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A Day in the Life of a Heli Skier: Part I – Heli Skiing Prep

Many thanks to Pure Powder & CMH guest Craig McCulloch for the following article on his CMH Heli Skiing trip in March 2013…

A Day in the Life of a Heli Skier: Part I - Heli Skiing Prep

Every passionate skier, dreams of bluebird days, deep powder and pristine mountain landscapes, void of people.

When I was 17 my every waking moment was spent skiing, or dreaming it. One day the owner of the mountaineering shop I worked in said ‘put this up in the window’ It read; ‘Canadian Mountain Holidays in association with Pure Powder (PSNA) present Heli High‘. I was captivated. I went along to the presentation with some friends and we all sat spellbound, watching a small group of skiers carve perfect turns in a waist-deep powder-filled wilderness. We all promised then and there that we had to do this.

I had to wait 30 years for my first experience. Malcolm, one the friends that I shared that evening with, sent me a picture postcard of him getting into a helicopter with a massive smile on his face, simply saying ‘done it, you must join me next year’. I did and I’ve been back every year since.

I get asked a lot by fellow skiers what it’s like to go heli skiing with Pure Powder and CMH. Honestly it’s an unimaginably, brilliant experience that is hard to explain. This is why I’ve put a few videos together to give a ‘punters’ eye view of what it’s like. I promise you; book a trip, experience it and you will be hooked.

Sheer excitement…..

After 12 months of waiting, Malcolm and I find ourselves stepping into the Delta Calgary Airport Hotel where we’re welcomed by grins from CMH staff at check-in. I check in, tag and bag one ski boot, choose my preferred skis from their extensive selection, knowing that in the morning everything will be awaiting for me at the original heli skiing lodge, the Bugaboos.

Malcolm and I head for the bar to look for Enrique and his brother Daniel; we skied with Enrique and his wife a few years back and on this trip his brother is losing his CMH virginity. After a few beers and stories, we part ways for the night.

Early doors, the 5:30am breakfast is gulped down –  the excitement is high as we all get on the bus for the two hour journey to the Heli-staging area. We’re 15 minutes away when the safety video starts playing, setting the scene for all the avalanche, heli and safety drills we’ll be doing later.

We arrive at 9:00, where the guides and lodge staff are busily loading a helicopter with our bags for the first trip. They smile and give the thumbs up against the noise of rotors as our Bell 212 takes to the sky.

We’re appointed to a load group for the heli transfer and as we load up I look at Daniel’s face. It’s a picture of amazement, even though we’ve spent the last two hours telling him how brilliant this is going to be.

We buzz across the pristine mountain landscape to the tune of the rotor blades, which echo as we drop towards the lodge landing zone. This is it, another powder adventure begins. As we enter the lodge Leanna, the head of housekeeping, greets us all and briefs us on safety drill times. (this unassuming girl telemarks deep powder effortlessly at high speed).

A Day in the Life of a Heli Skier: Part I - Heli Skiing Prep


Safety first…

Once we’ve sorted out our kit in our rooms, we all meet for safety drills. First we get helicopter inductions; how to approach, load and unload, close and open doors and emergency safety features – all are covered with a light hearted touch of humour.

Next we have some practical drills on mountain safety which include beacon locator operations, personal radio controls and of course avalanche drills which covers location, recover probing and shovelling.

Back at the lodge a light lunch awaits, (CMH hospitality means it’s actually massive…), before getting our things together and meeting in our groups for a afternoon of amazing skiing.

…then fun

We scrabble to get our gear on in the big, heated kit drying room. I pick my skis up, checking they have my name on them, (they will be mine for the week), and walk, dragging them as shown in the drills, to the heli pick-up outside the lodge.

The heli’s rotor blades are idling, as we check in with our guide Hans for the day. Hans checks our beacon locators and then we bindle our skis in a pile for loading.

My tummy is ready to explode with excitement, as we head up to the high alpine with blue-bird skies. We land on ‘Pearl’ one of the highest routes in the Bugs, and get our skis on. We track across 100m before it drops into our majestic first tracks of the week. With wild yelping and hoots of joy the adventure begins…

A Day in the Life of a Heli Skier: Part I - Heli Skiing Prep


See what the rest of a week heli skiing looks like – Part II of Craig’s trip to follow!

If Craig’s experience calls your name as it once did his, call us on +44 (0) 207 736 8191 or email us for heli skiing advice and planning.

Photos courtesy of CMH Heli Ski Guide / Photographer Geoff MacPherson.

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