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Absolutely, Positively Wacked

Fall Line
posted: 09/28/2001

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."

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