The 6-week drought finally relented allowing winter to roar back to life for a strong March finish. Desperate to make up for lost time; our modus operandi was to catch as many chair-zero’s and untracked lines as possible. For a time it seemed as if Thursday/Friday had become the new Saturday/Sunday. Worries that we wouldn’t be able to ride-out our Crystal and WB pre-paids this season were quickly put to rest. Hats off to Lupo and the Crystal crew for taking a couple young padwans under your wing and teaching us the ways of the snow-samurai! As I’m sure Agata can attest, those were some all-time best chuting, slashing, dropping and yes, poaching days on the hill…period. And rest assured, your ‘secrets’ are safe with us.

Conditions up in BC fared notably worse this season – it seems the storm track this winter has been focused primarily on Vancouver and southward. I found many of Whistler’s chute entrances considerably bonier than I recall them being in years past, with the unexpected and propitious consequence of scaring many away (never before seen so many back away in fear from the entrance to West Cirque!). Nevertheless, the 45cm day on Peak was nuts…but, holy hell I’ve never seen such crowds before either! The secret’s out folks. Stay home or go somewhere else please.

Like junkies desperate for the next fix, we decided on a whim to up the ante and reserved our seats on Whistler Heli’s new Bell 407. What can I say; the habit certainly isn’t cheap, but 11 runs ranging from 2.5k – 4k(?) ft under ideal snow and weather conditions will leave you wondering why you bother riding lifts at all. Not a bad way to wrap up this mixed-bag of a winter we’ve endured I say.

Not bad at all.

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Someone's REALLY stoked right now.

Some gnar as seen from the air.

One of the early runs of the day. There would be a lot more like this to come.

Agata (bottom) and Shawn cruising.

View to northwest over headwaters of Callaghan Valley with portion of Pemberton Icefield in distance.

With our guide Atsu sufficiently out of the way, I drop in.

Our guide Atsu. A 20 year Whistler heli veteran!

Wide open cruising terrain.

Looking south-ish towards Mt. Fee (prominent spires left of center - I think).

Animated GIF sequence of Agata shredding.

Animated GIF sequence of Agata descending one of the day's best pitches.

Agata sings a powder aria (animated GIF sequence).

Shawn and Agata descending wide, lower angled slopes to the next heli pick up zone.

Endless turns - this never gets old!

Oh yeah!.

Pemberton Icefields northwest panorama.

Wide angle Pemberton Icefields panorama - notice the sled tracks!

Shawn descends low angle slopes on Powder Mountain.

Obligatory family photo.

Agata (bottom) and Troy make the most of the endless terrain.

View south from flanks of Powder Mountain towards a peak who's slopes have been shredded by both sledders and the 12-man heli.

Animated GIF time again - Agata schralping!

One of the last runs of the day - animated GIF of Troy and Agata decending a nice pitch on Rainbow Mountain.

Animated GIF of Troy signing his name in the snow.

A bit blurry, but you get the idea.

This was a really, really long run, and no stops either. I think the guides refer to the area here as Cal-Pow as in Calaghan (Valley) & Powder (Mountain)?

Wait for it...wait for it...waaaait! Atsu and a german we picked up towards the end of the day make first tracks down to who knows where.

Upper slopes on Powder Mountain - probably the least exciting run of the day thanks to the lower slope angle.


Nice Troy...VERY nice!

Looking south towards Ashlu Mountain. Yes, definitely on the list.

Troy spots his line as Agata disappears behind a cloud of smoke.

Extra style points for Shawn - well done!

High on Rainbow Mountain overlooking our final descent with Wedge Mountain rising prominently from across the valley.

Round two with Whistler Heli, this time in the Rutherford Creek zone/area a bit north of Whistler Village. High winds in the alpine and snowpack stability concerns forced a more conservative slope selection than we were hoping for. Great lines were had, but we cut it short after the 6 runs included in the package. Of note was the DHS-style security screening at the Whistler heli-port – yet another ‘enhancement’ courtesy of the Olympics no doubt.

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First few turns of the day.

Lobe of Pemberton Icefields with sno-mo tracks everywhere.

Good snow albeit on low-angled slopes.

Agata enjoys a nice pitch sheltered from the annoying wind.

A good heli-boarder keeps his/her tracks confined to a relatively narrow swath. Agata is being a good heli-boarder here.

Good behavior is rewarded with a nice long descent.

Spotting our line with "The Wave" just beyond.

Oh how nice - such well-behaved heli-skiers!

Sorry - I'm not so well behaved.

Take as much room as you need. Don't worry about the other party.

Agata make a scenic slash.

Hmm...which way down?

I can't remember if the straight line in background at right was Agata or me, or that bunny I saw hopping uphill?

Obligatory shot from inside the brand-spanking new Astar.

Did I mention it was windy up in the alpine? Ashlu in distance.

Vlad leads us down the final run of the day.

Panorama with what may be Overseer in distance at left.

Typical scenery in Rutherford zone. Final run was made starting from highpoint at left.

By a sheer stroke of luck, we were offered a last minute opportunity to claim our seats on Powder Mountain's heli (operated by Black Tusk) at a door buster price that I simply couldn't resist. We each had a couple pre-paids on Powder Mountain's snowcat that we intended to start utilizing, but unfortunately all seats were booked by the time we chose to exercise the option. All things said, I'll take a heli day over the cat anytime.

Powder Mountain's tenure seem to be concentrated on slopes around Cypress Peak with the possibility of forays farther out towards the Pemberton Icefields, the Tantalus Range and beyond. The terrain out here is open and friendly and the potential is limitless. PM's cat operation for that matter is also a worthwhile alternative (photos included), with access to excellent alpine terrain that in the right conditions and on the perfect day almost rivals their heli operation.

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Sequence of one of our heli-mates with the Papparazzi looking on.

Agata gets style points for the hand drag.

Sequence of Agata slashing January pow.

Sequence of me on the north slopes of Cypress.

Pointing it through the trees.

Another sequence of Agata.

...and another of me.

Last one I promise...sequence of the heli lifting off.

Wide-open terrain and not a soul around for miles (except the two in front).

Don leads the way into the glades.

...and down a nice big glaciated slope.

A fantastic pitch with great powder.

Agata points it after a nice long pitch.

At the LZ with Cypress Peak behind.

Skiing the north slope of Cypress.

Amazing snow, amazing scenery.

Bank turn down the gully.

The AStar awaits.

Terrain for more enterprising souls.

Can't have enough of these!

This is my church.

Exiting the gully with contrail still visible.

Looking up what we just rode down.

Sking deep snow on the shady side of Cypress.

Agata posing with Cayley and Fee in distance (left-to-right).

Panorama looking east.

...and now for some cat boarding.

Agata gives the high five.

Challenging vis but awesome snow makes for a good day on the cat.

The view from the cat driver's perspective.

Clouds break to reveal a glimpse of the Cheakamus River Valley.

Gladed skiing.

A fortuitus break in clouds allows the cat to take us up into the alpine.

This is cat boarding?!

Cat boarding at it's finest I would be inclined to say.

A free-for-all on the final pitch back down to the cat.

The cat attempts to cut a track up the next ridge hump.

Sun, cloud and smooth textured slopes.

Final sequence of Agata.

Having overheard tales of epic lines and only the finest blower powder in the area simply referred to as "Hurley" left me with a burning desire to someday go heliskiing there. More than once have I envisioned the ski potential while climbing around nearby Railroad Pass during the summer. Suffice to say that it doesn't take much of an imagination to get an idea for what is possible out here. Now imagine my surpise and excitement when the shuttle pulled north out of Whistler with the driver informing us we would be heading towards Pemberton and beyond where we would rendezvous with the heli. This could only mean one thing, and it was all good!

Whistler has a number of heli ski tenures out this way actually, and best I could tell we spent the day riding slopes in the viscinity of Tenquile Lake roughly between Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park and Railroad Pass.

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Wind sculpted snow on the heli pad.

View towards Railroad Group with Face Mountain at right. Mount Sampson rises in the background.

Open bowl and deep snow.

Rarin' to go.

...and then we GO!

Another please.

Looking east from above Tenquile Lake.

ahh...not a track in sight.

Agata rips into the frame at right.

I think Troy is having a good day.

I'm having a good day as well.

Final descent into the valley where the heli awaits.

Troy rides a nice pitch.

Agata's makes a heelside slash on the same slope.

...and away she goes.

Animated gif of Agata having fun in the snow.

Beautiful Coast Mountain scenery.

A brief glimpse back in time.

A view back up from where we just came.

We came, we saw...

Heli aproaching the LZ.

Whatshisname from the UK gets the honors.

View over Pemberton Meadows towards Pemberton proper.

Troy drops in for one of the final runs of the day.

We started from the notch at upper right.

Half way down and still a long ways go.

Cruising down to the LZ in the flats far below.

Hmm...I must be dreaming.

Sequence of Troy schralping...

Blink and you'll miss.

And there's STILL more down to go.

Last run of the day. It was good

Panorama looking west.

Panorama looking east with one of our earlier descents visible.

Panorama looking south with an intervening ridge blocking.

Final grand panorama looking east.

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