By Alison Taylor
A Whistler company is looking to take its clients to new heights on their mountain bikes.
Heli-biking is the wave of the future for mountain bikers, said Michael Hallett, of West Coast Freeride Guides. That’s why the company recently submitted an application to Land and Water B.C. for tenure of trails on Rainbow and Cougar Mountain.
“It’s the experience of being in the backcountry,” said Hallett. “It’s pretty much like heli-skiing… that awe of being in a helicopter and having your bike follow up behind you in another load. It’s great — can’t say enough about it.”
The application, which has yet to be approved by the province, would give the company tenure of roughly 10 kilometres of existing trails.
The Rainbow trail is almost four km long. It meets up with municipal trails for a total six km experience.
The Cougar Mountain trail is a little shorter at four and half km. It meets up with the Kill Me, Thrill Me trail at the north end of the municipality.
Hallett estimates the rides would take about four hours from start to finish. But the beauty of the trip is that riders can take as long as they want to ride down to the valley.
It is, he said, a completely different experience to riding the mountain bike park.
“It’s a great alternative activity to the mountain bike park,” he said. “People want to get away from the crowds.”
And there’s the added thrill of the helicopter ride to get to the top of the mountain.
In the application it states:
“(H)elicopter biking has all the potential of becoming another significant tourist attraction for the Whistler area and the province of British Columbia. This diversification of summer season opportunity will assist the province in meeting its goal of doubling tourism by 2015.”
With changing demographics in the sport, Hallett said the scope of riders is changing. There are more mountain bikers now with disposable income. And even those with moderate incomes are willing to pay for the new thrill.
Hallett estimates there would be no more than one trip per day on the trails, with groups of four or possibly groups of eight. Riders will be responsible for taking their garbage out with them.
The company has also committed to a trail management plan, which will be reviewed by the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
There is a 120-day review process with the province before a decision on the application is made.