INTERVIEW: THE THRILLS OF HELI-HIKING

Bob Shafto takes hiking to a whole new level. As president and owner of Heli Canada Adventures, Shafto carts thrill seekers from peak to peak in a helicopter. Sure, it might defeat the whole sense of satisfaction mountain climbers experience when they reach the summit. However, Shafto’s business caters to those who want to cut to the chase. And, really, can you blame them? Shafto answered a few questions via e-mail about the high-flying phenomenon. The highs of the heli-hike have been compared to a “drug.” I believe that the feeling of “awe” occurs when our guests are absorbing their sensations of being surrounded by the beauty of the wild pristine wilderness. It has been proven that heli-hiking is addictive. Caution to those that have an addictive personality! How did Heli Canada Adventures get its start? Growing up in Banff, Alberta, Canada, I knew that I wanted to be a Mountain Guide. I watched the early days of heli-hiking/heli-skiing being born in the Rockies. When I moved to Revlestoke, British Columbia, Canada, in 1989, the perfect location for heli-hiking and heli-mountaineering was staring me in the face. Heli Canada Adventures was born. Do you have any association to Hans Gmoser, the creator of the heli-hike? The only work association to Hans Gmoser I have is that I worked for his company as a young guide for a winter season. Hans Gmoser was instrumental in setting up the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, which has benefited all of the ACMG guides. He also has brought heli-hiking and heli-skiing to the world. Is heli-hiking dangerous? Safety is a shared responsibility between the guests and the operators. In my 13 years of operation, we have had to give a Band-Aid out once for a superficial scratch. It can be dangerous if the guests do not follow the safety briefings and their guide’s directions. As most of the safety protocols are common sense, there has not being a problem. Do you look both ways before crossing the street? Who shouldn’t consider heli-hiking? If you have an addictive personality! Is there a difference between heli-hiking and heli-skiing? Winter and summer seasons and the gear you wear is the difference between heli-hiking and heli-skiing. Heli-skiing starts in December and goes to the beginning of May, and heli-hiking starts the beginning of July to the end of October. Why is heli-hiking so much better than your average hike? The helicopter is the secret—you can access terrain every day that would take you many days to get to by hiking with a heavy pack on. This secret lets allows us to be in untouched pristine wilderness that few people have seen. There are no other groups around, no trails—only you and the wildlife watching you! At the end of the day, you fly back to comfy opulence. What kind of hiking boots would you wear on a heli-hike? Is it different from your average hiking boot? Lightweight leather hiking boots that have good ankle support and at least a half shank in the sole. Where can you heli-hike in the U.S.? I am not sure. There are a few operators in Alaska that offer day trips. Most of the heli-hiking the world happens in British Columbia, Canada with two operators, Heli Canada Adventures and Canadian Mountain Holidays. Source: Hiking Boots News

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