Words: Devin Knopf
Photos: Ian Houghton
Any day that includes a 7,000ft. (straight) descent on a mountain bike is going to be a good one.
Throw in a rad group of guys and a helicopter ride to get you to the top and it’s going to be amazing.
Visible from pretty much anywhere in town, Mt. Cartier looms in the distance enticing adventurers to come explore, and since moving to Revelstoke last fall, the mountain had been beckoning me. So, when Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing announced they would be offering guided heli tours to the Cartier trail starting this summer, I knew I needed to be on the first flight and I knew who I needed to invite. Lachlan Sillitoe is an Australian living in Kamloops, he loves riding in Revelstoke and since he had never been in a helicopter before, I knew he’d be stoked.
The trail up Mt. Cartier was originally built around 1920 to access a forestry lookout at the top of the mountain. Since those days, Cartier has evolved into a trail that has attracted many hikers, and in recent years, dedicated mountain bikers willing to spend eight hours pushing their bikes up the gruelling incline for the downhill reward. I would have eventually sucked it up and gone the hike-a-bike route, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was stoked when the heli-option presented itself.
The best way to start a day that will be dropping 7,000 feet over an 18km trail is with a lot of bacon and lucky for us Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Revelation Lodge was happy to oblige. We joined the rest of our crew for a breakfast buffet and some great views to get us fuelled and amped for the day, before meeting our guides and pilot at the base of the gondola.
No one in our crew had been on a heli mountain bike tour before and Lachlan was going up in a heli for the first time, so the collective stoke levels were high. Minds were unanimously blown as our heli took flight across the valley before reaching our final landing point exposing the amazing views of the surrounding mountain ranges. With the clear view of what seemed like mountains all the way to the East and West borders of B.C., it was clear why this spot was chosen as a fire lookout.
We quickly scrambled to the summit to get the best views possible (and add a few 100 more ft. to our final descent) and check out the still standing fire lookout. I’m very scared of heights but the small hike was just fine for me. Revelstoke is right in between the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges and from that vantage point you can take in all its beauty.
Once geared back up again, we headed down the trail. Since the trail was initially built as a hiking trail, you definitely need to be an advanced mountain biker to enjoy its full potential, but if you have the skills to navigate it, you are rewarded by breathtaking views and high alpine singletrack.
Trying to stay on the trail is not easy, but that’s just because you are constantly stopping to check out the ever changing view.
Further down the trail, the alpine singletrack gives way to an amazing ridge line, with Cartier peak bearing down on you and Revelstoke Mountain Resort as the foreground. Our mate Lachlan did some freeriding and found a really cool steep drop in, pretty safe to say that no one had ever done it before!
The singletrack was amazing. Considering the long life of this trail and the hiking history, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, but with over 100 hours of work on the trail to get it ready for tours, it’s safe to say it was running perfectly. You could really get your speed up and there were even a few good lips to launch yourself off.
After a pit stop at the midpoint cabin, the singletrack was back on. There are a few small pedalling sections, but anyone would be happy bringing a downhill bike or an all mountain bike. My only recommendation would be to bring what the rest of the crew has – If your buddies are all on downhill bikes, bring your downhill bike and vice versa.
The singletrack never gave up and was uninterrupted the whole way down to our shuttle, and I couldn’t have been happier to get delivered right back to the Revelstoke Mountain Resort Village where a well-deserved Begbie pint was waiting!