photo courtesy blueiceaviation.com.
Matt Keller, Owner/Operator at Blue Ice Aviation in Alaska may have stumbled onto the next frontier in mountain biking: glacier riding. Matt recently posted a video of his buddies mountain biking on his blog and says “I am still waiting for some professional bikers, and a film crew to get up here so we can make a real video.” Watching the video it’s not hard to imagine a group like The Collective filmmakers and riders putting together some sweet sessions against the amazing backdrop in Alaska.
As you might imagine, a glacier isn’t the most accessible place to ride a mountain bike and getting there requires strapping bike frames onto the outside of a small airplane (there’s just enough room inside for the wheels). I’ve heard of helibiking but the idea of plane-biking is a new one to me, though it certainly makes sense in a place like Alaska. Matt tells me the trip only takes about 5 minutes to the closest glacier riding spot and 25 minutes to a larger glacier with even better riding opportunities.
In the video, riders swoop down short, round sheets of ice and power back up onto the next “hill” and it instantly reminded me of the Slickrock trail in Moab (Matt confirms the riding is similar). From a distance it might seem like glaciers are icy and slick but in the summer the crust is actually crunchy, almost like rough sandpaper. In fact, Matt says the surface is like a cheese grater so falling off your bike is not recommended. I took the photo above on a glacier in Greenland and it shows the tiny dirt particles that heat up in the sunlight and melt into the ice, resulting in the signature pock-marked surface. The sound of bike tires crunching the crust has gotta be awesome.
Of course mountain biking on a glacier can be dangerous and snow-covered sections often hide deadly crevasses below. The entire glacier is constantly shifting and in the summer frigid ice melt can flow and pool in unexpected locations.
Matt has scoped out a couple spots he likes to ride with his buddies, the largest of which offers several square miles of riding. Since the glacier is constantly changing, marking routes would be futile and freestyle is the name of the game.
If glacier mountain biking in Alaska sounds like something you’d like to try, check out the Blue Ice Aviation website and give Matt a shout. And if you’re a pro rider or know a film crew that’s looking for a unique backdrop for sick moves, Matt would love to talk to you about showcasing this unique MTB destination!