Fly In, Ride Out: A Twist on Bikepacking and Shuttle Rides

Many are already familiar with the concept of heli-skiing–using a helicopter to drop skiers at the top of snowy peaks inaccessible via a traditional lift system. But perhaps a lesser-known variant is heli-biking, and a recent video interview posted on CBC News in British Columbia makes it sound like the sport has been taking off lately (excuse the pun).

We actually spoke with New Zealand heli-bike tour operator Vernon Reid back in 2010 to get the lowdown on the concept and at that time, heli-biking seemed to be geared toward DH shuttle runs almost exclusively. But Sam Waddington, owner of Mt. Waddington Outdoors guide service in Chilliwack says these days, clients are also choosing to use aircraft for multi-day bikepacking trips that start in the backcountry and end back in civilization.

According to Sam, it’s not just helicopters that are used; bush planes are also being chartered to take riders deep into the BC backcountry to ride trails few have visited. The CBC News host calls this “gravity assisted mountain biking,” though to me that’s a little too broad (ski lifts and pickup trucks also offer gravity assistance, after all). Plus, not every route is strictly (or even mostly) downhill.

Still, it’s an interesting way to cover a lot of ground in the backcountry without having to do an out-and-back, or limiting routes to those with roads on both ends. As mountain biking becomes more popular, the types of experiences riders are looking for is clearly expanding. It’s interesting to think about where our bikes will take us next!

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Photo: Kelly Mcgarry’s “The Hobbit” video from New Zealand.

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