Our Review

Powderhounds Review of RK Heliski


Pros
- RK is conveniently located at Panorama ski resort and provides the flexibility of single or multi-day heli-skiing, and you can mix and match your holiday with heli and resort skiing.
- Considering that heli-skiing is not permitted in Alberta, RK is also conveniently located for those on a holiday in Banff and Lake Louise.
- The operation is really well suited to first timers and includes a very comprehensive safety briefing and professional guides. RK have invested in the latest transponder technology which reduces the anxiety and the training time required for orientation to the equipment. Of course, experienced heli-skiers will also enjoy a day out with RK.
- Within their extensive terrain RK can take out multiple groups each day. This means that they can generally segregate groups according to ability, which minimises concerns about trying to keep up, or frustrations associated with hanging around waiting for slower skiers.

Cons
- The guest to guide ratio is large at 11:1, although this is pretty common amongst Canadian heli ski operators.
- If you partake in a 3-run package and others in your helicopter choose to do 5 runs, then you’ll be dropped off at the bottom of a run to wait, and potentially you may get a little cold. Clearly the solution to this is just to make the extra investment in another two runs!
- The only bad thing about RK heli ski is the outfits of the guides. They are garish and look like they’re from the 80s. Perhaps they retain the outfits to try to demonstrate that they’re experienced operators? Obviously the style of the outfits is not a critical element of any heli-ski operation!

STORY
I was driving down the road in the 40 degree heat of Melbourne Australia, when overhead I heard a helicopter. The sound brought back beautiful memories of heli-skiing in Canada. The sound of this chopper wasn’t quite the thumping noise of the big Huey helis used by RK Heli-ski, but it was enough to make my heart race a bit faster.

Only two weeks prior to this I had the good fortune to ski with RK Heliski in Panorama B.C. A ski trip to Panorama just wouldn’t have seemed complete without a RK heli-skiing experience. The day started at the RK lodge where I met my group of fellow heli-skiers who were from the UK, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. It seemed a little strange that anyone would leave Europe to go skiing elsewhere, but when they explained that there are very limited heli-skiing opportunities in Europe, it made more sense.

Most of the group were ‘heli-ski virgins’, and my experience was made even more exciting because I could live vicariously through the first-timers. As we drove out to the staging area I could sense their nervous anticipation. Their conversation was animated, but I could hear the anxiety in their voices.

We piled into the huge “Huey” helicopter, and as we left the ground those closest to the windows starting pointing with delight. The looks on their faces were priceless – a combination of exhilaration and pleasure. It definitely made me more excited as together we enjoyed a long and spectacular ride into the Purcell ranges. One girl was a bit worried that she would have to jump out of the helicopter ‘Warren Miller style’, and even though I reassured her that it would be much more sedate, I’m not sure she believed me. Apprehension was written all over her face.

Once we exited the chopper all the heli-virgins relaxed as they clicked into their skis, an experience that felt familiar. Up high in the alpine the views were amazing, and there was a sea of cloud hanging around in the valleys. A major weather inversion was happening, and even though it had been freezing down at the Panorama Village, up here the sun was beating down on us.

It hadn’t snowed for two weeks so there was no champagne powder or face-shots to be had, and the top of the run was incredibly wind-affected. Our guide Andrew apologised, but it didn’t really matter as it made me appreciate the conditions further down the run. Generally there was soft packed snow, and in a few places it was a little more packed and felt like a perfect groomer. All the Europeans were very stylish skiers, and feeling rather inadequate I decided to hide at the back of the pack. It didn’t matter that I was one of the last to ski down as there were always freshies to be had on either side of the previous skiers.

The first run seemed to go on forever. It was quite warm and the sweat was pouring off many of the faces in the group. As I crouched down to await the arrival of the chopper, I was very happy to feel the cold relief of the snow on my legs. The chopper approached and I watched the sheer panic on the faces of some of the first-timers. I could sense their alarm that the chopper was going to land on them. Of course it didn’t, and I had a giggle to myself as I remembered having the same fear when I first went heli-skiing.

Thankfully for the next couple of runs we stayed in the shade. It was much cooler and the snow was a little softer. The runs were long and had great fall line, and on a few steep pitches the powder was knee deep. The smiles of the Europeans became even wider as they did their pretty turns down the mountain. I commonly followed one German fellow down the mountain who seemed to do five turns to everyone else’s one. He must have wanted to get extra value for money. I tried to do powder 8s over the top, or ski right next to his tracks, but it was impossible. Crazy German!

I got to witness some more crazy German antics on the subsequent runs. I had the video and still camera out, and with the lure of becoming a “famous” ski model on Powderhounds.com, the Germans started launching themselves off anything they could find. There was plenty of Kodak courage and corresponding face plants. One of the guys was an aeroplane pilot, and it was obvious that he loved to fly in all respects! This is one of the things I love about heli-skiing. Men who work in serious jobs get to let off steam, and heli-skiing turns them into young boys. For us females, of course we continue to act in a very mature manner when heli-skiing?!

It seemed fitting to join the Germans for some schnapps on the way back to Panorama. Back at the day lodge over après beverages we were handed RK pins and certificates. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with the certificate. Maybe it will help me get a job one day?!.
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