It has been a dry winter in BC so when I got the last minute opportunity to get out heliskiing, I jumped at the chance. I was really hoping to get out into the backcountry with the Phase One and see what it was like in the mountain environment. Stellar Heliskiing provided that setting and much, much more.
Stellar Heliskiing is located in the interior of British Columbia in a little town called Kaslo BC. The mountain ranges they operate in are the Selkirks and the Purcells. The valley bottom was brown, warm and very Spring-like. Once up in the helicopter it was a different story. The vast mountainous terrain extended almost infinitely in every direction which made for some stunning views and incredible skiing.
The day started out with the guide's meeting where they go over weather reports, discuss safety concerns and plan out where they want to take the group skiing that day. I was issued an avalanche beacon, radio, and an airbag that contained my shovel and probe. We did some safety training on how to use all of the gear in the event of an emergency and general protocol for the day.
We were told that we would be headed to the northern tip of their terrain deep in the Purcells. An area that they had only been 3 times before and searching for terrain that had never been skied before.
We arrived at the staging area up the road from Kaslo in Meadow Creek. It is a rural setting surrounded by farmers fields. There were cattle in the background and geese flying overhead. After a few minutes the fog cleared and the helicopter was able to pick us up. Instantly we rose above the clouds and were greeted by glorious sunshine and impressive mountains.
My excitement was rapidly building. The terrain was getting closer and closer. These mountains were huge. It is difficult to explain the scale of these mountains to someone who wasn't there. You feel small among them and in awe at every turn.
In just under 10 minutes we were transported from a farmers field in the warm valley bottom to another world at the top of a snowy mountain peak. We were ready for our first run.
The roar of the helicopter had faded into the distance and we were following our ski guide to the first pitch. Our first run was down a massive, untouched alpine bowl. With a few brief instructions from our guide, were off on our first run.
The experience was a bit like Alice when she peered through the looking glass. It was as though I had stepped into another world with this massive expanse of terrain and no one else around. There was untracked powder in every direction.
It is a sensory overload up there. My sense of scale was thrown off even further when I would look to the bottom of the pitch and see our guide...ant sized.
When we got down to the bottom we went back to the top - or however that song goes. The helicopter has us ready for another perfect, untracked run in minutes.
As we made our way deeper into the tenure, the terrain just kept getting more spectacular. These photos shot with the Phase One camera have so much details in them. You can see every rock outcropping and every spine.
The snow also kept getting softer and deeper. At the guides meeting they expected only 5cms of fresh snow. In places it was more like 15-20cms. The last storm had deposited more snow in the area we were skiing making the a great day even better.
Having the privilege of exploring these mountains on a perfect weather day was overwhelming and something I will not soon forget. We skied some impressive vertical too. 14 runs in total. I could not have asked for a better day in the mountains.
Our plan was to ski for two days but the a storm rolled in the evening of our first day. With the fog that came along with it, skiing was just not going to happen. The shot above is of the main street of Kaslo BC. The heritage building on the left is the Kaslo Hotel. it is also the base of operations for Stellar Heliskiing. This town has so much classic Canadian character.
The morning fog made for some moody photos of this historic mining town.
My brother John was less than impressed with the fog. He was suppose to join me on the second day.
We did our best to wait out the weather. We grabbed a couple of coffees and walked the waterfront. The fog wouldn't let up and with the low visibiltiy came the harsh reality that we would not be flying. We did discover the SS Moyie moured in Kalso. It is the World's oldest intact passenger sternwheeler.
The road home offered up some more dramatic views. With British Columbia's varied landscapes, it is a beautiful place to visit in any season.
For more information about Stellar Heliskiing, check out their website at: www.stellarheliskiing.com
Also, check out the Kaslo Hotel for some quality service, great beer and a perfect place to get some rest after a day of heliskiing: www.kaslohotel.com
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