What do heliski pilots do in the summer?
I’ve been waiting for weeks to post this. I came across this photo in June, at the peak (hopefully) of a horrendous wildfire season in the US.
Waldo Canyon and High Park, the most destructive wildfires in Colorado history, were both raging, consuming over 600 homes between the two of them. New Mexico’s Whitewater-Baldy fire had taken the dubious honor of being the largest fire in the state’s history. Utah, Wyoming and California were all doing battle with fires.
It seemed most respectful to wait until those unbelievably destructive fires were under control before talking about them on a blog dedicated to having unbelievable amounts of fun in the mountains.
It’s a screenshot of a CNN photo of a Bell 212 helicopter and pilot from Alpine Helicopters fighting fires in California in June. After seeing Alpine machines flying above glaciers, between billowing white clouds, over heavily snow-ladden forests, and under huge granite walls, it was somewhat shocking to see the familiar red and white machine hovering above a massive wall of flame.
Alpine Helicopters has been a reliable partner for CMH Heli-Skiing for decades, and now supports all the CMH Heli-Skiing locations in the vast Columbia Mountains ski paradise around Revelstoke. Some heli-ski pilots take the summer off, but many have families to support, or simply enjoy flying, and spend much of their summer fighting fires in the US and Canada.
The pilot and engineer often commute together, in their helicopter, from the Alpine Hangar in Kelowna, BC, to wherever they are needed for firefighting. An Alpine pilot told me once, “Smoke and Jet-A smell good to a pilot”.
I’d guess the Alpine boys got enough of whiffs of jet fuel and pine smoke so far this summer to last them through a winter of fresh air, gourmet food, and powder snow with CMH.
Heliskiing photo from CMH Galena by Topher Donahue.