Tucked away in the Canadian Bugaboo Mountains lies a vast world of powdery adventure beckoning lovers of ski and sport to its snowy shores. CHRISTIANA NIELSON ventured into uncharted territory to heli-ski for the first time. Her tale will leave you yearning for similar adventure.
I'VE FELT SMALL many times in my life. When I climbed the Great Wall of China. When I went skydiving from a plane 14,000 feet in the air. When I snorkeled in the Caribbean Sea. But I’ve never felt so small as when I stood atop one of the vast peaks in the Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, in the dead of winter. From an elevation of about 9,800 feet, I could see all of Canada — or, at least it felt like I could. The sun crept slowly over the spire above me, and below me the clouds looked nothing short of majestic. The helicopter had just dropped me into a sea of white and was now nowhere to be seen. I took a deep breath of bone-chilling mountain air, shifted my K2 goggles over my eyes, clicked my boots into my skis, and disappeared down the face of the mountain behind a flurry of colorful dots.
To be fair, this was my seventh day of heli-skiing, and I had more or less gotten the hang of things — emphasis on the “less.” But it was no doubt an improvement from a few days earlier, when my heart was struck with fear as the time came to exit the lodge and brave nature in all her glory and intimidation. Now, I’ve skied more than a few times over the years at some esteemed ski resorts, and you could typically find me in the middle of a black-diamond run navigating moguls with relative ease. But when I (voluntarily) signed myself up for a week of heli-skiing with CMH Heli-Skiing, I was quite unprepared for the experience as a first-timer.
Heli-skiing is like resort skiing, only in much deeper and softer snow; with a fraction of the people; and in the middle of an untamed, unbridled, and unimaginably beautiful environment. There are no ski lifts, no warming huts, and almost no sign of human life except for the few skiers and guide with you, little red flags to mark locations, and the helicopters, which leave you as quickly as they pick you up to go to the next peak. To a certain extent, I expected these differences. What I didn’t expect was that my whole stance and movement as a skier would need to change to accommodate the new terrain. And if it weren’t for the ever-patient guides and the support of the group, I would probably still be trying to find my way down through the trees. From day one, I learned that my success as a heli-skier was going to be a team effort.