KINGS (AND QUEEN) FOR A DAY: Kingfisher brings big mountain and high-end heli skiing to a new level
Story by Gordie Bowles. Photography by Roger Carry and Frankie Miller
AS THE LOUD CHOP OF THE A-STAR B3E HELI BLADES SPIN OVERHEAD I look left and see Claire with a grin as wide as her reflective goggles. To the right, cinematographer Roger is checking his gear. The chopper lifts off, revealing the Kingfisher logo and then … silence.
Welcome to the Monashees.
Our first drop of the day is on the west side of the Pinnacles, the highest peaks in the Central Monashee Mountains, directly west of Nakusp and the west side of Upper Arrow Lake.
We will be skiing “Crosshairs” say’s tail guide Chris Bouchard, as lead guide Matt Scholl, wanders off to test snow pack and other snow science details. We’re in very capable hands out here; these guys understand this terrain, snow and any potential risks better than anyone.
As my stomach settles, I am reminded that we will soon be skiing the dry, deep powder that the Monashees are known for the world over. And better yet, Kingfisher is spread over 297,000 acres (translation: roughly 32 times the size of Whistler-Blackcomb!) so they have options. Cloudy on the west side? No problem, let’s go over here. Or there. Or way over there. The two guides and heli pilot were chatting on their headset the whole flight, and I while I can’t read lips it was obvious they were on a mission to find the best possible snow conditions and visibility for that moment.
As we drop into Crosshairs, the first thing I notice is the trees. Their spacing allows for any line you want, within the framework that the guides set. “As long as you can see my tracks,” say’s Bouche. We’re on a nickname basis already.
The snow was blower. For real.
Not the blasting-over-your-head blower, but the real stuff that is consistent turn after turn. After turn. It allows you to find a rhythm.
All chutes are untracked. Every single one. The arid desert climate to the west and the rainforests to the east create a climate that allows for a snow blanket up to 60 feet as the moist coastal climate collides with the drier air of the Rockies. And a cold day here is minus 10 Celsius (hand warmers not required).
Next up we tackled Nexus and Pillow Talk (apparently the first to ski particular chutes or terrain can name the slope) and eventually Hyena Hills, where the heli pilot and Roger performed one of the most incredible media production moments I have seen. When our drone – that we affectionally named “Lil’ Rog” – broke down (cold weather and elevation) Roger resorted to some bad-ass action movie scene techniques in getting aerial footage from the A-star; doors wide open and Big Rog’s pupils as wide as the camera. Pilot Sean Wilson hovered above us at a perpendicular angle and shimmied down the slope following us for what felt like over a hundred turns. Needless to say, adrenaline was pumping at a maximum level for all of us.
Next level après
As the chopper glides into the Kingfisher base at Predator Ridge at the end of an epic day of skiing in world-class powder, we were greeted by the entire staff for a series of high-fives and fist bumps. I turned to grab my gear and it was gone. Right, they take care of all the details here. You focus on skiing … and they do the rest.
The new exclusive partnership with Predator Ridge (golf) resort has significantly upped the off-snow experience here. The cozy and elegant lodging – all two-bedroom suites – are a 30 second walk from the heli launch area and are part of the extra details that make a trip like this even more special. My favourite is the après in the laid-back lounge with over-sized Jenga, scrabble and assorted games. And the food is to die for.
The concierge team at Kingfisher take the experience details seriously. From the pre-arrival fridge stocking, morning yoga or après ski massage – to the branded organic bath salts and farm-crafted soaps (love the muscle relief lotion!) by Om Naturale in nearby Armstrong – the personalized guest experience is unmatched and did not go unnoticed.
When guests arrive at the Kelowna International Airport the KF staff have the SUV parked out front, and promptly whisk you off to the resort, a 27-minute drive. Luggage is delivered to the base, skis prepared and all equipment supplied.
Like I said, all YOU have to do is take care of the turns and Kingfisher will take care of the rest.
BY THE NUMBERS
6 – Minutes by helicopter from Kelowna Airport to Predator Ridge Resort
15 – Minutes by helicopter from Kelowna Airport to skiing
16 – Minutes by helicopter from Predator Ridge Resort to skiing
297,000 – acres (50% old-growth skiing)
60 – feet of annual snowfall
9,000 – feet, highest drop point
4,500 – vertical feet, longest run