Kam-chat-ka, exactly !
The launch of our new website and blog seems like the ideal occasion to tell you a little more about our winter basecamp, Kamchatka.
These lines are sure to bring back memories for the fortunate few who have already been to this unique place and will whet the appetites of those who hesitate to take the plunge.
After a 9-hour flight from Moscow, your plane lands on the tarmac of Petropavlovsk’s little airport. Stepping off the aircraft, your eyes are transfixed by the majestic landscape of steep, snow-draped cones, rising high above the sea. These are the volcanoes a lucky few get to ski every year.
The Kamchatka Heliski Team welcomes you at the airport and accompanies you to your hotel, the Antarius in Paratunka.
Arrival day starts with a few formalities: handing in your passport and immigration document at the hotel reception and collecting your room key.
Once you are settled in, we adjourn to the bar for a welcoming drink. This is also when we kick off the week’s activities with presentations of the program, the hotel’s facilities and the members of the team.
Lunch is followed by a safety briefing in which we go through the full range of safety issues (rules to follow when skiing, avalanche safety, airbag rucksacks, etc.). We then put theory into practice with an avalanche beacon exercise around the helipad.
The day ends on a more relaxing note, so you can get over the long journey and be ready to hit the slopes of Kamchatka the next morning.
We meet in front of the ski racks, legs tingling with impatience and heart racing at the idea of flying in an iconic MI-8 helicopter…
When everyone is ready, we follow the lead guide to the helipad and board the helicopters.
The rotor starts turning and the steel colossus rises into the air – a breathtaking moment.
When we get to where conditions are best, the pilot moves in and steadies the helicopter.
Then everything accelerates… you have to move quickly but carefully, as explained during yesterday’s safety briefing.
The lead guide jumps down to collect the skis, which are handed to him by another guide inside the helicopter. We all get out and kneel on the snow, wearing goggles to protect our eyes from the snow blown around by the downdraft from the rotors.
Then the helicopter moves away and the silence returns. A silence that is as overwhelming as the view. The ocean winds between the white fjords, where the mountains blend into the sea.
A few moments savouring the view, then its time to get moving.
Davaï! It’s steep. The slope is wide, long and completely untracked.
Turns flow seamlessly, one after the other, and the feeling of freedom is total … 2500 metres of vertical skiing ends at the pebbles on the beach.
The best bit: knowing we have a whole week here!
But Kamchatka has other surprises, from skiing beside a stream of molten lava to coming across a colony of sea lions; from watching bears stroll by to slaloming between volcanic vents…
It is easy to start wondering: is this the dawn of the world or a glimpse of paradise ?
But skiing is also about making friends, so great days on the slopes are followed by very sociable evenings.
Everyone wants to share their impressions of the day and there is nowhere better to do this than around a barbecue of local delicacies (king crab, salmon, etc.) or over a cold beer or glass of vodka.
And if you just want to relax at the end of the day, the hotel has its own, geothermally heated pool (open 24/7) and sauna.
If the weather is too bad to ski, Petropavlovsk’s charming little museum provides a glimpse into the area’s history, flora and fauna. Those looking for something more adventurous can head off for a dog sled ride or snowmobile tour.
Sunday is here already. It has been a magical trip, but now its time to go back to everyday life.
The entire team is there to wish you “bon voyage” as you get on the private minibus that will take you back to Petropavlovsk.
The long journey home will allow your legs to recover while your mind replays the magic of the last few days in Kamchatka… and starts dreaming of your next trip!
Yes, Kamchatka is truly addictive…