HELISKI.com Operator Interview: Great Canadian Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding
Small Groups, Unlimited Vertical, Flexible Dates and Easy from Calgary
1. How did you come up with your name? [tongue firmly in cheek]
The name comes from the experience people get from skiing/riding with us!
2. You are known as a boutique operator. What is different about Great Canadian Heli-Skiing?
Back in 2003 our owner, Greg Porter, first coined the term “boutique heli-skiing” to describe the format in which we ski. We have been around since 1988 and now a few others have also started using the same term. In 1988 we were the 1st heliskiing company in Canada to heliski exclusively in small groups of 4, then in 1994+1995 we tried out Unlimited Vertical then in 2006 we became the 1st company to incorporate it full-time in all packages.
What really separates us from the rest now is our FLEXIBILITY. Without doubt, we have the most flexibility in the Canadian heliskiing industry. With our location being the closest multi-day operation to an international airport (Calgary), most people can arrive mid-day and be eating dinner in our lodge that night and heli-skiing the very next day. Our guests can start ANY day of the week. And for ANY duration! We are the only company that offers this level of flexibility. This is a big advantage for time-sensitive people. We are here to accommodate our guests schedule!
3. Tell us about your format. 3 groups of 4 per machine and unlimited vertical, right?
Without doubt, the Small Groups format with Unlimited Vertical is the best way to heliski. People are now catching on that skiing in a group of 4 is much more fun than a large group, plus you get more skiing done and it’s easier to match up people of similar abilities.
4. What’s your average vertical for a week?
Our AVERAGE vertical in a week (6 days of skiing) is 141,000 ft! And note I said AVERAGE. So stronger skiers can ski more than that.
5. You are way to the East in BC. Compared to other British Columbia helicopter skiing, does that mean you get less snow, but it’s lighter?
It’s much lighter! And we get 46 feet of it every winter which is a huge amount. I think most people would prefer to ski dry, light, fluffy snow than a few more feet of heavier, wet snow. In addition, because of this we have WAY fewer down days. At Great Canadian, we average just 2 down days ALL SEASON long, so there’s more skiing and no need for snowcat backup….we’re here to heli-ski!
Eastern British Columbia Snow – Light and Dry
6. Describe the travel from the Calgary airport?
Getting here is super easy. Arrive into Calgary around lunch time, take the major highway in Canada (the TransCanada) and in 4 hours you have checked into our lodge. This saves you money as no extra city hotel nights are necessary, and most importantly, it means few travel days and more days you get to skiing!
7. Great Canadian Heli-Skiing is a little pricey compared to some Canada heliski options. How do you justify it?
So is a Porsche…. you get what you pay for! [I should never have told him what I drive]
The same with heli-skiing. When comparing heli-skiing operations, it is important to compare apples with apples. It’s illogical to compare us, with small groups, to an operation that has 12 people in a group, as our operational costs per person are much higher, however the experience is so much better. We want to provide a more personalised, intimate and tailor-made experience to each of our guests.
8. That is a cool lodge. How many guests can you accommodate at any one time?
We cap numbers at 24. We feel this is a perfect number. It also allows us to run 2 helicopters, each with 3 groups of 4 people.
9. Compare and contrast January, February and March at Great Canadian Heli-Skiing.
If you want super deep pow and steeper terrain, join us Dec to early Feb. If you prefer high alpine and glaciers, come in mid-March to April. If you are after a mixture, join us in February. Having said that, you can get any of those conditions at any stage of the season!
1, 2, 3, 4….plus Guide = 5
10. How many down days do you average per season?
Only 2 ALL SEASON LONG! We’ve even had a couple of winters when we have had ZERO down days!
11. Describe the terrain you ski and how it compares to other heli skiing Canada areas.
We have hundreds of heli ski runs, offering every type of terrain – glaciers, open bowls, gladed trees, pillow lines – and every slope angle and exposure. Great Canadian stands out in the industry because of the quality and accessibility of our terrain above our base at Heather Mountain Lodge (our heli-pads are at the lodge and the closest runs are just 60 seconds away!). One of our greatest assets are the burnt forests. This is where a forest fire has come through and destroyed all the undergrowth and small branches, leaving beautifully spaced tree trunks. This terrain often has the best snow conditions and it’s steeper. Even guests who don’t normally like tree skiing really enjoy our burnt forests.
Best Use of a Burnt Forrest!
12. What do you do to accommodate heliboarders?
I’m one of them! Also, our owner Greg Porter used to be on the Canadian National Snowboard team….although that was back when if you could do a 540 you’d get sponsored! [Oh, nice dis on the boss. Better give him credit for the photos at least]
Our guides are snowboard-aware, so they will avoid flat spots where possible and if there is a tricky transition, they will forewarn boarders.
We carry the Burton Fish, Malolo and Supermodel in our rental fleet. Fat skis and snowboards are included for free in our packages.
13. How many of your clients are fist timers?
We have quite a few first timers joining us. They are attracted to our Small Groups. It’s much less intimating than holding up a large group! And Advanced skiers/riders needn’t worry about being in a group with people of much lesser ability, as with the small group format it is much easier to group people of similar abilities…..and people often come with friends or family to make up their own private group of 4!
Great Canadian Heliskiing, Kicking Horse Resort, Calgary BC
14. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is nearby. Is it really the Jackson Hole of Canada?
Yes! Kicking Horse rocks! I’ve skied both extensively and the terrain difficulty breakdown is very similar. Kicking Horse has 4,131 feet of vertical, just 8 feet shy of Jackson’s. And like Jackson, what is designed as a blue run is often a black run elsewhere! We can create combination packages for our guests who want to combine a few days of resort skiing with a few days of heli-skiing.
15. Anything else you would like to add?
This winter is shaping up to be another BIG SNOW year. Reputable meteorologists are saying we are heading into another La Nina like last year….and last year was AMAZING! You will not want to miss heli-skiing this coming winter! Thanks TJ!
Thank you, Deane. I’m looking forward to taking you up on your invite.
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)
Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder
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