Amy Roberts: Heli yeah!
It is usually about this time of year many locals start to get ants in their snow pants — we need a change in scenery and/or a few less skiers competing for the fresh tracks we have come to consider our birthright by way of zip code. Winters here always are long, but this year’s subpar snow totals coupled with ceaseless crowds and socially distanced lift lines have made it seem like we are in the 15th inning and nowhere near calling the game. Sure, there have been a few proper powder days scattered about, but they’ve been accompanied by hordes of humans and the snow has been mostly chewed up within an hour. Like many Parkites, I have toyed with the idea of hiking for some untracked turns, but this year in particular the avalanche danger has been far too high to risk it.
Last week a buddy and I were lamenting over this season, contemplating if we should just write it off as a bust when I got a call from another friend, Craig Olsen, who happens to own Diamond Peaks Heli-Ski Adventures. I have known Craig for years and we had been playing phone tag for months. Catching up was long overdue. After the standard line of questioning — how have you been, what’s new, how’s the family — and the 2020 addition — is everyone healthy — I mentioned my general frustration with the season thus far: Too many people, too long of lines at the resort and too dangerous in the backcountry. “Come fly with us!” was Craig’s response.
Until that invite, I did not know it was possible to say two words at the same time. “When” and “yes” fell out of my mouth simultaneously and instantly. No one has to ask me twice to be a heli-skiing seat filler.
I have been fortunate to fly with Diamond Peaks multiple times over the years. They are the reason I have not had to take out a second mortgage to fulfill the quintessential skier’s dream. A week-long trip in Canada or Alaska averages about $10,000 and it is not uncommon to spend several days (sometimes your entire vacation) doing everything you can to take your mind off the fact that you are not actually heli-skiing.
Weather in Utah is far more cooperative and predictable, and as we all know, the snow is the greatest on Earth. Given Craig has over 40 years of experience in avalanche mitigation, forecasting and route selection, I’ve never been concerned about a slide. He knows where to go, and more importantly where not to go. Plus, he has access to over 20,000 acres of private terrain, which is accessed off the backside of Powder Mountain Resort. As he often says, “It’s all of the snow, less of the dough.” To which I usually reply, “It’s all of the fix, with none of the risk.”
Roughly 18,000 vertical feet, zero lines, only a handful of people and six untouched runs under brilliant blue skies was just the reset everyone in my group needed, our smiles confirming we can still find pure joy skiing an untouched powder run. “Careful, your teeth will get a sunburn,” our guide Colter joked.
This season has been far from normal, but at least now it’s been entirely rewarding.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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