Heli Skiing

Private heli skiing groups get first descents


One of the highlights of guiding a private group of returning guests at this time of year at Northern Escape is the ability to explore deep into our massive tenure.

While Clair was guiding the Flying Circus last week he was able to execute four first descents, all of which were chosen specifically because the terrain was ideally suited for speed riding (see The Flying Circus visits NEH).

The first two new runs are located in the seldom-visited Fjordland zone of our tenure. This zone is the northwestern most skiing area at Northern Escape and previously only had four named runs in the entire zone. Their new runs in the zone are both named after prominent Norse Mythology ideas; ‘Ultima Thule’ meaning the ‘border of the known world’ and ‘Odin’s Choice’.

The third new run skied and flown by the Flying Circus is in the My Town zone. The run name ‘This Aint Yerp’ was chosen by the group as a taunt to three members of the party who, at the last minute, backed out of this year’s Circus to remain in Verbier.

These Yerpeans who didn’t make the trip are probably kicking themselves as they hear stories about the final first descent that the group got to do. “It was possibly the coolest run I’ve ever done heli skiing…ever…anywhere!” says Clair who has been guiding for 35+ years. The group unanimously agrees with him as they think back to their adventures skiing and flying Peyote High in the Wild West zone. Clair goes into more detail, “Good snow, blue skies, and late afternoon side light on the terrain. You land on a big flat football field and then ski to the north, and it gets steeper and steeper, like skiing down the face of a basketball. One very steep pitch takes us off the toe of the glacier, then Bingo, the angle eases and you ski down cool fingers with canyons between them, like giant pterodactyl claws.” Clair smiles as he recalls the thrill of the run, “The final section is smooth low angle fast cruising. It feels like skiing through Yosemite Valley when you look up at the huge granite walls towering above. It’s a powerful place.” Peyote High connects to the existing Peyote Palace line, creating a spectacular 4000+ foot run. It is certain that Clair will return to ski this one a few more times!

Private heli skiing group new run

Hell’s Gate as viewed from the helicopter

While Clair and the Flying Circus were skiing and flying their new runs, Owen and his private heli skiing group were also chalking up some notable first descents. Since they had skied at NEH for several years Owen knew they were expert skiers with good mountain sense and a desire to explore. That coupled with good snowpack stability made laying down some new runs a no brainer.

“We skied a few new runs this week, and a few variations of existing runs such as the couloirs, chutes and faces that we ordinarily ski beside.” Owen shares, “The most memorable new run of the week was Hells Gate. We chose that name because it definitely reflects the nature of the terrain of that run.” Naming a new run is important, like naming your new baby. The name should suit the terrain, and fit into the naming theme of the runs around it. As a run name, Hell’s Gate works. A gnarly line located between Heaven’s Door and Devil’s Advocate.

Good run names help our guides to remember the location and character of the 250+ runs in the huge tenure occupied by Northern Escape.