Busting through heliskiing’s powder ceiling – chicks in the chopper

There’s nowhere else that men will look you over so aggressively, quite as overtly, as when you walk into a heliskiing operation. They are trying to suss out if you are one of the support staff – a cook, a massage therapist, an assistant – because that’s what most of the women are. (Of the 104 guides at the world’s largest heliskiing operation, CMH, this season, 11 are women. Of the 5200 skiers who went out with CMH this past winter, 19% were women.) They are trying to ascertain whether they might end up skiing with you, whether you might ruin their day. The chemistry of a ski group is a delicate thing. And no one wants the balance to unravel due to girliness.

I’m not particularly girly. I have spent my adult life chasing after a man. (I already had him from the outset, but on skis I can’t keep up.)

That’s been good training. Because it means that, unless you’re a professional sponsored skier, I can keep up with you. Pretty much guaranteed.

That reality doesn’t shake the niggling feeling of doubt, the lurk of worry in the pit of my stomach when a bunch of grizzled alpha males stare me down as I do the Pollyanna-two-step from the parking lot into the Regent Hotel at Revelstoke, and mentally tally how few days I’ve had on the hill now that I’m a desk jockey.

The “fuck, I hope I’m not in over my head here” fear-flash that burns through my whole body is an intimidation hurdle that keeps a lot  of women away from heliskiing. I’m here to dig into that, to research and write a story about how yin-friendly heliskiing is. We’re off to a shaky start.

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