Heli-Skiing Dreams: Nevada’s Ruby Mountains

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Raise your hand if you’re psyched about goggle-tan season. It’s getting to that time of year when the dedicated few attempt to ward off summer as long as possible by slaloming through legions of flailing springbreakers on our way to fresh corn-snow. That’s typically my M.O. once the calendar turns March. That is, of course, since I’m not currently in the Ruby Mountains of northeast Nevada, with a helicopter at my beckon call. That would be far too dreamy.

I’ve never been heliskiing . . . yet. Rumor has it, our first Expeditioner staff retreat will involve 11,000 foot peaks, an open bar, choppers with room for everyone, and untouched powder as far as you can see. Matt, seriously, check out the The Wall Street Journal’s article about the Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience and you will be as sold as I am on a trip.

Possibly the best-kept secret in the world of heli-skiing, Joe Royer started the guide service in 1971 in the middle of a few cowboys and some local gold miners. It was one of the first heli-skiing operations in the country.

If you think heli-stress might get the best of you — talks of avalanche transceivers, ridges, cliffs, and chopper blades — Mr. Royer has just the warning, “When it’s all said and done, we’re gonna ruin you. You’ll never want to wait in a lift line again.” Those are the words of experience talking —personal experience. The problem about wisdom is this: it’s usually correct.

And what are the first few moments like after jumping out of the copter like some sort of Navy Seal landing in enemy territory? Fear, of course.

The retreating rotor blades create a weather system of their own for a few violent seconds, and then it is resoundingly quiet. I feel my heart racing. Is it the altitude? The beauty? The terror? With only one way down, I push off.

After just a few timid turns I’m in a thin grove of Aspen. I panic: Where’s the trail? The trees call on my attention. I drop into a more aggressive posture and weave through them. A wide valley of virgin snow suddenly opens below me, and before I finish my first run, I am laughing like an idiot.

The realization that there are no lines, no set trails, no cramped gondolas imposing limitations elicits a rush of adrenaline. When the feeling of freedom settles, it yields to a sense of wonder, and then peace…

I’ve had days on the mountain when I stop, look up the hill, and for a short time I’m the only soul on the run. There are even a few sparse weekdays when I can virtually ski right onto the lift.

And there are those choice days when the magic of powder skiing hits your chest with every turn. Individually, I consider each of those some of the best days on the mountain. Having all three, at the same time, would no doubt send me into an episode of idiotic ecstasy.

I need to stay away from articles like this — either for the time being or until the accounting department OK’s that staff trip. Piecing moments of this kind of magic together, in an article, is more than enough to ruin me. And I’m not quite ready for that yet . . . I don’t think.
By Jon Wick


About the Author

Jon lives in Butte, Montana, spending most of his time on skis or bikes; sometimes both. He began travel writing while teaching in Korea and is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Technical Communication at Montana Tech. Jon has begun writing his first book, The Story of Will, whose movie rights are still (very) available. Catch more of Jon at TheJonWickproject.wordpress.com. (@ExpedJon)

© 2021 TheExpeditioner.com