Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Heli-Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: How couldn't this be fun?

"The first time I was on helicopter we went hiking."

That was Michael, my 7-year-old son, talking to another person waiting to board a helicopter. He had his first ride in a helicopter the previous summer when we'd gone heli-hiking in the Cline River area east of Banff's Saskatchewan Crossing. Only seven, but flying in helicopters--helicopters!--was already old-hat. I'm still not sure if that's a good thing or not.

As Michael said, this would be the second time he and his 12-year-old brother, Mack, had flown in an aircraft capable of hovering. We were standing in the Kananaskis Heliport waiting for our pilot to guide us to the helicopter that would take us on our heli-snowshoeing adventure.

Soon we were climbing into the five person helicopter, the ground crew rushing to buckle us up and jam helmets on our heads. Mack sat up front with the pilot, and Michael would have his turn on the way back. For the boys, it was right out of an action adventure movie. We could hear the pilot talking to ground control through the built-in headphones and then we were lifting off. The adventure was to include 20 minutes of sightseeing and an hour on the ground snowshoeing. Heading south, we did a fly over of Barrier Lake before turning north, crossing the Trans-Canada Highway and squeezing between Mt. Fable and Yamnuska.

Better than the amazing, close-up views of the mountains was the sight of Mack and Michael. Both were totally lost in the experience, and I have to admit that the helicopter was bringing out the kid in me, as well. Once or twice the pilot stopped to hover so we could take in our surroundings, and the sway of the helicopter in the mountain winds was an exhillerating reminder that we weren't in a 737 on our way to LAX.

Then we were heading west out of the mountains to Dog Leg Lake. Sitting on the prairie just beyond the mountains, Dog Leg wasn't exactly what I'd envisioned when I'd booked the flight. I was expecting something out of Travel Alberta's Remember to Breath campaign, with the helicopter setting us down on an idyllic snowy alpine meadow. Instead, we landed at a lake on the flat land.

Upon climbing out of the helicopter, the first thing we all noticed was the lack of snow. The inch or so of mostly hardpack didn't warrant snowshoes. Not being ones to let a lack of snow ruin our winter fun, we left the snowshoes in the helicopter's cargo hold and ventured out in our boots. What we'd thought would be a glorious alpine frolic through waist deep snow turned into a fun tromp across the frozen lake, through spruce and leafless aspen forest, and taking breaks to make snow angels.

Although it wasn't what we'd expected, the heli-snowshoe trip was definitely an adventure. It was also a reminder to us all that we shouldn't hold too tightly to our expectations. Back at the heliport, we overheard other adventurers griping about the un-snowshoe. Maybe it's because we had kids to show us where the fun was, but I have to say it was the most exciting un-snowshoe I've ever been on. I mean, how can't you have fun when the mountains and a ride on a helicopter is involved?

For more information on heli-snowshoeing in Kananaskis, go to Kananaskis Heli Tours. If they don't have special pricing posted on their website, check out Groupon and Living Social for deals.







Wondering where to go snowshoeing with kids? Read these posts:

Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: River View Trail
Snowshoeing with Kids in Banff: Lake Minnewanka
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: Hogarth Lakes
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: Canyon Creek
 Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: West Bragg Creek

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