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Cruising Altitude

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Not to me. I'm a good person, I deservegood things. But I don't deserve this. I'min a helicopter, in my ski boots, on therump of a ship. It's a very…

Not to me. I’m a good person, I deservegood things. But I don’t deserve this. I’min a helicopter, in my ski boots, on therump of a ship. It’s a very big ship. A veryplush ship. A yacht. No, not a yacht—asuperyacht. A megayacht. The words feelcottony in the mouth, unreal.

To recap: Our first run of the weekskiing from the 201-foot superyachtAbsinthe—my first taste of heliskiing, ever—will be squiggling sine waves down…

To recap: Our first run of the weekskiing from the 201-foot superyachtAbsinthe—my first taste of heliskiing, ever—will be squiggling sine waves down amountain that’s probably not seen ahuman track, ever.

One day you're a dirtbagski writer eating Vanilla Nut Clustersstraight from the box at 11 p.m., the nextyou're a dirtbag ski writer being servedby…

One day you’re a dirtbagski writer eating Vanilla Nut Clustersstraight from the box at 11 p.m., the nextyou’re a dirtbag ski writer being servedby uniformed attendants and heliskiingfrom a floating Xanadu as its high archedbow pleats the waters of British Columbia’sspectacularly shattered coastline.The culture shock is nearly traumatic.

Our group hasbeen invited aboard the Absinthe on itsinaugural spring cruise, to experiencewhat may be the most exotic and sumptuousheliskiing…

Our group hasbeen invited aboard the Absinthe on itsinaugural spring cruise, to experiencewhat may be the most exotic and sumptuousheliskiing experience on earth.
“Welcome to the Absinthe, says thecaptain. I’m handed a flute of 1996 DomPerignon champagne ($200 a bottle at thebar back in Seattle; I checked) and a plateof strawberries dipped in chocolate.

Chartering the Absinthe—thefull gilded enchilada, including the helicopter,fuel, the 40-foot sportfishing boatthat tags along like a pilot fish, all…

Chartering the Absinthe—thefull gilded enchilada, including the helicopter,fuel, the 40-foot sportfishing boatthat tags along like a pilot fish, all theDom and spirits you can quaff, the crewof 26 to service and guide and pamperyou and 11 friends—costs $48,000 a day.

Nothingis tarnished about the Absinthe—literally.Early every morning after dawn twoIndian men in smart uniforms who seemto have chamois cloths…

Nothingis tarnished about the Absinthe—literally.Early every morning after dawn twoIndian men in smart uniforms who seemto have chamois cloths instead of hands(and who, I’m told, are well paid bycruise-ship standards) are constantly wipingdown every surface. The only face Isee in the polished railing is my own.

A multimillion-dollar refit was completed on the ship in June 2005. Out went a lime-andshell-pink décor, in favor of a subduedglamour—more Grace…

A multimillion-dollar refit was completed on the ship in June 2005. Out went a lime-andshell-pink décor, in favor of a subduedglamour—more Grace Kelly than ParisHilton—that’s hard to hold a grudgeagainst. A Northwest aesthetic reigns,with dark, smoked-oak floors. Prints fromFirst Nations artists adorn the walls.In the dining roomwe eat at a table glinting, constellationlike,with shiny pebbles and Riedel crystal,nestled between a climate-controlled,400-bottle wine cellar and a grand pianothat tinkles automatically.

When itcomes to outdoor recreation, the Absintheis a floating Swiss Army knife. In additionto the sportfisher that's poised for salmonor halibut…

When itcomes to outdoor recreation, the Absintheis a floating Swiss Army knife. In additionto the sportfisher that’s poised for salmonor halibut fishing, two 17-foot tendersstand ready to take clients hiking, diving,water-skiing or wakeboarding. The deckand hold hide mountain bikes, 10 seakayaks, two Jet Skis. And then, of course,there’s the A-Star, which sits astern like amosquito resting contentedly on its host,waiting to lift off for fishing, hiking, skiing.

Around us, the horizon is a choppysea of granite—a cyclorama of first linesthat would drop 3,500 feet to hemlocktrees (that is, if the early April…

Around us, the horizon is a choppysea of granite—a cyclorama of first linesthat would drop 3,500 feet to hemlocktrees (that is, if the early April snow didn’tturn manky down low). Atop one big,unbroken glacier we push off and justkeep turning, turning, turning…

Back at the ship I am not given time todwell on bargains struck or promisesissued. Pete, the other pilot, who's a fishingguide to boot, holds out a…

Back at the ship I am not given time todwell on bargains struck or promisesissued. Pete, the other pilot, who’s a fishingguide to boot, holds out a pair ofwaders. Pete’s T-shirt says, “CanadianFishing Kicks Ass.
“Let’s go slay ’em, Pete says.

One afternoon after skiing there's noroom in the heli for me to go fishing. Someone suggests that I seek consolationin the gifted, vice-like hands…

One afternoon after skiing there’s noroom in the heli for me to go fishing. Someone suggests that I seek consolationin the gifted, vice-like hands ofSiobhan, the staff’s Irish massage therapist. Ninety minuteslater, Simon, the steward, finds mewandering around the ship in my robe,my face wearing the unfixed, beatific lookreserved for the post coital—or the wellkneaded.”You have not yet tried the hottub? he says, aghast, in his Quebecoisaccent. He practically prods me up to thestern’s upper deck.

All weekour running joke with the gifted chef,Steve Ridley, is that we planto give him an afternoon off, requisitionthe ship's entire inventory of…

All weekour running joke with the gifted chef,Steve Ridley, is that we planto give him an afternoon off, requisitionthe ship’s entire inventory of poulet andcook up a redneck specialty—beer-canchicken—on the barbie.
“Whatever the customer wants, we’re going to do it. As long as it’s safe—andlegal—we’re going to try to do it.

Private heliskiing charters on the 201-foot motor yacht Absinthe are available fromlate February through the first week of April. From late spring…

Private heliskiing charters on the 201-foot motor yacht Absinthe are available fromlate February through the first week of April. From late spring through summer, theyacht repositions up the coast and offers private charters along the coast of southeastAlaska. The Absinthe can accommodate up to 12 guests in as many as 10 staterooms.The private charter rate of $36,000 per day includes use of the 40-footsportfisher, the helicopter, guides and crew. So-called “running expenses—all fuel,food and drink, maritime pilot fees, etc.—cost extra. An all-inclusive package (charterfee and just about any running expense you can dream up) costs $48,000 per day. TheAbsinthe is managed by Sea to Sky Helisports & MegaYacht Adventures. (High-endcharter brokers can also book the yacht.) 866-935-3228; motoryachtabsinthe.com