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Mica Heli Guides, B.C.

Untracked Line
posted: 02/01/2005

Max Elevation: 10,700 feet Max Vertical Drop: 7,000 feet Average Vertical Logged Per Week: 100,000 feet Prices: C$4,750 for four days in the low season; C$9,550 for seven days in the high season Getting There: From Revelstoke, follow Highway 3 to Mica Creek (98 miles) and the heli shuttle. Info: 877-837-6191; micaheliguides.com

Beta: If you book a trip with Mica Heli Guides this season, you could be making first descents: The newest operation in the Revelstoke area has just one full season under its belt. And if you book a trip five years from now? Well, you'll still be able to put your mark on the map. MHG has explored only 15 percent of its territory, which spans almost two thousand square miles of glaciers and peaks in the northernmost Canadian Rockies. This place is big. John Candy big. When you hear the guide tell the pilot, "Let's try the next valley, eh? remember that the next valley could mean Wood River (over 30 bowls); Harvey Valley (4,000-foot bowl-to-gully-to-tree lines); or the Mount Clemenceau area (7,000-foot descents). In a single day, expect to hit steep ice fields that meander through thousand-foot rock walls, carve rolling glaciers, and plunder 40-degree tree runs.

This outsize playground was a long time coming. After current owner Dan McDonald's permit request spent a decade languishing in British Columbia's bureaucracy, the 2001 election brought in a new administration that processed his application within 140 days. It was worth the wait: Within a year, Mica Heli was up and humming. Today, MHG's plush, million-dollar alpine lodge sits 2,500 feet above Kinbasket Lake, staring down the rival ranges of the Monashees, Selkirks, and Rockies. Let the gratuitous powder surfing commence.

Snowpack
Located on the western slope of the Rockies, MHG gets as much accumulation as the neighboring heli-skiing ranges—sometimes 60 feet a year. But because it's higher and colder, the snow is significantly lighter. January and February bring the big dumps. (Last January 29, almost four feet piled up.) March is tops for depth. Check avalanche.ca/weather/bulletins for avalanche conditions.

Terrain Highlights
With territory that would dwarf a dozen Whistlers, MHG's variety is mind-blowing. Request the Kinbasket Valley for steep, 3,000-foot faces; the Dawson Valley for a consistent 35-degree, 5,000-foot highway straight down the Iroquois glacier; or the Harvey Valley for old-growth tree shots.

Weather
Storms tracking out of the Pacific slam into the Selkirks and Monashees, which push them northeast into the Canadian Rockies and Mica's home turf. When there's nothing brewing in the west, Kinbasket Lake—a 133-mile-long body of water that never freezes over—serves up lake-effect snowfall like clockwork. If the visibility is soupy, the pilot just heads to another microclimate.

The Guides
MHG's chaperones are all fully certified by one of Canada's two guiding organizations. A few—like lead guide Craig Ellis—work with Mica all season, while the rest freelance in the Revelstoke area.

The Lodge
The three-story log homestead is remote but deluxe: think heated floors, filtered glacier drinking water, and a hot tub with a panoramic Rockies view. Most rooms have single beds and shared baths, but there are a couple of larger suites.

The Chow
Beware heli belly: Mica doesn't scrimp on the grub. Expect slabs of French toast, prosciutto sandwiches on foccacia, and mixed-berry mousse. The culinary trump card? Salmon in a ketchup/Coke sauce. (No, seriously—it's good.)

Bang for Buck
If you're comparison shopping, don't just look at dollar signs. Rates here are stiffer than at CMH and Selkirk-Tangiers, but you get (relatively) quiet A-Star birds and small groups—just four skiers per guide instead of a dozen.

Must-Know
Pack light. The heli has to shuttle you, your gear, and the wine and steak. Don't hog the basket.

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