The process is simple, if also insane. One end of a 200-foot steel cable hooks onto a helicopter, the other end clips onto a fully geared-up skier-or two. The helicopter roars off, skiers dangling like bait on the end of a giant fishing line. The chopper then lowers them onto peaks too sheer or unstable for heli-landings. "There was a lot of wind, so our skis were in a constant back-scratcher. It was intense-we just held on and didn't say much," says Micah Black, who hung alongside Kevin Quinn, owner of Points North Heli Operations, during a long-lining flight in Alaska's Chugach range last season. "When we were flying across the valley, thousands of feet in the air, it was like being in a dream," he says. A few helicopter operations and film crews are using elite skiers to experiment with long-lining to rack up first descents, but don't expect to slip into a heli-harness at any mainstream resorts soon. "The much larger application for long-lining is how it will be applied to rescue operations," Quinn predicts. One unexpected benefit of flying through the air at the end of a giant cable, Black says, is that you scare the snot out of yourself just getting to your pitch. "So when you finally do ski, it's not so bad."
Absolutely, Positively Wacked