A Heli-Assisted Ski Touring Dream Come True, Part 2
This is a guest post by Tim Oliphant, winner of the CMH/ Arc'teryx What Inspires You to Ski Tour contest.
April 4-9, 2010: There are so many wonderful details and memories that I have from my CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Tour that I could probably write a book. However, I want to focus on my time in the mountains, because that is where the most memorable experiences happened.
I was part of a group of ten fun and diverse people for the seven days of ski touring. We came together for this adventure from all corners of the earth including: the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, Great Britain, the Caymans, and Germany. There was no doubt in my mind that this colourful group was going to have an incredible week.
The helicopter lifted off from the Adamant Lodge and flew us through the snow-covered mountains that seemed to roll on forever in every direction. We were dropped at the top of a mountain and geared up for the ski down. I was still nervous, because I had never skied the backcountry. My worries disappeared as I pointed my skis downhill and made my first turns. Backcountry powder is very different from groomed resort skiing, to which I had become so accustomed. The snow was remarkably soft, fluffy, and deep! At times I felt like I was floating! After a few pointers from the other members of the group, my skiing began to improve. Nothing could take the smile off my face; not even the handful of tumbles that sent me flying head over heels into the soft powder. Oh by the way, falling in powder is much more forgiving than wiping out on hard pack. I was very grateful for this because the mountain and I would have many close encounters over the next 7 days. As I reached the bottom of our run, I was glowing. I couldn't wait to head up and do it all again. But little did I know that the trek up the mountain would be even more engaging than the incredible experience I had just had coming down.
I had never expected the uphill part of ski touring to be so incredible. I was very profoundly impacted by the pride in accomplishment that I developed, the scenery I witnessed, and the conversations I had out on the skin track.
Pride: Getting dropped off by a helicopter and skiing down the mountain was definitely fun, but it wasn't until I'd experienced the march back up that I realized how much I took for granted on the ride down. I indeed "earned my turns" with every step I took as I skinned up the steep and winding terrain. Once at the top, my sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. I had just hiked - on skis - to the top of a mountain. Awesome! My perspective for the second run down was much different than the first. Instead of mind numbingly zipping down the mountain, I savored each and every turn that I carved into the fresh powder. Yeah, there is a unique sense of pride and self-accomplishment that comes with tracking up a mountain then skiing down. It was a pride that I embraced wholeheartedly.
Scenery: More often than not, when I ski I neglect to appreciate my surroundings because my focus is on the aggressive activity, not the scenery. Touring helped break me of the bad habit of only looking straight down. Instead, I started looking around. Wow! Words are useless in trying to describe the splendor of all I saw. Sparkling snow, frozen deep blue glaciers, intricate rock formations, animal tracks through the snow, and countless mountain ranges are just some of the amazing sights I witnessed each day. The scenery never got old and the best part was that each day presented new and more magnificent vistas. My memory is full of all the natural beauty I was able to take time to enjoy while trekking up and through the mountains.
Conversation: The long hikes up the mountains allowed for much conversation. No topic is ever off limits when on the skin track...politics, religion, family, relationships, life ambitions, etc...we shared it all. Needless to say, we got to know each other very well. We developed amazing camaraderie and unity during our time together. Even Greg Hill was willing to take the time to share some pointers that helped me significantly improve my skiing. These conversations were highlight of my trip!
By this time several of the days had passed and I realized that there was only one day remaining in this adventure of a lifetime. Considering all that I had learned and experienced, I didn't want the holiday to end. Little did I know that the final day of ski touring would prove to be the most memorable!
To find out what happened on the final day, and to hear how Tim dealt with re-entry to the real world, check back next week!