The life and death of a BASE jumper

The life and death of a BASE jumper

B.C. man writes five-page letter asking to be ‘put back into the air’ should he die

Mike Racicot kept a letter with one request should he die: “I want to be put back into the air.”

The five-page handwritten missive the elite BASE jumper had left at his home in B.C. had instructions on what to do with his possessions and his beloved dog, a 10-year-old boxer called Taco.

The 37-year-old — known as “Treehouse Mike” — died on July 26 while on a wingsuit flight in Switzerland.

“We were always worried about him, but he was so good about taking care of himself,” said Racicot’s sister, Rachel Polite, who has spent the past few months fulfilling her brother’s wishes. ”Now we’re taking care of him.”

READ MORE: Skydiving instructor says jumping from airplanes changes people

As per his final wishes, Racicot’s body was cremated and the ashes were sent to family and friends who were to take them on more adventures. A big “ash jump” was held in Squamish in late August when more than two dozen friends jumped off a cliff. When one opened his parachute, Racicot’s ashes burst forth in a giant plume.

His ashes have also been spread on jumps off the Kuala Lumpur Tower in Malaysia, the massive Balinghe River Bridge in China and Trump Tower in Vancouver, among others. Another jump will take place in Mexico on New Year’s Eve, and some of his ashes will be taken back to the Swiss mountain where he died.

Racicot earned his “Treehouse” nickname for living off-and-on for years in a secret tree house he built on Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, B.C. He became a journeyman carpenter, a beekeeper — you had to donate money to a local charity to get some honey — and worked for a time at Tim Hortons. He hitchhiked across the country several times and rode freight trains for fun.

He spent his early years in Quebec before moving to Arnprior, Ont., in the Ottawa Valley, when he was four years old.

That’s where he started to skateboard, at age 9, because he felt more comfortable gliding then walking, said his 40-year-old sister. People made fun of his walk due to problems with the arches in his feet.

“He had a little bounce in his step when he walked,” said Polite, so he skated all over the small town. “He became really good, really quick.”

The family soon moved to Barrhaven, an Ottawa suburb, where, as a teen, Racicot advocated for a skate park that would later become a favourite haunt for the youngster and his friends.

His father tried putting Racicot in football, but that didn’t take.

“I say to Mike, ‘To be good at this, you have to hit the other guys,’” Al Racicot says. “He didn’t have that in him.”

His adventurous spirit couldn’t be contained, his family said. He jumped out of trees and soon began jumping off bridges, some 35 metres high, into the water below.

“The first time I really met him he was doing flips off the roof of the community centre into the snow,” said Adam Myers, his childhood friend.

Together, Racicot and Myers started a graffiti collective — called DBS crew — that left their marks across the city.

“If you’re in Ottawa, Mike is a legend,” Myers said. “All they knew is this guy started DBS, moved out west, lived in a tree fort and became a BASE jumper.”

On his 18th birthday, Racicot asked his father for a skydiving session. Al Racicot complied. The father, son and Myers drove to Arnprior where Racicot went up in a plane and jumped.

“He was so stoked, you could see it in his eyes,” said Myers.

At 20, Racicot dropped out of college.

“He wasn’t the greatest one in school,” his father said, “but, boy, could he work.”

Most of all, Racicot wanted adventure. So at 23, he packed up everything he owned, including his skateboard, stuffed it onto a small Yamaha scooter and headed west.

The scooter maxed out at 60 km/h through the flats of the Prairies and chugged uphill at 40 km/h through the Rockies, his life’s belongings weighing him down. It took him a month to get to British Columbia. Drivers gave him the finger the entire ride, his sister said.

But rent in Whistler, even when he lived in someone’s closet, was too much. With his burgeoning carpentry skills, Racicot built a tree house on the side of a cliff, attached to trees.

“He stole all the materials, the wood, the nails, everything” from construction sites in Whistler, said Myers.

Inside, there was room for a double bed and compartments for clothes. Outside, he had a small grill. He covered the Seussian house with a green tarp for camouflage.

He then built an addition for visitors — a platform with a tent — and when Myers visited the home, he asked about the slash marks through the tarp.

“Sometimes bears walk on the roof,” Racicot told him. Myers slept little that week when he stayed with his friend.

Racicot had friends working in the village’s numerous hotels where he’d go for a shower as the maids cleaned a room, then grabbed grub from the free continental breakfast, and exercised in the gym.

The tree house — as teens, Myers and Racicot had dreamed about building a treefort hotel that looked like the Ewok Village in the Star Wars movie ”Return of the Jedi” — became synonymous with Racicot.

About 10 years ago, Racicot got into BASE jumping, which involves jumping with a parachute off buildings, cliffs, or bridges. He moved to Squamish, considered by many to be among the most important areas for BASE jumping in Canada, where he’d often start his day with a jump off the Stawamus Chief, a mountain 700 metres above Howe Sound where BASE jumping is legal.

“He was the chief of the Chief,” said Philip Moessinger, a jumper who also learned under the tutelage of Racicot. “Everyone knows Treehouse in B.C.”

Racicot jumped 969 times in his life, his sister said, with more than 500 jumps at the Chief, as it is known colloquially.

His peers say Racicot was one of the best all-around BASE jumpers in the world. He could also perform aerials and flew incredible distances with a wingsuit.

The sport is intoxicating, his friends say.

“You’re literally flying,” said Moessinger. ”The feeling you get out of it, the joy, the high, is unbelievable. Treehouse felt that too.”

Racicot was among the rarefied air of jumpers who were sponsored.

“He did it all, and did it all well and that made him impressive and unique among his peers,” says Joe Putrino, who works for Apex BASE, a parachute company that sponsored Racicot.

On July 26, Moessinger and Racicot stood at the top of Chaserrugg mountain with the Swiss town of Walenstadt sitting below. The sun shone down that afternoon as wispy clouds rolled by. The pair had just jumped off the mountain that morning and were back up to fly another line in their wingsuits — Racicot’s suit bearing a giant image of his dog, Taco, on the front. They planned to soon meet three other friends from Canada for a jumping tour around Europe.

Moessinger jumped first with Racicot in tow. They flew between three-to-10 metres off the steep ground. At one point, Racicot flew underneath his friend and took the lead.

“It was a great flight,” Moessinger said.

They came out of the flight line, the exit named “Fatal Attraction” where the terrain drops off, and the point at which they would fly toward the landing area where they would pull their parachutes.

Racicot didn’t pull his parachute.

“He just disappeared in the trees,” Moessinger said as he fell silent.

No one knows what happened to Racicot in that flight.

His death has left a void in the jumping community around the world and with his family in Ottawa. His father, a devout Baptist, struggles with his son’s loss. Prayer usually helps, but it didn’t that first night without his boy.

“The most difficult time I had was the night I heard Mike had died,” his father said through tears. “I believe that we pray for people while they’re alive and we make our decisions while we live. That night, as I was going through the names of our family members and friends and got to Mike, I realized I didn’t have to pray for him anymore.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Downtown Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
COVID slows in Revelstoke to 2 new cases

Data is from Jan. 17 to 23

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Beard Growing Contests were popular in Revelstoke as far back as the first Golden Spike Days Celebration in July of 1944. In this staged publicity photo, local barber Clarence Sheedy is seen with contestants Toby Belinski, two unknown men, Elio Pradolini, possibly Nelson Huckle, and Al McAskill. (Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 348)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Jan. 28

A look at local history as recorded by the newspaper

A moose and her calf attempting to cross the Jordan River June 22, 2020, as seen from the Jordan River trail. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
Letter: One year later Jordan River area still at risk

A Revelstoke company is one year in to their two year temporary permit for exploration in the area

Kevin Dorrius, general manager at Community Futures Revelstoke, presents Revelstoke local Jane McNab with the Volunteer of the Year Award for Revelstoke. (Submitted)
Community Futures planning September conference

Final decisions will be made in July depending on the state of the pandemic and vaccinations

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Crown prosecutors have stayed attempted murder charges against Kelowna’s Jesse Pez. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Man accused in Kelowna Halloween stabbing has attempted murder charge stayed

The Crown only proceeds with charges when evidence provides ‘a substantial likelihood of conviction’

RCMP released this photo on Jan. 27, 2021 of Terrance Jones, 40, a Caucasian man with a closely shaved head, brown eyes, dirty blonde or brown hair, and a thin mustache and beard. The inside of his right arm is covered in tattoos, including one of a face. (Kamloops RCMP photo)
RCMP want public’s help to locate Shuswap man wanted on charge of attempted murder

Sicamous man was arrested previously on Jan. 11 for allegedly breaching conditions of release

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Most Read