The Artbarn Crew stepped things up, way the F up, by getting their hands on a Helicopter mounted Cineflex camera for their high Alpine shoot! You Like This - Heli Yeah we do!
“I go through the plan in my head again, probably the hundredth time I have done so tonight and no doubt will continue to do so until the helicopter flies away. One aspect of the plan keeps drawing my mind back; we are missing a VHF radio for the riders on the ground, which will severely limit our ability to communicate with the helicopter.”
While Kevin, Miranda, Jeremy and the rest of the crew had left Squamish before sunrise, the air still crisp from the night before, to make their way into the alpine. While I was up at the crack of 11am to get ready to head to the airport on time. Today was the day, that we had spent the last two weeks planning for, watched the weather and were about to finally roll the dice for. The Jet Ranger was in Squamish to work on an aerial shoot for a music video, and we planned to piggy back off that shoot to capture a section of alpine single track.
Around 3pm I left my house and headed to the Squamish airport waiting for the helicopter to arrive. After what seemed like hours we started to hear the sound of the Jet ranger flying up the valley towards the airport. In the past when I’ve shot from a helicopter it has involved flying with one door off, holding the camera in my hands or rigging Macgyver style camera mounts. The most improvised system so far involved some Wal-Mart under-wear waistbands and electrical tape. The shoot today was going to be a bit different than the past, as today we had a nose mounted cine-flex camera system on the helicopter.
Once we lifted off in the helicopter I had about 5-10mins to get a feel for the camera and how to operate it (today was my first time operating the camera) before we would begin the shoot. We spent the next 1h 45mins flying up and down the ridge shooting both scenic and riding shots. Two of the riders started from as high as they could hike in the alpine before reaching a glacier and needing crampons. They dropped in together, the helicopter strafing their right side, right in the center of the cine-flex monitor. Once these riders finished it was on to the next group of riders, who were staggered along a perfect alpine single track with a panoramic view of Squamish, the coast range, the Chief and the ocean as the backdrop.
Big thanks to the riders who hiked 4hours on multiple occasions through rain, snow and wind to scope and prep the trail in order to have it ready at a moment's notice and thanks as well to Mountain Shadow Productions for the use of their cine-flex camera system.
I go through the plan in my head again, probably the hundredth time I have done so tonight and no doubt will continue to do so until the helicopter flies away. One aspect of the plan keeps drawing my mind back; we are missing a VHF radio for the riders on the ground, which will severely limit our ability to communicate with the helicopter. The VHF radio we had lined up to borrow for the day started to malfunction and had been sent to Vancouver for repairs just two days before the shoot. To overcome our radio problem we decided that the helicopter would signal the riders when to drop by nosing in and flashing it’s light. After a final look at the map with Stu Baxter, owner of Britannia Beach Heli, I head off to bed while Taylor and Stu continue to plan the day from their ‘in-the-helicopter’ perspective.
After a restless night of half-sleeping, I awoke before my alarm, 4:30am, the sun was just rising and I was nervous about what lay ahead: Would we get there on time? Would we have enough time to rake the trail? Is the trail frozen? Will it thaw by noon? By 1? Is the knife edge even passable with bikes? All questions which I would very soon find the answers to.
Andrew Teit, who was staying in the living room was also up and we started on breakfast and brewing coffee. Miranda Miller was the first of the crew to arrive, followed closely by Jeremy Norris. Dennis Beare and Ben Corey showed up next, looking bleary eyed from the drive from Vancouver, and Lorraine Blanchard pulled in just after them, coming down from Whistler. We loaded up into Lorraine’s and my truck and headed out, first on the highway, then an hour up a horrendous Forest Service Road north of Squamish. We unloaded our bikes in bright sunshine, but onto frozen ground, the answer to one of my questions was crunching under our feet. Any shaded ground was covered with 2-3 inch long surface hoar, the high pressure system of the last few days resulted in clear cold nights, literally sucking the moisture out of the ground and into long frozen tentacles of ice. Luckily for us, this will work to our advantage allowing us the rake the surface hoar off the trail before it melts into a soggy mess. With trail tools strapped to our packs we begin the only fun part of our 3 hour ascent, a short 2 minute FSR rip, complete with big moto ruts up the cut banks…creating perfect dirt wall rides and moto berms to slash.
…So the hike happened…
Upon arriving to the base of the trail our team split up, Andrew headed down to manicure a jump line, Dennis and Ben both took rakes and started at the frozen single track. While Jeremy, Miranda, Lorraine and I headed up to scope the very top section of trail, a glacier moraine feature. After a few hours of raking and shaping the trail was ready to film, we all took a practice run down, then began the hike to our positions where we would wait for the helicopter.
Our plan was simple, in theory, we wanted to shoot 4 sections of trail which were divided by short climbs, so to maximize our heli time we staggered each rider atop each small hill, which allowed the helicopter to always be following a rider going downhill, and gave each rider time to climb the next small hill before the next pass. As each rider took their position Jeremy and I headed higher and higher up the ridge, as our drop in point was the very top of the moraine. To go any higher we would have needed ice tools and crampons. Down the valley we see the helicopter, flying around Table mountain. We know there is a Toronto born rap-star singing his heart out on top of that mountain, and are watching the helicopter make several passes around him. We also know that is our machine and that we better get a move on. My heart starts racing as we get to the base of our final ascent, my phone's vibrating, it's Stu at Squamish airport, letting me know that the machine is being fueled and Taylor is getting in. I yell the Jeremy ‘Time to hustle’ and we throw our bikes on our backs and scramble up the remaining few sections.
I hear the distinctive ‘thwack thwack’ of a helicopter flying close to mountains, the topography amplifying the sound, next is the high pitched whine of the engine. The heli does several passes, as the only clouds of the whole day obscure Jeremy and I, as they dissipate we see the machine nose in and flash its lights. Jeremy pulls on his helmet and drops in, he is pinning the moraine drifting corners and taking little airs the whole way down. I watch as the heli smoothly follows him then turns and heads back to me.
The machine noses in then flashes its lights at me, my feelings of nervousness have changed into excitement as I drop in. The whole section is a blur, I am just stoked and smiling when I get to the bottom and watch the machine fly off to film the riders stationed on the ridge below us. Jeremy and I start traversing the knife edge ridge which separates us from the next section of single track we want to shoot. As soon as we get to our next drop in point we are ready to repeat the process, I can see the rest of the crew at the bottom, and are watching them make their way over to the jumps Andrew had buffed out this morning. Jeremy dropped in again, and the heli effortlessly tracked him down the entire ridge. I pulled my goggles on as the machine reset itself, nose in, lights flash…time to drop. As soon as I start pedaling the world begins to blur again, I no longer worry about the machine above me, but concentrate on pumping rollers and roosting corners…
Our group collects at the base of the jumps, watching the machine fly away, there was a collective sigh of relief. The day went off with almost no problems, injuries or mechanicals, which when dealing with an operation with as many logistics as our ‘Heli Day’ had was amazing. Editors Note
The short video and photos that are included with this article were generated from our second shoot with the cini-flex. However the story of that day is much less interesting then the story from our Alpine shoot day, there were no problems to deal with, no massive amounts of logistics to deal with. We had excellent communication and a solid plan…see what I mean boring story.
Thanks to all the riders and especially thanks to Nigel Price and Mike Bemister at Mountain Shadow Productions.ARTBARN Vimeo channel www.artbarnproductions.blogspot.com You Like This Facebook Page