17December 2018

Why Low-Tech is Still in the Game

On the flight to the first drop, it’s the first thing you see that’s not snow, rock or sky.

From the back seat, they don’t appear until the last second, right outside the window, as the skids are settling deep into the snow, and you’re about to make sense of where you just landed.

The heli-flags.

Two long wooden stakes, standing proud in the snow, painted black, with bright flagging tape tied on top.

These stakes provide an essential service.

Though most of us are used to flying in jets, where take-offs and landings happen in day and night and cloud and rain, guided by instruments, landing a helicopter in the mountains is still all about the visuals.

Because we ask them to land in all kinds of places, and every day is different.

There’s no runway, no guaranteed level surface to set down upon.

And in a world of white on white, heli-flags give the pilot crucial reference, wind direction info, and help them judge the shape of the snow surface they’re about to land on.

two heli flags at a deserted heli ski landing

They make a tough job a lot easier and safer. Simple as that.

And if you’ve ever been on board for it, you’ll know these pilots are like surgeons.

They fly this amazing, intimidating machine through the air past mountain peaks, and then set it down gently in the middle of nowhere a few centimetres from that front flag.

It’s seriously impressive.

At this time of year, Jeff and Rudi and an experienced pilot go out and start setting the flags for the season, so every landing from then on is as safe as possible, becoming the starting points for incredible ski lines, sometimes in all directions.

heli ski guides with helicopter

Over 2000 square kilometres of mountain wilderness, the “infrastructure” are these flags. They get placed by hands and picked up again with hands.

We make them on the farm, and they get reused until they’re used up – wind beaten or cracked in the melt.

Some of them get buried. We go find them come summer. It’s a great excuse for a backcountry trip.

The point I take from reflecting on flagging season?

Don’t underestimate the power of simple tools.

Or, put another way – our take on good sense: never choose fancy over effective.

And at a time of the year that can feel like a frenzy, it’s a relief to focus on simplicity.

Sometimes the more complicated thing really doesn’t do the job any better.

Sometimes low-tech is still the best way to go.

For me, simplicity can feel like a long exhale. Space to think clearly, so I can see where my energy deserves to go, to what matters most.

view of snow-covered mountains out of a helicopter window

That’s what’s guiding us this winter. Everything we know, in one simple package, every day.

For the holiday season, we hope you get to soak up the simple joys at the core of all the bustle, and safely land in the New Year.


More on simplicity: How To Compare Heli-Ski Pricing. A few simple things to know.



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