My dad started heli boarding in Chile in 2003 with some of his friends. He took the whole family down to Chile once but my mom hated the cold and my brother has never been big into traveling so that was the end of that. However, as I got older I begged my dad to take me with him. He told me that if I worked hard enough that winter and was good enough to heli board that he would take me with him. I spent the entire winter on the slopes. I made him challenge me. He determined that if I could tackle the double black diamond with four feet of snow and numerous trees, that I might be competent to board. It kicked my butt but by the end of the season I had mastered just about every trail Telluride Colorado had to offer.
Once the slopes closed, Dad didn’t want me to lose that hard work so we went out wake boarding at least once a week. They are two very different things but they use the same muscles. Plus living in the desert, you take what you can get!
Finally after months of preparation I was ready to challenge Valle Nevado.
One of our friends, Francis, joined us in Santiago. He had heli boarded in Valle Nevado with my dad several times before. I had known him most of my life, been snowboarding in Colorado with him and was thrilled to have him a long for the ride.
We somehow managed to get a brand new helicopter that had only been taken out a few times. We loaded up our boards into the baskets attached to the sides of the helicopter. Our pilot introduced himself as ex military and had no problem making my stomach drop showing off his skills. He took us several mountain ranges over, to the snow untouched by human prints. I was terrified as the helicopter touched one of the landing skids to the edge of the mountain. It was too narrow for us to land so the helicopter never turned off as we hopped out. Our guide was careful not to let us hit our heads on the spinning rotor blades.
Then it hits me
I stare over the edge of the mountain. The snow looks pristine, perfect. If I wasn’t sitting in a four foot hole I’d have no idea how deep it really was.
‘Did dad tell me it would be this steep?‘ I thought to myself.
I stand up. Then sit back down. I stand up again, realizing how steep this really is. Dad has already made it down the chute and is waving me on down below. Francis is at my side egging me on. Wait, when did this seem like a good idea?
“STEPH- UH-NEE!” Francis shouts, emphasizing every syllable.
“I hate you guys” I whisper under my breath.
At least I thought I had whispered. But his laugh tells me that he heard me, and no one is letting me give up. I mean, what was I going to do, have the helicopter come back to get me? We had come down the hill too far for it to be able to land on the steep slopes. I take a deep breath and point my board down the mountain. I get about 6 feet before I sit down again. They laugh and cheer me on.
Finally, I do it. I just point my board and go. I glide. The snow might as well be clouds it is so soft. Carving is a little strange due to the deep snow but once I lean back I see how easy it is. My board is taking me faster than I ever thought I could go and I don’t realize how fast it is until I try and stop.
I am giggling as I reach my dad. “That was so much fun!”
From the bottom of the chute, we follow the guide to the bottom where the helicopter is waiting to take us back up again. We find another untouched chute and I take up dads offer of going first.
Of course, at this time I had no idea how in love with it I would be and that this would not be my last trip heli boarding in Chile.
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