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Echoing in some remote corner of my memory are dreams of Heliskiing. Bugaboo, Monashee, Selkirk -- vodoo names just

out of reach in the foggy snow bound edges of dreamland. Dreamy words of an indistinct corner of Canada -- too far, too expensive. The dreams of the young pitched against the reality what it takes to fuel a helicopter, to build Kubla Khan's sunny pleasure-dome in the snow-fields of Canada. In this small world it's only a few phone calls, a bag of pesos and I find myself in a car driving through the snowbound Idaho Panhandle en route to the Canadian Mountain Holidays Bobby Burns Lodge! Snatched from poverty and the tropics like a drugged sailor. With a sublime wintery twist Kubla Kahn is transformed into a lost Canadian prospector, Bobby Burns.

 



The center of my map, a strange name for a strange place and the prodigals destination. North to the edge of the world and Xanadu. North of the Canada -- Idaho border. Simply drive north and without warning on an unmarked parking lot in a no-name town, we are trundled into a helicopter and transported into the never-land of the Canadian wilderness. It's that easy. Well that easy and depleting your life savings for seven days of powder skiing. Powder fields or poppy fields -- choose your anodyne and trade the emptiness of industrial society for the emptiness of the Rockies and uncrowded and untracked mountainsides of Canada.

{mosmap height='250px'|width='360px'|lat='50.949'|lon='-116.930966'|text='Bobby Burns Lodge'|tooltip='CMH'|marker='0'}In a helicopter it's a short 15 minutes to span 50 km of Rockies to the lodge. As you fly along it gives you a sinking or lifting feeling of isolation. There is nothing as far as you can see in any direction. Well nothing made by man. But there is no shortage of giant peaks, long valleys heading into the fog and the unknown distance, and snow! The lodge is out there but it is luxury from the snow-covered deck to the rooms -- the power is from generators. The tap water clear, cold and tasteless. The ground floor has a Jacuzzi, billiards room and a ski shop. Off to one side is a luxury locker room for hanging and drying your ski gear. Ventilated drying racks circulate warm dry air to the depths of your boots and gloves.

The lodge atmosphere means Limited phone and internet. It reminded me of the Sun Valley Lodge when we were kids. Other than the communications part. The food is gourmet. You start the morning with a latte or cappuccino and, if you like, stretching class. Then breakfast is served family style with toast, eggs, pancakes, eggs Benedict, cereal, tropical fruits -- anything and everything. The staff is wonderful. There are 33 skiers from all over the world . They are thrown together for a week of skiing and living the ski dream. You share the lodge, meals, friendship and the mountains and slopes. But not the tracks and lines.

At nine group one is in the air and heading out for the first tracks. The chopper, along with the pilot, holds 11 skiers and a guide. At Bobby Burns three groups rotate rides and turns. The chopper never takes a rest, cycling through the groups until about 4 pm. Once on the hill the guide gives you the line and you ski to the right or left the other tracks. Or right down the middle if you are the first group. You get more powder runs in a week than your average lift skier gets in a lifetime. Bobby Burns has shorter runs than Revelstoke. A good thing for me. The group flys down the sloop resting briefly, but rarely. You ski on the edge of the tracks of the person ahead of you conserving the margins for others and other runs. At the end you throw off your skis. strap them together with your poles and pile them next to the Guide. Five steps across and one forward put you on target for the chopper to land between the skis and the group. Everyone huddles down and is blown about by the down draft. The doorman gets the signal from the pilot when the chopper is secure. Everyone piles in in about the same time it take the guide to toss the 13 pair of skis in a bin on the other side.

Shutting and latching the door signals the pilot everyone is buckled in and ready. Off you go in a white cloud of blowing snow. It's warm inside. The ride takes between 10 and 20 minutes. Barely enough time to swig down a couple gulps of water. Out the window the chopper hovers between giant peaks and windswept ridges. The pilot side-slips onto a postage stamp of flatness, that makes your stomach flutter. Is this really the landing spot? He signals thumbs up and the guide flings open the door and walks to the other side to unload the skis. The group files out in a mad rush to huddle down. The chopper blasts off. Skis are handed out by name in a flurry: "Dennis!, Roy! As fast as possible, you pull off the velcro straps and stow them. clean your boots, clamp on your skis. Ready! But no matter how fast, everyone else seems to be out in front grabbing the best tracks and lines. A controlled free for all follows. The guides have a rough time of balancing safety and enthusiasm.

I'm continually moving out a little more and asking about the steeper slopes. Not out of Machismo but enthusiasm. Enthusiasm runs as rampant as the snow. Everyone is grinning and whooping.
"On your left!"
"Coming through!"
Verbal sonar tracking one another in the trees and echos of joy. But the guides are serious and have your best interest out in front of it all. I hazard to say I would probably last two days without a guide. Lindsay says quietly, "More like two runs."

When your legs have turned to jelly and your knees are aching it must be four. The guide announces "Last Run" and you are ready for it to be.

Until tomorrow.