It’s the time of year for snowboard dreams. Maybe you dream about your base hissing across the crystals, leaving cold smoke hanging in the wake of every turn. Maybe you’re dreaming about hang-time, with a landing so deep & soft that you barely have to bend your knees when you finally touch down? Or, maybe you’re dreaming about watching your nose start to peek over the first pillow, in a stack so tall you hope you remember where you’re supposed to turn midway through. For Eric Jackson, Travis Rice and Chris Rasman all those dreams became realities at Eagle Pass Heli-skiing last March.
E.Jack & Rasman arrived in Revelstoke to meet up with …mmmedia cinematographer, (and heli-boarding virgin) Sean Lucey and myself. We checked into the Caribou House, a beautiful heritage house that legend states was the original office of the town’s first doctor. As luck would have it, we were only a block from the Eagle Pass office, so we checked in and grabbed some dinner at a local sushi place.
Early the next morning we drove just out of town to the Eagle Pass day-lodge, where the heli operation actually operates. The guides & pilot went over helicopter safety and gave us the run-down on the conditions we could expect once we got into the mountains. The Monashee mountain range is no joke: massive. Conditions had been extremely consistent up until our visit, but warming temperatures were creating a touchy snowpack and the guides let us know that we were going to be tip-toeing through their tenure, looking for safe powdery areas to play. What that meant for us was that we were going play in the protected pillow zones while staying out of the alpine where the slopes were larger and most likely to slide. There were definitely no complaints!
One of the great things about Eagle Pass is that they’re able to fly into incredibly varied and fun terrain, even when it’s snowing. If the pilot can see the trees, you’re going snowboarding! Taking off from the day lodge, we worked our way through the fog banks until we got to a zone called Cliffhanger. The pilot dropped us off and we huddled around our gear while we watched the magical machine lift off and then dip over the trees leaving us in a place that would be almost impossible to access by any other means. Cliffhanger was holding the goods, absolutely packed with pillows. E.Jack got busy picking apart lines that seemed impossible when he was explaining them. Rasman absolutely smashed stacks of them like he was making a quintuple layer s’more on steroids. Simply put, the boys ripped!
It was still dumping snow and the open areas were getting even touchier, so we gingerly made our way from protected pillow zones to short but spicy chutes and finally into a forest clearing that was our pickup zone. We had enough time for one more run and our guide was excited to show us a canyon gap he thought the boys might find interesting. We made our way around a promising looking pillow-filled canyon and checked it out from below. Sure enough, there was a massive gap with a sniper-sized landing that went from one side of the pillow hallway to the other. Our pilot Aaron let us head back up to scope the takeoff from the air and everything seemed to line up. The clouds & fog were closing in quickly and it was time to thread our way back through the weather and call it for the night.
The next day our sights were set on a single mission, but we needed to take a mandatory no-camera-bag lap to warm up the legs & feel out the snow conditions. We pinned it back to the jump to build the takeoff and throw some snowballs across the gap to check trajectory and speed. Eric & Chris each took a run in to the takeoff & decided it was go time. They ripped down to the helicopter for a bump back up to the top.
Lucey made his way out onto a little precipice where he could film the takeoff and landing, while I found an angle that would make the gap look its most massive for a photo. Eric came in hot and lobbed a stylish frontside 540, disappearing in a powder puff of the best snow we found during the trip. Rasman hit him up on the radio and got some advice concerning speed. We weren’t sure if he took it to heart because he launched the gap like it was double the size and landed 50’ past Eric’s landing but somehow still stomped it…
By this point the temperatures had increased quite a bit and the snow was getting heavy. It was clearly time to get out of the mountains as snow stability was rapidly deteriorating. That night, Travis Rice and his filmer Justin “Chip” Taylor arrived fresh from their mission with Cascade Mountain Heli. Life isn’t bad when you’re leaving 3 weeks worth of perfect heliboarding conditions just to go on another heliboarding trip, right? Hell, Rice’s whole life is basically one big dream trip.
Also arriving that evening was Bend, Oregon’s ski-boss, Lucas Wachs. Lucas had been snowmobiling in the area for a while and was stoked to grab a seat in the heli for the next couple days. It was going to be Lucas’ first time on a heli-trip and he was psyched to get out there and hit some zones he couldn’t have accessed with his sled.
The new guys went through their heli-briefing the next morning and we headed back up into the clouds. Conditions had improved with dropping temperatures but we were still limited to smaller, featured pitches. The crew worked features in a gully until Rice & Rasman spied an over/under spot. Rice dropped into a tight left hand chute and Rasman dropped over him like a barreling wave. It was mental!
Lucas was popping off features left and right and hiking like a madman to make the most of our run. It was rad to see him jump right in and get busy, holding his own with a crew of the heaviest backcountry snowboarders. Lucas skis like a skateboarder and has an eye for unique features in the mountains, which made him fit right in. Well, except for the constant skier jokes he had to endure… Nothing but love bud!
When I woke up the next morning it was apparent the weather had plans for us that might not include snowboarding via helicopter. It was raining. It wasn’t raining a little bit. It wasn’t just raining at low elevation. It was pouring rain the whole way to the alpine areas in the Monashees and Eagle Pass made the very, very rare but wise call not to operate that day. At this point, E.Jack started talking about Settlers of Catan. He wasn’t just talking about it: he was frothing over it. The crew twisted my arm until I hit the toy store in Revelstoke and bought the whole kit plus the damned expansion pack! The rest of the day was spent losing almost every single game to Rice, who is a ruthless and cunning ruler of Catan. Seriously, don’t mess with him.
That night I was stressing over the weather. It wasn’t getting colder and the rain wasn’t stopping. I was sure we were getting shut down on our last day but the mountains had different plans. When we got to the day lodge our guide Chris Spicer had great news: it had gotten cold overnight, switched to snow and we were expecting 20-30cm of fresh powder. Better yet, we might even see some sun break through the clouds! We had to temper the excitement with some caution though, as the stability wasn’t great but definitely workable. It’s reassuring to have such professional guides leading you to the goods, safely. When you’re rolling as deep as we were things can take a long time, and we were only able to shoot one run with the whole crew that day. It wasn’t like it was a bummer though, as the boys were putting up huge plumes for our cameras to capture. We packed up our cameras and flew back to the house for another marathon Catan session. Yeah, we party.
The next morning we gathered our gear, made sure the Caribou House was in order packed up the Libaru and said our goodbyes to each other and Revelstoke. We had a dream crew riding in a flying dream machine in dreamy terrain but it was as real as it gets. You can make it happen for yourself and I guarantee if you make a dream trip like this come true you’ll never regret or forget it.