Eight years since his last visit veteran ski journalist George Koch visited us on assigment for Ski Canada Magazine. Here's a quick preview of his experience, the conditions and characters he met along the way.
by George Koch
When you visit Mica you’ll soon learn that an entire valley’s worth of descents is named after beer brands. Depending on where you hail from, that might be your introduction to the Canadian obsession with that malted barley beverage…or it might just make you feel at home. Aside from reminding you of the choices you’ll face during the coming afternoon’s apres hours, the names invite obvious comparisons to what the run itself is like.
One of the highlights of my last visit to Mica – my first in eight years, which upon arrival I realized was an unforgivably long time – was the run called “Golden”. Golden was just as advertised: smooth and silky the whole way, but not a complete pushover, with an opening bowl of supple near-blower, a sudden roll-over that had you sinking down pulling g-forces on the outside ski, and then an endless, sweeping run-out yelling at you to make huge turns. Like pulling a long draft into the biggest stein in the bar – then being dared to down it non-stop. Our group of four was in luck: guide Rob Turner happily ordered up round after round.
In addition to Herb Marcher, a helicopter pilot originally from Austria, I was skiing with Mark and Mal, two Aussies from, yup, Melbourne. They all reminded me that even more than the terrain and snow, a heli-skiing experience is made by the people you ski with. Incredible keeners, the matter-of-fact duo told me they trained for heli-skiing back home by running in soft beach sand with sand-filled backpacks. And I had always thought Aussies spent all their free time chugging Foster’s.
Breaking another stereotype, these latter-day penitents (masochists?) were the first Aussies I’d met who’d never even heard of Monty Python’s “Bruces” sketch. Nearly every other one of their countrymen has threatened to punch me out at the mere mention of it. But these two were intrigued, demanding I recite sections of it (I know it by heart). I’d yell out stuff like, “Rule 4: Now this term, I don’t wanna’ catch anybody not drinkin’!” as we descended various runs named after beer, and I could hear their guffaws and cackles through the trees. We weren’t, after all, going to blow any skiing time by standing around reciting mere comedy.
Yet Mark and Mal, unique and fun as they are, were as nothing compared to the four Norwegians…
For more on them, look for my feature article on Mica in Issue 2 of Ski Canada magazine, coming out in October.
George Koch shredding the deep trees in the Molson Drainage. Photo Credit: Mike McPhee