Stuntman And Lover Of Cheese

by Dan Bostonweeks

heliBOARDING

image Today was the day, we were going to go heli. We drove about 70km north of Wanaka to the site and got ready to ride. All of us got fitted with avalanche transcievers and then we talked a bit about the weather conditions. A storm front was approaching and there was a possibility that we would have to cut our day short. The first group took off in the Heuey D500 and the rest of us waited around for our turns. The helicopter only holds five people including the pilot so that means that there were only three riders and a guide on each trip up. When getting to the top it was quite nerve-racking to see how small the people were against the mountain. Exiting the heli and staying down until it was gone was quite the experince because you’re on top of a mountain and the rotor draft is blasting snow at you. We then got together and our guide took us down the slope and into a gun barrel (ravine). I had a mess of the first run because I was so nerveous I was shaking. We waited at the bottom for the heli to pick us up and then did two more runs before lunch. I did much better on those two runs and I really was enjoying riding the fresh powder. In fact, I’ll have to say that was the best damn day of riding I’ve ever done (once I got over the nervousness and trepidation). The distances we ran were pretty incredible. We not only did a lot of vertical distance, but also a good bit of horizontal. The first run after lunch, my fourth, was the one that did me in. I was so worn out I had trouble staying up and traversing. Once I got to the bottom I called it quits and waited for the heli to ferry me out to the base. While waiting I was watching other riders way up on the slopes. I saw a group of snowboarders shooting to the left on a ridge and right behind them was an avalanche (the first of the day, and we hadn’t seen signs of any others at all). It apparently had split in two on the ridge just then we saw the other half come up on their right. It was a pretty scarry sight. If the ravine we were in had been more loaded with snow it could have continued down to where we were waiting, but it didn’t. Later people went by the fracture point and said it was about four feet of snow that slid. One guy got tumbled in it when he set it off, but he ended up under a rock ledge and was okay. No one got hurt or buried and so it was a damn fine day.