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Skiing by Helicopter

January 9, 2022

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 14:26

Heli-skiing is something I have always wanted to do and I got a chance last Wednesday near Whistler, British Columbia. Due to a lot of new snow and poor visibility, the service was suspended the previous four days. My wife and I rolled into Whistler the night before, so I woke up the next morning not knowing whether it would happen, although the forecast was favorable. I got up, had breakfast, geared up, and headed to the “powder hut” and heliport. All systems were “go,” so the excitement quickly mounted.

As with other extreme sports, heli-skiing comes with risk. Among the top are avalanches, tree wells, and crevasses. One of our two guides, named Rob, was experienced and mature and possibly only slightly younger than me. With these and many other activities, nothing replaces experience. He gave a lengthy, detailed, and hands-on briefing on safety and the use of the shovel, probe, and transceiver. (A transceiver is a combination of a transmitter and receiver in a single device). Each of the 11 of us carried all three items, and I was one of three carrying a radio. Rob was clear on what we should and should not do around the helicopter and other elements of heli-skiing. When we were near the five-ton aircraft, we were required to always move low and slow.

The skiing was amazing. Many of the turns were waist deep—something I had never experienced. The Whistler area had received 132 cm (52 inches) of snow in the days leading up to Wednesday morning, and I was told it was unusually dry and light, which made for ideal conditions. We were lucky.

The heli-rides, mountains peaks, and deep powder skiing were absolutely mind-blowing. It is one of those activities in which you ask yourself, “Am I really doing this?” It ranks up there with jumping off a bridge 43 meters (141 feet) above a raging river and encountering lions and great white sharks in Africa. Would I do it again? Yes!