The tracks last for days–sometimes weeks–each long tail telling a different story. From top to bottom, short, fast squiggles, long-trailing arcs or straight lines cut by beginners speak of speed and flow, friends and dogs, airs and bails. Ultimately, the wind and weather clear the canvas for the next storyteller.
The Barhartvale gravel pit in Kamloops, British Columbia, represents mountain biking’s powder skiing. It’s a magical place where the dirt doesn’t hurt, and where the judge of risk and reward is gentle with her verdicts. The mountain of sand and rock rests on a slope as steep as gravity allows. Science says it’s about 30 degrees, but it seems sharper from the top. The surface mixture is perfect–not so soft that you can’t gain speed, but soft enough to crash and walk away.
Locals have been carving turns into the pit’s gravel for decades. First, it was a brave few, then gradually more, their lines immortalized as ink on paper and pixelated on screens around the world, inspiring new generations of carvers.
The signature laugh of one of the first, Brett Tippie, can still be heard when the wind blows across the pit’s face, carrying his voice across the valley. Or maybe he really is at the top, about to drop in. Either way, the magic of the pit is real. Anyone who has peered down from the top, stomach firmly planted in his or her throat while dropping in, can attest to the elation of completing a run and looking back up at the fresh tracks with hands still shaking from the adrenaline. The most common comment from riders at the bottom? “I could never get tired of that.”