From groms to pros – who to watch at Freeride Days Mountain Bike Festival

From groms to pros

Huge air and gnarly tricks – you can expect that and a lot more this weekend at Big White Ski Resort’s annual Freeride Days Mountain Bike Festival. (Click here for our spectator guide) But what you might not expect is that it won’t just be the pros hucking it off jumps on two wheels – riders as young as 10 years old will be ripping through the Bronze Slopestyle Course on Friday, August 5, at 2 p.m. to show off their mad skills.

Bike Big White has been an advocate for developing the next generation of mountain bikers since opening in 2017 through youth camps and its world-class Bike School. In 2020, it built its Slopestyle Centre – the only one of its kind in Canada open to the public – with groms (young participant in an extreme sport) from right here in the Okanagan, to Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and everywhere in between visiting to progress their skills at the Friday Night Freeride Sessions. Not only do they get introduced to this style of course, they also meet, get tips from, and ride with their idols – including Bike Big White’s Brayden Barrett-Hay, a slopestyle athlete originally from Ontario.

Built from the base of the Freeride Mountain Biking Bronze event course, the features at the Slopestyle Centre are designed in a way that allow for safe progression for those new to sport. The mulch jumps, for example, are an alternative to the standard hard-packed dirt that most slopestyle courses favour, and allow younger or newer riders to still get the feel of the jump, but in a safer setting.

Freeride Days host and Kelowna local, Tom van Steenbergen, was a key player in the actual design of the centre. You’ll find Tom, along with his pro-athlete buddies at Big White this weekend for the Gold Invitational Slopestyle, which Tom has hosted in previous years and is doing so again this year.

The entire weekend is free for spectators, meaning young or old, mountain biker or not, there’s no reason not to head up the mountain and check out the incredible feats of athleticism from pros and groms alike. Plus, there’ll be a live DJ, a food and drink area, marketplace, and impeccable mountain vibes.

While there’ll be no shortage of entertainment on and off the Slopestyle Course, there are a few riders that you won’t want to miss. Nicholi Rogatkin, a professional mountain biker from Lincoln, Massachusetts, has stood on dozens of podiums at freeride events all over the world. He’ll no doubt have you jumping out of your folding chair with the massive tricks he’ll be slinging this weekend.

Another rider to watch for is Caroline Buchanan, who’ll be competing in the Women’s Slopestyle Event at 3 p.m. on Friday, August 5. This Australian power house has some seriously impressive skills, and is a three-times BMX World Champion, five-times Mountain Bike World Champion and Dual Olympian Athlete.

Finally, a duo worthy of the drive: Polish brothers Szymon and Dawid Godziek. The pair, while not overly competitive with one another, are overly competitive on the course, and overly talented. You can expect to see at least one, if not both brothers, on the podium at some point this weekend.

But those are just a few of many names to watch! The action begins Thursday, August 4 with the Bronze Course Men's Event at 2 p.m. Find the full schedule for Freeride Days Mountain Bike Festival, here.

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