Am I Crazy to go Heli-Skiing with Avalanche Warnings

Category: Weekly Columns


Our tracks up high above tree-line in The Adamants

Okay, the answer to the title question lies above. THAT is the beauty of what we see when we go heli-skiing. More people die from lightning and far more from car crashes than die in avalanches. I say GO FOT IT. We are renting those new avi-parachutes that release IF you get in an avalanche and help keep you above the snow. They’ve saved two lives this season already if you’ve seen the news.

AND, we wear beacons if we do get buried, so we can be found asap and hopefully just smile at the friends that dug us out with a bit of snow on our face!

The first time I heli-skied was in 1978 at The Bugaboos. I’d just finished producing my very first TV-movie, the infamous Ski Life to Death. Do not buy or rent it…it is a very bad transfer plus I have an embarrassing cameo you do want to miss! My boys will vouch for that. The movie is notable for starring the then pretty unknown Don Johnson. He was a character then and I tell a great story of what happened to him on this movie in this 12Most article.

On that first trip to The Bugaboos, it was 20 degrees below zero every day. After one or two runs, every one left their parkas in the helicopter because we were so warm from the exertion of the skiing! I thought I was a good skier then. After the first day, I ranked myself #38 out of the 40 people there. #39 and #40 were not skiing.

On the third or fourth day, we were skiing some steep trees. I was the last coming down. The whole mountain shifted – a minor avalanche – and I was thrown back first into the snow well of a tree. I was covered, tumbled, but not buried. I dug myself out, put myself back together and caught up with the group who asked, “Where were you?”

The rest of the afternoon was the best skiing of the trip. The following morning, I woke up screaming and was airlifted out. I had broken two ribs.

The next heli-skiing trip was four years ago when I took the photograph at the beginning of this article, as well as all the others included. I was the ONLY American in the group of 44 (my wife is Canadian). It was a fascinating group of people from ALL over the world, including the current Austrian male and female World Cup champions. Also there was a 70-something Japanese couple, Mori and Tomoko. The husband was dying of cancer and this was his “Bucket List” trip. Very cool to see.

In our group were three other Japanese skiers, one of whom was 64 and came with a broker collar-bone. He skied amazing and you’d never know he was the least bit hurt!

One day we skied in a minor white-out. We were always instructed to stay on one side or the other of where the guide told us – due to the “other” side could be a cliff or crevice. I got lost and all of a sudden felt myself falling. I landed on a steep slope, fell forward and tumbled out of my skis, and looked back up. The photo below is what I saw. See my tracks as I went over the ledge above that rock. Notice my skis are exactly where I landed.

So, we’re off on another trip. Can’t wait. Yes, I updated my Trust/Will. And, yes I’ll be sort of careful. My wife is a better powder skier than me and she’ll try and keep me in line. If the wi-fi works there, I’ll be sending out photos and videos and doing #DadChat on April 5 from the Cariboos lodge!

My wife and me…

Helicopter leaving after dropping us off!

I’m on TOP of the world!