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Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing

On heli skiing and the existence of unicorns in British Columbia.

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Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books you read as a kid? Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing, based at Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia, is just like those, in that you can customize your experience and enjoy a higher than normal probability of encountering a unicorn.

Instead of offering set packages, STHS lets you choose anything from a single heli bump to seven days of private heli service at the plush Bighorn Lodge for yourself and 15 friends.

When I visited in February, I opted for two days of heli time, which happened to fall after four days of serious accumulation. We boarded the Bell 407, and I felt the heli rotor reverberating in my chest as the bird lifted us into a corridor of air in the Columbia River valley before veering left into mountains obscured in gray.

“It’s sunny upstairs,” the pilot said to our guide, Eriks Suchov.

Sure enough, the higher we climbed, the more the clouds thinned, clinging to the pines with ghostly fingers. And then, bam. We broke into the blinding sun, and the clouds beneath us stretched out like an ocean, with the great peaks of the Monashees floating like islands.

“Where’re we going today?” asked the pilot, his Canadian accent diving and rising like a porpoise.

“Flying Squirrel,” said Suchov. The pilot dropped into a high clearing above low-angle trees so plastered with chalk they looked like forest gnomes. The slanted morning light made everything—even the air—sparkle. This, of course, is where the unicorns come in. If they existed, they would live here. Suchov sent us one by one to weave our tracks together through the small trees and cream.

Suchov skied in sunglasses and AT boots, and I’m pretty sure I could see one of his bindings moving underneath his boot. He’s STHS’s general manager, and he’s been a guide here for 29 years. I got the sense he’s not easily impressed. But when we popped out of the forest, he gave us a nod of approval and then radioed the heli, “These guys are good to go.”

On the next ascent, we crossed paths with another A-Star, so we banked to the right, swooped up a backlit ridge, and dropped down over a cliff. It was like a roller coaster in the sky—my stomach was in my mouth and I couldn’t hear my own laughter over the roar.

We landed atop a wide-open swath and, this time, Suchov let us loose. We chewed it up in a few huge arcs and then funneled into a steep pillow playground. I used to make fun of people who hooted on the slopes. I am sorry. Drop after marshmallowy drop, we popped off everything in our paths, the landings so soft we weren’t sure what was air and what was snow. At the bottom, we looked back at our tracks—all dotted lines, perforating the slope.

I asked Suchov what that run was called. He narrowed his eyes at me. “You gonna write it down in your notebook?” he said.

“Um, it depends?” I replied carefully. He probably didn’t actually harrumph, but his meaning was clear enough. “Well, then. That there was Titty Bar,” nodding back up to the pillows. “And above that, Fuckin’ A.” I didn’t write it down. But then again, I didn’t have to.