A team of Canadian Olympic athletes lifted off Tuesday for a one-of-kind experience.
“It’s in appreciation for the dedication of those athletes,” heli-ski guide Graham Holt said.
It’s a chance for the athletes to unwind following years of intense training and a busy schedule before, during and after the Pyeonchang Games.
“Coming off the Olympics, it’s a lot of decompression,” speed skater Gilmore Junio said. “There’s a lot of stress going into those Games and leading into it, there’s so much focus on being the best and winning medals.”
The post-Olympic experience is different for each athlete.
“With hockey, we came back with a silver medal–which we haven’t done in 20 years–so I think we’re a little scared coming back and not knowing what the reaction would be,” said Geneviève Lacasse, a goaltender for Canada’s women’s hockey team.
“You’re always on,” added Brian McKeever. He became Canada’s most decorated winter Paralympian in Pyeongchang this year.
“But afterward you have this huge crash, so that’s what we’re all feeling now.”
WATCH: Extended video with Canadian Paralympic and Olympic athletes as they hit the slopes.
The athletes took full advantage of the opportunity, carving down seven runs of pristine powder in the heart of B.C.’s backcountry.
“Occasionally we get incredible skiers out here, but Brady Leman definitely took it to the next level,” Holt said.
Leman earned an Olympic gold this year in ski cross and said he has been back and forth touring Canada and Europe since returning from South Korea. Tuesday’s ski was a welcome break in the schedule.
“These are the days I dreamed about as a kid,” Leman said. “These were my favourite days growing up: racing and sneaking out onto the course and having a killer powder day.”
It wasn’t every athlete’s sport of expertise, however.
“Definitely there were some biffs,” luger Justin Snith said. “But if you’re not crashing, you’re not trying hard enough.”
It’s a rare time in their careers’ following an Olympic event, when athletes can take more physical risks.
“Four-year recovery, right?” McKeever joked.
“Today was probably one of the most fun and most epic days I’ve ever had,” Junio said. “I’m not a skier and seeing Brady rip down was pretty impressive.”
“Team Canada did awesome out there today,” Leman said. “It’s so cool to see the guys out there pushing themselves at something that’s pretty foreign to them.”