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Learn to Fly... And Return to Earth

Alternative to extreme, some sporting ideas for winter

(page 4 of 5)


“. . . taking fresh powder days to the ultimate level.”

Bill Janss—wanting to explore fresh powder that fell on mountains we once only looked at—had an idea back in 1966 after a visit to Canada. The skiing legend and then-owner of the Sun Valley Company discovered the fledgling sport of heli-skiing there and knew he had just the place for it to make its American debut. As a result, he founded Sun Valley Heli-Ski (SVHS), the first heli-ski company in the United States.

Sigi Vogl, SVHS director of marketing, says by founding the company in the mid-’60s, Janss handily continued to solidify Sun Valley’s reputation as a destination resort offering premier skiing and superior services.

Now in its 43rd year—more than 20 of them under the guidance of owner Mark Baumgardner—SVHS continues to lure guests looking for something a little out of the ordinary.

For guests looking to get away from it all for a while, SVHS built the 6,000-square-foot Smoky Mountain Lodge, the first accessible fly-in lodge in the continental United States.

Situated on 180 acres at the South Fork of the Boise River, the lodge accommodates up to eight skiers and includes a sauna and a private chef. In addition, or rather, in subtraction, the lodge is completely off the grid. Fresh water and fuel for SVHS’s helicopter are kept full, and radio communication is active, but, as Vogl says,

“There are no electronic gadgets to interrupt your stay and no light at night, just the stars and the moon.”

SVHS specializes in taking its guests out to remote mountains to ski fresh, untouched snow. With permission from the U.S. Forest Service to explore more than 750 square miles of peaks, valleys and inclines in the Pioneer, Smoky and Boulder mountain ranges, SVHS begins scouting early and often for ideal places to ski, and trades information with the regional avalanche center which is analyzing snowpack so safety is always considered.

Once a plan is put into place, seven guides (three of them with more than 100 combined years of backcountry experience) meet twice a day to keep up on weather and geographical updates so they can take up to 16 skiers into the backcountry. Skiers are promised at least six runs each, which Vogl says translates into about 10,000 to 12,000 feet of vertical skiing.
Careful, the experience is addictive.

“It never gets boring,” says Vogl. “First of all, flying in a helicopter is half the fun, seeing that scenery from above, and then once you get out there it’s total silence. It’s an exceptional experience.

Skiing down virgin slopes—it’s taking fresh powder days to the ultimate level.” >>>

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