Photographs: Mark Clinton
Shrouded in fantasy, few of us have had the chance to go on the paranormal, wild, dare I say life-changing journey of heli snowboarding within the Southern Alps of New Zealand.
Till this winter, I saved listening to over and again and again how this was one of the best expertise you’ll be able to have right here, however had but to undertake it myself. To be sincere, I didn’t assume I’d ever be capable to heli ski, and I discovered the tales and media I used to be listening to and consuming round it made it appear wholly unattainable to me.
Nicely, I couldn’t have been extra mistaken.
If I can do it, a lot of you guys can too, and my expertise heli snowboarding on Black Peak in Wanaka with Southern Lakes Heliski this winter was completely one of the best day of my life.
It broke all my expectations, was no the place almost as scary as I believed it could be, and the euphoria and pleasure you get out of it’s virtually indescribable. To offer you some concept, we booked to do 4 runs for the day, however beloved it a lot I splurged and acquired us all a fifth run as a result of I couldn’t bear for it to be over.
Being the whole nerd that I’m, I picked all my pals’ brains beforehand and nonetheless did heaps of analysis on what it could be like so I may put together, however I nonetheless felt like I wished to firmly bust all these silly myths on right here about heli snowboarding within the hopes that they don’t maintain you again from going after this unbelievable journey too.
Get pleasure from!
1. It’s just for specialists
I get it, I used to assume I’d by no means be adequate to go heli snowboarding particularly once I was studying to snowboard. Isn’t that for specialists solely? Hear up individuals who assume you’re not adequate to heli ski: You don’t have to be professional in any respect.
Neglect what you assume . Heli snowboarding isn’t all hardcore dudes hucking off large cliffs. It’s actually for everybody. Even youngsters, youngsters, mother and father, grandparents, aunties, uncles. Most individuals who go simply need contemporary powder and love snowboarding or snowboarding, many are in teams on the lookout for an epic journey time out with pals or celebrating a milestone.
The one necessities? You have to be comfy snowboarding a bit off-piste and have an all-star angle. So long as you’re an intermediate rider and eager for powder, you’re adequate!
Belief a very common snowboarder like me; you’ll be simply positive heli snowboarding.
Southern Lakes Heliski right here in Wanaka has 16 mountain ranges which have quite a lot of terrain for specialists to intermediates. Having a lot terrain permits them to cater to their viewers and choose acceptable terrain for all teams. Cease sweating about not being adequate and begin giving your self credit score for what you’ll be able to truly do.
You’ll often be grouped with riders of comparable skills, skiers and snowboarders collectively (it doesn’t matter) and even every run has all varieties of traces and routes relying in your stage of consolation.
2. Helisking is an Outdated Boys Membership
It’s straightforward to see why one would assume this.
A lot of the promos and video footage I ever noticed of heli snowboarding featured tremendous intense dudes frothing to backflip off the mountains however guess what, rad ladies heli ski too!
Heli snowboarding is all about having enjoyable with pals, and for me, I used to be nervous and feeling fairly intimidated. To be surrounded by a few of my greatest pals in Wanaka, all girls who’re cheering one another on and to be guiding by such a legend was a day I’ll always remember!
In truth, our group was a wholly feminine solid of all-star intermediate shredders led by none apart from the one and solely Lydia Bradey. Lydia is an area kiwi and simply occurred to be the primary girl to climb Everest with out bottled oxygen, and has set 7 first ascents in one of many climbing meccas on the earth: Yosemite. She’s such a badass!
To say being surrounded by adventurous girls for this journey can be an understatement. Who run the world? Women.
three. You bounce out of the helicopter Mission Unattainable-style
Oddly, one of the widespread misconceptions about heli snowboarding is considering you bounce straight out of an lively helicopter, straight onto the slopes. Like along with your skis on.
Cease it. This isn’t a film and you aren’t James Bond and that’s 100% not ever going to occur.
How would you even put your gear on within the chopper? After which shimmy the door? And bounce and stick the touchdown?
You get out of the helicopter completely regular on prime of a mountain, albeit with ski gear on. Your skis experience within the basket on the aspect of the chopper. As soon as everyone seems to be out, you crouch across the gear and maintain it down because the pilot takes off.
You’re taking off your gear nicely earlier than the heli arrives and as soon as it’s landed, your information safely chauffers you into the cab whereas she/he places the gear within the boot on the skin. When you’re all protected in sound int the heli, you’re taking off and repeat the method while you land. Everybody out. Unpack the gear. Duck whereas the heli leaves. Put in your gear in peace. Simple.
However did I point out you are feeling like a complete badass when all of the snow blows round you from the blades, realizing that you just simply acquired dumped on prime of a mountain and also you’re about to experience down? EPIC!
four. You want backcountry expertise first
You don’t must have backcountry expertise to go heli snowboarding in Wanaka! Yay! You simply want to have the ability to hyperlink turns and be an intermediate rider. I practiced heaps beforehand at my native resort, Cardrona, and went off piste between runs to get extra comfy on steeper ungroomed terrain.
Your information provides you with an intensive demonstration on how your avalanche gear works nicely earlier than the helicopters arrive and briefs you on all security features prematurely.
They ensure you know precisely what each bit is and easy methods to work it in case of a (extremely unlikely) avalanche. When you’re within the mountains, you information will decide your path to maintain the group protected and with a lot terrain to selected from they selected protected areas and at all times regulate the avalanche risks and the snowpack scenario.
They preserve shut tabs on every individual and level out doable hazards earlier than happening. Security issue: 100.
New Zealand has a maritime snow so it compacts out rapidly making it very easy to experience or ski. For a lot of, this would be the first time snowboarding precise powder. Be warned, it’s addicting!
Whereas it’s a bit totally different than the groomed slopes of the ski fields, it’s straightforward to select up and tremendous enjoyable when you get the grasp of it, and Southern Lakes provides you with suggestions prematurely if you should rent powder skis or an extended board.
When you’ve ever questioned what flying appears like, you’ll get fairly shut whereas heli snowboarding.
5. It’s not protected
Southern Lakes has been round since 1985 and solely employs tremendous certified guides and pilots. I imply, simply having Lydia units the bar fairly freaking excessive – she guides on Everest!
Clearly there are dangers within the backcountry, I imply, good day, we are able to’t management the panorama. However with so a few years of expertise they keep on prime of all of the dangers and elements to ensure you have the most secure and most enjoyable expertise doable.
It was a very new surroundings for me, however the guides and crew made me really feel fully protected which went alongside approach for me to correctly benefit from the day.
Southern lakes have a snow security knowledgeable and handle the danger behind the scenes by realizing the climate for every specific mountain vary. Odds are you gained’t even know precisely the place you’re going till the day of your heli ski.
The morning of, the guides and specialists have a look at which mountains have one of the best snow and would be the most secure terrain to experience in. The entire terrain they use is low avalanche danger so you’ll be able to fear much less concerning the mountain and focus as an alternative on having one of the best day ever.
It actually offers you confidence realizing your in protected, succesful and skilled arms to cost and go for it.
6. TRUTH: It’ll be one of the best day of your life
As onerous as I attempt, I may by no means actually convey with phrases or photographs how life-changing heli snowboarding is. And everybody who has been says the identical factor.
There’s one thing so releasing about flying down the mountain with powder flying within the air with every flip, making your personal first tracks on iconic mountain slopes. The boldness that comes after tackling your first few runs makes you are feeling invincible and on prime of this world, and it certainly is one of the simplest ways to expertise winter in New Zealand.
Having this as soon as in a lifetime expertise is unquestionably definitely worth the cash. It’s not nearly snowboarding. The entire expertise is a full day guided journey and is usually the top of a skier or boarder profession. And have I discussed you get to FLY to your vacation spot over and again and again!
Nonetheless have questions? Try Southern Lakes Heliski’s FAQ part!
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