Photo Epic: Women's Heli-Drop With Miranda Miller

Sep 5, 2018
by Sarah Lukas  

When I was 12 years old, I lined up for my first mountain bike race. It was an all women’s mountain bike weekend; I didn’t really know the difference between a “women’s only” weekend versus a co-ed experience. Whatever. It got me to line up for my first race with no prior knowledge of what to expect, except that I wanted to shred my red, rigid, Schwinn. Maybe it made my dad a little more comfortable knowing there was a rad group of women around to support me. Needless to say, I was hooked. 18 years later I am dropping out of one of Blackcomb’s Helicopters with Specialized and World Champion Miranda Miller on top of Rainbow Mountain. Now, the progression of my riding has been due to a number of variables. One of those is that I was never told that I couldn’t do it. Everyone around me told me I could hit that drop or climb that mountain. I was lucky for that, because I know it’s not always the case.

Growing up racing over 10 years ago, I didn’t have access to women’s clinics, activations, and other things until I was well into university. I relied on many guys around me to show me how to descend through a rock garden, or help me learn how to do some mini dirt jumps in the woods, or even how to be a mechanic. Without that, I would not be the rider I am today. For women in mountain biking now, the industry continues to explore different ways to introduce women to the sport and make them feel welcome. But what about the women who are already here? For example, I attended a skills clinic a few months ago to try and work on some more advanced skills (things like mandatory drops or jumps), and it wasn’t until the last hour of the day that the girls I was with realized I wasn’t one of their coaches.

We continue to see women’s activations pop up year-after-year; many being different skills clinics with varying levels of coaches. Crankworx showed a number of women's clinics from beginner's skills, to bike maintenance, to more advanced skills work. Specialized wanted to do something different.

Anne Brillet, head of Specialized's Women's Global Marketing teamed up with colleague Colin Belisle who handles Mountain Bike Marketing to organize the Specialized Crankworx Women's Heli Biking with Miranda Miller Sweepstakes. “We believe in breaking down the barriers of the sport for women," Anne stated. "Often, activities for women are targeting entry-level riders and can focus a lot on learning to ride. As much as skills clinics are super crucial to welcome new women and improve existing talent, we wanted to organise something for those riders who are already kicking ass. So, when Colin [Belisle] came to me and said 'we need to organise something for Crankworx for women, but it’s got to be epic. How about a heli drop?', I thought that throwing a group of women off a helicopter for the ride of their lives would be awsome. Let’s make it happen! Oh, and how about we throw a World Champion in the mix."

The sweepstakes drew 10 winners to take part in the heli drop with Miranda Miller. Check out their experiences below.

Serving British Columbia, Alberta, the US Pacific Northwest and points beyond for nearly 30 years, Blackcomb Helicopters is the region’s leading independent helicopter charter company.

Blackcomb Helicopters uses a AS350B2DH (C-FDGA) helicopter to haul 5 riders and their bikes.

One rider is trained and responsible for de-racking the bikes once at the top of the mountain.

Anne Brillet of Specialized catches a couple final shots before the women head out.

While some of the women knew each other through the riding community, it also gave an opportunity to ride and meet with a new group of women.

Three separate heli trips were made to get the whole crew to the top of Rainbow Mountain in Whistler.

Luckily, Miranda kept us entertained while we waited for the other drops.

"While there is a large focus in the industry on creating inviting and safe environments for women to get into the sport, there isn’t really a lot going on for already skilled riders who don’t want to race. There are enough advanced riders out there for room for activities like heli-drops etc. It can be fun, non-competitive and normal. No need to get to rah-rah-rah about anything, just go on and ride!" - Miranda Miller

"Learn to ride clinics are a great way to get women interested in the sport, but there are fewer events for women with medium or advanced skills. It was a great way to meet fellow riders at my skill level. No falls, no flops and a smile from ear to ear. Success!" - Lee Newton, Bellingham, WA

"I gained a lot of confidence in my riding ability. And learned that most women that bike genuinely want to support and encourage other women to reach their riding goals." - Gemma Elford, Whistler, BC who has only been riding a year.

"These kinds of big-time rides help women to become more established in extreme sports. This was a badass adventure for a group of badass women. We may not have perfect form or proper cornering, but each one of us still learned something new about our riding." - Anna Surowiecki

"This was an amazing idea, and I love seeing something for women that caters to a more advanced level of riding. I feel like most often, contests, clinics etc are catered to beginner/intermediate riders and getting women started. Which is absolutely great, but it's a real treat to go on an advanced ride with a bunch of super capable chicks." - Jasmine Swanson, Squamish, BC

"This gives the opportunity to women to experience it in a less intimidating way and will probably inspire ladies to organize their own more daring adventures with groups of friends. I hope to see more of these types of contests, experiences and events being directed specifically at women." - Vero Hamel, Squamish, BC

"I wanted to do something rad at Crankworx, and doing a heli drop is pretty much top of the list. Being a women’s ride came into play, but it didn’t change the decision. We as riders are all in it for the fun, for the stoke, and gender doesn’t change that." - Colin Belisle, MTB Marketing at Specialized

Read more about the Specialized Crankworx Women's Heli Biking with Miranda Miller Sweepstakes here.


  • 22 4
 More of this please!
  • 5 20
flag mollow (Sep 5, 2018 at 15:09) (Below Threshold)
 Of what?
  • 6 0
 @BlackcombHelicopters: Thanks for the rides! And for flying me back after breaking my shoulder.
  • 10 0
 *slides a Benjamin across the table* Please consider me for next year, thank you.
  • 4 0
 "Gemma Elford, Whistler, BC who has only been riding a year."

One year riding in Whistler translates to about 10 in other places. She's probably crushing it already. I remember my first race in Squamish. I lined up at the front row because I was in reaaally good shape. I was confronted with the reality of Whistler/Squamish riders when after the first 300m I was three quarters of the way to the back. Frown
  • 1 0
 She crushed it!! Most riders with a year riding wouldn't want to attempt a trail like this. Whistler is a different beast.
  • 7 5
 Wow - they would try to kill you here in Europe if you where flying „mountainbikers“ up the hill to make them roll down. Deep inside i would love to do it, but i learned to much about earth, pollution and that stuff to really do it one day. Rather pedal that thing up - even with an eBike if necessary.
  • 6 7
 Exactly. I'm always wondering how you can be a mountain biker, love & respect nature and take an Heli for your little pleasure and pollute like hell... Deserve your mountain, climb it or leave it...
  • 1 0
 Yeah its a trend I hope wont take off. But whaddya gonna do? Live and let live.
  • 2 1
 that's a fair point, but it applies to so much. i won't compare it to shuttling with a car, but i think it's fair to talk about lifts, which are definitely in use in europe. so much goes into lift infrastructure, including logging, altering drainage, running trucks up and down, and electricity. not to mention the fact that helicopters are often involved in lift install, maintenance, and breakdown. oh, and those villages that tend to be at the bottom of it. i'm not against it, and in truth i'm gainfully employed by a ski resort. i think we just need to put it in perspective and instead of trying to be pure, we should just try to better.
  • 2 0
 Would love to get a visit from the pros or brand ambassadors here in Asia. We had EWS riders Bex Baraona and Martha Gill in KL recently and that was a blast to show them some of the trails but that was an ad hoc trip. Miranda, Tahnee, Rachel, Manon, Veronique, come to KL!!!
  • 5 2
 On my bucket list. Not to become a woman. To heli drop Rainbow mountain. .......that was awkward.
  • 5 1
 What a cool thing to do.
  • 4 1
 the heli is actually an AS350B2 not a B3
  • 1 0
 true fact.
  • 2 0
 Rocks and rocks! Looks amazing.
  • 1 0
 i don't know why miranda miller remember me to Steve smith
  • 1 2
 Put your phones away God Dammit!!

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