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Helicopter Ski Lift Delivers Big High at Mica Heli Guides

In the winter, when the air is cold and the snow is fresh, Jim Smith, managing principal for Kensington Realty Advisors, starts to hear the call of the wild. It makes him pull out the ski equipment, call up old friends, grab his wallet and head to remote mountain peaks in faraway places like Mica Heli Guides. Because for ski bums with money, there’s no better way to satisfy winter’s call than a week of heliskiing, snow’s most exclusive, most expensive sport. “Heliskiing is the pinnacle of skiing,” says Smith. When you’re up there, dropped off on a mountain peak, you really are “on top of the world.”

Using helicopters to lift them to the tops of remote and pristine peaks, heliskiers ski backcountry slopes the likes of which weekend skiers wouldn’t dare to dream. There are no trail maps and no signs or posted obstacles. Hidden tree stumps, wild animals, fickle weather and avalanches pose real, life threatening dangers, but the snow-covered slopes offer the ultimate thrill for those who go.  The combination of serene beauty and pristine, challenging runs goes to the heart of every avid skier who tries it.

“We are dropped off on a mountain peak,” Smith explains. “The roar of the helicopter drifts off into the distance. Then we are all alone, four skiers and our single guide, left to maneuver down thousands of vertical feet of untracked powder skiing, which at times is waist deep. The quiet is only broken by the hooting and hollering of the skiers as we charge down the mountain and experience skiing ecstasy. At the bottom we gather up our energy while we wait for our ‘lift’ up to another fabulous run, many of which have never been skied by anyone before.”

In March, Smith will travel to Mica Heli Lodge for his third annual heliskiing adventure, where he and 11 of his cronies (all of whom hail from the real estate business)will spend a week on some of the world’s best slopes. MicaLodge is to skiers and snowboarders what Pebble Beach and St. Andrews are to golfers — a glimpse of heaven, a touch of Mecca, a taste of nirvana. Mica Lodge is the holy grail of heliskiing, where for about $1,000 a day, the world, or at least 178,000 acres of it, is at your ski-tips.

The Mica Lodge is located in the heart of British Columbia’s Rocky Mountains, 100 miles from the nearest town and only accessible by helicopter. The Mica log cabin sits perched above a gem-blue lake with miles of mountains in every direction.  From his home in Chicago, it’s two airplane connections, a five-hour van ride and a 15-minute helicopter flight to the mountain oasis, but that, says Smith, is the point: “Most people are there because they kind of want to check out from the business world.”

Though remote, Mica is not without luxury: Think heated floors, filtered glacier drinking water, superb food, a massage therapist and a hot tub with a panoramic Rockies view. For Smith — who took to skiing as a teen in Wisconsin, worked as a ski-instructor during college, moved to Aspen, Colo., between graduate and postgraduate school, and has a second home in Vail, Colo. — it is his “ultimate getaway.” Why? As if beautiful mountains, good friends and a luxurious lodge weren’t reason enough, Smith adds one word, written in bold font, underlined and followed by two exclamation points:   “Powder!!”   “Deep untracked powder at Mica!”

by Rachel McMurdie



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