by -Guy Chefleur
So, even with the ski hill primed to go off, last week when I was offered a last-minute seat on a heli-drop mission with some good folks from the Renegade Heli and Unofficial crews, it was a no-brainer to get the day off work and join the party.
The plan was to fly out of Lillooet into some of the rather large and under-skied terrain on the Coast Range’s drier and sunnier side. Once airborne we were surrounded by a landscape of massive wind-scoured ridges laced with endless couloirs filled with just enough light, dry snow to make them totally shreddable. It felt like we had been teleported to Colorado or the Nevada Sierra, even though we were less than 100 km from Whistler as the crow flies (thanks for the fact-check, Strain!).
In total 4 loads of riders got dropped off atop a broad cirque filled with dozens of options, a sort of slightly bigger, slightly mellower Disease Ridge. The snowpack was bomber and skin tracks went easily up either side, so we could lap the zone at our own pace to our heart’s content.
When team photog and super-stoked birthday boy Andrew Strain came up in the last lift, our rad pilot circled overhead so he could snap shots as the first three riders sampled a nice, fat chute. Inspired by the Hollywood moment, or maybe anticipating the upcoming cost of a replacement iPhone screen that he would be facing before the day was done, Poulin decided to point it and make some dollar signs out of Jake’s set of tracks.
Joining the party was a fairly heavywight Euro film crew who, when they realized the snow conditions didn’t meet their specific filming needs, decided to head out early. Apparently skiing for the fun of it wasn’t on their agenda. More for us.Everyone else managed three laps before some weather rolled in, and even with our sizeable crew we were all able to get fresh lines every time.
After a wild goose chase on the way out through dense, scraggly brush, it was too late to make it back to Pemberton in time for a post-heli/Strain’s birthday feast, forcing us to sample Lillooet’s dining options. The local nightlife was so bumping that Jake thought he was in Utah.
After so much radness, the only thing missing was a random encounter with a dude walking from Pemberton to Lillooet after midnight, in a blizzard, wearing track pants, dress shoes and a leather jacket. When we got to tick that box off and save a bewildered stranger’s life on our way home, we could finally close the book on an epic day. The lesson learned: when the chopper beckons, do whatever it takes to make it happen. Except maybe walk.
For more photos of our trip check out www.andrewstrain.com
Thanks to Shaun for scoping the zone and making it happen, and to Jake, Poulin, Strain, Linda, and Rachel for screaming my name and fearing for my life while I was impatiently waiting for you back at the car.