Want to take your skiing to the next level? Not sure if you’re ready to take the next step? We asked extreme skier Mike Watling for tips on when you know that you’re ready to take the chopper up to make fresh tracks.
Heli Skiing Heaven #1: Get Fit
The fitter the better really. You’ll enjoy it more if you have spent some time training before the trip, especially if you don’t have much powder skiing experience. However, that doesn’t mean you need to running marathons every weekend…
Heli Skiing Heaven #2: You’ve Racked Up The Miles
You must be capable of handling a mixture of conditions, whether you are on one plank or two. You should have considerable skiing and/or riding experience in a conventional resort setting.
Heli Skiing Heaven #3: You Always Choose Red or Black
Your run choices need to be predominantly red or black and you ski them with confidence in almost any conditions (flat light with dust on crust to give an extreme example!)
Heli Skiing Heaven #4: You Know Your Turns
You may not have the style of a professional, but you have the confidence to keep up with friends and you know when you are making some ‘good turns’. Skiers should be able to make parallel turns with confidence and if the situation arises, you can; side-slip, step-up sideways, traverse and make kick turns. Snowboarders need to have good pressure and edging skills.
Heli Skiing: Heaven #5: You’re Happy In The Backcountry
You may not have tons of powder skiing experience, but you can maintain control in backcountry conditions.
More On Mike
Heliskiing is quite a niche sport, how did you get involved?
I’d skied Europe plenty, but often heard how different things were in the US and Canada. I secured a job for a winter with a heli-outfit near Whistler as the Chief Dogsbody. It was crazy long days but loads of fun. Here I am, 18 years later, and still wearing a grin.
Describe a typical day with the Last Frontier.
Wake around 7am, do a stretch class, enjoy some brekky, then at 9am the first heli will head out. We will heliski all morning – say six or seven runs. We’ll then have lunch in the mountains, do another six or seven runs, then go back to the lodge for some tea, hot tub, massage, dinner, bar, sleep…..repeat.
What’s the best experience you’ve had on the slopes?
We get quite a few pro skiers through our lodge who come to film the next great ski movie. To watch Seth Morrison drop a virgin line on Delta Peak was pretty crazy. Those boys have got big ‘cojones’. In fact, you can watch it and judge for yourself.
Photography: Dave Silver. Location: Last Frontier Heliskiing, Northern BC, Canada