Behind the Shot: Skier Carston Oliver on Mountain Biking Book Cliffs, Utah
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“I was grinning ear to ear from the amount of fun I was having and just starting to plan where I would need to get on the brakes before hitting the steep trench left by runoff at the bottom of this line,” recalls pro skier Carston Oliver of this moment at sunset in Book Cliffs, Utah, an increasingly popular mountain biking destination.
“The terrain at Book Cliffs is very complex, with lots of folds, spines, and rolls to explore and play on. This area has the full spectrum of riding options, from supermellow to outright death-defying and everything in between,” says Oliver. “In essence, it looks and feels like backcountry skiing, but without the risk of avalanches.”
Adventure: Is this an established mountain biking area?
Carston Peter: I don’t think that this is an officially established mountain biking area, but it is starting to become a relatively popular riding spot for folks looking to do some big-mountain and freeride mountain biking. Fortunately it’s a big area with seemingly endless options, so even on “busy” days you can feel pretty alone out there. It’s fun to come back to again and again to see what riding options are around the next corner.
A: What’s great about mountain biking here?
CP: The great thing about the mountain biking here is the amount of freedom you have. There are no trails, and the lack of vegetation makes almost everything a rideable surface, so you are really only limited by your imagination and your comfort level with the terrain. There is a large enough area to explore that you could spend years riding here without ever getting bored and seldom riding the same line. The terrain is very complex, with lots of folds, spines, and rolls to explore and play on, and there is enough variety that you can really bite off as much as want to chew as far as difficulty and exposure are concerned. It has the full spectrum of riding options from super mellow to outright death-defying, and everything in between. In essence, it looks and feels like backcountry skiing, but without the risk of avalanches and you’re on a bike instead of skis.
A: What was the goal on this trip?
CP: The goal of this trip was pretty simple: have a ton of fun, fit as much riding as possible into a single day, and try to capture a couple of quality images at sunrise and sunset.
A: How did you get to this area from your homes?
CP: We just jumped in the car a little before 4:00 a.m., made the three hour drive from Salt Lake City to Green River, then took one of the dirt roads out of town to the base of the Book Cliffs. From there we would pedal to the base of each line and hike/climb up it with the bikes on our backs. With the early start I was able to drop in on my first line of the day at sunrise.
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A: You are a pro skier. How does mountain biking fit into your life?
CP: Mountain biking is basically the warm weather mirror image of skiing for me, except I don’t think I was ever good enough to make it into a career so I get to ride purely for fun. Mountain biking and skiing are exactly the same from a mental standpoint, and strikingly similar from a physical standpoint. In both sports you have to navigate terrain and make decisions on the fly at speed, and the risk management and decision making processes are exactly the same. Additionally, many of the body positions and physical mechanics involved in proper cornering and jumping are very similar, so they translate well between the two sports. Because of these similarities, mountainbiking keeps me both physically and mentally in the game year round, allowing me to enter each winter feeling ready go from the very start. Mountainbiking makes me a better skier, and skiing makes me a better mountainbiker. It’s really a toss-up as to which one I enjoy more.
A: Where do you live and why?
CP: I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. I like this place because of the close proximity and easy access to outdoor activities. There is a ton of quality riding that I can bike to from the the house, plenty of world class skiing, biking, and climbing all less than a 30 minute drive away, and seemingly endless options within a few hours. This is all within a 10 to 15 minute bike ride from downtown, and a quick drive or train ride from SLC International Airport, so it is a good home base to travel from for bigger, more exotic trips as well.
A: What are you excited about for next ski season?
CP: I am really exited for just about everything that comes with winter: powder days with my friends, watching the sunrise from tops of peaks, returning to favorite riding spots and exploring new ones both at home and abroad, and just skiing as much as possible.