Powderhounds' Review

Powderhounds' Review

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The Powderhounds got their “stoke” on and headed out with Selkirk Tangiers for a revel in the powder. Our review includes a few of the pros and cons of this Revelstoke heli skiing operation.

Pros:

  • The Selkirk Tangiers heli skiing multi-day packages are incredibly inexpensive in comparison to other Canada heli ski operations, whilst still providing great quality service and very good accommodation. The skiing vertical guaranteed is the same as for most of their competitors, as is the pricing structure of charging a little more for any vertical metres beyond the guarantee. In essence you get great value for money.
  • Your Revelstoke ski holiday can include a mix of heli skiing, resort (lift) skiing, and cat skiing. This makes the Revelstoke experience unique.
  • In addition to multi-day trips, Selkirk Tangiers have single day trips so this provides a taste of heli skiing and caters to a range of heliskiing budgets. Only one other Revelstoke heli skiing outfit provides one day trips (Eagle Pass Heliskiing).
  • The single day heli skiing rates are less than for Eagle Pass Heliskiing.
  • The introductory package for day heli skiing is really ideal for first time heli skiers and those not particularly adept at skiing or snowboarding powder. 
  • Accommodation for the multi-day packages is at the Hillcrest, which is a charming hotel with a great culture and you’re not stuck out in a remote lodge. The food is fabulously gourmet and you’ll be at risk of getting a serious case of heli-belly.
  • All the staff are really friendly and knowledgeable, including guest services and the guides. 

Cons

  • The guide to guest ratio for the standard packages are large at 11:1, although this is somewhat common amongst the traditional Canada heli ski operators. One implication of this may be variability in the ability level of the group. Experts may potentially be held back as the guides have to cater to the skier or boarder with the least ability. Group size can also impact on safety considerations and the ability to score freshies in tighter spots such as the trees.
  • For the regular multi-day packages, most of the skiing is accessed from several staging points, using vans to transport guests to the helicopters. This cuts into skiing time a little, however 5 to 7 runs each day is still very achievable. .

Sun, Snow, Skiing, Snowboarding & Scenery – The Five Ss

Since watching the 1991 movie “Return to the Snow Zone” I had always wanted to go heli-skiing in Revelstoke, the haven of heli ski adventures. The video features Revelstoke heli-skiing in superbly deep powder, and apart from the really bad ski outfits, the movie is incredibly inspiring (as is the Midnight Oil soundtrack). My powder hound aspirations to heli ski in Revelstoke finally became a reality when I had the chance to go out with Selkirk-Tangiers.

A multi-cultural group assembled in front of the Hillcrest Hotel eager to find some fresh pow. Today I was joining a European tour group who were keen to heli ski in BC due to the scarcity of opportunities in Europe. Even though my German and Italian language skills are poor, it didn’t take much for me to ascertain that the group were all very excited.

We were transported to the day lodge at Alberts Canyon, and after the mandatory safety briefings the time came for the excitement of getting into the chopper (a Bell-UH-1 Iroquois otherwise known as a “Huey”, used by the US military in the Vietnam war). As we lifted off it felt quite nostalgic, and the vibration and sound of the wump-wump-wump of the rotor blades sent shivers down my spine. Sitting in the seats that face sideways (affectionately known as the “honeymoon suite”), I imagined what it would have been like to man the guns in one of these war birds.

I gave up on pretending I was in Vietnam, and as we lifted up through the veil of clouds, the brilliant rays of sunshine hit the chopper. It was just beautiful. It had been cloudy for days and this was the first time I’d seen the sun in a while. Due to the weather, Selkirk Tangiers had been doing lots of tree skiing over the past few days and this was the first time the chopper had reached the alpine terrain in a while. I was super keen to get out there.

The chopper left us near a ridge, and after watching its departure with snow flying off the skids, we paused for a few minutes to take in the views. The Europeans’ cameras were madly clicking, which was not surprising considering the absolutely amazing scenery. The carpet of cloud with majestic mountains all around had everyone in awe.

Our first run started in the alpine and extended down into the trees. The snow conditions were incredibly variable on the way down, starting with a little wind-affected crust, then rime and then delightful packed powder for the remainder of the run. It was a colourful display on the way down as many of the skiers had their fluoro powder ribbons flying behind them. I am more inclined to tuck powder ribbons into my gaiters, so I thought it was a little strange. It also seemed amusing because the ribbons were somewhat unnecessary in the ankle deep powder. By the time we got down into the trees I realised I’d have to conform. I gave in and pulled the ribbons out of my gaiters so that I could join in with the bright spectacular.

As we prepared for the heli to pick us up, I wondered if even the most experienced heli skiers still get a thrill from crouching in a huddle whilst the ‘big bird’ bears down on top of you. It certainly still excited me, and I was still amazed that the pilot could land the chopper with such precision. We scrambled inside and it was somewhat cuddly in the main cabin, but facing each other with our knees interlocked just added to the bonding of the group. It didn’t matter that we spoke different languages because the excitement was evident through body language.

The second run was a replica of the first, except that the powder was shin-deep as we neared the trees. It was lovely although not quite the deep stuff I’d seen on “Back to the Snow Zone”. Today I was happy to forego the deep stuff in exchange for the amazing vistas. One of the European tour guides kept reminding me how lucky I was to come out on a day with amazing views. All I could do was agree. Yes I’m very lucky. Anyone who gets to go heli-skiing is lucky, let alone on a fabulous blue sky day up in the alpine.

After our first two runs, we stuck to skiing in the alpine areas to make the most of the fabulous day. The packed powder was soft and it sure beat resort skiing hands down. It seemed effortless because I didn’t have to edge my skis, and I contemplated how incredibly happy I’d be if I never had to edge ever again.

It was great being with European skiers as they really appreciate powder conservation. I laughed at one guy who wasn’t going to waste an inch of powder and skied down right next to the guide’s tracks, so close that they were only a couple of inches away. In complete contrast, one of the snowboarders sometimes flat lined it down the slope and “ruined” the pretty “S’s” pattern left in the snow. That snowboarder was not getting good value for money in regards to how many turns he was getting for the day!

As we skied down to a sunny spot for lunch, I further appreciated the magnificent weather of the day. The sun was shining up in the alpine area whilst the sea of clouds remained hanging down in the valley. The lunch of soup and sandwiches was nice but nothing too gourmet. However after my gastronomically fantastic experiences at the Hillcrest hotel, any food would seem plain. But hey, with views like this, who needs gourmet food?

The fifth and last run of the day was a long jaunt down past the Selkirk Lodge. The amount of skiing for the day had been just perfect. I was pleasantly weary without being exhausted. When we returned to the day lodge, I partook in a little après with my fellow heli-skiers. Even though English wasn’t the first language spoken by most people, it just didn’t matter. Everyone had big grins on their faces, and smiling conveys happiness in any language. Cheers, or is that prost or salute?!
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