Back in 2009, part of my job with Gravity Logic was to travel the world seeing different bike parks. I also had the opportunity to travel to a few different facilities and deliver the Instructor Development Program (written and implemented by the Whistler Bike Park’s Mike Johnstone and Tom Radke), which gives new bike instructors a streamlined method of how to teach mountain biking to other people. The first IDP I ever delivered was at Sugarbush in Vermont.

The course took place in May of 2009, right after the Vermont Mountain Bike Association’s annual mountain biking summit.  I remember there being more rain that year than they had seen in some time, but we did our best to ride under the circumstances and found trails at Sugarbush to run the course on regardless. The place is beautiful and the guys on the course were super fun to ride with – I mean that especially about Kyle Anderson. We bent the rules a bit and allowed Kyle to take the course at the ripe age of 15 and I distinctly recall being overwhelmed after getting to know him. He was a shredder on a bike, humble, soft spoken and approachable. I remember  how much he reminded me of my best friend Pete (who came to Whistler with me from Calgary three years ago and now works on the bike park trail crew) and I vaguely remember telling Kyle that he was bound to be the kid that Sugarbush’s camp participants would beg to ride with for years to come. I was doubly emotional, to say the least, when Kyle’s mom emailed me a few months after the course to tell me he had been diagnosed with cancer after feeling a bit funny after a bike crash in the park. After battling bone cancer for a year, Kyle passed away last year.

Kyle Anderson is being honored at the Sugarbush bike park tomorrow in the area of the park that is taking his name. Bike camp kids, family and bike park management will all be on hand to honor his memory. I wish the best to his family and the kids who will grow up shredding in the bike programs of Sugarbush, Vermont.

Testing time at the Sugarbush IDP in 2009. Kyle in the white helmet, me in the background taking notes. John Atkinson Photo.

Today, I rode the bike park after being shamed on a pedal up to Kashmir (lots of crashes on the ways down!) yesterday.  I was frustrated for not sending it today and not being a rock star on my bike. My attitude shifted immediately once I got back to the truck and read a forwarded message on my iPhone from Gravity Logic’s Dave Kelly. The following is a speech that will be delivered by John Atkinson, Sugarbush’s Director of Strategic Programs and Partnerships:

“I met Kyle Anderson when he and his brother Chris came to Sugarbush for one of our first Skills for the Hills clinics a few years ago. They both blew me away with how well they rode already. I can remember thinking that they could teach me a thing or two about jumping and park riding. I also remember how polite and kind they were.

They kept coming back to Sugarbush to ride with us. This was about the same time that we were developing our winter Assistant Coach program, and Kyle was one of the first young people that we offered the opportunity. He worked for Ski and Ride all winter, impressing coaches and guests with his calm and reassuring demeanor. I always knew that I could count on him, no matter the task.

After such great results, we extended the Assistant Coach program into Sugarbush’s summer bike and camp programs. Kyle was at the top of the list to be hired. He enthusiastically rejoined the team and before the season started, he took the Gravity Logic Coach Certification course with me, Sam Von Trapp from Trapp Family Lodge, Steve from Sunday River, Linden Ide from Burke and a few other aspiring bike coaches.

Kyle so impressed the course leader, pro rider Sarah Leishman, that she singled him out with high praise for his riding and coaching skills. He was only 15 years old at the time and already a budding rock star.

That was the last time I got to ride with Kyle. Believe it or not, we actually used this area right here, Kyle’s Park, as teaching terrain during the certification course. So it is particularly fitting that we dedicate this park to him.

In many ways, we think of Kyle as the model for Sugarbush’s Assistant Coach program. Instead of keeping his passion for skiing and biking to himself, he decided that sharing was a better way to enjoy them. This is an uncommon decision for a teenage boy to make, but Kyle was an uncommon person.

We are grateful for the time we spent with Kyle and grateful for everything that he managed to teach us in a few short years. So it is with great honor and respect that we dedicate this terrain park to Kyle Anderson. I am sure that he wants us to enjoy this park as much as possible, so let’s celebrate his life the best way we can … let’s ride!”

Kyle's Park. Sugarbush, Vermont 2011. John Atkinson photo.

I am humbled as a human being to read this and I am truly appreciative of the fact that I got to meet Kyle in his prime. I think of Nick Geddes who is fighting a similar disease as I type and am looking forward to seeing Nick beat the snot out of a disease that crept up so harshly on Kyle.

F$#& Cancer. Ride Bikes.

-Leishner

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