Find the Best Heli Skiing Destinations with Google Earth
Google Earth brings the furthermost corners of Mother Nature to computer screens everywhere. Mountain ranges, as well as their peaks and gullies, are visible interactively through the magic of satellite imagery. Using this technology before (and after) your heli-ski tour is as important as waxing your skis. There are a number of tricks that can unlock Google Earth’s potential and transform it into a high-tech expedition tool if you know where to look for them.
Where to? Google Earth’s maps are amazingly detailed. Are you headed to the Skeena Mountains in British Columbia? Type that into the explorer window and it jettisons you to northern BC. Looks like you’ll be skiing Otter Mountain? Let’s do some research: click on Otter Mountain (the mountain peaks are all labeled with a small, yellow triangle) and you get an elevation profile from each of the four cardinal directions. You’re not good with two-dimensional topos? Click on “Take Tour” and Google Earth will plunge you into a 3-D version of the mountain range. At this point, the only things you’re missing are skis.
How far? Measuring distances and elevations in Google Earth is a breeze. Let’s say you’re at one of our Heli Ski Lodges – The Ripley Creek Inn and want to know how far away the top of Otter Mountain is. The ruler tool allows you to draw a line to get the approximate distance between two points. Otter Mountain is about 21 km away as the crow flies (which can also be calculated in miles and “smoots” depending on which part of the planet you’re from). You can then save your line and see the elevation map: 2375 m from about 18 m in the valley. Not a bad flight. But what a descent!
What about the weather? Google Earth’s functionality takes the avid heli-skier to current weather conditions anywhere on the planet. The program gives you 24-hour meteorological information to track that cloud mass which has been dumping snow to the west for days. Google Earth also allows you to look at how the sun falls in the mountains so you can get an idea of where the snow will be great in the morning, and even better in the afternoon.
What’s it really look like? Google Earth gives you the ability to upload photographs from computers or directly from smart phones. So, as you navigate interactively the Coastal Mountains in northern British Columbia, you’ll get a better idea of landmarks when you are actually in the valley. But if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video won’t stop talking: with Google Earth you can record a tour of your heli-ski trip, and record your voice narrating where you skied while a virtual camera films the mountainside and valleys.
Got GPS? Do you really want to impress your friends? Make sure to take along a GPS unit on your tour. Hit “record” while you ski and then upload the data to Google Earth. It will give you a layout of every place you skied on a 3D-topological map, so all your friends can look incredulously at what you’ve done. Probably one of the greatest tools in the program is a “send by email” toggle – allowing you to send the data directly from Google Earth – which we like to call “the jealousy button.”