Opinion » Alta States

Sam Rees - making the Whistler leap

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Neither, alas, was Bristol. "I spent a couple of 'stagnant' years there," he admits. "I was back working at the old shop and spending a lot of money on new bikes." He also had a girlfriend. "My first 'real' one," he says with a sheepish grin.

When they broke up in early 2012, Sam realized it was time for a change. "Whistler, I'd heard from buddies, was the mecca of riding. So I told myself: 'Time to pull the finger out, get a work visa, and move to Canada's west coast.'"

He arrived here in May of that year. "There wasn't as much snow as I'd thought there'd be," he says with a straight face. A non-skier, poor Sam was worried that he wouldn't fit in, especially given what he'd heard about the place. "My friends in England had all told me 'Don't go to Whistler. It's way too cliquey. You'll never get accepted there.' But that's where I wanted to go. I wanted a taste of mountain life!"

But first he had to get a job. "So I wandered around the village and handed out my CVs." He stops. Smiles. "I handed out five in one week... which, I know now, is nothing for Whistler. But at the time I thought it was a lot..."

Nobody bit in the beginning. "Which was fine with me," says Sam. "I mean, there were dudes on bikes everywhere I looked. I could see lifts that would take me up into the mountains anytime I wanted..." He grabs a breath. Lets a few more beats go by. "And then the bike park opened. Oh my God! I lived one minute from the lift. Suddenly I wasn't all that bummed about not having a job."

When the guys at Fanatyk Co. finally called him in for an interview, Sam definitely had mixed feelings. "I wasn't sure I wanted to work anymore. But the more I thought about it, the more it became clear: this is what I do. This is what I'm good at. And besides — I really enjoy it." So he went to the interview, showed them his stuff — "They pointed to the back of the bike and said 'what's this?' and I said 'a derailleur.'" — and promptly got the job. He laughs. "Later they told me that if I'd answered with a fancy technical term they would have hired somebody else."

The crux of Sam's story turns on what happened next. "I really enjoyed my first season at the shop," he recounts. "There's a whole crew of experienced people there and I learned a lot." But when summer came to an end, the bike shop returned to its skiing roots and Sam realized he had to make new plans. "I really wasn't sure what to do," he says. "Originally the idea was to stay in Whistler just for the summer..."

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