By Jack Newton
Sixtieth birthdays demand grand gestures. So I took my kids and nephews heli-skiing. “I’m only 25, and already I’m knocking a top 10 off my bucket list,” said my son Tobiah. I had been heli-skiing before, but I was pretty excited too.
Heli-skiing is the holy grail of our sport. Everyone loves mountains, but real skiers dream of beautiful turns in untracked snow. Self doubt and cost can deter; but not for us, not today. We booked a five-run package with RK Heliski Panorama, located at Panorama Mountain Resort, BC just west of Inveremere and a two-hour drive from Banff.
Preliminaries to our big day increased our anticipation and level of excitement. A buffet breakfast at the heliplex was followed by fittings of our choice of performance Armada and Decosse powder skis, and a backpack with avalanche shovel and probe. We were introduced to our guide Matt who led our avalanche transceiver practice session.
The thwap-thwap-thwap of our Bell 204 rotor blades serenaded our foray to a craggy ridge where a 5,000 vertical feet open slope was revealed. The sky was blue. There was fresh snow. I held back and proudly watched as my children elegantly carved turns that mirrored the perfect S-curves made by our guide.
Matt was impressed. Clearly my kids and their cousins were better skiers than his average clients. They more closely mirrored his demographic, too. An easy camaraderie between guide and group was building.
Then it was my turn to tackle the slope. The relatively gentle grade allowed me to easily fall into a rhythm and create fresh tracks like a pro. I skied slowly and deliberately, savouring every moment. “Your dad, he skis regal,” said our guide to my beaming kids. I took this as a compliment.
The helicopter whisked us to summits and long runs of open bowls and sparsely treed glades four more times. We laughed together, reveled in each of our descents and admired the incredible views. The skiing was punctuated by a picnic lunch beside the helicopter on the valley floor.
Back at the heliplex, we recounted our experience over appies and beer. My daughter Jenna noted that “heliskiing was even better than expected” while I reflected that this is as perfect a day with his children as a dad can get.
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