Monday, February 11, 2013

Ride in a Helicopter Over the Canadian Rocky Mountains


This weekend I got to ride in a helicopter for the first time ever, and what a ride it was!  I didn't just hop into a helicopter and flit about over top of a city or prairie landscape - I flew over the Rocky Mountains of Alberta!  How spectacular is that?  If you don't have any idea just how spectacular, keep on reading!

helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, things to do in Alberta
Flying over Barrier Lake in the Alberta Rocky Mountains

I bought the helicopter flight tickets for my husband as his Christmas present.  We weren't going to get each other a gift this year, since our plan was to spend our money on renovating the bathroom, but old habits die hard.  A few days before the 25th of December, I poked about online and found this amazing 50% off Groupon (think online-coupon) for a Kananaskis Helicopter Tour over the Rocky Mountains.  The price was right, and so I went for it.  (Good thing too, since my husband broke the rule and bought me a gift as well.  I would have felt horrible if I had ended up not buying anything for him!)

Our flight company was called 'Kananaskis Heli Tours'

Long story short, we found ourselves buckling into a helicopter last Sunday morning, ready for the adventure of a lifetime.  We'd driven down to Calgary the night before, since our flight was bright and early at 9:30 a.m.  The tour company is called Kananaskis Heli Tours and it is located right beside the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino just off the Trans Canada highway, about 35 minutes out of Calgary.  There are a variety of flight packages and add-ons to choose from: ours was the "Romantic" package.  I won't talk prices here - you'll have to visit their website for more info.  It is on the expensive side, I will warn you, but for a "once in a lifetime" experience you might not mind spending the cash.  You have the option to go for a flight, or a flight and a set-down experience with activities ranging from mountain-vista yoga to dog-sledding.  Our particular package included a wilderness hike and a 'romantic' picnic with a glass of champagne and some chocolate.

helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, things to do in Alberta
One of my favorite mountain formations in the Rocky Mountains

The romance of our helicopter tour was subdued slightly when we learned we were teamed with two other couples, but as Joey jokingly pointed out, romance with us usually ends in bickering and squabbling, so we were probably better off.  Besides, the two couples we were grouped with were unbelievably friendly and funny, and we all got along splendidly.  We got to know each other in the tour office as we listened to the safety spiel and prepared ourselves for the flight tour.

helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, things to do in Alberta
The Rockies are simply stunning

Rules for being near a helicopter: 
1. Keep your head down!  I can guess the gory reason for this.  The trick our tour lady suggested was to keep one hand on the knee at all times, as this automatically bends your body to the right height.
2. Stay on the path.  No one wants to get hit by a wayward helicopter.
3. Let the pilots buckle you in.  No one wants to fall out of a helicopter either.

Rocky Mountains Alberta, things to do in Alberta, Kananaskis
What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning!

We all jammed into the helicopter like sardines.  I got to sit in the front for the first portion of the flight, and was lucky enough to have an amazing view.  The sides of the helicopter were clear plastic, as well as the entire front portion and a little clear plastic hole down by my feet.  A photographer / videographer's dream!  The pilot checked our headsets, and with a slight tilt that you could barely notice, we were up in the air.

helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, things to do in Alberta
Our helicopter!

In my newfound opinion, a helicopter is much smoother than any plane I've ever traveled on, and even smoother than driving down the highway in our SUV.  You can barely feel the craft moving through the air, other than the vibrations of the rotors.  It was quite relaxing.

helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, things to do in Alberta, Kananaskis
The red "Mayday" button.  The word 'mayday' derives from the French term "M'aidez" which means "Help me!"

I won't even begin to describe to you in words the majesty of the Rocky Mountains from above.  This experience was much different than flying over the mountains way up high in a jet - this was up-close and personal, with every tree distinct and clear, every shadow on the rocks visible in high definition.  Instead of trying to verbalize this, I put together a video on our experience.  (It's at the end of this post - watch it last and it will make more sense!)

helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, things to do in Alberta
Starting our wilderness hike around Broken Leg Lake

After 15 minutes of flying, we set down in the middle of nowhere on the edge of a frozen lake called 'Broken Leg Lake'.  Our pilot shut down the craft and we all disembarked for a one-hour wilderness trek around and across the solid lake.  Our pilot pointed out frozen bubbles inside the meter or more thick ice - very neat!

helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, things to do in Alberta
Cool frozen bubbles inside the ice

I also had a fun time making snow angels on the frozen lake - sadly, no one joined me.

helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, things to do in Alberta
Making a snow angel, by my lonesome, on a snowy frozen lake

Once our trek around the lake was complete, we sat down on little red blankets and enjoyed a frosty glass of champagne and a single chocolate - a nice sweet treat in the middle of Mother Nature's finest creations.  All too soon, it was time to get back into the helicopter for one last go-round over top the Rockies.  This time I sat in the back, but even tucked in behind the pilot I still had a great view (especially when we banked very deeply to the right and I found myself pressed up against the little plastic door).

Rocky Mountains Alberta Canada, things to do in Alberta
One teensy glass of bubbly on a snowy mountainside!

Our trip lasted for about 1 1/2 hours.  Back at the base, we all gushed about how beautiful the experience had been.  I would certainly recommend it to others - and tell them to pack their hiking shoes!


Watch our amazing flight in the helicopter here!

12 comments:

  1. that's one thing that's on my bucket list too; fly a helicopter! Great post!

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    1. Check Groupon frequently - they had another round of deals just recently, so it must be a common one!

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  2. Pics are great Marti! Still not sure I can do it though.

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    1. It was so smooth, I would bet you wouldn't feel airsick at all. The view was so amazing it took your mind off any apprehensions about being in a helicopter to begin with!

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  3. Wow! That's so awesome! I would love to take a helicopter tour someday. What a nice Christmas present!

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    1. Ha ha - the present was just as much for myself as it was for him, but it worked out well for both of us! I highly recommend the tour!

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  4. Nice blog! The Albatros Aircraft private jet charters offers services throughout the world which offers various facilities for different purposes.

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  5. A helicopter ride is indeed a wonderful Christmas present for your husband. That's so sweet of you! It's a one of a kind experience, so I'm sure that both of you definitely enjoyed it. Have you been on a private jet? It's an exceptional and unforgettable activity that married couples should try too!

    Corina Ogan @ Image Air Charter

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    1. We have never been on a private jet, although I think that would be pretty amazing. It's probably out of our price range at the moment! ;) Maybe one day when we win the lottery!

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