Arts brief: Vertical Reference explores legacy of mountain rescue pilot

The Life of Legendary Mountain Helicopter Rescue Pilot Jim Davies

Mountain helicopter rescue pilot Jim Davies. Photo: handout

This arts brief first appeared in the February 2020 issue of the Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

By Kathy Calvert

We’re no strangers to heli-skiing in this part of the world. To say that Jim Davies, one of the pioneer pilots of the industry, isn’t either would be a massive understatement. In fact, fans of the activity have Davies to thank for many of the piloting techniques still used today.

Born and raised in Banff, Davies grew up skiing on Mount Norquay but found his true passion as a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot. He learned to fly in 1959 and spent years developing his skills in the Rockies and flying for legendary Austrian-born mountaineer and filmmaker Hans Gmoser. In the sixties, Gmoser founded the first commercial heliski operation and Davies was by his side.

Davies went on to pilot for the Canadian National Parks system, becoming the very first mountain rescue pilot to do so. Over his career as a rescue pilot, Davies became well-known for his groundbreaking work and received several awards, including the Helicopter Association International – Pilot Safety Award of Excellence, the Alberta Achievement Award for excellence in helicopter flying, the Summit of Excellence Awards at the Banff Film and Book Festival and the Robert E. Trimble Memorial Award.

Vertical Reference: The Life of Legendary Mountain Helicopter Rescue Pilot Jim Davies by Kathy Calvert is an exciting look at Davies’s life and adventures in the mountains.

A mountain pioneer herself, the author was one of the first female national park wardens in Canada, a member of the first all-women expedition to Mount Logan and the first all-women ski traverse of the Columbia Mountains from the Bugaboos to Rogers Pass.

Vertical Reference should be a fascinating read for those passionate about heliskiing or simply interested in learning more about a living legend of the Canadian Rockies. The book is published by Rocky Mountain Books and is set to be on shelves in May.