Un­tracked Line

DOES A RE­SORT THAT AMASSES 45 FEET OF CRYS­TALLINE POW A YEAR AND BOASTS MORE MOOSE TRACKS ON ITS SLOPES THAN SKI TRACKS NEED A HELISKIING OP? HELL YEAH.

SKI - - CONTENTS - By Kim­berly Beek­man // Pho­tos by Crys­tal Sa­gan

Your winged char­iot awaits at Bri­tish Columbia’s Ea­gle Pass Heliskiing.

I’m gear­ing up at Ea­gle Pass Heliskiing head­quar­ters, and my heart is beat­ing like the drum ma­chine in that Phil Collins song. Partly be­cause an A-Star he­li­copter is wait­ing for us out back, and partly be­cause our ski guide, JP, looks like Paul New­man—if Paul New­man could rig up a ski an­chor and, I don't know, build a shel­ter out of match­sticks and moss.

Our pho­tog­ra­pher, Crys­tal, who’s one of seven fel­low jour­nal­ists here to test Ed­die Bauer’s new out­er­wear—which, at this mo­ment, I am sweat­ing through—catches my eye from across the room and makes a ges­ture that one could in­ter­pret as pump­ing up a bike tire, if you could pump up a bike tire with your mouth.

I’ve been heliskiing in Revy be­fore (a mantra I re­peat when my ski-writer bank ac­count re­flects my du­bi­ous ca­reer choice), and Ea­gle Pass is unique be­cause it flies only small groups (four per A Star) to keep things cus­tom and nim­ble. This gives clients more say in where they want to ski, and keeps skiers of sim­i­lar abil­ity lev­els to­gether. This sea­son the op opens a lodge— clients pre­vi­ously stayed at lo­cal ho­tels—re­plete with all the fix­ings. We got to tour it last night; even un­fin­ished, it’s beau­ti­ful, with cozy yet mod­ern dé- cor, dou­ble-oc­cu­pancy rooms (no room-shar­ing with strangers), and a well-stocked horse­shoe bar for après.

We hit the fi­nal weigh-sta­tion be­fore head­ing out the doors, and Scott, a salty for­mer pro snow­boarder who’s the VP of op­er­a­tions and lead guide here, says in a Cana­dian brogue, “Weather’s gonna be a mix of sun and clouds, what­ever that means in the Monashees.” So far, it means soup. We walk through the fog to the heli, where JP gives us the run­down on how to open and close the heli door. My heli mates PK, Joe, and Ryan watch in­tently— ob­vi­ously in the throes of their own bro-crushes. I won­der what the J and P stand for…-Some­thing French, I think, some­thing sexy.

The heli lifts through the thick layer of clouds into a thin­ner one, but we still don’t see the sun. The pi­lots can’t go too high on days like th­ese be­cause they might not be able to go back down. We land in a tame meadow, yet we’re all ner­vous and grip­ping tight to pro­to­col, hold­ing down the gear as JP tosses it out of the bas­kets.

On ev­ery ski trip, it’s al­ways the same—those pre-first-turn jit­ters shake ev­ery­one’s con­fi­dence. It doesn’t help that Ea­gle Pass’s back­packs have metal buck­les that are im­pos­si­ble to clip when they get packed with snow. As I’m mess­ing with mine, JP side­steps to me, pulls out his big mul­ti­tool to

dig out the ice, and deftly, as­suredly, pow­er­fully in­serts the male part into the fe­male part. It’s like that sex scene in "For Whom the Bell Tolls," when Hem­ing­way lets loose all the ad­verbs he’s been re­strain­ing his whole life. “Thank you,” I say, breathily. But I'm mostly fo­cused on try­ing to smell his neck.

We throw our skis in the snow and click in, which in­stantly makes us feel back in our el­e­ment, and we fol­low JP to the edge of the trees. Then he ca­su­ally un­leashes what would be­come a del­uge of the foulest jokes this foul­mouthed ski writer has ever heard. And be­cause ev­ery one of them could only be told in another kind of pub­li­ca­tion, the kind that comes wrapped with metal­lic cel­lo­phane, you will just have to take my word.

We make our first turns down the mel­low forested slope, with a fairly open glade at the top. The snow is a few inches of cream on top of Sty­ro­foam, and we fol­low in JP’s gen­eral di­rec­tion through the trees, mak­ing our own tracks wher­ever we like, over small pil­lows and downed trees. As we near bot­tom the snow melts into hot pow but it’s still awe­some. Our crew is strong—and I can tell JP is psyched.

We lap tree runs like this all day, get­ting pro­gres­sively higher as the clouds be­gin to dis­si­pate. We have three groups out here, all get­ting picked up and dropped off by the same heli, and the pi­lot op­er­ates with a syn­chro­nized ef­fi­ciency that never leaves us wait­ing for long. We get well-oiled and op­er­ate smoothly in the tran­si­tions, no longer flinch­ing when the heli lands just feet from our heads. We ski un­til our de­sire for beer out­weighs our de­sire for more un­tracked, and head back to HQ for après.

John, a writer whose sleepy eyes and wry de­meanor re­mind me of Cameron from Fer­ris Bueller’s Day Off, gives us the low­down on his day. “I al­most got fired from door duty,” he says. “Our guide said it was like open­ing the door on a mini­van. It was not like a mini­van.” Mean­while, JP has stripped down to his base­layer top, and is prob­a­bly think­ing the same thing we are, mi­nus the part about how good his shoul­ders look: To­mor­row, we get to do it all over again.

Ed­die Bauer ath­lete Lynsey Dyer tests the new out­er­wear and the pow­der con­di­tions with Ea­gle Pass Heliskiing, out­side Revel­stoke, B.C.

The Monashee range makes a stun­ning back­drop for a heli va­ca­tion, and Ea­gle Pass's per­mit­ted ter­rain is mas­sive and var­ied, with chutes, pow­der fields, and even plenty of glades.

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