Heli-Boarding

I talk about Edgewalk all the time: “CN Tower this…” and “1168 feet that”, and I’d forgive you if you thought that the reason I was in Canada was to walk the Edge. Buuuut I’m actually in Canada to snowboard. To ride the hills and mountains of BC, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, and hone my abilities on some of the most challenging terrain in the world. More than anything I’ve sought to ride powder, the freshest, lightest, deepest stuff I can find, and this week with the aid of a helicopter I found what I was seeking. I was going Heli-Boarding.

Phil works for Purcell Heli-Skiing, based in Golden, BC, so they were the natural choice for me to go with, but making it happen proved to be a little challenging. The weather  was not playing ball and when I arrived an approaching storm had cut off the mountains and we were unable to fly. Not the best. I had been really looking forward to it, especially as I was going to do it with Phil. Significant re-arranging followed. I had to cancel all of my accommodation in Vancouver, talk to Uncle Phil about moving the dates that I was going to see him, and try to find a route that would use a couple of nonrefundable Greyhound tickets. But it paid off as the next time I arrived in Golden it was to blue skies and perfect flying weather. I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed and was soon refreshing my avalanche training, and chit chatting with the other guests, with every other word being “send”, “stoked”, “gnarly”, “awesome “and “can’t wait”. It’s hard to adequately describe how excited I was as we finally boarded the chopper and lifted off. It felt like 3 years of planning, travelling, and riding had built up to this, I was finally doing it, this is what Canada is all about, I’m actually living the dream.

I love being around airplanes and helicopters in any setting, so unloading from a running Huey is quite exhilarating on its own, once you’ve unstrapped you pile out into the snow, keeping your head down from the rotor blades, and then turn to look up at the whirling beast before it leaps off the ground and dives dramatically out of sight. Leaving you in the quiet wilderness to collect yourself up.

Then there’s the snowboarding. Once I’d collected myself up I was then presented with a snow sports paradise a sprawling playground extending as far as the eye can see. Your guide’s job is to pick out the best (and safest) lines and then guide you in intervals down to the landing pad to wait for the chopper. Most runs ran pretty much the same way: start in the alpine…….

Then you make your way down through the treeline…

And then into the glades….

Then you meet the heli and back to the top!…..

Sometimes you go one at a time over a steeper slope, or you go with a bit of spacing and ride kind of as a group….

As you can see its pretty amazing! Obviously the tracks from your other group members are in the snow, and everyone is very polite about letting other people go first, but that has negligible affect on the amazing riding, the best I’ve ridden ever. If you are lucky enough to go straight after the guide you’ll get a view like this.

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Powder anyone?

The runs are 700-900m each and I got an extra one, giving me 6 for the day. Its not the cheapest day out, but for me it was an incredible once in a life time experience (although the guides did joke “welcome to your new addiction!”). As I loaded my board onto the chopper at the end of the last run, a thought occurred: This would be the last time I would be snowboarding in Canada. I was now going to make my way eventually back to Toronto, for the summer, and the end of my visa. It was quite a swansong really; I’d achieved the main goal of this trip, my last few tracks in Canada may well be the best of my entire life, better than I’d ever thought possible, and I felt satisfied and happy that I had managed to make it happen. My outlook on what was achievable in life had been changed for the better for ever.

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Living the dream.