Within minutes of lifting off the helipad, we leave the lush forested landscape around Whistler and fly over the Pemberton Icefield en route to our set. Today’s “studio” will be an ice cave that is located 1,300 metres up on a snow-capped peak in British Columbia’s Coast Mountain Range.
We’re flying in two A-star helicopters that have been carefully packed with nine duffle bags of designer clothes.
“This cave was discovered 25 years ago, but it has likely been around for 10,000 or more years,” explains Paul Carus, our guide from Head-Line Mountain Holidays. “It’s our fourth year flying people here for day trips; before that, we had to snowmobile or trek our way in. Now it takes 20 minutes. People are always in a state of awe when they get here. It’s difficult to describe in words or capture in photographs—even professional ones don’t do it justice.”
As the videographer, I’m tasked with trying. I’m taking footage of the snowy landscape below when the pilot in the other helicopter says over the intercom, “Do you want us to do a dive for your video?” “Yes!” I reply, thinking this is my chance at the Mission: Impossible moment of my dreams. (Later, Owen Bruce, our photographer, recounted what it was like to be in that helicopter during its blockbuster flying moment. “I was already so excited that I felt a bit nauseous—and the aerial acrobatics didn’t help, that’s for sure,” he said. “This whole experience made me feel quite emotional as it was the pinnacle of a year’s worth of planning and dreaming coming to fruition!”)
Our arrival is surreal. We land on a desolate yet immensely beautiful snowfield surrounded by rocky hills. It feels like the moon scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, except instead of an eerie operatic hum, there’s the soothing sound of rushing water in the distance, and instead of a towering monolith, there’s a dark but inviting entrance carved into the snowy landscape. Now I know what Carus meant when he said it’s impossible to describe this glassy, undulating ice palace. Shafts of light pierce their way through the scalloped and translucent walls, casting an otherworldly turquoise glow. The ice is formed when meltwater streams carve their way through the base of the icefield, creating a labyrinth filled with icy sculptures and spires.
We walk along the small river inside the cave so that Owen and our creative director, Brittany Eccles, can scout a location for the first shot. Five photos later, it’s time for a picnic outside on the ice cap. After lunch, we return to an area in the cave known as “the Cathedral.” Inside this swirling shaft of crystalline blue ice, Owen snaps the cover shot with our model, Maartje Verhoef.
Around 5 p.m., we reluctantly climb back into the helicopters and leave this unforgettable frozen wonderland. On the flight back, Juliana Schiavinatto, our stylist, remarks that this is one of those “stay present experiences.” “It’s amazing,” adds Susana Hong, our makeup artist. “I can’t believe I get to experience these kinds of moments in my line of work.”
The pilot tells us to keep our eyes peeled for mountain goats, explaining that on constant trips back and forth, it’s a way to pass the time. Passing the time doesn’t interest me. I wish that time would suspend, like us, here in this moment hundreds of metres above a picturesque valley, a bed of clouds hanging lazily just out of reach—one last epic moment before the credits roll.
(For more information about this ice-cave adventure, check out Head-Line Mountain Holidays, see the entire photoshoot here, and check out behind the scenes below!)
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