Photos by Alain Sleigher
The Bell 212 helicopter shuttles more heli-skiers in Canada than any other chopper. Its spacious cabin offers more than eight feet of length and 208 cubic feet of cabin space, which is exactly why large heli-ski operations use these school buses of the sky. Whereas almost all the 212s used for Canadian heli-skiing sit 12 skiers and two guides shoulder-to-shoulder, the same bird at Silvertip Lodge is missing four seats. The new heli-skiing operation on the west side of British Columbia’s Cariboo Mountains reconfigured its 212 for space and comfort—two amenities missing in heli-skiing. And many of the small groups at Silvertip fly with empty seats to boot. The elbow room is just one example of the curated heli-skiing experience you’ll find at Silvertip.
The red carpet they recently rolled out for a Teton Gravity Research crew including Dash Longe, Nick McNutt and Tim Durtschi, as well as Red Bull’s Richard Permin and Victor de Le Rue, who filmed Sweet & Sour at Silvertip, wasn’t far from the customization they offer any guest. Find 7-15 friends who can throw down (and, you know, throw down) and you’ll have the run of Silvertip’s 7,250-square-foot, triple A-frame lakefront lodge and its entire tenure: 900 square miles of varied terrain and more than 120 named runs with average vertical drops of 4,000 feet.
“The mountains have a different feel than other B.C. heli lodges I’ve visited,” says Longe. “There’s a larger variety of terrain. We barely scratched the surface, but what we did see was a great mix of everything. We skied some incredible zones that were only a couple-minute heli bump from the lodge.”
With the terrain so close to the lodge, even film crews have time to stop in for hot soup and freshly shucked oysters.
The aforementioned business class Bell 212 isn’t just for hot laps, either—the helicopter transports guests from Williams Lake Airport in central B.C. (343 miles north of Vancouver) to Silvertip Lodge via a scenic 45-minute ride over Quesnel Lake, the deepest freshwater fjord lake in the world. Access to Silvertip, which sits at the end of the East Arm of the 62-mile long lake, is limited to heli, small plane or boat.
“Most cat and heli lodges are removed, but Silvertip really gives you the sense that you’re in the middle of nowhere,” says Longe. “By the time you reach Quesnel Lake, it’s hard to spot any signs of humanity—it just looks like a vast and wild landscape with an endless body of water weaving in and out of tall mountains like Scandinavian fjords.”
The remoteness of the property is one reason Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) sold the property in 2009, but it’s exactly what lured current owners Mike and Maria Binnion, a fun-loving, outgoing couple from Calgary who turn Silvertip Lodge into a perpetual party during the weeks they host friends and family. Non-skiers explore the cross-country trails that meander through old growth cedars adjacent to the lodge, relax in the lakeside sauna or take a boat to fish world-class rainbow trout waters right out front. (In summer, fisherman come to Silvertip to access the alpine lakes of the Cariboos by float plane or for rainbow and bull trout trophy fishing in nearby Hobson Lake.)
“It’s a one-of-a-kind experience,” says Longe. “Staying in a lodge on a beautiful lake with great skiing only minutes away has me wanting to go back.”
We’re on-site at Silvertip this week, along with our friends at heli.life. Stay tuned for updates…