A strong gust of wind on a bluebird day was all it took to send a helicopter full of skiers crashing into a glacier.
On Friday, Feb. 11, a group of 10 intermediate heli skiers from around the world were skiing on Spearhead Glacier, east of Blackcomb Mountain, when their chopper rolled over as it was lifting off.
"It's a location we've skied a thousand times," said Doug O'Mara, mountain guide and co-owner of Whistler Heli Skiing.
"It was a beautiful sunny day but with gusty winds. We were doing our third run and the helicopter was lifting up with the group to take off and a very strong gust of wind pushed it over on its side at the bottom of the glacier."
An experienced pilot, with 30 years flying helicopters under his belt, was flying the craft at the time.
"We're very lucky," said O'Mara. "There were some minor cuts and bruises but really no injuries."
As soon as the helicopter crashed, rescue procedures were immediately put into effect.
Blackcomb Helicopters had all passengers back in the village within 56 minutes. Those passengers who needed medical attention were taken to the Whistler Health Care Centre and then released.
The downed chopper was later lifted out by another helicopter.
"We're very happy," said O'Mara. "All of the proper procedures for taking care of the people were followed. It was text book and with Blackcomb Helicopters assistance we were all down and having a beer shortly thereafter."
The helicopter was a Tasman Bell 212, a twin jet-engine helicopter, described as the "workhorse of the Canadian heli-ski industry" on the Whistler Heli Skiing website.
Spearhead Glacier is a popular spot for Whistler Heli Skiing, whose tenured area stretches from Powder Mountain and Brandywine in the south to Bralorne in the north.
O'Mara said the guests on board were from places such as Belgium, Holland and Banff.