don’t think fans, people in the industry and Crankworx knew what to make of it quite yet,” Buchar says. The timing wasn’t quite right, but its absence only amplified a long standing dilemma: For many women, the festival just felt inaccessible. This problem wasn’t exclusive to Crankworx; mountain biking as a whole has been underrepresented by women since its inception.

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