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The Heli High Life Part 3: Mica Heliskiing

The Heli High Life Part 3: Mica Heliskiing

Small groups and big flexibility make mica the quintessential boutique op. Pick a line—Any line.
By Kelley McMillan
posted: 10/10/2012

Last spring, I landed in the center of the ski universe. I stepped out of the chopper and into interior British Columbia, hundreds of miles from civilization, surrounded by the craggy peaks of the Canadian Rockies and some of the world’s biggest ski-lebrities: Lynsey Dyer, J.P. Auclair and Kye Petersen. In skiing, that’s akin to Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt and Justin Bieber sauntering into your hotel lobby—minus the paparazzi frenzy. They were here for the same reason I was: to plunder Mica Heliskiing’s legendary deep, dry powder and prime terrain, although they were filming a movie about it. Me? I was just a guest.

Tucked onto the side of a mountain overlooking the Kinbasket River, Mica Heli-skiing serves up 200,000 acres of high-alpine bowls, steep faces, and some of the best tree skiing on the planet, all slathered in superlight B.C. blower. What truly sets Mica apart, though, is its boutique business model: four skiers per group, one guide, and one sexy A-Star chopper, combined with top-of-the-line accommodations and amenities.

And other companies, including industry pioneers, are following suit. Why? For one, small groups allow for maximum flexibility, a highly customizable program and more skiing. Point to a line, and most likely Mica will take you there. Clocking in 20,000-plus-vert days is the norm. Down days? Next to none, thanks to the resident snowcat. Sign up for one of the private heli programs, and pick off first descents that you normally only dream of—which is exactly what I did on my second day there.

After a morning warming up with high-speed GS turns on mellow bowls (no farming tracks here) and hopping down 50-degree pitches loaded with boot-top powder, our guide, Eric, ushers us to the top of a 1,200-vertical-foot, 40-degree chute of shimmering untracked powder. He motions to me and says, “Go for it. All you.” Who, me? No way, I think. He gives me the go. 

I kick off and float in and out of rhythmic pow turns. I toss up a spray of white smoke and let out a cry of delight so loud I fear it might trigger an avalanche somewhere in the valley. It’s sublime.

At the bottom of the run, we have to dig a landing zone for the helicopter—the terrain really is that virginal. Eric saws down small fir saplings, one guy shovels snow and I stomp the impromptu helipad flat.
On the way home, the chopper purrs. 

Out the window, jagged peaks drop into the river below. I think to myself, Hot damn, I just tagged a first descent! I have to admit, I feel pretty friggin’ cool and a little like a ski star myself. But back at the lodge, I watch footage of what the real snow celebs had been up to—you know, hucking rodeos off massive cliffs and straightlining 2,000-vertical-foot couloirs. That brings me back down to earth—to Mica, the center of the ski universe.


Tip: Book early in the season for deep tree skiing; later for high-alpine, big-vertical lines and long days.

   

{ Tasting british columbia }

Despite its reputation for hardcore skiing, Mica also boasts one of the heli world’s most sophisticated wine collections. The expertly edited list features 23 wines produced solely in British Columbia. “You’re in B.C., you’re skiing B.C., surrounded by the big B.C. mountains, so we want our guests to taste B.C.,” says Barbara Rose, Mica’s operations manager. Each spring Rose travels to the region’s top vineyards to handpick the wines Mica will serve for the upcoming season. “We have the top two percent of wines produced in B.C.,” Rose says. “There is not a wine our guests don’t like.” Pinot noirs, merlots, and Bordeaux blends are some of the region’s specialties. The pinot noir from Le Vieux Pin is a guest favorite. “It’s a big, bold, masculine wine—I don’t know a guest who hasn’t been shocked by how good it is,” she says. “We’re an exclusive, boutique operation serving the top skiing, and we want to deliver the top wine.” Mission accomplished.

Click here to read Part 1Part 2Part 4 of "The Heli High Life"

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