BOOTHY’S BLOG – Heli Skiing at Mt Cook

August 16th, 2010


Chris Booth finding some late-afternoon pow.. Image:: Courtesy Chris Booth

Blog | Chris Booth

After a ripper of a day up at the Tasman Glacier playing in the ice fields, we were ready to get in the heli.

We were after some safe mini-golf lines to ski. Mini-golf lines are very productive on a photo shoot because it allows the athletes and camera guys to work closely together to get the shots they need. It also allows for multiple quick rotations on a single slope which is both time and cost effective. Unfortunately our pilot was inexperienced with flying in the mountains and was unable to drop us on the sort of terrain we wanted. He even struggled to land the bird on what appeared to be the most facile of landings, taking multiple approaches to finally put it down and resultantly, burning heli-time like it was going out of fashion.

Never Tee-off on the biggest line of the trip. Note the monster cliff at the bottom – Andy sent it right off the nose. Image:: Courtesy Chris Booth

There is a golden rule with big-mountain skiing: never tee off on a big line. These mountains are huge, and when you first get up there your sense of scope is bizarrely warped and more often than not, you find yourself greatly underestimating the size of things, like cliffs. Thanks to our pilot, we found ourselves atop the biggest line of the day for our first run. This didn’t phase Andy (Finch) though who, after saying a brief prayer, dropped into his line and committed to a very large cliff, around 60ft. The cliff was at the bottom of the line and by that point the snow was not soft and powder-blanketed as it was at the top but hard and crusty. Andy dropped it but bounced hard upon landing, injuring his ankle and slowing him down for the rest of the day. I stupidly followed him, because that’s what stupid Australians do, but hesitated above the bottom cliff, which had been completely sluffed-out by Andy having ridden it before me. I traversed out and around it, dignity in tatters but body in tact.

The Crew (left to right) – Dan Warbrick, our guide Dave, Andy Finch and cameraman, Handsome Bob. Image:: Courtesy Chris Booth

The rest of the day went smoother. We found a few more gentle slopes that had several lines to choose from. We sniffed out some nice powder and launched some workable cliffs to get our glossy photos. As the day progressed our confidence increased and our comfort in the mountains heightened. Ideally you would want to spend about two or three days in the heli to really find your feet, it’s a hostile and alien environment up there and it really takes time to ease into it. It comes as no surprise then, that by the last run of the day it felt like we were just getting started. That’s why they call it frothing.

Rip Curl makes mountainwear that works, that’s why they sent Andy and I out to the highest, most remote point of New Zealand to test out their 2011 Ultimate range. We love the new heater-integrated S-bomb down vest and the 4-way stretch jacket in its new, longer cut. Its nice to be part of a company that practices what it preaches, thanks to Rip Curl for keeping the dream alive.

Make sure you follow all the coverage of the Rip Curl Pro here on Mountainwatch!