So yeah, I just went heli-skiing for the first time...
...and it was off the fucking hook!!!
So here's how it went down. A good friend of mine was set to go heli-skiing with his dad in British Columbia. However, a week prior to leaving, his dad is hit by a boarder at Vail and his knee was literally sliced open. Seeing as how that would pretty much fuck your entire season, it was impossible for him to go skiing in Canada. With his injury happening only a week prior to the trip, it was too late to cancel anything without throwing away thousands of dollars...so he told his son to ask a friend to go in his place.
It's the end of finals week at Fort Lewis, and I get a phone call from this friend. So he asks me "How would you like to go heli-skiing in Canada a few days from now?" I made the obvious reply, "Do you even to ask that?" After I got all my shit together in Durango, I made the 6 hour drive to Evergreen. I'm not even home for more than 24 hours when I leave for the airport. We meet up and fly from Denver to Calgary. At Calgary we make a connecting flight to Revelstoke on a small prop. It was sunny in Calgary and gradually got more cloudy and turbulent as we flew west.
The landing at the Revelstoke airport was sketchy as hell. It was cloudy, snowing, and the light was flat. The pilots had to land on an icy, unlit, 4,000 foot runway (thats an extremely short runway for commercial traffic). We practically nosedived on our decent cutting a sharp downward angle, but landed without incident.
The place we were going is about a 2 hour drive north of Revelstoke. We transferred from the plane to one of those 3 door commuter vans, you know, the ones that they no longer have in the US because of a slight defect in the design (they flip over and explode). Our driver is this squirrely 70-year-old guy that drove logging trucks for 40-some-odd years. So as you could guess, he was hauling serious ass mossing up this snow-packed road going God knows how fast.
So we rode for 2 hours and we hit the spot. This place was about a mile up the road from a small logging camp called Mica Creek or something like that. The place we were staying is called the Monashee Lodge...simply put, this place was plush. It was like a five-star hotel in the middle of nowhere. It had rooms, a restaurant, a bar, a spa, a pro shop, and huge climbing wall...classy. Our first evening there they just ran us though orientation stuff with the avalanche gear and the helicopters.
The next morning, it was time to head out for the first day. The weather was cloudy with a light snowfall. I looked a bit out of place with my baggy newschooler drag with everyone else wearing the more form fitting stuff (I'm proud of that by the way). The anticipation was killing me, I was like a five-year-old kid at Christmas...Christmas with unlimited presents inside at a giant candy store at Disneyland. They broke everyone into group of about ten people, we were set the be the third group out.
We walked out of the back of the lodge into this open area near the edge of the lake. We all staked our skis into a neat pile and huddled in a group about 10 feet away. The chopper flew in and landed between us and the skis. This was the first experience of many...when a multi-ton flying machine lands within half a foot of your head. We piled into the helicopter and took off. The flight took us northwest into an adjacent valley. After about 5 minutes in the chopper we landed on a wind-loaded ridge above most of the clouds.
After the chopper left, we clicked into our sticks and head down the first run. The stuff up top was wind-swept and choppy as hell, but the snow conditions improved as we went down. The first run was pretty good, but not great. The upside being the snow was deep and plenty, and the glades were open and well spaced. The downside being that the run had a shallow pitch and not enough slope to really play with the terrain. At the bottom of the run I felt like I only has a small taste of what I expected.
The second run took us to a different ridge. The whole run was through a burndown area where a forest fire had scorched all the trees. The first pitch on this run was a steep drop through the deadwood. It was incredible. I arched some of the phatest turns I've ever made in my life. When I committed to every turn, I sank down to my thighs and the snow flew up in my face, I rose out of the dips cleanly when I rode out of my turns. Nothing goes through you mind except the sheer ecstacy of flying down this run, snow flying in your face, and not a singe pair of tracks in sight. Any animosity I felt in the first run was completely wiped away. Words can't describe how beautiful it felt.
The next several runs took us through a mix of glades and cut-blocks (areas where loggers had cut away the trees and an area). These cut-blocks where particularly fun, because the loggers left behind all the huge stumps and boulders...there was plenty of prime shit to huck off.
We ate lunch out on the hill (as did we every day). A helicopter flew in a boatload of sandwiches, wraps, cookies, and a ginormous thermos of dank soup. I was truly living like a king. Every run seemed to get better and better and I was having the time of my life. The last run of the day took us down an avalanche chute directly across the lake from the lodge (hell of a view).
I was wiped after the first day. As this had only been the tenth day of the season, my legs where jell-o. This was easily the hardest day I had all year. The powder takes it's toll on your legs. Fortunately one of the guides was telling us this is some of the lightest snow they had in a long time. While its not quite as light and fluffy as the champagne we enjoy in Colorado and Utah, it was still fantastic. The hot tub was a welcome site back at the lodge.
The next day began much like the last one. There was a another light dusting of snow that night, its kinda like when you go to a hotel and the maid leaves a mint on you pillow after they make your bed. While my friend will disagree with me, I think the set of about three runs we did in the middle of the day where the absolute best. They were off of this area nicknamed "Steep and Deep." It was. The run had a consistently steep pitch for about 3,500 vertical feet. The run itself was tree covered and dotted with small cutes and rolling cliffs. It was the rollers that really sold me. I was hucking 30 footers like it was as normal as walking the dog. You'd sail off the ledge, float in the air for an amazing few seconds, and then gently glide back onto the slope and back into the pow. There was all the more incentive to pop the rocks because it gave your legs a rest (they'd still be burning from making the turns in the deep snow).
The third day our guides favored more open terrain above the tree-line. It was still cloudy with light snow. The highlight of this day was a run called Big Red. The heli landing for this one was sketchy as hell. The wind was blowing and there was a lot of turbulence on the chopper. We landed on this knife ridge that had barley enough room for the landing gear. One of our party members almost slipped down the steep decline (a nasty looking 70 foot drop beaconed below). Once the helicopter left and gave us some room to work, we popped on the sticks. We traversed a short ways down the ridge to a flat spot (step) about the size of a suburban driveway. After the step, the ridge opened out into a wide, perfectly pitched face, that stretched about 1,000 feet in vertical. We arched some exquisite turns down the face and veered off to the right near the bottom. There we dropped into this steep chute spackled with rollers. It then progressed into a gently sloping area that was gladed with large moss covered trees.
Sadly, the third day was our last. So we went out in style back at the lodge. First, the hot tub. Second, a sports massage. Third, drinking like its going out of fookin’ style. We headed back the next nay with nasty hangover stomping on our heads. Would I do it again? "Do you even need to ask that?"
- Quinny out.