I first learned how to downhill ski in Montana while I was in grade school. A couple times a year, the whole school would go on a field trip to Big Mountain (now Whitefish Mountain). I didn't ski a whole lot in high school, nor in college (at the University of Denver). However, several friends went to DU for the skiing. They'd schedule their classes so they had a couple days off per week, and they'd head for the hills. Two friends in particular, Chris and Chris, were some of the best skiers I'd ever seen. They'd fly through the moguls with legs like rubber bands, upper-body barely moving, legs absorbing the world famous bumps at Mary Jane.
I used to talk about Chris and Chris, long after college, as the amazing skiers with the rubber band legs. I didn't start skiing a lot until I worked for a .com in the late 90s. The VP of Development (whom we now call "The Professor") told us that one of the perks was a "9-inch Rule". The rule was that if it snowed 9", you could take the day off and go skiing, as long as you went to the resort that had the fresh powder. It was crazy how few people took advantage of this, but he and I never missed a day that year. That was likely the first year I'd skied more than 10 days in my life, and I'll bet I skied 20 with him.
I continued to ski a fair bit with my practice wife, then took a couple years off when the kids were born. We got them on skis when they were two years old, and they've been skiing ever since. The funny thing is, I never got really good at skiing until I started taking tips from The Professor. The year was 2010, and I got good enough to be able to ski top-to-bottom bump runs without stopping. Skiing had become a passion for me.
When I met Trish a few months later, I asked her if she skied (hoping to God she did). Her response blew my mind.
"No, I tele."
She went on to explain how she'd started with Alpine, moved to snowboarding for six years and was now addicted to free heeling. I just gazed with a dumb stare and my mouth open.
Last year, Chris M. decided it was high time we did a helicopter ski trip. At first, I gulped at the idea, mostly because of the cost. Then I came around to it, in the sense that confidence is 50% of a skiers ability, and my confidence was up from skiing so much the last few years.
As I sat in Denver's airport on January 17, 2014, I wrote down the following:
It's come to this, the pinnacle of my life: I'm going heli-skiing with the two guys I used to say we're the best
skiers I'd ever seen in college.
Except now, I believe I can keep up.
We booked our trip with Canadian Mountain Holidays, or CMH as they're commonly referred to. They have several locations; we chose CMH Gothics Lodge. After a quick flight to Calgary, and an overnight stay near the airport, we boarded a bus for an 8-hour ride to the lodge. There were seven people in our group, with around 35 people on the bus.
After arriving, we checked into our rooms and got settled. Most rooms were singles, with a shared bathroom. We had a two-hour avalanche training session and then settled in for an intro from the Lodge Manager. A delicious dinner followed.
Sunday was the AFC Championship game, so Chris and I wore our favorite team uniforms (he: Patriots, me: Broncos). We made a bet the loser had to wear the winning team's jersey on Monday. We skied all day and it was wonderful. Fresh powder tracks on every run, and only a 5-minute helicopter ride to the top. In the air, we'd refresh with water and Gatorade, provided by CMH. I wasn't in as good of ski shape as I should've been, but I did keep up. At the end of most runs, I was sweating so bad - I could press the top of my helmut and the sweat would stream out. It was similar to mountain biking helmut sweat, but it was happening at -5°C (23°F).
When we got back, one of the other guests had recorded the Broncos game on Slingbox, so a bunch of us got together to watch it. The internet was fast enough for streaming and I had a glorious time watching the Broncos beat the Patriots for the first time in years. Obviously, the Patriots fans didn't have as much fun, especially since there were plenty of guests from Colorado.
Here's some more pictures from this glorious life event. As you can see, the views were unbelievable.
Everyday was awesome, but Wednesday was incredible. It snowed 10 cm on Tuesday night, which turned into knee-deep powder and face shots. The hoots and hollers from everyone floating down forced my face into a sorta perma-grin. For many of us, it was the best skiing day of our entire lives. The video below tries to capture how much fun we had throughout the week, but ultimately fails. It's one of those things you have to experience to really appreciate. I ended up skiing around 80,000 vertical feet in four days.