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Heli-Droppin’ at Tenquille Lake

Stephen Matthews Goes Guiding with Big Mountain and the Decline Symposium

Words by Stephen Matthews Photos by Chris Winter and Stephen Matthews
July 10th, 2013

Every year the Decline Symposium goes off in Whistler involving Decline Magazine editors, product testers, and industry representatives. Chris Winter of Big Mountain Bike Adventures took the opportunity to take a classic heli-drop from the Pemberton Meadows, and put his own spin on it for all the attendees of the Symposium.

It was an opportunity for Big Mountain to give the Symposium a unique and special trip unlike any year previous. By the look on their faces at the end of the day, Big Mountain showed Decline what true backcountry BC mountain biking was all about, and they had learned how about Chris Winter’s desire to imprint fond and lasting memories.

Big Mountain Adventures, Tenquille Lake, Mount Barbour, Pemberton, heli drop, bike, backcountry, BC, stephen matthews, nsmb team, ghost bikes, mec

Great day for staging 2 big bike slings. 35 bikes in two trips take some serious organization. Photo Stephen Matthews.

Big Mountain is known as the leader in mountain bike travel, and at the helm of the company Winter is a mastermind of good times and adventure. Chris started Big Mountain 10 years ago this year, and has successfully navigated mountain bike travel around the world. Based out of Whistler, he has a strong connection with the Sea to Sky corridor and loves sharing his passion for classic descents such as Tenquille Lake. This privately made trip for Decline Magazine was led by Chris Winter, Adrian Bostock, Paige Bell, Seb Wild, and myself.

Big Mountain Adventures, Tenquille Lake, Mount Barbour, Pemberton, heli drop, bike, backcountry, BC, stephen matthews, nsmb team, ghost bikes, mec

Seb Wild and I seen here, contemplating the negatives of being tall. Photo Chris Winter.

Tenquille Lake is a beautiful and pristine area in the sub-alpine above the Pemberton Meadows. There are multiple ways to approach the lake, but descending down from 1000ft above the lake on alpine scree and snow is an experience not many get. The typical heli-approach is to navigate off of Mount Barbour, and descend down towards old miner trails. With Barbour still covered in snow, we had to make adaptations to the plan and come up with an alternate route. After some fly by scoping, and radio discussions, we chose to drop a southeast facing aspect above the lake, keeping the adventure alive for Chris Winter, and the excitement at an all time high for the clients.

Big Mountain Adventures, Tenquille Lake, Mount Barbour, Pemberton, heli drop, bike, backcountry, BC, stephen matthews, nsmb team, ghost bikes, mec

Adrian Bostock guides up at Tyax Lodge in the summertime. He came down for the special occasion and led the safety speech for the second group from the Decline Symposium. Photo Chris Winter.

Big Mountain Adventures, Tenquille Lake, Mount Barbour, Pemberton, heli drop, bike, backcountry, BC, stephen matthews, nsmb team, ghost bikes, mec

Helicopters are the best way to travel. Photo Chris Winter.

With 30 clients from the Decline Symposium being led by the 5 of us, everyone got an amazing trip in the helicopter. The heli was logistically organized to accommodate 2 bike slings and 7 round trips delivering people, so everyone got their fair share of views and breathtaking meadow lounge time. Taking a helicopter flight up from the flat and wide farming lands of the Pemberton Meadows and into the steep drainage of Tenquille Lake is a pretty surreal experience for a lot of people. Landing on top of a wild backcountry descent 1000ft above the lake is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Big Mountain Adventures, Tenquille Lake, Mount Barbour, Pemberton, heli drop, bike, backcountry, BC, stephen matthews, nsmb team, ghost bikes, mec

Pete Stace-Smith of Norco Bicycles loved the exploratory upper bowl riding. Photo Chris Winter.

From the location of the drop, we descended in two separate groups down snow and scree, across alpine fields, riding faint glimpses of singletrack between all mountain interpretation sections. Once at the lake, the first group took the opportunity to snap photos and get their feet wet while waiting for their co-workers and friends. There is a sub-alpine traverse out of the drainage before you come face to face with the Pemberton Valley, and once you reach the view there’s a fast traverse of soft singletrack and loose technical rock to the bottom. Tenquille Trail saw a massive forest fire a few summers ago, so parts of the descent are quite a bit more technical than they used to be. Cruising through the burn into the thick woods has that classic Pemberton feel of loose drifting on dust and rock. It’s an amazing feeling to be riding fully wide open and concentrated on a piece of singletrack for thousands of vertical feet.

Big Mountain Adventures, Tenquille Lake, Mount Barbour, Pemberton, heli drop, bike, backcountry, BC, stephen matthews, nsmb team, ghost bikes, mec

At this stage of the ride you got to choose your own adventure down to the lake. Drew Rohde of Decline Magazine caught here looking on to his co-worker taking the plunge. Photo Stephen Matthews.

I asked Chris Winter a few questions about what it’s like putting together these adventures, and what he likes to see out of the day.

Stephen Matthews: Chris, how did this day opportunity to work with Decline Magazine come about?

Chris Winter: Big Mountain Adventures was approached by Decline Magazine to create an epic day of riding outside of the Whistler Bike Park. Big groups and challenging logistics in remote locations are our specialty, so of course we jumped at the opportunity. Our first challenge was to find a trail that would suit the variety of riding levels and bike types. The trail request was super fun, not too technical and generally downhill. Mount Barbour and Tenquille Lake was the perfect choice but a few things had to be eliminated out of the equation before confirming the event.

SM: What kind of issues can backcountry trips have?

CW: Blow down can be a big problem on this trail so we had local Pemberton riders scoping it for us leading up to the event. We’d had a big snow year and a cold spring so snow was an issue. The pilot did a fly by a week out and he came back saying at least a meter on North-facing slopes. Ouch. Then of course the weather, helicopters don’t like flying if they can’t see. 24 hours out, we made a call that the trip was a go. We made the call to abort dropping on the summit of Barbour and instead chose a south-facing shoulder about 1000 feet above Tenquille Lake.

SM: Client numbers for this trip were pretty big for a heli-drop, how do you think it went?

CW: We had 35 bikes and 35 riders in the high alpine on a Saturday morning. Amazing! In the end the descent was adventurous but we made it out with a few scrapes, some big smiles and a ride that the riders won’t forget.

Big Mountain Adventures, Tenquille Lake, Mount Barbour, Pemberton, heli drop, bike, backcountry, BC, stephen matthews, nsmb team, ghost bikes, mec

Loving the backcountry singletrack from the cockpit of my 650b! Photo Stephen Matthews.


Ever done a heli or float plane trip with bikes? Drop in with your adventure stories below…

Mark Matthews: Slammed

From Rupert Walker's lens, a few boosts gone awry.

Words by Pete Roggeman
June 25th, 2013

NSMB team rider Mark Matthews is a bona fide booster. His riding in Rupert Walker’s video short filmed up at the Whistler Bike Park turned heads (as usual). When it all goes right, he sends his Demo into orbit and brings it down as gently as a kitten in a room full of 3-ply. But when it all goes Pete Tong, that amplitude translates into some frightening ground rush. Thankfully he crashes with impressive skill, too. Here are a few shots that didn’t make the cut, for obvious reasons.


Do Mark’s misses make you cringe, or is back flipping big doubles in the woods just routine now?

Mark Matthews at Whistler Bike Park

Early Season Bike Park Stoke

Words by Mark Matthews
June 3rd, 2013

NSMB Team rider Mark Matthews has settled in to his summer digs in Whistler, and is back in the bike park styling up every jump out there. This past week it was pouring rain, but that didn’t stop Rupert Walker from hooking up with Mark to put together a fun little edit for Chromag.


The Whistler Bike Park is amazing right now. The trail crew’s efforts and the lucky wave of warm weather have helped shape some unreal trail conditions. The dirt is tacky and there are some fresh sections of trail new for 2013 that scatter the lower mountain.

Even in the pouring rain, Rupert and I had an awesome time shooting this video. Filming in the bike park is awesome because it’s easy to capture footage that’s fast, flowy, and fun to watch.


Mark’s style is super fun to watch… keep an eye out there for him in Whistler!

The Wettest Day of All Time

H2O Tips from Paul Stevens

Words by Paul Stevens Photos by Morgan Taylor
May 17th, 2013

As I drove out of the snow and in to the rain, my wipers were on full speed, and I was beginning to wish that my goggles had the same settings for their lenses. It was one of those days where you take a deep breath before you get out of the car, and move as fast as you can, in a vain attempt to dodge the inevitable – getting soaked to the bone. It was one of those days where you finish riding and could not be any wetter, where you spray your bike and then yourself, because your shoes are already overflowing with muddy water with every step. One of those days where your teeth are filled with grit, from smiling through every puddle. In other words, a typical winter day on the Shore!

Morgan rocked up also sporting the new Aurum, and the bikes looked so good in the truck, that we couldn’t say no. And besides, if he was prepared to stand in the rain with a camera all day, I was more than ready to get up there and ride past him a few times, even if it did mean losing the goggles as well as the feeling in my fingers and toes for half the day! Andrew Baker was also out, shredding hard, keeping smiles on our faces, and afterwards, making sure that I didn’t drive back up to Whistler as wet and cold as when I finished the ride. Thanks buddy!

Tips for riding the wettest day of all time:

NSMB Team, Norco, Norco Bicycles, Aurum, Paul Stevens, Morgan Taylor, North Shore, mountain bike

Tip #1: Avoid spray from your tires by taking your wheels off the ground and covering your face with your arm.

NSMB Team, Norco, Norco Bicycles, Aurum, Paul Stevens, Morgan Taylor, North Shore, mountain bike

Tip #2: Always bring the best tool for the job…

NSMB Team, Norco, Norco Bicycles, Aurum, Paul Stevens, Morgan Taylor, North Shore, mountain bike

Tip #3: Don’t forget your goggles!

NSMB Team, Norco, Norco Bicycles, Aurum, Paul Stevens, Morgan Taylor, North Shore, mountain bike

Tip #4: Jump over the slippery roots.

NSMB Team, Norco, Norco Bicycles, Aurum, Paul Stevens, Morgan Taylor, North Shore, mountain bike

Tip #5: Ride it like it’s dry!

NSMB Team, Norco, Norco Bicycles, Aurum, Paul Stevens, Morgan Taylor, North Shore, mountain bike

Tip #6: Remember, it’s never too wet to land sideways!


Did Paulo leave out any tips for riding in the wet? Bring it on in the comments below…

Sideways Rain

A Wet Wallpaper

Photos by Morgan Taylor
May 8th, 2013

This week we’ve pulled a shot from an upcoming NSMB Team article: Paul Stevens getting shreddy on the Shore.

NSMB Team, Norco, Norco Bicycles, Aurum, Paul Stevens, Morgan Taylor, North Shore, mountain bike

Paul Stevens getting it sideways under some sideways rain on the Shore. Photo Morgan Taylor.

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Previous Wallpaper Wednesdays:

January 9, 2013
January 16, 2013
January 23, 2013
January 30, 2013
February 6, 2013
February 13, 2013
February 20, 2013
February 27, 2013
March 6, 2013
March 13, 2013
March 20, 2013
March 27, 2013
April 3, 2013
April 10, 2013
April 17, 2013
April 24, 2013
May 1, 2013


Have you dusted off the DH bike yet this season?

Please activate some Widgets.

Dakine