Maybe I can blame Warren Miller.
Three things were certain. It would be in Alaska, it would involve helicopters, and there would be skiing.
Truth be told, I guess I knew it would be an adventure.
But, did there have to be quite so much of it?
What may have exemplified to the extreme the glacial crevasse (pun fully intended) between wanting to participate in a particular sports adventure, and having the capability to not have it become a de facto once-in-a-lifetime activity, I ventured up to Cordova, Alaska, and Points North Heli-Adventures.
The final leg of the flight up from Seattle was on an Alaskan Airlines 737-400 Combi aircraft, where the passenger’s comfort takes a back seat to no one.
Well, except for the massive amount of air cargo which occupies the entire front half of the plane. You know, the good half where drinks start flowing before the unwashed masses even get their lesson on how to operate a seat belt.
Over the course of series of posts, I will regale you tall tales of the ups and downs (and again, pun obviously intended) of flying to towering mountain tops and then skiing long runs in virgin powder to the glacier floor, far below, in arguably some of the most spectacular winter scenery in the world.
But, of course, in order to actually participate in heli-skiing, it kind of requires that the helicopters are able to actually take to the sky, which, not entirely surprisingly, does not occur when the clouds which birth the much desired powder, won’t leave. That, and when the winds, which bring in and clear out the storm clouds, are blowing 50-mph. So, you wait.
The down time gave me the chance to prepare certain necessary survival equipment.
Where it seems de rigueur to many a skier and boarder to mount video cameras on their helmets, I could think of more useful items to keep within reach.
Something that provides more readily available gratification.
After a couple of days, the copters, flown by men of amazing skill and true grit, rocket us high, high (did I mention it was high) up above the glacier floor, and whoosh, leave us to our thoughts.
(Check out the little skiers on the big, big mountain in this PNH picture.)
As we peered over the edge, down into the abyss, I found the younger set to become “stoked” (is that term still “hip"?”) and do a lot of hooping and hollering, while some of us older folks—and by some older folks, I do mean me—experience some level of bowel incontinence when we realize that, a) the helicopter is long gone, and b) down is the only way…well…to get down.
Somehow I got up here clinging to the feeble thought I was up to the task, which in short order had me clinging to our heli-guide, begging him not to leave me.
But, alas, there were pits for Jason to dig (no, not that kind. And by then it was too late for that kind, anyway; I needed clean shorts, not a snow pit).
This led our little group to conduct a quick prayer session, asking for guidance and the path to enlightenment and epic blower pow (ask a skier or boarder).
We also discovered that certain electronic devices did not seem to fully function way up here, which, for all I know, was caused by magnetic disturbances so close to the north pole.
This lead to some real concern as to us finding our way to important waypoints.
Don’t go far.
Thanks to those 50-mile-an-hour winds, there is much more around the cornice.
Yeah, I know…you can’t wait.