Written for Vancity Buzz by Mark Sissons, senior writer at Vacay.ca.
“Make sure you bring your powder legs,” says heli‐ski guide Matt Valade as we sit at the bar at Tyax Wilderness Resort, a luxury log lodge on the shores of Tyaughton Lake, two hundred miles north of Vancouver. “You’re going to need them.”
Half a century after helicopters first transported daredevil recreational skiers high into the mountains of British Columbia, heli‐skiing is still the ultimate alpine rush for many. Today, over 90% of heli‐skiing operations call the immense ranges of the Canadian Rockies home, which makes Canada the sport’s undisputed world capital. One of those operations is TLH Heliskiing, a boutique outfit based out of Tyax Lodge in the heart of the South Chilcotin Range. Rising from a high plateau, cool, dry air meets the storms of the Pacific here, resulting in a deep, buttery‐smooth snowpack that’s consistently drier than what’s found on the west side of the Coast Mountains.
And boasting an average annual snowfall of 15 to 80 feet across a range that spans some 830,000 acres – from rolling slopes to steep chutes to beautifully treed glades – this is prime heli‐ski country.
The next morning when Valade gives us the green light to go heli‐skiing. Prepped and pumped, our group of nine skiers and two guides piles into the jet‐powered Bell 212 chopper waiting to transport us to vast stretches of untracked powder, where beautifully treed gladed runs and steeps await. Valade has assured everyone that after many years spent skiing the South Chilcotin backcountry, he has a pretty good idea where all the best powder stashes are hiding.
With a helicopter you can access untouched terrain that resort‐bound skiers can only dream about. TLH offers one helicopter per group, which means more freedom to venture out to where the best snow conditions are without losing time coordinating pickups and drop‐offs all day with other groups. That means our options are only limited by weather and terrain. And because TLH offers unlimited vertical, we can ski or ride as much as we can handle without worrying about incurring additional charges within an exclusive tenure 200 times larger than Vail, Colorado, and 10 times larger than Les Trois Vallées, France.
“Don’t be afraid to spread out and take wider turns as long as you stay within the boundaries I’ve indicated,” shouts Valede as we prepare to descend a typical three thousand foot long gladed run. “But always make sure you buddy up in the trees.” We follow Valade through piles of light powder, ever vigilant to avoid tumbling headfirst into deadly tree wells – deep narrow areas of loose snow around the trunks trees that can literally swallow up and suffocate an unlucky skier. The fun continues as we cruise glacier after glacier under clear blue skies on breathtaking runs that seem to go on forever.
It’s been a long first day in the mountains, and the single malt whiskies and three‐course gourmet meal featuring locally sourced contemporary west coast cuisine to follow feel well‐deserved rewards. Some guests have booked post dinner massages or will subject wind‐whipped skin to a eucalyptus steam bath or detoxifying infrared sauna.
Others will soak their slope‐stiffened muscles beneath a cloudless night sky in the lodge’s huge outdoor Jacuzzi hot tub before drifting off to powder dreams come true.
Getting there TLH is one of the closest heli‐skiing operations to a major international airport. Guests can choose to fly directly to the lodge from Vancouver, arrive via helicopter from Pemberton Airport, or take a chartered bus from Vancouver or Whistler. Because of its proximity to Whistler, a heliski adventure at Tyax Resort can also be easily combined with a stay at North America’s largest snowsports resort.
Packages TLH is the only BC‐based operator to currently offer unlimited vertical and single group helicopters as standard heliski packages, which range from three to seven days. All packages include unlimited vertical and use of powder skis and Vario ABS backpacks.