Ed’s note: In enlisting everyday skiers in our Skier’s Choice Fantasy Draft, we try to inject some personality to the Buyer’s Guide formula. When we asked Capt. Benny Wilson, the 53-year-old founding member of the Jackson Hole Air Force, to be on our draft team, we knew we were in for an interesting ride.
Below, find Capt. Wilson’s response to where he’d go for his Dream Trip, the fourth and final category on the Fantasy Draft (“Buyer’s Guide,” September 2011 issue of Powder). As you can see, he shoots from the hip the same way he charges on skis. While most drafters simply stated “Alaska” or “Europe,” Wilson submitted a 200-word magical mystery tour. Heli drops in the Tetons, lunch in Paris, a quick trip to the Hahnenkamm, and more. It’s simply too good to waste on some computer archive. Drink deep, friends.
By Capt. Benny Wilson
Close your eyes and go to sleep… you’ll need it. To start out, we’ll need a Bell 407, with three seats in the back. We are only taking four of us. Me in the front next to Clifford O. (He’s a high school buddy who decided it would be fun to pilot a heli!) Howie, Doug Coombs and Johnny B. in the back seat. (Sorry, Davie, you’re in the second group and the guide.) Second group is Davie in the guide seat with the infamous Chet on the sticks and pedals. He’s got a .45 under his belt. In the back we have Coolie, Rick and Jon. Everyone has their favorite skis. I’m sporting JHAF signature series Rocker 3.1 I’m wearing blue denim with a few patches.
We start with breakfast at Nora’s in Wilson. Everyone has huevos with biscuits and gravy, coffee and Red Bull (because we are sponsored). The chopper has the musical soundtrack from Apocolypse Now—blasting! We lift off from the parking lot for the first run of the day. I let everyone take turns picking an LZ. Doug picks the Grand! Davie wants Teewinot! It’s been snowing all night and as the sun rises the clouds break and we look upon two feet of super stable fluff resembling AK, but we’re here in the Tetons! Are we dreaming?! Nah, this is the shit! We bag all the peaks in the range that morning, burning up Hob’s time!
I’ve always wanted lunch in Paris, so we hit the jet stream and head for the Eiffel Tower. After a lunch with espresso we head to La Grave and it’s the same routine. We put Jon and Rick in the hot seats and let them combat each other for the sickest lines. They both pick Doug’s brain for advice (as we all do). Before lunch, someone spots Tat skinning up some obscure chute. We park and give him a lift! It’s the thing to do. Jason starts in on us about this super sick line with a 55-footer that he and Jeff Leger have been scoping out. We all scramble for seats and it’s weird but I get left out of the first chopper, so I pick out a sweet spot for a little siesta. My son, Mattias, and wife, Joann, arrive with their gear and we hop a train to Kitzbuel to watch the Hahnenkamm. While there we bump into Benji Raich and Stephan Eberharter. They recognize me from the gondola ride at the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002 and I invite them for a heli run. They see the skis and remark something in Austrian about the movie SWIFT SILENT DEEP. We later find out it’s their favorite. They want an autographed copy so I get one out of the backpack and… We hook up with the gang again in La Grave and head for the hills.
On the chopper we listen to a little Hell’s Belles (they’re an all-female AC/DC cover band) and just ROCK! After a few more runs we decide enough of this French snow, we need something more. KAMCHATKA! Disco Disco! We had run into a few comrades in Portillo the year before and they had always said, “If ever you get to Russia, come join us in Kamchatka for caviar and vodka. Also heli skiing is very good here!” So we run into Stanislav and Gert and… well, DISCO! DISCO!
Every one has had a great day and the sun starts to sink into the horizon. But wait a minute, it’s spring time and we are so far north that the sun isn’t setting any time soon. Let’s get over to Valdez. Davie has been up here all spring and advises us on our first run in the midnight hour. So we plug the Grateful Dead’s version of Midnight Hour into the iPod port and head for Meteorite, then Mad Cow, and finish off the threesome with a quick run down Stone Henge!
Wow, I need a rest… We head to the Pipeline for a dinner of steak and king salmon. The salmon reminds us of something we almost forgot to do. Can you guess what’s next? Tommy Moe and Mike Overcast have this great day planned for us. “We go corn skiing when the snow softens just enough, and then we flyfish for kings in the afternoon if the weather permits. And we have a catered dinner on top with salmon, king crab legs, and grizzly bear steaks.” Howie is once again not at a loss for words and says, “I’m in, sign me up.” After sipping some really nice Malbec from our 55-gallon barrel, we all salute to Ullr and stare into the northern lights.
1 You won’t find this ski in our Buyer’s Guide because, well, it doesn’t exist. Remember, this is Benny’s Dream Trip.