aBigQuestionMark

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The 1977 Alouette French helicopter bounces through the sky with all the grace of a tank. As it approaches, its rotors slice with an intense wump, wump, wump. We huddle together and brace ourselves. The pilot lands the beast, then lights a Marlboro, oblivious to the potent stench of jet fuel wafting from the machine.

As we look on anxiously, a mechanic saunters up and tops off the engine oil from a one-litre Fanta bottle. "Jesus," I mutter. American extreme-skiing champion Gordy Peifer glances at the heli, then at the pilot and shakes his head. "There's no way I'm getting in that thing," he says.

. ..As soon as we meet up with him, his friend Catri Naicu, his brother Silviu, and a crew of Romanian ski bums, our trip becomes a race across the Transylvanian Alps to some of Europe's wildest, least-known peaks.

With Peifer refusing to board the heli, tensions rise as the Romanians argue over who will fly with us. The plan is to scope the terrain around the 2,500-metre-high Parang Mountain, a massif with a half-dozen chutes and bowls to ski. With a per-capita income of less than $1,500 a year, the Romanians are contemplating the chance of a lifetime. . ...

Skiing in the Transylvanian Alps
CHRIS WINTER
THE TRANSYLVANIAN ALPS, ROMANIA— Special to The Globe and Mail
Published 2003
Last updated 2009

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