Heli Virgin Experience
Luscious loses her heli skiing virginity on a 3 run heliski package with Harris Mountains (August 2008).
My Big Day Out
I was a heli-skiing virgin until I became a first-timer with Harris Mountains Heli-ski. After that great experience, I’m not sure I want to go skiing any other way. I’d done a bit of resort skiing where I’d stand at the top of a ridge, and wish I could ski out-of-bounds over the back in the untouched snow, and not have to hike out. My heli-skiing experience made that wish come true.
The excitement surrounding my big day out moved up a notch when I received the phone call at about 8am to let me know that heli-skiing was going ahead. It was a gloriously sunny day without a breath of wind. The tummy flutters started which was probably a combination of excited anticipation and nervousness.
At around 9am we left the HMH office to drive to the staging area on a farm past the Treble Cone turn-off. I was glad to find they had a porta-loo at the farm, as my nervous energy was escalating. I was trying to concentrate during the safety briefings on the helicopter and the use of avalanche transceivers, but I was struggling because I was keen as mustard to get up there to that terrain. Thankfully HMH provided us with the modern transceivers that are very user-friendly, rather than the old-fashioned ones that would have required a grid search and a bit more concentration on my behalf. Or perhaps I wasn’t concentrating properly because the guides were a little too easy on the eye?
As instructed by the guide, I crouched down next to the skis as the helicopter approached. I was keen to video my first experience of the chopper approaching, but as it descended, the whoosh of air pushed me backwards somewhat. I’m sure I ended up just videoing the sky. After boarding the chopper with some newly made friends, the helicopter started to lift off. The feeling was overwhelming, but this sensation was quickly replaced with awe as the views of the mountains began to come closer. I became a little fearful as I got a close up view of the terrain we’d be tackling. I hoped that it only looked steep from the helicopter (if I was a male I would have used the term “adrenaline rush” instead of “fearful”). My tummy turned a little more when we descended over a ridge, and then our skilful helicopter pilot dropped us down on a ridge perched up high in the Buchanan Mountain Ranges. Any nervousness had disappeared by this stage. I could see an untouched run - it was time to ski!
As the noisy chopper pulled away, the contrast of the silence in amongst all that snow was remarkable. It emphasised that we were out in the middle of nowhere.
Our first run was a great warm-up, initially on a fairly gentle slope, which then progressed into a steeper bowl. You hope for powder when heli-skiing, but unfortunately the conditions were not as perfect as hoped, and there was no powder for the taking. HMH had been completely honest about the conditions and set our expectations appropriately. If anything I was pleasantly surprised. The first part of the run was slightly crunchy on a very thin layer of crud, but it was very easy to ride. A little further down, the snow was so packed and smooth that it almost felt like a perfectly groomed run.
Our group progressed down the run at a very leisurely pace with plenty of time to pause and admire the views and to take photos. We only had to wait for a minute or two for the arrival of the helicopter, which seemed even more impressive up in the mountains amongst the snow. Once again I was overwhelmed with the roar of the wind created by the chopper, and once again I managed to video the sky.
It was pretty damn good getting picked up by the helicopter. After feeling somewhat sore and exhausted from a nutcracker rope-tow experience a couple of days earlier, it was very luxurious to be able to save my energy for the skiing. This was the ultimate in off-piste skiing.
Our subsequent runs were just as great, and the snow conditions changed to spring corn and a little bit of slush as the day progressed. It was an incredibly gloriously warm day, especially for August, and at times I had to lie down on the snow just to cool down. The warmth of the sun was awesome though, and the clearness of the day made my appreciation of the vistas even better. Sure it wasn’t a powder day, but I didn’t mind whatsoever.
The lunch provided at the bottom of one of the runs was pretty impressive – gourmet croissants, breads, meat and cheese, accompanied by chocolate brownies and mini-chocolate bars (I took a few and stashed them in my jacket for afternoon tea, but don’t tell anyone). The interesting part of lunch was trying to figure out how to discreetly relieve myself without an audience. I wished I was a boy, and that the mountains in New Zealand had trees.
The last run was a bit sad as I realised the day was coming to an end. The skiing had been pretty good, but I really loved being in out in a remote location, enjoying the scenery and the sun. I’ve now got hundreds and hundreds of photos and video clips to sift through, but at least I’ll be reminded of a great day. HMH absolutely impressed the socks (albeit sweaty) off me. People say heli-skiing is the best day of their life – I’d have to agree (except perhaps for my wedding day?). Sweet as….