We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Jesse Melamed about some of his favorite haunts and hollers in his hometown of Whistler, British Columbia. The Rocky Mountain / Race Face Team rider learned how to mountain bikes on the famous Canadian slopes that thousands of people fly from around the world to ride, and he still seems to love the place.
Melamed has amassed an extensive video library of trails and event locations throughout his international racing career, and we decided to lace some of those clips into this interview in lieu of the usual still photographs — since some readers have extra time at the moment. Let’s take a short tour with him!
When did you start riding trails in Whistler?
I got into riding because of my parents so I was riding as soon as possible. I know I was just riding around when I was three, but it’s hard to pinpoint when exactly I started riding trails. There’s also evidence of my riding the practice loop in Moab at a very young age, as we used to escape the end of winter there as a family and go south for riding.
Have you worked with a skills coach at any point?
I have never worked with a skills coach specifically but I did go to a few different mountain bike camps. I also got my coaching certificate and coached youth camps myself so there was plenty of time given to self improvement.
When did you begin riding with the Rocky Mountain / RaceFace Enduro squad?
The Rocky Mountain Race Face enduro team is only a few years old. I was, however part of the very first Rocky Mountain Enduro team way back in 2013. From there it morphed into the Rocky Mountain Urge BP Rally Team that I was on for four years, and then the past two years on the latest version of the team.
Which elements of western B.C. trails do you feel have helped you prepare for racing around the world?
I would say the balance between fun, jank, and technical helped. The fun kept me in the sport and wanting to go ride, the jank helped give me bike control and strength, and the varying technicality gave me a way to keep progressing through a large part of my youth. There was also a really amazing local racing scene back then that gave me guys to look up to and something to strive towards.
Tell us about BC “Jank.” What does the term mean to you?
We have some good BC jank, basically if you need speed for a section, but still need to pedal through the section and feel like you’re putting in more work than you feel necessary, you’re going through some good jank. We have less of the European jank corners, and more of the awkward rooty, rocky, steppy sections of trail that require your bike-body balance and every move has to be perfect.
What is one of the most challenging trails for you in Whistler and why?
I feel like I can proudly say not many are challenging to me anymore, and the only reason that shouldn’t come off as bragging is because, growing up riding the trails, I walked a lot. I spent a good 20 years on all those trails and slowly but surely practiced them enough and progressed enough that I could ride them all. But thinking back there were a few no-flow trails in Emerald that were always a challenge. No one but the die-hard locals ride those anymore. I still love to go out there and bring myself down a few pegs. Gargamel is one that ends over there that is a very challenging trail, but I only went out to that trail after I had sufficient skills to attempt it so it wasn’t as gnarly as I was expecting. Just the right level of gnar.
What is your favorite trail in or outside the park?
What’s your favorite non-Whistler place to ride in the world?
That’s a tough one. I am very fortunate to have visited quite a few places around the world and they all have something special. I always say Finale Ligure, Italy because it has amazing trails, amazing food, and culture. It’s on the sea and it’s a beautiful place. It has everything you need.
What lesser-known trails should readers check out when they visit Whistler Bike Park?
I would say don’t go to the bike park. Check out a westside classic Pura Vida, one in alpine called Billy’s Epic, and an Emerald classic Shit Happens. Kill me Thrill me is a great “XC” classic that is very much Whistler XC. To be clear it’s not a little bike trail, it’s just a trail that goes up and down, so be prepared to pedal.
Where is your favorite place to get a meal or beer in Whistler?
I don’t drink often so I go where my friends go. But my friend runs a good show at the Cinnamon Bear for some drinks or Handlebar for some post ride beers. La Cantina burrito is actually a great post ride feast. I also love a good Samurai Sushi special. Quick, easy, cheap.
What bike shops and rentals would you suggest folks check out?
Coastal Culture is my go-to. The guys who run it have been in one shop or another that supported me during my upbringing in Whistler.
Who is your favorite local “non-pro” shredder?
Ah, there are too many! Probably all the “old” guys that I grew up racing local XC against that I was always trying to beat. Beasts on the climb but just as fast as me on the descents, the way I like it. The Dingo is the only one I still ride with and try to beat down from time to time. Doing as much payback as I can for all the times he beat me.
Just for fun, who do you think will win the EWS women’s and men’s overall this season?
I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious, so I can’t say who I want to say. So that leaves Isabeau. She is a sick rider and a really cool person. I was on her team for a few years and really enjoyed it. Stoked to see her crushing it.
For the mens, also can’t say who I want to say, so I think Martin has to be hungry. But I also just like watching Sam and Richie win. So entertaining. I’d like to see Adrien do well as well.