Heli boarding feels like the unicorn of snowboarding: mythical and out of reach.
I’ve seen the pros do it countless times, carving down spines that give you chills and launching off massive kickers into fluffy banks of snow. Since my snowboarding lifestyle is more weekend warrior than pro, I wasn’t sure if it could happen for me.
After gathering up all my courage and doing extensive research, it was clear that Selkirk Tangiers in Revelstoke, British Columbia was the right place to try heli boarding. Over the years, I’ve spent seasons on the mountain every day, coaching and working as a patroller, but I’ve experienced nothing like the sketchy cliffs I’d seen pros riding. Flash forward to my boyfriend and I packing the car for a road trip through western Canada, with a heli trip planned as the main event.
When the day came, we prepared with an avalanche training course, learning how to use beacons, and locating and digging out buried transceivers. We were each given a pack equipped with shovels, probes, beacons, and radios. I was giddy with excitement to try out my new Family Tree Day Trader. Cruising a brand new powder board on a fluffy heli day was going to be a whole new level for me.
Soon, the heli swooped in, picked us up, and toured us over the lakes until we gracefully landed in a mountain clearing. The 10 riders in our group would be sandwiched between a lead guide in front and a follow guide behind, ready to assist if anything went wrong. Any nerves I had quickly melted away and were replaced with pure excitement as we looked out at untouched tree lines and open faces.
We dropped into floating, flying, exhilarating fun. The turns felt like hover boarding in zero gravity. At the end of each run, we loaded into the heli and took off for the next untracked destination. The full day captured about half a dozen long, elegant, satisfying runs before we called it a day.
So about those spine and cliffs in snowboard movies? The pros riding those lines are pros for a reason, and that doesn’t represent the larger heli boarding community. The terrain we rode was steep, but not much more advanced than what you’d find at a resort. The major difference was that you’re riding fresh, untracked snow all day. I would do it again in a heartbeat – and next time it will be a multi-day trip.
If you’re willing to drop the kind of dough necessary to try heli boarding, you should invest in your snowboarding skillset ahead of time. Get first chair on a pow day, seek out deep tree runs, and hike to untouched sidecountry. Learn how to maneuver your board in deep snow, stop without getting stuck, and dig yourself out when you ultimately do. As long as you know what you’re doing, you’re in for an incredible ride.
As quickly as the day came, it was gone. We threw our stuff in the car, with snow-plastered smiles on our faces, and continued our trek east to see what Banff had to offer. ∆
Liza Tagliati wears many hats: She’s a Burton Girls ambassador, marketing professional, world traveller, and lifelong snowboarder. The Burton Girls Ambassadors Program highlights a diverse crew of women from all over. What ties them all together is their love of the mountains, their desire to explore, and their mission to inspire and engage with other women in their communities. With their passion and unapologetic attitudes, they’re leaving their mark on the world and we’re taking note.