In 2021, I got my first mountain bike, inspired by the vibes of the gals who rode. A friend who was also venturing into mountain biking offered to tackle a “beginner” loop together. I struggled on the uphill and questioned how anyone got up some of those short, steep pitches. Descending, my knowledge was limited to standing up on the bike, but I had no clue about cornering. I washed out on a tight and dusty, flat corner and banged my knee up enough that I still have the scar today. The trail had some rollers and whoops after that, enough that I enjoyed it and had the appetite to try again.

Cassie after her first mountain bike ride.

I rode a fair amount, watched YouTube videos, and figured things out a bit. I was even brave enough to go to a group ride! (We’ll come back to that.) Yet, I still wasn’t fully enjoying it—I felt nervous and not fully in control.

A skiing injury in January kept me off the bike all summer, so when the next season rolled around I was itching to get back into it. I got a few rides in but still felt like I could be having more fun if I wasn’t so stressed. One day, the organization that had put on that group ride–VNTRbirds–posted about their June Bike Clinic in Snowmass. I was intrigued, but a bit nervous. However, with it being an environment by and for women, I figured it would be both inviting and exciting.

So, I took the plunge. And it was the best weekend ever. 

The coach for my Advanced Beginner group was an Enduro World Series racer who now focuses full-time on coaching. Combining a standard mountain bike teaching curriculum with years of experience as a rider, she knew exactly how to explain concepts to make them click. Tutorial videos are great, but having a pro rider behind you giving cues based on the exact terrain you’re riding and the exact mistakes you’re making is unmatched.

Coach Heidi following Cassie on the Verde trail at Snowmass Bike Park.
Photo: Julia Ordog

I was hooked. Even the lunch was amazing! I thought, “If I can have that much fun and see that much progression in two days, I’m going to do this any time I have the extra money.”

So when the next clinic in Winter Park’s Trestle Bike Park came up, I signed up again–this time for the Intermediate group. And again for the Purgatory clinic in Durango, this time feeling good enough to put myself in Advanced Intermediate. And capped it all off with another amazing weekend back in Snowmass where I did a wood feature that I had looked at from the lift in June and said “I don’t think that’s ever for me.”

Cassie crushing her first drop at Purgatory Resort
Photo: Ri Ganey

Every time, the coaches were knowledgeable, energetic, and kind, and the groups of women were fierce, supportive, and came from such a varied set of backgrounds that we kept the conversations flowing easily on the lifts and during lunch.

When the season winded down into the fall, I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to have this set of weekends tying together my summer. Thanks to VNTRbirds clinics, I evolved into a different rider, genuinely enjoying biking and eagerly anticipating every ride. Without them, that might have taken years. I’m already signed up for this June’s VIDA MTB SERIES at Snowmass Bike Park and I can’t wait to see what this summer will bring!

Coach Katie and Cassie hugging it out at Trestle Bike Park.
Photo: Julia Ordog

Cassie Wallace (she/her) is a skier, mountain biker, and software developer that lives in Breckenridge, CO. She loves learning new things, having a laugh, and sufferfests.