North America’s first helicopter-supported enduro mountain bike race was held in Revelstoke this past summer. We caught up with the organizer to see how it all went down.
Cartier Mountain trail in Revelstoke is a classic. We published a story about heli-biking it on this site before and it’s since become a bucket list item for many mountain bikers, from near and far. This year the mountain saw some serious love thanks largely to local Ted Morton who organized North America’s first-ever helicopter-supported mountain bike race on its flanks. As part of the event, which is billed as the “Revelstoke 3-Day – Canada’s Heli-Supported Enduro Adventure,” participants were whisked to the top of the 2,600-metre peak in helicopters along with their bikes in a specially designed landing skid racks. and then they hooned down the 15-kilometre Cartier trail that had just been buffed out for the event.
Ted says worked continued on the trail after the event and the total project donation was $25,767.23, all directed to just the Cartier Mountain trail. We caught up with Ted to ask him more about the event, the trail work, and what’s next.
Thanks for connecting with us Ted. Tell us a bit about your background.
My background is really all-over the place, but two-wheels have always been the hub of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m originally from Ontario and grew up riding BMX, trying to bunny-hop every curb in sight, before I transitioned over to moto and finally to mountain biking. In my early twenties I enrolled in an outdoor guiding program, transitioning into a University degree at Thompson Rivers University. I started a small guiding/instruction company for mountain biking, while working in the event department at Sun Peaks. I finally made the jump to being self employed full-time, working various contracts in the mountain bike commercial world, before taking over the ownership of the BC Enduro Series. I founded the Canadian National Enduro Series last year and at the same time I had started planing/logistics on my dream experience, a Heli-Assisted MTB Experience in my favourite town!
What made you decide to do a heli-access mountain bike race?
I had been working for a local guide outfit in Revelstoke, called Wandering Wheels. Owners, Matt and Sahanna, had brought me along on a heli-drop. At the time there were no heli-bike racks and heli-biking was still a pretty rare and unique experience. I remember saying to Matt, “Imagine racing down this!” it was an unforgettable experience. I couldn’t stop thinking about bringing out my friends from all-over the world to experience Revelstoke, and ride what I consider to be one of the most unique trail experiences in Canada, due to the historical context of the trail, the views and of course, the chopper. I loved guiding, but events and specifically “races,” really bring a different element, as you can never repeat the experience. The “race” isn’t really about the time or the result, it’s about being fully immersed and consumed by the trail. Many riders will tell you that nothing compares to riding a trail for the first time, you’re just reacting to the trail, all your senses are firing at high-alert, you often don’t really remember much, just the “texture of the trail.” It’s really an emotional response. I don’t think people really understand that about this style of race. Going fast, is actually secondary enjoyment, the smiles and the stoke come from that raw, real, vein engorging experience, surrounded by a surreal reality of alpine imagery. It was about a year later that I attended the only other heli-supported race in the world, in New Zealand. The NZ Enduro was exactly what I had been dreaming about: mellow vibe, amazing trails, good coffee and a helicopter to a very authentic and rich area of the Marlbourough Sounds. They had these super cool bike racks and I knew that if we could get the racks, it would happen in Canada. I started hearing rumours of the rack. Once back in Canada, it was another year before the racks became readily available and the rest is history.
How was the turnout?
The race is actually capped at 110 racers. It sold-out in 12 hours, with a waiting list well into the hundreds. It’s an involved process, due to the remoteness, environmentally sensitivity and the atmosphere of the event, I actually hand-pick the entire field of riders. I don’t go for big named pros. I go for real riders, while mixing a few pros that really fit the theme of the event, like Nate Hills, Marco Osborne, Chris Birch (world’s best motocross enduro rider – and my childhood idol), Will Cadham/Mark Taylor, Chris Johnston, Dylan Wolsky, etc. A lot of the riders chosen for the event are key staples in their local community, I pick riders through a seven-page application process. It’s heavily based on riding experience and skill (as this is serious riding, and somewhat remote). All riders are also required to have First Aid training because when you’re playing in the mountains with people from all-over the world (we had eight countries represented), you want to know that everyone is speaking the same baseline language when shit hits the fan. Another interesting thing to note is that, for this event I used all local food-vendors: La Baguette, Taco Club and Glacier House Resort, with a lot of Mt. Begbie Brewing. The goal was to showcase everything Revelstoke!
How many days worth of work was done to the Cartier trail?
This is the cool thing about this event: I’ve been involved with events for the past 5-6 years and I’ve always been cognizant of the fact that in most towns it’s a volunteer group that builds, maintains and develops the trails. With my other events, I’ve always committed 10% of the racer registration back to the local trail clubs, however, the amount rarely exceeds $2,500. This summer, the BC/Canadian Enduro Series’ title sponsor MEC stepped up to help bring this to 20%, by matching our donation amount in certain locations. To date the BC Enduro Series has donated more than $70,000 to local communities. The Cartier Mountain Trail this summer saw a massive increase in ridership before the event, exponential usage. Previously this trail had always been managed by locals, and a huge thanks to them for their tireless effort year after year clearing deadfall and opening it up. For the Revelstoke 3-Day Heli Enduro, I really wanted to build on this model, I wanted to explore stewardship ideas to not only mitigate our impacts but to improve the trails we would use. I worked with the stakeholders for the Cartier Mountain Trail to come up with a bit of a stewardship plan. We cataloged key areas of concern before the race (shout out to Henning!), completed a post-race assessment and then I coordinated two separate professional trail crews to address those concerns and catalogue more than 50 points of interest. We tackled long-standing issues on the trail (drainage, erosion), mapped evac points and ultimately, helped to revitalize the trail. With all the being said, the external goal of the event was to undoubtedly have an adventure for the participants. Internally, I wanted to create a source of carrying capacity for a community asset that was in need. This was one of my primary motivations, I really was seeking to help better a community asset for the community and tourists alike. This never would’ve been possible without the support and dedication of the RCA, Henning Schipper, Revelsoke Chamber of Commerce, Arrow Helicopters and a solid crew of locals that were dedicated to the project. The total amount donated to this project from all stakeholders was around $26,000. I donated, just about $14,000 to the Cartier Trail, with another $2,500 going to Boulder Mountain/RCA for our use of the trails there for a day. I also pitched in around $400 along with Wandering Wheels to pay for a couple of local fallers to clear some of the blow-down on Martha Creek after the big wind storm.
How many staff/volunteers were involved?
For the event, I had approximately 30-35 people on the support crew. On the heli day, we had 23 first responders, approximately one for every 700m of trail. We also had a private heli, long-line team and an ER physician on standby at Arrow Helicopters hangar.
What was your favourite part about the event?
I’m a bit biased as I see the event from a completely different angle than the participants or the public. Honestly, my favourite part of the event was being able to allocate the resources to the Cartier Trail. It’s a trail that has seen a massive increase in usage. The RCA does so much for the trail scene in Revy. To be able to support the club, RSTBC, with trail-work is by far my favourite part of the event. It was a long process to get the permit approvals to be able to use the trails, but so worth it when you get to help sustain and maintain a trail with as much history as this. My other favourite part of the event was being able to host an experience that is one-of-a-kind. I’ve never been to an event where so many people couldn’t stop describing how they felt riding that trail (specifically stage 2 of mt. cartier). Their emotions were real, from tears, joy, worry, enlightenment to utter bliss, those moments will be burned into everyone’s memories for life, something they will tell everyone about and something you can only get in Revelstoke!
Any funny stories from the trail crew during maintenance?
Yeah, a few good stories. The best one was that after a summer of aridness, the week we had schedule to work had everything from rain, snow, sleet to lightening. While the majority of work was done post-event, we had a few crews go up before the event to help take care of troublesome spots and clear blowdown from the wind-storms. One good story is that we had flown in some fallers to the mid-cabin and they were going to hike up and down and then fly out at the end of the day. The guys were so stoked to be up there that they just kept going, they ended up hiking the whole trail, skipping the flight-out.
Are you going to do another next year?
As it sits right now, it’s on the table for the end of July, pending what the forest fire season looks like, but we’re stoked to do it all again! Again, big thanks to the RCA, RSTBC, Revelsoke Chamber and Revelstoke Tourism, Glacier House Resort, La Baguette, Valley Retreat, Mt.Begbie, Aero Designs, Arrow Helicopters, Wandering Wheels, Free Radical Trail Consulting, Starr Trail Solutions, Henning Schipper and anyone else I forgot!