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Heli-Ski in Mt. Selkirk

Posted January. 04, 2008 21:55,   


Imagine reaching a peak of the snow-covered mountain by helicopter, skiing on impeccably smooth snow and carving through white powders! You will be thrown into ecstasy. It’s more than joy. It’s a pure bliss and peace felt in unity with Mother Nature.

Standing at the precipitous mountain peak, the only thing unfolding in front of you is Mother Nature. Snow-covered lofty peaks look like high waves cutting through white seas. Nothing can be heard but wind. Silence overwhelms the air. I, myself, am all alone under the blue sky and between white mountain.

Nothing can measure the depth and weight of the sudden gruesome silence. People can only manage to retrieve the feeling of naivety only when they are engrossed on and become part of the nature. That is the attraction of heli-skiing in Selkirk Mountain located in British Columbia, Canada. Let’s enjoy heli-ski Gothics Lodge of Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH). CMH is the world’s first and largest helicopter skiing operator, which boasts its 44-year history.

○ Canadian Mountain Holidays provide both ski and after-ski

On the early Saturday morning, the third floor of Calgary International Airport, the gateway to the Rocky Mountains in Canada, was bustled with skiers flown from all over the world. After having stayed a night at a nearby hotel, they were busy loading their baggage onto buses that would bring them to 12 lodges. I was due to stay for a week at Gothics Lodge in Selkirk Mountain with other 43 skiers. Among them, only three were Asians.

Mt. Selkirk is at the edge of the Columbia Mountains, west of the Rocky Mountains in Canada. It is said that Hans Gmoser, founder of Canadian Mountain Holidays who reached the mountain in 1964, was fascinated with the landscape as it brought back the memories of his home in the Alps in Austria. While working as a mountain guide, he dreamed of a helicopter carrying skiers to a mountain peak. He made that dream come true, and that’s how the legend of CHM commenced.

The bus carrying us went northward to the Rocky Mountains, passed the town of Banff at Banff National Park, and reached Mt. Selkirk. The seven-hour bus journey led us to secluded Gothics Lodge perching 900 meters above the sea level. Though rooms were not decent, other accommodations were comparable to those in top-notch hotels. Guests were particularly fascinated by a spa equipped with both sauna and jacuzzi. It was a wonderful place to rest for skiers who finished skiing around 3 p.m. They either enjoyed wine or beer while soaking in jacuzzi or talking with each other after sauna.

Some people say there are two kinds of skis: ski and “after-ski, or après-ski” referring to post-skiing leisure activities. CMH supports their argument. By providing excellent services in both heli-ski and after-ski, CMH leads skiers to feel that real skiers are those who are good at after skiing as well. In fact, only a seven-hour skiing in CMH, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., leaves skiers with plenty of time before going to bed. However, with extra entertainment, CMH let people taste the real joy of ski.

The time flies as skiers boast their performances in the spa. At dinner, lodges in CHM provide fine wine at affordable prices. At the restaurant combined with wine bar, indulged in the luxury of sharing wines, each skier chose a wine cellar every night. Furthermore, a top-class dinner consisting of three courses suited well with fine wine.

○ Ten Fantastic Downhill a Day

At 9 a.m., we huddled up to avoid strong winds from a chopper. We divided into four groups of eleven since the medium-sized chopper only accommodates 12 people. Each group was assisted by one or two certified and veteran mountain guides, who were also skiers. The only chopper in the lodge carried skiers to four different peaks and landed 150 times a day.

At last, my fellow skiers and I reached one of ridgelines of Mt. Selkirk. The view from the ridge 2400 meters above the sea was simply awe-inspiring. There ware only twelve people at the midst of the spectacle. The guide slid down a steep slope first and others followed him one by one. The snowflakes formed by yesterday’s snow were flying like fluffs when we carved through the slope. Ski plates were soaked in the snow and sliding down the snow was soft to the touch.

Heli-ski downhill is always fantastic. All admired the S-line curve I left on the slope. But not much time was allowed for the admiration. We had to go to the place where the chopper was located. The path to the location was not easy as narrow valley slopes and woodland paths in deep forest awaited us. While waiting for the chopper, we replenished our energy with chocolate and biscuits we took at the lodge.

We went heli-skiing at least ten times a day. When the weather is fine, we climbed to snow-covered peaks. When it was cloudy, we enjoyed tree-skiing. While tree-skiing, we would encounter an obstacle called a “tree well,” referring to a well-shape space under the tree between snow. We were huddled on a snowfield and ate hot soup, sandwich, and salad airlifted by the chopper. Those pleasant memories will last for life.