"When I’m with a group that stays together, we move at a faster pace and get to ski more great lines."
Even the most experienced mountaineers can improve and become more efficient by simply changing their attitudes and ideals about the team element of the sport. Heli-skiers are no exception. To learn about the kind of things that heliskiers and riders do that turn around to bite the team in the tail, I asked Steve Chambers, the area manager of CMH Revelstoke to tell it like it is. Here are his top 5:
- 'Follow the leader' We're a selfish lot - us guides - when it comes to fresh powder and we really, really love what we do. You can bet we’re looking for the BEST possible line. You don't need to wander to find something better. Sticking close to the guide's tracks and avoiding that wandering line keeps things moving along as we stick together as a group and don't end up in search mode for you. When I’m with a group that stays together, we move at a faster pace and get to ski more great lines. I don’t know how many times I’ve stood around with the group waiting for some “expert” to find their way back.
- 'Pushing for more' There has to come a point in the day when it all ends and we're heading back to the lodge after a great day of skiing. Pushing your guide to do one more run sounds like a great idea but you have to remember all of the logistics and safety considerations that are factored into their decisions: How much daylight do we have left? How is the fatigue level with everyone? How much time do we need to move our groups out of the backcountry with enough time on our side in case something goes wrong (lost ski, etc.)? Remember, we'd love to do another run as well!
- 'Love thy Neighbour' - I know, how corny is that... The point I'm trying make here is the interaction you have with other members of your group. Mountain sport is a team sport. Everyone comes from various walks of life, nationalities and experience levels. You're 20th or 30th day of heli-skiing is a lot different experience than your first time. Abilities aside, there is a learning curve for everyone in this realm of skiing. In groups where the veterans support the newcomers, the first-timers learn faster and in the end everyone skis more and has more fun. In groups where the veterans are impatient everyone waits more and skis less.
- 'Follow the Rules of the Road' - After 45 years of doing this, CMH has had some practice in refining the ins & outs of how we move through the terrain we ski. What might not make sense to you initially has a purpose - the buddy system in the trees, skiing one at a time on certain slopes, stopping above the guide and the list goes on. By ignoring the rules or not listening to the guide’s instructions you risk not only your own well-being but that of other group members. They're pretty easy to follow and after a while you get used to them and it becomes second nature. When you break these rules at the wrong time, Mother Nature opens a can of whoop-ass the likes of which you never want to experience…
- 'We can't control Mother Nature' - I know we like to think we have special powers as guides, but this one's out of our control! As good as the snow & skiing can be most days, it's not always perfect. When Mother Nature gives us a poor hand, we do the best we can. No amount of bitching or complaining by any of us is going to make that change. But the slightest positive weather trend can give us those epic powder conditions in short order. Be patient and wait for the signs...
That's it - pretty simple really. Have an open mind, stay positive, follow some basic rules and the bright suit up front and, most of all, have a great time doing it. We are looking at a stellar start to the winter and the early season conditions are some of the best we've seen in years. Hopefully we'll see you up in our mountains this winter. Play safe and good turns to all.
To the reader: do you have anything to add that you've seen backfire while helicopter snowboarding and skiing?