I wanted to tell Roko – my 6″4, disturbingly svelte mountain guide that no, I was not. I wanted to sit him down and explain that the prospect of jumping out of a helicopter and onto a mountain ledge with nothing but four wooden sticks of varied length and width filled me with an unerring dread.
Unfortunately, this was not possible. Roko had chosen to ask me this question as we hovered 50 feet above the Canadian Rockies. The closest Starbucks was 150km away. There was nothing to do but smile and nod and…..ski.
Jeremy Clarkson once said that skiing is just a combination of “acute discomfort, butt-clenching embarrassment, mind-numbing fear and a light dusting of hypothermia.” This is also probably how his kids feel watching Top Gear when their Aga has broken. People who don’t ski will always find a way of knocking it, but since I started at the age of ten it’s gone from being a hobby to a passion, and heli skiing was my final frontier.
I’ve always loved skiing. Over the last few years I have gradually improved, graduating to the joys of off piste skiing. Working for Pure Powder, it was inevitable that Heli Skiing and I would one day meet but I wasn’t sure if we’d get along and now I found myself in Canada ‘sampling the product’. Tough life.
The first, common misconception of heli skiing is that you jump out of the helicopter. Once I’d found out that this was not true (the helicopter does indeed LAND before you exit) it started to seem less suicidal. Another key factor to my newly-relaxed demeanour was knowing that I would be skiing in CMH heli skiing’s Powder Introduction group with the aid of two guides, at a slower pace and with tuition where necessary. This was starting to sound less scary! I was going to the Bugaboos – one of 11 lodges in an area 1/3 the size of Switzerland operated by Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH).
I arrived at the Helipad in time to see the previous weeks’ guests landing back on flat ground. Luckily we were met with smiling faces, fearsome tans and no broken bones. The Helipad is only 4 hours drive from Calgary (a hop, skip and a jump in terms of the vastness of Canada) and a further 20 minute helicopter ride drops you in the awe-inspiring terrain of the remote Bugaboos lodge. This luxury abode boasts a Jacuzzi, sauna, exercise room and climbing wall! I wondered what type of person comes back from a hard days skiing and looks forward to a good climb, and imagined how I was going to climb gracefully into the helicopter….. CONTINUED IN PART2
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