Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 19, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
TiMMtay, March 19, 1974 LETHBRIDQE HERALD RIGHT: Kite skier comes in for soft landing at Fairmont Mountain, Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C. Gliders, gorillas and a real barrel slat race BELOW: Unloading at the top of the glacier. Pilot Bob Ambrose is one of those breed of competent professionals who unobtrusively inspires confidence. And that's a very good thing when you're peering out a side window of Radium Glacier Skiing's unique turbo prop aircraft watching mountain peaks play tag with clouds. Certainly the first time up, getting there is half the thrill. We didn't quite make it the glacier was socked in. "Tea Bob announced and dinned the nose of the aircraft down to a small lake at the foot of the Purcell Range just south of the Bugaboos where a small cabin nestled in the woods. About an hour later we tried again and this time the bright orange eight passenger Pilatus Turbo Porter (widely used in France and Switzerland for glacier skiing, according to the promotional literature) dropped easily onto North Star glacier, some feet up. The rest was almost anti-climactic. Ambrose and two partners started Radium Glacier Skiing last winter as sort of a common man's version of the well known Bugaboos helicopter skiing, popularized as the sport of prime ministers by Pierre Trudeau. While not exactly cheap, the price a day which guarantees vertical feet of fresh powder skiing is about half that of Bugaboos skiing. A glacier ski-week at per person for five days skiing, five nights double occupancy at Radium Hot Springs Lodge and three square meals a day, is also offered. The secret is in the aircraft it costs much less to fly than a helicopter and carries a greater payload. The plane can land and take-off in 200 feet and Radium glacier skiing has been busy opening up new runs ail winter. Mr. Ambrose, 29, grew up in Taber, started flying when he was 19, got his commercial licence at 22 and now has hours flying time, including several years in the Northwest Territories. During the summer, he flies the Porter aircraft in the Yukon for mining companies, and is generally acclaimed as an accomplished pilot by everyone who flies with him, with one slight exception. "I know he's a great flier, but I see him as a fallible human being who gets tomato soup in his beard and puts different colored socks on in the says his wife, Mary Lou, explaining her nervousness flying with Bob. A lower cost helicopter skiing operation is also being tried out at Fernie this year. A four-passenger helicopter lifts powder skiers from the Snow Valley ski area to runs in the Lizard Range just minutes away for ISO a day, with four to six trips totalling vertical feet guaranteed. The price can be kept dr.wn, says Snow Valley manager Heiko Socher, because flying time to the powder slopes is so short. Another type of skiing is also done in the East Kootenays but for most it will remain a spectator sport. A handful of adventurists are flying hang at Fairmont and Panorama. Gordon Wilder, Fairmont ski area manager and son of Lloyd Wilder, owner of the resort, is involved in manufacturing the kites and will take several to a big air show in Europe this spring. With 16-foot and 20-foot wing spans, the gliders are easily maneuveraWe and safe because they don't travel too fast, he says. A skier needs only a few feet of slope to get himself airborn under normal conditions. Fairmont is also the scene of the World Barrel Slat Races, a zany day of skiing on real barrel slats, which this year attracted SO entries, including two from as far away as Montreal. A costume contest was part of the affair and resulted in everything from a gorilla to a six-foot tall bird slithering down the hill. Coupled with the Kimberley Winter Fest carnival a week earlier which brought an estimated people to the Kimberly ski area for the two days of racing, hog-dog competitions and kite-flying events, it made February an entertaining month in the valley.