bighorn-revelstoke-heli-skiers

Dawn arrives the color of a corpse. The clouds hang thick in the valley. We eat, pull on ski boots warily, head out the lodge’s back door and stare into the soup: It’s not a good day for flying.

Then, a tremolo in the air, that soon resolves to a familiar thwack. The helicopter materializes like some kind of magic trick, swings a cautious half-circle and lands in the backyard. We pile in. Jerry, the pilot, eases up on the collective. The A-Star shudders; it’s the very feeling of anticipation. Blades Cuisinart the air. Then we’re up and punching through the cloud deck. Above the inversion the white Selkirks are stapled to a sky the kind of blue you only see in supermarket mouthwash. And we’re alone in it.

-

Bighorn is a mash-up of two capital ideas: the “catered chalet” of the Alps and BC’s greatest gift to the world—heli-skiing in big, snow-choked mountains.

-

Jerry drops us atop a high ridge flecked with penitential hoodoos, or balsams plastered with ice until they’re bent and robed in white. We dive in and swoop among them, hooting and laughing in 18 inches of untouched snow. It’s not a bad warm-up. Soon we’re hammering to the next powder run. It’s only going to get better, and steeper, from here—and yet, weirdly, I’m already half-dreaming about après-ski back at the lodge… where chef Peter Hughes will be waiting in the rotor wash with a plate of salmon blinis, and then we’ll all marinate in the hot tub with a bucket of iced Mt. Begbie Kolsches within reach.

What is this fever dream? Meet Bighorn, a new, ultra-swank lodge in Revelstoke, British Columbia, center of the world’s powder vortex. Bighorn is a mash-up of two capital ideas: the “catered chalet” of the Alps (a popular European vacation in which you rent not only lodging but also a chef or “chalet girl” who keeps the place running) and BC’s greatest gift to the world—heli-skiing in big, snow-choked mountains. Now make this chalet the nicest place you’ll ever rest your ski-wobbly legs: a tricked-out, 15,000-square-foot lodge on the slopes of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which has the most vertical feet of skiing (5,620’) in North America—oh, yeah, and give the lodge a helipad literally out the back door.

Looks pretty sweet, but does it have wi-fi? Actually, yeah.

Bighorn is the brainchild of two young brothers and ripping skiers, scions of a British construction company who smelled an opportunity as the ski resort was taking off. Now in its first full winter, Bighorn is a remarkable timber frame manse built nearly entirely of rough-hewn B.C. Douglas fir, with a three-story stone fireplace anchoring its great room. Its eight bedrooms, which sleep up to 16 people, have all the high-end amenities you’d want: rain showers, iPads, the most comfortable mattress on either side of the Four Seasons. A staff of three is constantly on call. It’s high-end but not stuffy, its décor is western but not kitschy; there’s just enough Tartan plaid scattered about to give the place the peaty whiff of a Scottish hunting lodge. Imagine the world’s best playhouse.

Which would have skiing, naturally.  Several different area heli operations can land right out back. We fly with Selkirk-Tangiers Heli Skiing, whose massive permit area (more than three times the size of Rhode Island) nearly wraps the lodge. And Bighorn’s slopeside location means that, unlike most remote heli operations, there’s never a down day; if weather grounds the bird, you can enjoy the powder at the ski resort.

News flash: it’s tough to find this kinda powder stash at your friendly neighborhood ski hill.

I never do try Bighorn’s current lap pool, or the gym, or the home theater. After skiing we all head down to the giant hot tub to watch the alpenglow light up the peaks of the Monashees across the valley. Soon Chef Peter arrives with a pitcher full of cocktails. Then it’s 6 p.m.—time for a massage in one of Bighorn’s two treatment rooms. By dinnertime I’m a well-kneaded puddle. Somehow I manage to accommodate the beef fillet, with chanterelles picked nearly within sight of the house, and chase it with a nice Okanagan Valley red. We pull the ‘’Revvie Midnighter’’ and are asleep soon after nine. After all, luxury like this is taxing.

It also comes with a price, of course: a cool $65,000 for the week’s rental, not including heli-skiing, which runs about $1,000 per person, per day. Don’t blanch. Raid Junior’s college fund and book a week with your buddies. Isn’t that what state schools are for?