Elevation Drunk in Revelstoke

By Jane Marshall, Freelance

By the end of my weekend at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, I was officially elevation-drunk.

Perhaps it was the massive vertical achieved through six helicopter drops in the 500,000 acres that comprise Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing backcountry terrain; or maybe it was from skiing on North America's longest resort runs.

Either way, my brain struggled to comprehend the gargantuan scale of the mountains.

Day 1: Heli-skiing with Selkirk Tangiers

I extended my avalanche transceiver and worked with my group to find the hidden beacon. We located our target, marked it and began to probe the snow.

Avalanche training is an important aspect to heli-skiing, and our guide Pierre Gagnon worked with our group of 11 to ensure we had a basic knowledge of how to find someone trapped beneath the snow.

Though the guides minimize the risk and exposure to skiers and snow-boarders who enter the backcountry by helicopter, it is still important to understand the wildness and unpredictability of snow.

Once the safety briefing was done, it was time to go.

We prepared to board the helicopter. Pierre loaded the skis and we climbed into the noisy beast. It felt like an episode from MASH -- adrenalin coursed through my veins and kick-started my heart to the point where it echoed in my ears. The slicing blades cut apart the air to the appropriate speed when the helicopter had enough purchase to lift straight up in a movement that seemed to defy logic.

I am a lifelong skier, but I'm five-foot-two and 110 pounds with gear. I must admit that the intimidation factor of heli-skiing was high.

Would I be able to keep up in the deep powder? Would I be strong enough to complete the long runs? I was about to find out -- there was no turning back.

The helicopter landed and we de-boarded. Huddled tightly together on a wide ridge, the roar of the blades gave off an almost explosive sound as the chopper took off, blasting snow and cold air until it quickly disappeared. I lifted my head. Nothing but mountains.

Pierre led us into a powder field, and I began to make large turns in knee-deep snow. I just let my extra-fat skis figure out how to move in the untouched crystalline white, and it worked -- quite naturally.

I had rarely felt the thrill of first tracks, of moving through untouched nature, my body bouncing and recoiling to the flow of the mountain.

By the sixth and final drop, I still felt strong, though my legs were definitely engaged. The terrain was so much more usable and friendly than I had imagined when watching extreme ski movies.

Pierre gave us rests while he assessed snow conditions, and I was surprised at the gentleness of the adventure.

And a bit relieved, too. Heli-skiing is for a much broader range of skiers than I had imagined.

Day 2: Revelstoke Mountain Resort

"I thought this was the bottom," a snowboarder gasped, obviously exhausted as he rested near the bottom of the mountain. "But ... it's not."

The bottom is almost always a long way off -- Revelstoke boasts a vertical descent of 5,620 feet.

This unexpected expanse of patrolled terrain surprises many people, including myself. I've skied at many resorts, and Revelstoke is, well, huge. And it's still in its infancy in its third season.

The Revelation Gondola and two high-speed quad chairs -- the Ripper and the Stoke -- are only the beginning. The goal for this mountain is to have 20 lifts, including some beginner offerings to make the area more family friendly.

The growing resort is being actively constructed and there is an announcement expected for a new lift that will likely add more beginner terrain. Two more condominiums are under construction next to the completed Nelsen Lodge.

I had the opportunity to have a run with Rod Kessler, vice-president and chief operating officer of the resort. He has run many major ski resorts in North America, so I asked him why he was drawn to Revelstoke, which is a bit out of the way and is still a small town with only about 8,000 residents.

"Clean slate," was his reply. "It's not often that you get the opportunity to start from scratch and to take what you've learned, what works and what doesn't, and apply it to a new resort."

Revelstoke is just getting started, yet it's already drawing the world's attention because of what counts most: the terrain. The best thing about Revelstoke Mountain Resort is the options it provides for all skiers, whether it's heli-skiing, cat skiing, skiing at the resort or even dogsled-ding. These activities can be booked at the Revelstoke Outdoors Centre at the base of the main gondola. Extreme skiing made easy.

- - Sleeping: Try staying at Nelsen Lodge, the condominium/hotel at the base of the gondola. Fridges, laundry and stoves make it easy to be self-sufficient, and lift access is moments away. Visit sandman.ca,e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. call 1-800-726-3626.

- - Flying: The Kelowna International Airport is a two-hour drive, depending on weather. Alternately, the larger Vancouver and Calgary airports aren't too far off.

- - Driving: It takes about eight hours to drive from Edmonton. Take Hwy. 2 south to Calgary and head for the TransCanada Highway. Pass through Banff, Golden and then arrive at Revelstoke.

SOURCE: The Edmonton Journal

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.