Alaska Snowboard Guides Interview – Heliboarding Innovators

Alaska Snowboard Guides Interview – Heliboarding Pioneers


  1. How do you differentiate Alaska Snowboard Guides from the other Alaska heli-skiing / heliboarding operators?


  • We founded Alaska Snowboard Guides on the idea we could operate on a better model. One that has our clients best interest in mind. That is why our packages offer the longest time to complete the amount of heliboarding / heli-skiing we sell of any operator in Valdez. You can always buy more heliboarding at a discounted rate after you complete your package.


  • We operate through out the range from 3 separate bases, which allows us to use the entire range with unmatched efficiency.


  • We treat our public ship like a private. That means we use the whole range not just a small circuit near our base like most operations.


  • We use a fuel truck in addition to our 3 bases for maximize efficiency. That allows us to take our public groups to terrain previously only skied by private helicopter groups. It also allows us to travel to the best weather. Beyond the “blue hole”…


  • We provided Free Demo gear for our inclusive packages.


  • We were the First operator in Valdez to provide airbags to All of our clients at no charge during their week.


  • We are the only operator to offer a Helicopter-Only package to keep prices affordable for anyone. If you don’t want to pay for high-end lodging and food – DON’T. We want to keep Valdez accessible.


  • We have been Pro Athletes, Clients, Guides and now Owners. Unlike any other operator we know what its like to spend our own money to go Heli-Skiing. “Here’s my money – please make my dreams come true.” This gives us a perspective that only a client can understand.


  • We are the only operator that truly caters to snowboarders – Why would you ride with anyone else? That said we offer amazing ski guides too. Honestly we don’t care what you ride….
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  1. Let’s do the numbers. Why do you say your heliboarding pricing is the best value?

We offer 4 Personal Hobbs Flight hours per Week long package. The Classic is $6,495 US, and is the least expensive package for this amount of Flight time. It also allows our heli skiers / heliboarders 7 days to complete their package. When they do they are welcome to buy more skiing. Why buy runs or hours you may not get to use in the event of weather?

Lets say you choose our inclusive package… You can ski Heli Ski with us for 2 weeks for about the price of one week at our competitor’s lodges.


  1. So the Classic Package is heli-only and Inclusive has lodging, breakfast, transportation, and demo gear, right?


The Classic is designed for people who would like to Rent an RV or have other lodging arrangements in Valdez. Many of our clients love RV’s. The adventure and flexibility are unmatched. The Inclusive has Heli Lunches, too. We can add custom menu catered meals for groups of 4 or larger. Prices depend on menu selections.


  1. Why does Alaska Snowboard Guides only offer 7-day heliboarding packages?


Due to the nature of weather in Alaska we believe that this offers the best opportunity for clients to complete their package. We prefer for our heliboarding clients to go home happy and satisfied, not upset that they were sold too much skiing for ant given week. Sitting inside for 3 days in a row is not what you come to Alaska for but the reality is that is can happen. We feel that selling 3 and even 5 day packages can be a recipe for disappointment.

We know what the weather is really like in Alaska. Some operators claim 90% Fly rates but in our experience Flying a low quality run in Flat light is not what people come to Alaska to experience. If someone wants to book a shorter package we can create a custom package but we want to talk to them at length and discuss the reality of weather so they understand the risk. Over time this forthright approach will benefit both ASG and its clients.

heliboading alaska

  1. What do you offer for ski and heli snowboard demos?

We offer Lib Tech Powder skis. For those who are not familiar with them their patented Magna Traction technology provides amazing control on all snow surfaces. Our Ski Guides love them and they have quickly become the favorite for most of our clients including many former ski racers. Simply put – They are Incredible.

We offer Lib Tech Snowboards and Union Bindings

– Birdman 160,165,170,180
– T- Rice
– Jamie Lynn Rat Tail

– Gnu Barret Christy


  1. Which board(s) do you like for heliboarding deep snow?


All of the guides ride the Lib Tech “Birdman.” That said as a rule of thumb we tell people to bring a board that is at least 10Cm longer than their normal resort board. We offer a wide range of suitable demo boards from LIBTECH and GNU


  1. Tell us about your Custom Heliboarding Packages?


We are willing to create custom packages of any length for our public helicopter or private helicopter. We offer Helicopter Boat trips. Heli assisted ski touring, Snowmobile assisted skiing and touring. Remote Base camp trips. Fully catered Heli Glamping. Inclusive packages with custom catered private dining. Remote exploration heli-skiing and snowboard from any location in Alaska. Anything you can dream up we can do it!


  1. What is your mix of heliboarders and heliskiers?


It’s 50/50 on most weeks. Our Guide ratio is about the same, half boarders, half skiers.


  1. Is the Blue Hole on the leeward side of Thompson Pass real?


The light grey hole? Well they do “window shop” in grey light across the street from their base quite often. The run is less than desirable, that said its not just their terrain we are permitted to operate there too. We tend to go further north than that for better light and more terrain diversity. Remember our fuel truck?


  1. What are the dates of your heliboarding season?


March – April


  1. Where do your heli snowboarding / heli skiing guests stay?


The Chugach Suites. The Finest lodging available in Valdez

These 500 square foot suites that feature:
– Bed rooms and Bath rooms separated from main living area – Full kitchens
– Living area
– Couch/Coffee table
– Washer dryer
– Work Station


  1. How many lifts do you run?

It depends on group Fitness but when it blue we shoot for 8 or more.


  1. Got trees?


No one in Valdez has Heli skiable / heli snowboard-able trees.


  1. How does a strong El Nino affect Valdez heliskiing/heliboarding?


This El Nino is unlike any before, due to the warm water mass that is so far North. That said, we are expecting another great season per our long term forecasters.


  1. How long have you been operating / guiding?


We have been operating for 5 years. Our Lead Guides Experience in Heliboarding varies from 5 to nearly 20 seasons.


Cool. Thanks, Dave.




Heliskiing Criteria Series – How to Pick the Best Heliskiing. #2 – When to Go

How to Pick the Best Heli Skiing Criteria #2:   When to Go Heliskiing / Heliboarding

Best Heli-Skiing:  When to Go

British Columbia heliskiing operates January to early April.  Whistler and a few others offer December days.  The Christmas to New Years week is also available from some operators.  Primetime is February, but January and March are usually very good, can can be less expensive.
the best heli skiing, heliskiing powder

  • Some say January best kept secret in the heliskiing industry. Most guides and operators will tell you this is their favorite heliskiing of the season.
  • Colder – So you may have to bundle up, but you may get drier, lighter powder
  • Short days – This can limit your vertical; which is bad if you are paying for unlimited vertical. It’s also worse the farther you go North.  Alaska gets twice as much light at the end of their ‘season’ as they do in the beginning!   And the Alaska heliskiing season is March & April.
  • Snowpack /Coverage /Stability – Not usually a problem unless it’s a lean year, or you are very early in January.       Early season will have fewer boundary layers, but may also be relatively unsettled.   Expect to heliski more trees and less high alpine, bowls and glaciers.
  • Price – early January and late March are the best heliskiing deals going. Early April is a very good deal, and many heliski operators would keep going if demand existed. The ‘prime’ weeks are now bleeding into late January and early March.



  • Warmer – usually very comfortable. Be aware that late season can include ‘corn snow’ in addition to or instead of powder. And too warm can make south-facing slopes ski like mashed potatoes.
  • Longer Days – Think huge vertical and tired legs. 40-45K vertical feet in a day is possible! If you choose Unlimited Vertical, you can really rack up the vert.
  • Coverage/Stability/Terrain – By March, everything is skiable. Some cornices may build up, but stability is usually very good.  Spring heliskiing usually includes a heavy dose of high alpine / glacier skiing. Runs so smooth and consistent that you may want to bring something to read…..kidding.  I have counted 50 turns with my eyes closed, however.
  • Price – Not as cheap as  early January, but the later you go, the better the price.


  • Many heliski operators lament that everyone switches to golf and tennis, even though winter is still going strong in Canada.   Early April can be great.  Some lodges stay open and few heilskiers makes for fast laps!


Alaska has a much later season.  Some operators open in February.  Prime time is March and April.  Some will accommodate early May.  It may be corn snow, however.  There is twice as much sunlight at the end of the season than at the beginning.

This is the second in the HELISKI.com Series on how to select the best heliskiing trip.
If you are thinking about a trip this season, give me a call or email.   I’m happy to give you free input.


We are here to help.  When you are ready to consider heliskiing or heliboarding,
email tj@HELISKI.com or answer 4 questions, or Skype HELISKI.com.
We will get back you with the best available trips and pricing that meets your requirements.


HELISKI.com Operator Interview: Black Ops Valdez Heli-Skiing – A Unique Approach to Alaska Heli-Skiing

Black Ops Valdez Heli-Skiing – HELISKI.com Interview

Valdez Heliskiing with Black Ops Valdez Alaska

Tom:             My first question is really deep. [Laughs] What’s the history Black Ops Valdeez Heli-Skiing?

Tabatha:        [Laughs] Well do you want the short story or the long story?  First off we built the lodge, Robe Lake Lodge.  That was the first step.  Our ultimate goal was to provide a more personal all inclusive “Alaskan” type experience for skiers and snowboarders in Valdez.  My husband worked for one of the other ops for several years after we moved here in 2004, and so we saw the type of product that was already being offered.  Some of the ops at the time were shady, and the clients were getting dropped off at hotels in town until their next ski day, not really much offered for down days…you could tell a lot of the clients had higher expectations for their Valdez heli skiing experience.  That was the niche we hoped to fill.

vadez heli-skiing Valdez Heliskiing Alaska heliskiing, Valdez Heli-Skiing Lodge

My husband had a construction business in the summers and I worked two full time jobs for many years to make it happen.  We opened the lodge in 2009 year-round, to also accommodate summer visitors, but our real dream was to open our own Valdez heliskiing op.  We did try to team up with a couple of other operators to offer lodging to their clients, but it just didn’t materialize.  That also motivated us to take action and move forward with the heliski business.  We had a couple of snowmachines already, and bought a couple of vintage snowcats that work great, so we started out offering snowcat and snowmachine skiing and tours with lodging packages.  That got us off the ground, and after a couple of years we were ready to add the heliskiing into the mix.


Tom:  I highly recommend this Black Ops Valdez heliski porn:



Tom:             And so how did your partner Aaron get involved?

Tabatha:         (Laughs)…another long story…Alaska is really like a small town even though it’s such a big state.  So we ended up staying at the Knik River Lodge in the summer of 2012 for a couple of nights and talked to the owner for a while.  Some of the TGR crew had stayed with us earlier that spring while filming The Dream Factory, and they also had a crew out of that area for some time as well.  So in talking with the lodge owner he told us about this guy Aaron Ollivier, and his then heli op, the Valdez Heli Experience.  He said he’d be a good guy for us to reach out to and see if we could team up somehow.  So that’s how the whole thing started with partnering up.


As for Aaron’s heliskiing op history, he started out heli skiing in Canada, and then got turned on to Alaska and skied with Valdez Heli Camps for a while.  He tried to buy out VHC, but well, let’s just say that didn’t go as planned.  VHC went out of business, so he ended up getting a bum deal out of it and decided to start his own heliskiing op, which turned into Valdez Heli Experience.  He only ran that for a short season in 2012, then we started our talks over the phone.  He came up in 2013 to ski with us and see how we operate, and we got to know each other a lot better.  It just seemed like we had the same vision for what could and should be a great heli skiing experience out of Valdez.  After that we decided to basically merge our companies and partner up and it’s been great.  Aaron is a successful entrepreneur, so he has a lot of experience to draw from business wise, and a lot of contacts that he’s made over the years, so he’s really been a great partner to have.  Plus he is totally stoked on Valdez heli skiing, so that is always great to have someone that is super enthusiastic about your business as a partner.


Tom:             Cool. So Black Ops started out doing sleds, and cat skiing?

Tabatha:         Yeah, my husband started out doing sled skiing as a down day option for the operation he was working for about 8 years ago, that was Valdez Heli Ski Guides.  He also did some other stuff like firearms shooting with clients when the ships couldn’t fly.  He worked for them for 7 seasons I think, then we bought the cats after we built the lodge and started doing our own thing, so that was the winter of 2010-2011 if I remember right.  Josh has a degree in Parks, Rec, Tourism and Commercial Recreation Management, so that’s his background anyway.


Tom:             So do you operate from Robe Lake Lodge? And where is that exactly?

Tabatha:        We actually have our base of operations at 16 mile of the Richardson Highway.  The lodge is at mile 6, so it’s really close, only about a 10 minute drive from the lodge.  We’ve got DNR and BLM permits for heli skiing, and cat skiing, and a few more permits for staging areas or landing zones up on Thompson Pass.  Our cat terrain is actually huge; we can basically run from tidewater Valdez to mile 45 of the Richardson Highway, so that’s pretty cool.  And we bought a bunch of stuff from ABA after they closed down, so we dubbed our base at 16 mile Keystone Village and have a lot of plans to make that a really great spot for our clients and staff starting this season.  Yeah, I guess we’re pretty spread out when I list it all out like that.  It’s really great though because we’ve got a buffer from the other ops, but we’re still in a great location to base the heli from.


Tom:             Huh. Alright, so then you’ve got a BLM permit which you can also heli in, no problem?

Tabatha:        Yeah. I mean, most of our terrain is actually on State of Alaska DNR land, but it’s great to have the BLM permit too so there’s less restriction for where we can fly.  Basically we don’t have to be so careful to avoid the BLM zones because we’re permitted to fly there too.


Tom:             Cool. How big is the area tenure or whatever?

Tabatha:        Um, well it’s the whole Chugach, you want acres? (laughs)  It’s a huge area…


Tom:             Oh.

Tabatha:        So our snowcat permits are good right now until 2017, but the heli skiing permits are basically renewed annually.


Tom:             Is it different up there? Like can you drop people off in the Rendezvous area H2O, and the Valdez Heli-Ski Guides area?

Tabatha:        Yeah, so the terrain is all public lands, so yeah, all the ops can operate in the same areas.


Tom:             So it’s free-for-all?

Tabatha:        You know it’s different than other places in the world because the Chugach is so vast.  Really, there’s no reason for the operators to be right on top of each other, it just doesn’t make sense from an operational standpoint when there’s soooo much terrain.  So I wouldn’t describe it like a free-for-all because for the most part the ops will stick to areas closer to their own base.


Tom:             Close to home, yeah.

Tabatha:        Yeah, for the most part, but you can go wherever.  If you have a DNR permit then you can go anywhere on the state land, and with a BLM permit you can go anywhere on those lands, so that is really most of the area around where we operate.  We just try to keep it professional and respectful with the other operators and if we’re going to an area that’s near their base, we’ll let them know, and vice versa.  You know, there’s some well-known classic lines out there that everyone wants to ski, and we can take you there, it’s not off limits just because it’s in the “back yard” of another operation.  I think some of the other ops may try to misrepresent that though.


Tom:             That’s interesting.  But everybody probably stays close to home because it’s cheaper to fly, right?

Tabatha:        Exactly.


Tom:             Yeah, in fact I remember…I skied with Rendezvous [Alaska Rendezvous Guides] I think we could see the parking lot at almost every run.

Tabatha:        Oh, really? Wow.


Tom:             Yeah, I mean, we stayed really close.

Tabatha:        Huh.


Tom:             Yeah. You’d have lunch, you go right back up to the next run. Plus they had this run called Cry Babies, because they would take people there for the first run to make sure they could hang, right?

Tabatha:        (Laughs)


Tom:             And people would be bitching about it, and then they’d take them off, you know, depending on their skill level.

Tabatha:        But you can stay on Cry Babies all day long, right?


Tom:             That’s right. And yeah, you get some groups lapping on Cry Babies….  I’m sure everybody’s happy.

Tabatha:        [Laughs] Some of the runs we do we can see the whole harbor and the whole sound, like “From Summit to the Sea”, they have some great views.  So you know that is one of the cool things about our base location, is that we kind of have the best of both worlds.  I mean we’re easy access to the Pass, but we can also fly towards town depending on the weather.


Tom:             Yeah. So are you a believer in the Blue Hole that Rendezvous [Alaska Rendezvous Guides] is always talking about where you get better weather up on the pass and therefore you ski more days?

Tabatha:        Yes and no.  I mean, there are a number of locations that tend to clear out quicker after weather, Rendezvous is one, but also the Tsaina, our base location at Keystone Village and Robe Lake all tend to get the blue holes.  At least they seem to clear out faster than most other areas of the range, probably the topography, more or less…


Tom:             So you charge by the Hobbs [helicopter flight hour]. That’s unusual in BC but is that catching on more in Alaska?

Tabatha:        I don’t know that it’s catching on, but we like it.  It’s really transparent, different from number of run programs or vertical feet which can be skewed or tallied in such a way as to benefit the operator and not the client.  So to oversimplify, a Hobbs meter is really similar to a taxi cab meter.  My husband likes to say “you pay to fly up whatever you ski down”.


Tom:             I like that. You know, as a marketing guy I appreciate all the different pricing models, but that cost base is the one that I think makes the customer feel best.


Tabatha:        It definitely makes the most sense to us, and a lot of our clients really like the structure.  It also allows the client to have more input on where their money is being spent.  I mean, say they’ve always wanted to ski XYZ peak, but it’s a little farther away than we’ve been skiing, if they want to pay the extra Hobbs to get there, we can do it.


Tom:             Um, and so it’s difficult I think on the other hand for people to figure out how that compares, right?

Tabatha:        Totally.  And we’re learning that when customers are calling it’s taking an education.  It takes time to explain what Hobbs is, when it’s being spent or used, things of that nature.  But generally, we average one Hobbs hour a day.  That’ll typically give you five to six runs, but I have seen up to eight runs when the groups were kept really tight.

Tom:             Okay, so cat backup, I know I did one day in a cat up there during a storm, and if it was not the worst day of my life – its right up there.

Tabatha:        Yeah…visibility?

Tom:             You can’t see anything.  And the snow was like setting cement!

Tabatha:        Yeah, sometimes it can be pretty bad.


Tom:             So do you have trees?  You have runs that can be done on a whiteout?

Tabatha:        Yeah, we have a lot to choose from.  We’ve got alpine areas when the weather is good and then we have spruce and alder trees that help for definition when the weather and visibility are not good.  We can pretty much operate along 40 miles of highway and pipeline access, so there are lots of options.  I’d guess that we have the largest area for cat skiing of any operation in Alaska.  One of our favorite spots is on a mountain called Sugarloaf closer to town.  We’ve had some great pow days over there, and the terrain is fun for a variety of skill levels.  Some steeper areas with cliff drops, some pillows, some tree skiing and some mellow pitches too.


Tom:             Yeah. That’s cool. And I’m guessing same thing with your sleds.

Tabatha:        Sort of.  I mean, we can get to tree skiing for those bad vis days with the sleds, but there’s even more areas that we can access with snowmachines than the cat, just because of the type of machine.  What really plays into that is the logistics of the group.  If there’s a larger group, the snowcat makes the most sense because we can transport people more efficiently to maximize the skiing for everyone.  Alternately, if there are only a few people on a certain day, and the weather’s not that bad, they might be better off doing some sled bumps and get to some terrain that could be a little more challenging.  Although they might have to wait for their friends to get shuttled up, so there’s a few things for us to consider before we make the call on which way to go.  We have lots of other down day activities that we can do to.  Shooting is a popular one, especially with folks from other countries.


Tom:             You know, I remember getting out of the chopper on a place where it wasn’t big enough for us to put our skis on at the same time.  We had to take turns. And then I looked around in all directions and I could not tell which way we were going. It was that steep. I couldn’t get over it.

Tabatha:        [Laughs] Yeah, I suppose Valdez is known for that type of terrain through magazines and movies, it’s definitely out there.  But there’s lots of more mellow terrain too, and I guess when I say mellow, I don’t mean beginner, just not extreme.  You know there’s so much terrain, you don’t have to be an extreme or pro skier to ride in Valdez, there’s lots to choose from for a variety of skill levels.  I hear from a lot of people that don’t think they can come ski here because they’re not pro, but that’s totally not the case.  But I think part of the fun for me, and actually for a lot of clients, is getting out of the heli, getting the rotor wash in your face, and looking down like, “Holy crap, where are we going?”

Tom:             [Laughs] Yeah, right. Don’t drop your gloves!  I think that’s one of the coolest things when they just get up to the edge, tilt, and go straight down the fall line. I mean, that’s got to be as good a ride as what we’re getting on skis.


Tom:             I thought the sled thing sounded like a good deal. How does the price compare from sled to cat to heli?

Tabatha:        Its $300 a day to go sled skiing or cat skiing, and we’ll usually make the call on which mode of transportation based on the size of the group, weather, snow conditions, logistics.  Whatever makes the most sense…and we’ll discuss the options with the clients too and see what’s going to work for everyone.

Tom:             That’s cheap.

Tabatha:         Yeah, not too bad.


Tom:             So how about the lodge/cabin? Tell me the setup there.  It looks really nice.

Tabatha:        Yeah, the lodge is great. We’ve got a separate website for that, RobeLakeLodge.com.  We’re open year round and we’ve got a great view overlooking Robe Lake and mountain views in pretty much every direction.  Even got to see some really sweet Northern Lights from the hot tub one night.  It’s not huge, but that’s kind of the nice thing about it, it’s really a comfortable place for our guests to base their trip out of, lots of Alaskan and ski related décor, big screen TV, great food…


Tom:             I’m curious about your thoughts on avalanche danger in Alaska versus BC.  Do you think it’s any greater?

Tabatha:        Wow, that’s hard to answer.  There are so many factors that contribute to avalanche danger, and safety, so it’s difficult to compare.  I think Valdez is unique in its snowpack, and unique in a good way.  We have a maritime snowpack that can stick to some pretty steep slopes, and will maintain stability.  But the biggest thing that I attribute toward avy danger or safety is experience.  We recruited some heli skiing veterans through the closure of a couple of the other operators, so even though our heli operation is fairly young, our guide team is really a stellar collaboration of experience, both in heli skiing throughout the world and specifically to Valdez.  So that’s really cool.  You know we’re also becoming members of US HeliSki to get on board with where the industry is going.  I think more regulation is coming, and we want to be at the forefront and not get ambushed by all kinds of new procedures, so we’re really making an effort to take our procedures and protocols to the next level…I think I side stepped the question though (laughs).


Tom:             Okay, so another Alaska versus BC question…Why is it that you do only five or seven really long runs in a day?  Is it because of the way you ski one at a time and you’re sort of traversing all over?  Like on a good day in BC you can do 15 or 17, they’re shorter, I know.

Tabatha:        So I haven’t ever heli skied in BC, so I’m not sure how the program works over there, but the runs here can be pretty long.  3000-5000 vert is pretty common, which can be kind of long for some people.  It probably has a lot to do with the whole logistics of moving groups around; keeping safe distances from other skiers, maybe there’s a different way of doing things there?  I know I’ve seen some pics with like 15 ski tracks all stacked together down a slope, and we definitely don’t operate quite like that, we usually spread out the groups a bit more.  We try not to hit the same LZ more than once a day.  Skiing one at a time is standard for Valdez, so maybe that takes longer, yeah, I’m not really sure what the exact answer is, but all of those factors come into play.

We can do 15 runs in a day on a good day too, especially with good skiers, and later in April when there’s longer fly days.  But in general we try not to overwork the clients.  We’ve got clients skiing a full week, so generally they want to pace themselves a bit.  I think the demographic has changed a lot over the past 10 years too.  It seems like the amount of skiing that we get in a day is enough for most clients, the runs are long, and so it’s a solid day of skiing out there.  I guess that’s another cool thing about running with Hobbs time, because if everyone out there is strong and wants to keep skiing, we can do a few more runs if everyone is down for that.  And if it looks like weather is coming in for the next couple of days, we’ll run a longer day and burn more hours while we can.  But to do 15 runs you’d burn 2 or 3 Hobbs, so…


Tom:             Yeah, I like the idea of only hitting one LZ a day. That’s cool.

Tabatha:        That’s one of the ways we differentiate ourselves from other operators.  We don’t put you on the same landing zone five times in a day.


Tom:             So how are you doing your marketing?

Tabatha:        Right now we are mostly through our website and social media.  We’ve got a pretty good following on Facebook (like) and Instagram, Twitter (follow) , stuff like that.  We have our website, and run some online marketing campaigns, and then we have a newsletter that we’ve been trying to pump out about once a month, building our mailing list.  And we’ve actually had a lot of business turn up from word of mouth through the industry, our involvement with TGR for The Dream Factory, stuff like that, and we get quite a bit of local Alaskan business just from living here year round and talking to people.  I think our name is starting to be better known in Anchorage and Fairbanks for sure.


Tom:             You know, you may not want to hear it but I’ll often try to talk somebody out of going to Alaska.  If they’ve never been heli skiing in Canada or Alaska, or if they’ve never been heli-skiing, I’d say, you know, that’s probably not the first place to go.

Tabatha:        You’re right; I don’t want to hear that! (laughs)  Seriously though, there really is terrain for lots of ability levels, it’s not all extreme.  Probably the weather would be one factor to consider when comparing Alaska versus other places, but this year has been crazy weather just about everywhere, so hey….


Tom:             Yeah right?  So we heard all about the huge avalanche that closed off the road in and out of Valdez, so how did that affect you guys?

Tabatha:        You know the media blows it up, Valdezians are pretty tough, it takes a lot to get us worked up, but it was pretty hairy there for a few days.  The Damalanche…that’s what Valdez dubbed it since it was essentially an avalanche that became a dam…anyway our heli base area at mile 16 of the Richardson Highway was pretty much ground zero for that whole mess.  The avalanche occurred right down the road, and the water that was backed up due to the snow dam was super close to flooding out our cabins that we just put there in October.  My husband and I and the kids had all gone to Anchorage on Thursday, and the avalanche happened on Friday, so we got stuck there for 3 nights before we got on the ferry back to Valdez.  But while we were there we were getting all these reports, and at one point we were told that our cabins were completely submerged, so we were waiting for them to all float down the river, pretty stressed about that, you know…But as it turned out they stayed dry through the whole thing.  They had to wait about 5 or 6 days before they could start clearing the snow, then it only took them 4 or 5 days and they opened the road back up…the water got awful close though.  There are a few videos on YouTube that show the water and the avalanche and our cabins are right there in the footage.

Tom:             (Laughs) Wow, that’s crazy.  Well I think that’s all the questions I had for you.

Tabatha:        Cool, well thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me!

Tom:             Alright, great talking to you.  Cheers.


ShipSkis from ShipSticks – No Hassle Ski Shipping. HELISKI.com Interview

Ship Skis HELISKI.com Interview

heliskiing shipping

We discovered the coolest way to get your skis to your heliski (or resort) destinationShip Skis.   Yesterday they emailed me a shipping label which I printed and handed to a FedEx driver along with my ski bag – stuffed with clothes and my powder boards.   I will rendezvous with them at Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing on Sunday…then they will be picked up from Great Canadian Heli-Skiing the following week.  No schlepping, bag fees, roof racks, bellmen…..brilliant!

ship heliskis now logoheliski bag pick up

They pick up and deliver….anywhere.  They handle everything and are around if you need them.  They can do it in a day or slower/cheaper.  I asked if they had thought about golf clubs…..yeah, a long time ago.

Ship Skis: You asked about golf clubs, and that’s how the whole business was based. Our parent company, Ship Sticks, was created two years ago. That took off and did extremely well, so we kind of started to branch out into other sectors, and that’s how it came about, Ship Skis. So Ship Skis is…this is really our first ski season that we’ve been in full operation. So it’s going extremely well and we’re excited about it, so.

TJ: Hey, that’s cool.  So Ship Sticks, how many sticks do you ship in a year? That kind of sounds like a tongue-twister, doesn’t it?

Ship Skis: It does. I mean, and to be quite honest with you, we do, I mean, between skis, luggage and sticks, it’s hundreds of thousands of shipments a year. So it’s extremely successful and it’s taken off in every aspect, and we couldn’t be happier.

TJ: And it seems like bikes is another one that I would be interested in. Do you do bikes?

Ship Skis: It’s funny because I have kind of taken on the Ship Skis project here within the company, and as we started to meet with the resorts and as we started to create relationships with some of these ski areas, that’s the first question that they ask above and beyond skis, was, “Do you guys ship bikes?” And the answer to that is yes, we do absolutely ship bikes.

TJ: So how does it work?

Ship Skis: So basically the way Ship Skis works is it’s a door-to-door shipment service. We’re obviously partnered with UPS and FedEx, so they’re the ones that’ll actually be doing the ski shipping, luggage or boots or whatever ski unit that you decide that you want to ship, including snowboards. But we basically manage the technology aspect of it. So unlike some other sites that are out there, you know, where you call them or you go on their website and you process your shipment, they’re going to send you in the mail a shipment label, whereas with Ship Skis, our technology is integrated with UPS and FedEx where it automatically generates the shipping label for you. So it’s instantaneous. So you could schedule a shipment the morning of the day you needed to have it picked up, and it would schedule the pickup for you as well as generate the label right for you right then and there. So you’re not having to plan this out several days in advance. Obviously, you can do so, but you also have the option to drop it off if you don’t want to be home or you had other errands to run. You could also drop it off at any UPS or FedEx store if that’s easier for you.

TJ: So what countries do you operate in?

Ship Skis: Worldwide.  It’s international for all the luggage, skis and golf. Some countries can be a little cost-prohibitive just because of the taxes, tariffs and that kind of thing.

TJ: And do you run…I know going in and out of Canada sometimes they want to know are these promotional items and there’s all kinds of strange nuances depending on the country, right?

Ship Skis: Right. So, unfortunately, with international shipments we’re unable to do that online at this point just because of the custom paperwork and that kind of stuff that has to be done. But we do do it over the phone. We still email you the shipping labels and the custom paperwork right away. But we handle all customs for you. I mean, so it’s kind of I’d say a convenience/concierge type of service as well where you don’t have to sit there and fill out forms and do all that stuff. It’s all automated and emailed right to you. All you have to do is really just to make sure that it’s attached to the skis or luggage that you’re shipping and the way it goes. And if there are any issues with customs, we handle that inside of UPS and/or FedEx.

TJ: That’s cool.  Canada?


Skis: Yes, absolutely.   Canada, we know you know, Canada is probably one of the easiest countries to ship in and out of from an international standpoint.

TJ: Got it. You know, over 90% of heli-skiing is in Canada.

Ship Skis: Right.

TJ: How far in advance do you pick them up?

Ship Skis: It really just depends on, you know, the time of transit, where the individual is shipping from and to. So, I mean, I would say an international round shipment into Canada is going to take anywhere from four to six business days. Now, we do have a couple of other options, you know, an economy and a priority. I mean, so technically it could get there in one day and it could take as long as six days, you know, just depending on how you plan in advance and how soon that you them at that location.

TJ: One day, that’s awesome!  So if my wife says, “Oh, you can’t have the big car to go to the airport,” I could call you guys and say, “Can you get my skis there?” And you would say….

Ship Skis: “Yeah, absolutely.”

TJ: That is awesome. That’s amazing.

Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely.

TJ: Oh, can you pack it with other stuff?  I guess it’s pretty obvious if it’s FedEx and UPS.

Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, basically what it comes down to from a pricing standpoint is weight, you know.  We really don’t care what’s inside the bag, so much as much as it weighs. So we have a single ski option, we have a double ski option. Can you throw in some clothes, a helmet and that kind of stuff? Yeah, absolutely, you can. Now, the single ski can’t weigh any more than 25 pounds. That’s what we list on our website. We do have a five-pound cushion, so technically you can go up to 30 pounds.  -So yeah, absolutely. If you need to throw some extra gloves or hats or whatever it may be in there, you’re more than welcome to do so.

TJ: Yeah, because a lot of these…sometimes the second flight you take, they are limited to the weight and the size of the bag. And I’ve seen them leave skis and boards in Vancouver, and you get to where you’re going and they say, “Sorry, we were a little over on that flight, but they’ll show up tomorrow.” [Laughs]

Ship Skis: Right, yeah.

TJ: Yeah, so I’m thinking just bulk stuff, you know? Like various layers and soft goods and that sort of thing. You might as well just stick them in there and save yourself schlepping the bag.

Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you could stick it all in one bag. Some people have large duffel bags. Some people have just the slimmer ones, and then they’ll pack a separate piece of luggage and ship luggage with it as well as a suitcase, so you could just wrap the tag around it and send it on its way, you’re good to go.

TJ: I flew in to Terrace with one of the owners of Northern Escape Heli-Skiing and he had a carry-on bag. [Laughs] I couldn’t believe it!

Ship Skis: Really?

TJ: He goes heli-skiing with a carry-on, yeah.

Ship Skis: Oh, that’s amazing.

TJ: It was amazing. And you always carry your boots on, of course.

Ship Skis: Sure, sure, absolutely.

TJ: Oh, so let’s say I’m going to go to this place in Revelstoke, it’s really a hotel, where do they keep the bags before I arrive?

Ship Skis: So more than likely they’ve had items shipped in there before, and a majority of the resorts that we’ve worked with from a bulk standpoint and as we began to grow Ship Skis as well, these resorts that we work with on a ski basis, if we’re not partnered with them, we’ll call them on your behalf ahead of time to make them aware that, “Hey, Mr. Jackson is  going to be staying with you on this date and this date. He’s going to be shipping in his skis and any other ski gear that he’s decided to ship with us. One, is that okay? Two, are there any fees involved? Really, we have yet to have an issue with these except for Las Vegas. Some of the hotels in Las Vegas from a golf club standpoint will say, “Okay, it’s going to be 25 dollars a day to hold it.” Some people don’t mind it, some people do. But we like to make them aware of it ahead of time so they’re not saying, “Hey, you got to let me know this.”

TJ: Yeah.

Ship Skis: So at the end of the day, if we’re not partnered with them, we definitely give them a call, we make sure it’s okay and make sure there’s no issues, and just make them aware that, “Hey, Mr. Jackson is going to be shipping in as well as shipping out on these dates, so you’re aware.”  And nine times out of 10 it’s not an issue with the hotel as long as the guest is staying there at the hotel.

TJ: You’ll probably get more business from our clients with the Ship Sticks than the Ship Skis because they fly all over the place and play a lot more golf than they do heli-skiing. Most people take one heli-ski trip a year.

Ship Skis: Sure, sure, I understand.

TJ: I just thought of something else. You know, one of the things that surprises me about heli-skiing is that the operators give you really crappy ski poles. I don’t know why that is but they’re all these old, fat, heavy aluminum things like you would get at a rental shop in the eighties, and I don’t understand it.

Ship Skis: Sure.

TJ: So I would think shipping your own poles would make perfect sense and you’d throw them in with your skis.

Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, at the end of the day, I mean, we’ll never turn business away. No matter what it is, we’re happy to ship it.

TJ: Yeah, I’m thinking you’re shipping your skis, might as well throw your poles in there and get decent poles while you’re at it.

Ship Skis: Exactly. Exactly. So it’s our goal to make it as easy as possible on the client, to make sure that they enjoy their travels to where it is that they’re going and that they don’t have to worry about sitting in a baggage claim and being nickeled and dimed by the airlines these days. So in some instances we do get a phone call that, “Hey, the airline’s charging me 35 bucks. You guys are 49 dollars.” Yeah, we understand that, but at what point are you going to pay the extra 15 dollars and say, “Okay, I don’t need that kind of rental car anymore because my skis are there?” And it becomes a convenience factor especially with skis and golf clubs, especially when you have a family of five that you’re going skiing with or a group of guys who need to rent a van. So just the whole process just makes it easier on everybody.

TJ: Amen to that. I mean, schlepping them is really the hassle. I’ve had to go stand by in a Vancouver airport for like 48 hours straight waiting on each flight coming up, trying to get on it…

Ship Skis: Wow.

TJ: …and had I had skis with me, it would have been a huge pain in the butt.

Ship Skis: And that’s how we really created our first partnership, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the Oregon coast.  Because it was so difficult to get in and out of there out of small planes. They partnered with us and recommended to everybody to ship with ShipSticks.com in and out because our delivery rate of 98% versus people shoving people on the small planes saying, “You can’t take those, we don’t have room,” is much more significant than us getting them there. So they are one of our strongest partners just because of the inconvenience of traveling and getting to those locations, and I imagine that’s the same aspect with the heli-skiing, is that you’re going to some locations where you’re taking smaller planes and things like that to get in and out of there.

TJ: Well, and sometimes a helicopter, but yeah, it strikes me that the golf clubs are even more critical because they’re much more personalized and difficult to replace.

Ship Skis: Exactly. Exactly.

TJ: So what about insurance? What if my sticks don’t show up where I’m going?

Ship Skis: Sure. Basically that’s…and that’s one of the benefits of using Ship Sticks or Ship Skis, and what makes us so different from FedEx and UPS.  You know, obviously besides price—we’re cheaper than both FedEx and UPS—is that all of our shipments come standard with a baseline of insurance. So, for instance, skis come standard with 500 dollars of insurance and golf clubs come standard with 1000 dollars of insurance. And then, for a nominal fee, you have the ability to purchase up to 3500 dollars on each item of additional insurance should you need it. And let’s say that a driver or a ski is damaged – we handle everything on your behalf with UPS Capital Claims. So that’s where our insurance is through. So you’re not sitting there playing phone tag with them and going back and forth. We handle everything for you…

TJ: Yeah, my Delta Airlines story, right? Did you…?

Ship Skis: Yeah, I saw that., did they lose them completely? Are they gone?

TJ: It was funny, when I got there—I was going to Florida. I had business for a few days, and when I went to play golf and my driver was broken. So I rented one or whatever. On the way home, as I was checking in, I said, “Hey, you guys broke my driver on the way down here.” And they gave me a real hard time like, “Well, how do you know we broke it?” And I said, “Well, I didn’t open my bag until I played,” you know, on and on. And so they said, “Alright, well, you can file a claim,” yada yada. When I got home, the clubs never showed up at all!

Ship Skis: Wow.

TJ: [Laughs] So then I had to file a claim for the lost bag, and I bet it was two months before I got anything out of them. And then a long, long time later, they called me. This Oakland baggage claim guy goes, “I wanted to call you personally because I’m a golfer and I really feel bad about this, but we found your bag.” And when it showed up, the travel bag that it was in was completely gone. The bag itself was almost completely destroyed, like the pockets were all torn, all of the stuff was gone out of them. The driver they had broken driver on the outbound flight is now completely gone along with some other clubs, and a couple of irons were bent. So apparently it got run over either by a truck or a plane. They weren’t really sure. But they had like Saran-wrapped everything together and delivered it to me. It was just pitiful. [Laughs] But the big deal was how much of a pain in the ass Delta made it to get anything replaced.

Ship Skis: What a nightmare. What an absolute nightmare.

TJ: It really was. So have you played Bandon Dunes?

Ship Skis: I have not, unfortunately. It’s definitely one that’s on the bucket list. I’ve played a lot of good ones on the West Coast there but I have yet to play Bandon Dunes.

TJ: That’s kind of reminding me of when I had a towel from Cyprus Point on that bag that, you know, obviously went away, and I kind of miss that.

Ship Skis: Right. That’s for sure.  Playing Cyprus s is quite an opportunity.

TJ: How about tracking? Where do you go when you need to track your skis? Do you go to the UPS site or is it on your site?

Ship Skis: Okay. Yeah, so basically our website is integrated with UPS and FedEx, so when you process a shipment you’re emailed a Ship Sticks or Ship Skis tracking number, and you’re able to track the shipment on our website. So we do all the tracking through our website. Each individual has their own individual tracking number that they can either just click that link from the email that they received from us or they can go to our website, type that in and track it that way. So there’s a couple of options as far as tracking is concerned.

And then, once the shipment is delivered, they’ll get email sent to them just confirming that, “Hey, it’s been delivered.  Here’s where you sign for it,” so and so.

TJ: Cool. And why 500? Skis and bindings are probably going to be more than a grand. I guess golf clubs are going to be more than a grand too.

Ship Skis: Yeah. I mean, you know, if you go to UPS or FedEx, they include some insurance. We wanted to separate ourselves and say, “Okay, we’ll throw in the first thousand and we’ll throw in the first 500.” It’s a little different for skis just because of that dimension to the shipments. The rates are a little different from an insurance standpoint. But we do give you the option, like it’s $3.75 for golf clubs for every 500-dollar increment.  For skis, it’s an additional five dollars for every 500 increment that you go all the way up to $3500. So if you wanted to purchase additional insurance, you’re more than welcome to do so.

TJ: Yeah. That’s pretty reasonable too, eh?

Ship Skis: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. I mean, I think that insuring with FedEx or UPS, I think they’re 7 to 10 bucks based on who you’re shipping with, so.

TJ: What if the skis don’t show up on time? Do you do anything…? I guess for heli-ski, heli-skiing it doesn’t matter, but let’s say I go to a resort and, oh, I don’t have my favorite skis.

Ship Skis: Yeah, sure. So obviously, you know, instances are going to happen and shipments are going to get delayed whether it’s adverse weather conditions or whether the shipment was sorted the wrong way. We understand that. So we have a consequential late bag policy where we pay up to 200 dollars per shipment for rentals or whatever incidentals, whatever it is that’s needed until that bag arrives.

TJ: Cool.

Ship Skis: So if that bag is late, we’ll pay up to 200 dollars, again, for rentals or any incidentals that are needed until your bag arrives.

TJ: Awesome. And my next question has to do with clubs, so I’ll probably move that up to the top because I think it’s going to get more interest than the skis.

Ship Skis: Okay.

TJ: So any idea how many golf clubs do you ship every year?

Ship Skis: Hundreds of thousands for sticks.

TJ: How about skis?

Ship Skis: To be honest with you, I don’t have an exact number. Like I said, we’re in our infancy. But I know it’s upwards of a couple of thousand shipments a month. So that included luggage as well.

TJ: Yeah, so people might ship their skis and a bag with all their ski gear in it with you guys, and then they’re on a business trip and they just go to wherever and there’s your stuff.

Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely.

TJ: That’s cool.

Ship Skis: And that’s where luggage is starting to grow for us as well.  We’ll get individuals that are going on a ski trip with the family or whatnot, and then will say, “Hey, while you’re in Colorado I got to go up to San Francisco for a business meeting, so I’ll just have my stuff shipped.  Because it goes from the East Coast to West Coast, it’s going to take five to six business days. I’ll just ship it out so I have a fresh set of clothes and fresh luggage.”  So it’s kind of one thing after another. We’ve gotten a great draw on the ski side from the golf business and vice-versa customers.  So they complement each other very well.

TJ: One of my brothers is a hedge fund partner and he just leaves all his stuff at the Rustler at Alta. [Laughs]

And no matter what trip he’s on he’ll stop in Utah for the weekend and…kind of a specialized case.

Ship Skis: Yeah.

TJ: And what does it cost you, so 49 bucks each way, depending?

Ship Skis: Yeah, it really just depends where you’re shipping to and from. I mean, a ground shipment from a ski standpoint is going to cost anywhere from 39 dollars up to 69 dollars just again based on where you’re shipping from. Transit times are going to be anywhere from one day to five or six days, again depending on where you’re shipping to and from. But if you were to look at, let’s say, you know, our biggest shipping pattern is obviously from the East Coast out to the West Coast through Denver those areas there – for a single ski bag you’re going to be looking around  59 dollars.

TJ: Cool.  So have you started buying up other domain names like ShipBikes, ShipSailboards, ShipKiteBoard?

Ship Skis: Yeah. Yeah, we have. You know, Ship Suitcases and Ship Surfboards and all that kind of stuff, and that’s something that we’re in the process of now.  Creating a parent company where all these smaller niche companies can be under…

TJ: One umbrella, yeah. Ship Stuff.

Ship Skis: Exactly. Exactly.

TJ: I have a domain name company where you have to buy them on NameBoy.com.

Ship Skis: Okay, I’ll look at that one. You said NameBoy.com?

TJ: Yeah.

Ship Skis: Okay.

TJ: Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like heli-skiers and avid golfers to know about the company?

Ship Skis: No, I think it’s really just making them aware that it is out there, that it is reasonably priced, and that it is a feasible option that can eliminate a lot of hassles for the individuals, especially going on a trip and saying, “Hey, okay, I don’t have to show up at the airport two hours early to make sure I get my stuff checked in and wait in those lines.” It really comes down to being a convenience factor for these individuals that we’re saying, “Hey, for an extra 50 bucks, you’re spending three, four, five thousand dollars on your trip, why not make your travel experience enjoyable.  Leave it in our hands and let us handle it.” So, I mean, it’s really just educating the consumer and letting them know that this new concept is out there and that it’s becoming more and more popular every day.

TJ: Yeah, for a week it’s more like ten, twelve, 15,000 for a lot of these guys.

Ship Skis: Yeah. No, I can imagine.

TJ: And money’s not the big deal. The other thing that might be helpful is the guys who make very specific powder skis like DPS (read our interview) , is probably the most well-known in this community, or RAMP (HELISKI.com Interview) or whomever. I think if it were easy to get your skis to and from the heli outfit, they might sell more skis.

Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely, and that’s definitely something that we’ve experienced, or not experienced but, I mean, have looked into as going to some of these ski manufacturers and saying, “Hey, if somebody buys a set of skis, let us throw a little coupon in there or a little blurb about Ship Skis to let them know you can ship your skis.” And it was funny we were just at a ski show up in Vermont at Mount Snow and we had a couple of rental ski companies come to us as well as  who said, “Hey, you’re going to wipe us out of business because at the end of the day it’s 40, 50 bucks to rent a pair of skis for the day when if you have your own and you’re going to be out there for three or four days, you know, at that same price to ship them there for one set of rentals, so…

TJ: Yeah…

Ship Skis: …it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

TJ: I would turn them back around and say, “If you could get the skis you really want in advance of your trip and not have to go to the rental shop, to me that’s worth 50 bucks each way.

Ship Skis: Right.

TJ: Because if you…I almost never travel with skis anymore, but if you go to a resort, then you got to go find a shop and then you got to hope that they have the skis that you want in the size that you want, and you’re going to pay a ton of money, like maybe a hundred bucks a day.

Ship Skis: Exactly.

TJ: So why not these guys in Vermont could turn it into a business for themselves and say, “Quality ski rentals where you’re going to be, shipping is included in the price,” and they could turn it into a new business that has broader reach than…

Ship Skis: That’s right. That’s right. I mean, that’s definitely one way to look at it.  And from a golf business side, you know, some of the rental club companies that are out there and said, “Hey, let us handle all the shipping of the rental clubs for individuals that are going to Hawaii and don’t want to take their clubs and that kind of stuff.”  Everybody has their own set of golf clubs at the end of the day where…

TJ: Yeah, and I just think for the most part heli-skiers will take whatever the operator has.  I have these DPS skis, two years ago I shipped them in advance, unfortunately not with you guys. Well, when I got there one of the guides was skiing on them. [Laughs] And it was okay with me, but it struck me that he’d rather have these skis than the ones in their fleet. And so it got me thinking, I bet there’s a lot more heliski clients like that.

Ship Skis: Now, let me ask you this question, being an avid heli-skier there. When you ship your skis up there, if you do, would you ship it to the hotel or resort that you’re staying at or would you ship it right to the operator?

TJ: Well, most of these places are a remote lodge in the middle of nowhere, and so I’d ship it to the lodge.

Ship Skis: Okay.

TJ: I mean, there’s a handful that you have to fly in by helicopter, but they all have an office that’s near a road where you could ship it to. And there are also some operators that are in ski towns like especially Revelstoke and Whistler where you’re staying in a hotel, not a lodge, so you just send them to the hotel.

Ship Skis: Now, Heliski.com, what is your main purpose, just rating these places or…?

TJ: Yeah, our mission really is to attract, educate, engage heli-skiers. So we try to get them on our mailing list, we blog about stuff like this and review the different areas. And when somebody decides they want to go heli-skiing, they get a hold of us and we walk them through their criteria, what’s important to them, how many people are going, how many days, what kind of experience they’re looking for, and then I’ll find out who matches that criteria and has availability and what’s the pricing and send it to them. Then we’ll talk and help narrow it down and eventually they’ll book, and they just say to the operator, “Oh, I’ve talked to TJ and he helped me pick you guys,” and then they’ll send me a commission check after they get paid.

Ship Skis: Okay. Awesome. So you’re acting as really just an expert advisor?

TJ: Yeah, just being an agent. In Europe they call them tour operators, but I  don’t do the airline reservations and that sort of jazz. I just say, “Oh, you’re looking for a group of four from New York that wants unlimited vertical in March? Then you should go to Eagle Pass Heliskiing.”

Ship Skis: Okay.

TJ: Or if they’re coming from California, “You should go to Northern Escape Heli-Skiing.

Ship Skis: That’s neat.

TJ: Yeah. Transfer of knowledge, I hope.

Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So now how many times a year do you go heli-skiing?

TJ: Two or three.

Ship Skis: Two or three times?

TJ: Yeah. It’s tough. You might have seen my wife walk by, so it’s hard for me to get ‘tower clearance’ to go more often than that.

Ship Skis: Okay.

TJ: But every year I turn down free trips. It’s just something I swore I would never do, turn down free heli-skiing.

Ship Skis: Now, that’s something that, you know, not being an average skier and not too familiar with heli-skiing, is that something that you’ll do on a daily basis or do you do it one day or…?

TJ: Oh yeah, you’ll do it like…like on this trip in March, I’m going to go six days in a row. I want to say it’s brutal, but that’s what my dad woud call “crying in your beer.”   I am getting to the point where I worry about which body part’s going to give out, you know, my knees, my back, whatever. But I pretty much work out all year long just so I’ll be ready. You don’t want to be the guy who’s holding back your group ever. [Laughs]

Ship Skis: Exactly. Exactly. Now, how many people will fit in a helicopter when you do that?

TJ: It depends on the chopper. A lot of them hold four guests and a guide. There are some that hold five, some that hold six. A lot of operators will take them big choppers that hold 10 or 11 and they’ll serve multiple groups with that. So on the one extreme, four groups of 10 people sharing a helicopter, on the other extreme, you can have your own four-person helicopter. So that’s kind of the range. CMH (Canadian Mountain Holidays) is the market share leader, and they focus almost exclusively on these big choppers and big lodges with 44 guests at a time, because it’s just more cost-effective that way, right?

Ship Skis: Yeah, sure.

TJ: To have 11 people riding in each lift. But you can pay a little bit more and have a little bit more flexibility if you go with a smaller chopper.

Ship Skis: That’s great.

TJ: I appreciate your time, Jeffrey, and I appreciate you sending my skis and stuff.

Ship Skis: No, I appreciate the opportunity and, you know, anytime you need to ship your skis or clubs for that matter, give us a call. We’re happy to be here for you.

TJ: Oh, great.  Nice to meet you.

Ship Skis: Alright, nice meeting you. Have a good one.

TJ: Alright, cheers.

HELISKI.com Gear Interview DPS Skis (deep powder skis?)

DPS Skis – The Best Powder Skis for Heli Skiing?

What are the best powder skis?

Gear for heliskiers interviews continues with another one of the best powder ski pioneer – DPS Skis. We spoke with Erme Catino and Mike “The Ski Finder” Cannon about what makes them great.

DPS skis, DPS heli skiing skis

1. I have been heli skiing on the DPS Lotus 120 Pure Carbon + Nano, and they CRUSH it!  But the most amazing thing is that everywhere I go, the heiski GUIDES want to ski them. How did you develop such a strong reputation among the Gods of heli skiing?

Nice to hear we’re in good standing with the gods—we want to make sure as we continue to grow that the sweet sirens songs never tempt us—it’s important we stay true to our core audience and our roots. I think our good standing with so many talented, life-dedicated skiers worldwide comes from resonating with DPS’ core vision: to make perfect skis worthy of those who live and breathe the sport. Our roots are ingrained in big-mountain riding. Our founder Stephan Drake has spent his life traveling the globe chasing powder in some of the most storied locations. His obsession from the start was to solve a pain point of providing the most advanced ski shaping coupled with the very best materials available. We’ve never been complacent and never are. The ski industry is brutally competitive, and DPS is thriving for one reason: we’re obsessed with building the best skis possible for those who demand the best. We pioneered the use of aerospace carbon fiber and a sandwich construction to build skis that are 30 percent lighter than conventional skis while being 30 percent torsionally stiffer, stronger, and more powerful. The focus is on the product and the search for deep snow, and the best skiers have sought us out. We are psyched when we see guides on our skis.

One more point regarding the guiding community, particularly in Alaska and Canada. Last year, we lost our good friend, Rob Liberman, in an avalanche while guiding in Haines, AK. Rob was a passionate human, a damn good heli-guide, and a ripping skier. I think a ton of guides trusted Rob’s ski choices because of his abilities and enthusiasm. He’s part of our legacy, story, and family. [Yes, Rob was a great guy and is missed]

DPS skis heliski Alaska, best powder skis

2. The “DPS Ski Finder” is unique.  Tell us how you match DPS skis and skiers.

DPS has been fitting skiers over the “interwebs” since 2005. We’re also now in over 130 of the finest brick and mortar shops worldwide, but a large share of our sales are direct through dpsskis.com. Customers respond well to the personalized attention they get from us and have peace in knowing that they are being ‘fit’ by ripping skiers. The process works as follows: A customer fills out our ski finder which is written to get a feel for the skier’s ability, preferences, background, skis liked/disliked, etc.

It is sent to Mike Cannon, DPS’ direct sales manager who oversees a small in-house team. Mike has fitted countless skiers over the Internet for over nine years. He’s typically the point of contact, and the emails and speaks with customers constantly. In addition to creating happy customers, he develops a great rapport with them. These relationships are important to us on a number of levels, it is the foundation of the ski finder—to build skis for people with a passion, and develop a family around the brand.

3. What are the best powder skis by DPS for heli skiing?

For powder surfing nothing compares to the Lotus 138, it is the most evolved and tested powder ski on earth… The Spoon debuting this winter will also join the Lotus 138 in powder surfing nirvana. Additionally, and not be forgotten is the Lotus 120, the classic, charging 120mm powder pintail.

best powder skis, DPS skis, Lotus 138 DPS heliskis

4. Compare and contrast the Lotus 120 and 138 DPS Skis.

Both the Lotus 120 and Lotus 138 surf powder phenomenally well. Below are two descriptions for each individual ski to help decipher the difference between them.

  • The Lotus 120 is the original and often imitated 120mm class powder pintail. If you are looking for a directional charger, and are not a fan of tail rocker, there is simply no comparison. The Lotus 120’s shaping is optimized for deep snow; a 600mm tapered and rockered shovel gives the Lotus 120 early planing ability, while the flex pattern and geometry gives skiers unequaled balance and ball-of-the-foot driven powder performance. [I’m selling a pair of these in 190cm, email if interested]

DPS skis, Lotus 120 heliskis DPS

  • The Lotus 138 was the first rockered ski with sidecut ever built. The iconic shape is a freak of nature that combines our carbon construction’s unmatched reactive power and precision with featherweight lightness. Riding the Lotus 138 in deep, or even soft snow is like an entirely new sport.

Overall, the Lotus 138 has a looser feel than the Lotus 120. The 138 slarves and slides down the fall-line, where the 120 is traditionally directional in its turn shape.

5. So how does the Spoon compare?

The idea of the spoon is a ski that nestles the perfect balance between ‘slide’ and ‘rail’. In other words, the skier should be able to feather the ski into long, planing fall line slides; then, at will, have the ability to stand on the tail and experience a tight driving turn across the fall line. To balance both qualities, we discovered that the ski needs to feel very loose in the shovel, semi-loose in the midbody, and have a hard railing turn feel in the tail. This is crucial and will be available on the production Spoon model, debuting Winter 2012.

DPS is giving away a pair.  Enter by Liking DPS on Facebook]

6. My 120’s are 190cm… Why do you ski DPS’s so long when everyone else is on blades?

We offer skis for all ability levels, however, a lot of chargers wanted longer models – The Lotus 120 & Lotus 138 have 200cm and 202cm available lengths respectively. With rocker, skis may be slightly longer, but it is important to pay attention to the running length and what type of ski you are looking for.

7. Your graphics are very simple. Going for retro?

Haha, not going for retro. Our skis are intentionally simple by design and are centered on the quiet mystery encountered during a slide across deep snow. When you ski deep powder, your mind is clear, and the skis are a direct reflection of that state of mind. For our Dreamtime Preorder (July 19 – Aug 1) — we offer special edition graphics on select models for folks wanting something a bit more.

dps skis, DPS Wailer skis

8. Explain your two different constructions – Pure: Carbon+Nano and Hybrid: Fiberglass+Carbon+Bamboo?

DPS is driven to improve technology and performance through its construction. In every other sport or field outside of skiing, price stratification exists around the materials and performance of the product.

For example, Porsche offers an $80k 911 and a $160k 911 Turbo. The 911 is so fast it will make your jaw drop, but The Turbo is twice as fast.

DPS offers two performance packages. Each package is offered at a price that reflects the cost of their components. Both consist of the same award-winning shaping, engineering, and design, but consist of different materials and build process.

The DPS HYBRID compares favorably to any ski on the market.

The PURE boosts this level of sophistication and power and is an unparalleled skiing experience.

9. Why did you decide to sell DPS skis directly to customers?

DPS was founded as a design based/grassroots company to build the perfect ski. We see the ski, skier, and ski builder as an intimately connected triangle, and by selling direct we can keep that tight-knit relationship. DPS customers are among the best skiers in the world and are technically savvy folks with an obsession for trick skis.

10. Now you have retail shops, too, eh?

Yes, we do. The brand launched in 2005 via the Internet direct sales model. In 2008 we expanded to include a conventional retail model. Currently, DPS skis are sold in approximately 130 of the best shops worldwide in the US, Canada, Europe, Oceania, and Japan.

heliskiing dps skis logo, heli-ski canada

11. Do you consider DPS to be a boutique ski manufacturer?

We don’t consider ourselves to be a boutique ski manufacturer. Rather we like to think of ourselves as a leader in innovative shaping and design. Our roots are in the high-performance powder skiing culture, and we strive to build skis that are lighter, stronger, and more powerful than conventionally built skis. The boutique is one of those labels that is too limiting, especially for our vision.

12. So DPS stands for Deep Powder Skis, right?

No, actually DPS stands for Drake PowderworkS.  [May be time for a change, I like Deep Powder Skis better……]

13. What else would you like to tell heli-skiers about DPS Skis?

We hope that you can try a pair of DPS skis on your next trip – we’re confident that you will find them to be the highest performing boards you’ve ever ridden.

Thanks! And thanks for the great days on my Lotus 120’s!


Black Ops Valdez Alaska Heliski

Black Ops Valdez Alaska Heli-Skiing

Black Ops Valdez Alaska Heli-Skiing Offers Unparalleled Alaska Heli Skiing Experiences! 

First Class Alaska Heli-Skiing Experience with Deluxe Lodging and Dining at Robe Lake Lodge!  All the best of Alaska Heli-Skiing, Snowcat Skiing, Sled-Skiing, and Snowmobile & Snowcat Tours.

Location:   Keystone Village Heli Base at mile 16 Richardson Highway, Valdez Alaska;

Robe Lake Lodge at 5325 Lake View Drive, Valdez, Alaska 99686

Get Advice for Your Next Trip

Alaska Heli skiing, Black Ops Valdez Alaska Heli-skiingBlack Ops Valdez Alaska Heli skiing, heli skiing Alaska, Brodie Jenner heli-skiing alaska

Black Ops Alaska Heli-Skiing Lodge

Alaska Heli Skiing Black Ops Valdez Lodge

Airport for Alaska Heli-SkiingTravel:     Valdez Airport (or fly to Anchorage then drive to Valdez)

Alaska Heli-Skiing Terrain Description:   Located in the middle of the eastern Chugach Mountains, the area is huge, with over 2,500 square miles of mountains and glaciated terrain.  Receiving over 1,000 inches of snow each year and a maritime snowpack, allowing  mellow to extreme terrain to accommodate beginner to expert skiers, snowboarders and snowmobile/snow machine riders.

Standard Alaska Heli-Skiing Packages Offered:

# of days, prices, vertical (hours) guaranteed

3 day package – $4,500 (includes 2 Hobbs hours)

4 day package – $6,500 (includes 3 Hobbs hours)

7 day package – $11,000 (includes 5 Hobbs hours)

Single day heli – $1,500

Snowcat and snow machine skiing available:  $350 per person.

Alaska Heli Skiing Guest to Guide Ratio:     4:1 heli; 6:1 snowcat

Price of Extra Vertical:     $1200 per Hobbs hour

Private Alaska Heli-Skiing Packages Offered 

Single day Private Heli $12,650 Single day Private Snowcat $1800

Full week Private Heli $71,750

Type of Helicopter           Eurocopter A-Star B-Series 350

Guests per Lift                   4

Lifts per Helicopter        4


Alaska Heli-Skiing Lodging and Dining Description

Overlooking Robe Lake, between Valdez and Thompson Pass, the lodge Robe Lake Lodge offers gourmet dinners featuring Alaskan style cuisine.  Enjoy the hot tub or sauna cabin after the best day of heli skiing Alaska in your life.

Year Founded:     Black Ops Valdez 2011; Robe Lake Lodge 2009

Travel from airport:   Packages include ground transportation via shuttle bus from the Airport to the Robe Lake Lodge (6 Miles – 10 minutes), and daily from the lodge to our Keystone Village Heli Base (10 Miles – 15 minutes) (include typical travel time)

Down Days per Season:    5

Ski Options on Down Day:   Snowcat skiing, snowmobile (sled) skiing, backcountry touring, cross-country skiing

What is Unique / Why Black Ops Valdez Alaska Heli-skiing?   “Our heli skiing Alaska packages allow for the ultimate freedom, allowing you to help make decisions on how your heli time is spent. Whether it’s flying out deep for some un-ridden peaks, lapping the classic runs close to home, or finding some better weather, it’s up to you.  We won’t make vertical foot or run guarantees.  Bottom-line, you are paying for the helicopter, and with our Hobbs time program, you will always know where your money is spent.

We also offer numerous down day activities including:  Snowcat skiing, snowmobile (sled) skiing, backcountry touring, cross-country skiing, snowmobile tours, ice climbing, shooting, snowshoeing, boat tours, or fishing.

With Black Ops Valdez, not only will you get a first class heli-skiing and heli-snowboarding experience, you will also get to stay in the finest lodging that Valdez has to offer.  Built in 2008, our lodge boasts the newest and most luxurious accommodations in Valdez.  A true Alaskan style log lodge overlooking Robe Lake complete with hot tub, sauna, high speed internet, satellite TV, and all the comforts of home. You will feel relaxed in our comfortable beds, lounging on the sofa, or soaking in the panoramic views.

Heli-skiing clients will also enjoy gourmet dinners including steak and fresh local seafood prepared by our private chef.  We also have a massage therapist who is available upon request.

Alaska Heli-Skiing Summary

In Alaska, we don’t ski down a run, we take a journey through a massive mountain range. Runs range from long moderates to steep Alaska spines and ramps. Generally, our pick-ups end on the glacier. A day contains 6 runs and an average of over 20,000 vertical feet per day.

Gear Interview: Trew GEAR Heliskiing Apparel is Technylish


Continuing our Heliski Gear Interview Series with a new company from my old stomping ground – Hood River, Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge. Tripp Frey, Co-Founder/CEO of TREW GEAR and I skyped about their innovative technylish apparel. Enjoy.


Tom (TJ): So what’s the best thing going for heli-skiers out of your TRUE GEAR line, the Cosmic?


TREW Heliskiiing Jacket - COSMICTREW Heli-skiing jacket back



Tripp: You know, it just depends. It’s more like a personal preference thing. Yeah, I mean the bibs are awesome.

Tom: Yeah? I love the name, TREWTH Ski Bibs, from Trew GEAR.







Tripp: You know, that was kind of our flagship product and that’s what I would be like, the bibs are where you want to be, because if you’re going to take a digger you’re going to have protection from all the snow and it’s not going to be down your pants. And it’s a super-fabric, which is really great for getting it out in the heli, and scuff guards against your skis and all that kind of stuff.



Tom: Which Trew GEAR jacket is best for heliskiing?

Tripp: On the jacket side, it’s kind of more personal preference, you know. The Cosmic [above] is kind of sleek and simple, whereas the Bellows [bellow] has like a lot of storage. So if you’re trying to bring a lot of stuff with you, then maybe the Bellows is your go-to…



heli-ski jackethelicopter skiing jacketheli skiing jacketheli ski jacket


heliskiing trew heli-skiing canada jacket heliskiing canada jacket heliski bc canada jacket



Tom: I think it might be because sitting here my only complaint about this one is that I don’t really have a good goggle pocket. There’s not someplace I can get in and out of it.

Tripp: Yeah.

Tom: And in the helicopter, you get about a minute and a half from when you get in and get your seatbelt on to change from goggles to glasses or vice-versa or wipe off your goggles and that kind of stuff. So it’s got to be close, it’s got to be easy, and really almost all the shells don’t have a big enough pocket.

Tripp: You’re looking for storage, the Bellows is your one, and if you’re looking for kind of like the really progressive jacket that’s going to combine the…you know, it’s really going to embody technylish, it’s the Pow Funk. It’s kind of the most stylish, youthful that’s, you know, progressive colors. Same material. You know, it’s all the same material.




Tom: Alright. So how do you distribute Trew GEAR?  How do people get Trew gear heliskiing?

Tripp: Good question. We have about 50 dealers around North America, and so you can visit or try to find a local retailer, and of course you can always find us on our website , trewgear.com. We sell gear off our website. We have online partners like backcountry.com, where you can also get our product.


Tom: You were talking about how you got into this business.

Tripp: Yeah, sure. Um, well, I moved to Hood River (OR) to work for another small little company that maybe you’re familiar with called Shred Alert.

Tom: Oh, sure, I know Heather.

Tripp: And I got to know Heather, who owned it, through a friend. And so I was just finishing grad school and came out here to work for her. Kind of had like an entrepreneurial edge, wanted to work for a small company and try to grow or do something on my own. And so I came here, worked for her—I didn’t know anyone—and I’ve just always been a passionate outdoors person, skier particularly.

But I only worked there for about six months, and then the entrepreneurial interest was too strong and so strong I called up two really good friends who were twin brothers, John and Chris Pew. They moved out here. And we kind of had this vision for technical apparel that could be done a little bit differently, and that was kind of our only kind of guiding light. And then we just felt like, “Let’s use the top-of-the-line materials, but let’s design it from a little bit of a different perspective. Let’s focus on durability. Let’s focus on utility in terms of storage and having a lot of storage options. Let’s focus on colors and making the jackets aesthetically beautiful.” And so, just kind of rethinking…although less design for pure alpinism and a little bit more design for just skiing and snowboarding.

Tom: Yeah, yeah.

Tripp: So, it might weigh a few ounces more, “Okay, fine, maybe you’re not taking on Everest. Okay.”

Tripp: But for your everyday use of inbound, side-country and hut trips, heli-skiing – it’s going to be more than sufficient. It’s going to be ideal, kind of the ‘quiver killer.’

Tom: Yeah, I like that. And it’s kind of a lower price point than, I don’t know, Arc’Teryx or some super-premium. Is that part of the philosophy or you’re right on par, do you think?

Tripp: Well, I mean I think our goal is to offer similar quality and construction techniques and fabrics. We don’t use Gore, and that’s pretty much the driver of the really high price points, is just that we don’t use Gore. We don’t necessarily believe that Gore is any better than anything else. I mean, I think from a performance standpoint, obviously they have done a remarkable job of marketing their brand and people recognize it and have recognition from both manufacturing and the end consumer.

Tom: That’s funny. It’s like Windows is to computers for an analogy – it’s that you pay a big premium for an OS that’s not great. So the price of the box is way more than it should be.

Tripp: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think Gore-Tex is a good product too, but I actually think the best analogy is Intel. Intel has…you know, Gore-Tex, you don’t know what it looks like. It’s like a processor – you have no idea what it looks like, but when you walk into Best Buy you’re like, “Oh, I have an Intel processor. Must be the best.” But you have no idea. You never see it. You don’t…you can’t… You just…it’s a component that no one sees and understands and they market it really well.

Tom: I agree with you, and Intel is my alma mater.

Tripp: Alright.

Tom: Yeah. There are a bunch of guys out there in the Gorge that are ex-Intel.

Tripp: Right, right.

Tom: Well, that’s interesting. I never thought about Gore driving up the price. It’s kind of like, in the world of audio…I can think of another analogy, but now let’s move on. It sounds like you’re pretty busy and I want to keep moving.

Tripp: Oh, no worries.


Tom: But I think Mt. Hood is a great place to test and refine clothing. And just a quick aside, I remember on a snowboard one day standing on the edge of a little precipice, and the wind was blowing so hard it blew me backwards up the hill.

Tripp: No joke. On those winter storms, it’s like 70 MPH winds or more.

Tom: Yeah, and biting cold, a little bit heavier snow than some places, and it’s look like a moonscape. I was looking at one of your team riders and she’s standing up on what…I guess it’s Mt. Baker, but it looks like Hood, everything just covered in ice. It’s a gnarly environment, so I’m sure it’s a great place to design and test clothes.

Tripp: Yeah, it is. We get to experience a variety of weather conditions relatively close to home, everything from rain to heavy snow, and you get up high you get tons of wind. And over here we get a couple of really dry storms. We get it all, and now that we’re kind of expanding our product line. Our heritage is in kind of the technical shells. But our product line has expanded and now we have like this, which is like a synthetic insulated garment, which is a really cool take. It’s a fully reversible and really technical piece, but done a bit differently. And you know, performance – soft shell, so it has new pieces that we’ve kind of been working on that we debuted this year. So yeah, it’s a great place to kind of test all of these things out.


soft shell heliski jacket

Cool Soft Shell – Wyeast


Tom: Cool, yeah. I got a Trew GEAR soft shells [WYEAST, above, which I love], but the hard shell for heli-skiing is the sweet spot for me.

Tripp: Yeah, yeah, I totally agree.


Tom: And so do you have a powder clause? Like how much snow do you have to get on Hood before you’re allowed to take the morning off and go make turns?

Tripp: Well, we’re still pretty small little company and there’s the three of us who founded it with one other guy, and we don’t really have a policy other than going on and using gear is of value. So, you know, every day is probably not good, but when it’s good get up there and for sure.

Tom: I hear you. That’s like me with heli-skiing – I got to, I don’t have a choice. It’s my job.

Tripp: Yeah, it’s a rough life.

Tom: And so I guess I didn’t know the Shred Alert connection in the era. Shred Alert spinoff – that sort of cracks me up.

Your design philosophy, you mentioned you do it differently, and that’s differently as in the attributes you mentioned, which were the technical yet maybe a little bit more stylish?

Tripp: You know, we have this word that we use, “Technylish,” which is technical and stylish.

Tom: I love it.

Tripp: It’s kind of one of our approaches, technylish. Again, I mean, I think our lack of a background in technical garments has pros and cons, but when we sit down and think about a garment we don’t have the pedigree that someone who worked or has training in apparel construction who went to school for it and has worked at a big company, so we kind of just think more about what does our customer want and what do we want. And someone who had years of training might say, “Well, we can’t do that because we can’t have this price point and we can’t…you know, this is going to use too much fabric here and that doesn’t make any sense…”

It’s just when you’re free of the paradigms of someone who has a background in working in a big company with a lot of structure, we think it allows your outfit to kind of be a little bit more creative.

Tom: I think you’re exactly right. I remember at Intel when they went from the 486 to the Pentium they took a completely new team. So they didn’t use anybody who had designed in the 486 era because they wanted to avoid people saying, “Oh, you can’t do that. You can’t do it this way,” or, “That won’t work,” you know?

They wanted a fresh start, which to me, for a company that big literally betting the company on that, is mind-blowing, but I like the approach.

Tripp: Of course there are downsides and that’s that unforseen consequences of doing certain things and stuff not always working out how you envisioned it, but I think for the most part it’s a positive more than a negative.


Tom: Cool. And do you take a look at competitors? Like you’ve got Columbia sort of a neighbor here, but Columbia Acr’Teryx, North Face, the usual suspects. Do you get one of each of their jackets like an auto manufacturer does and kind of deconstruct it or see what they’ve done or are you literally starting with a blank slate?

Tripp: Um, no. We definitely obviously keep our pulse on the competitive landscape. We do a couple of other things. One, we look at like…we try to look at different information in terms of what product categories are selling well, which would be like this. So this is like the synthetic…like the Patagonia, Nano is probably their bestselling piece.

They don’t…no one really sells that many technical shells. So this is where you got to get your volume up and you got to start doing stuff. So we look at kind of like high-level, kind of what categories are doing well, but then within a category and where we’re looking at a particular piece, yeah, we definitely like deconstruct and buy other stuff. We’d borrow other people’s gear and take a look at it, deconstruct it. And try to learn about like what people are doing and think that we can do better.

And we’re like, “Well, what if we did that?” “Yeah, for sure.” “What if we did that?” We put our little spin on it.

Tom: So is there kind of a larger market? I’m sure you look at the market in terms of volume. I’m guessing that there’s a wannabe segment of people who want to look like they’re technical, but when they go to the mall in their four-wheel drive that they never take to the mountains… So is that a big kind of sweet-spot target or is that not part of your thinking?

Tripp: No, it is. I mean, we design our products for our core customer, and hopefully by default there are people who see that and they’re like, “Ooh, I want to be that person,” and they wear our new jacket around town.

Tom: Yeah. That’s a cool logo by the way.

Tripp: Yeah, thanks. I don’t know how anyone does…or why anyone else didn’t trademark it, but they hadn’t, so.

Tom: I love the name too, actually. You know, at this point, I have a domain name company [nameboy.com] and I know how hard it is to get a domain, let alone a trademarkable, recognizable term, so it’s cool.

Tripp: Yeah, yeah, , and…I’m the T-R in Trew, and then the two guys that I work with, their last name is Pew, P-E-W, so we’re kind of Tripp and Pew put together.

Tom: Wow. Because these days I’m seeing so many brands that are just kind of a different spelling on a recognizable term, you know, for brandability, trademarkability. So you got both going. That’s cool.

Tripp: Yeah, so.

Tom: Do you guys…you think you have a snowboard bias at Trew?

Tripp: No. We probably sell 80% to skiers.

Tom: Oh really? I mean, heli-boarding, not snowboarding.

Tripp: Yeah, yeah. Ah, no. We’re definitely trying to do both.

Tom: I feel like Hood had a higher percentage of boarders than a lot of mountains. Do you think that’s true or not really?

Tripp: Mmm, I don’t know how many…I don’t know.

Tom: Cool. You should hit up some of the—just unsolicited advice—hit up some of the heliskiing operators and see if they would put their guides in your gear.

Tripp: Well, we do sponsor one heli operator.

Tom: Oh. Who’s that?

Tripp: Skeena Heliskiing.

Tom: Oh, no kidding.

Tripp: Up in Smithers.

Tom: Sure, I have skied with Skeena Heliskiing!

Tripp: And so we provide them with their outfits, and then they buy some stuff to sell in their store.

Tom: That’s amazing. I wonder if maybe that’s how I ended up finding you guys, because I know Jake reasonably well.

Tripp: Oh, you do? Yeah.

Tom: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been there. Have you skied with him?

Tripp: No.

Tom: You should hit him up.

Tripp: Yeah, we are getting a couple of seats. Another thing we’re doing this year is we have this RV that we bought when we first started going. So we converted into a mobile store. So the RV’s going around to dealers in the industry events and stuff, and one of the big…the big promotion running is if you spend 100 dollars on the RV your email gets in a raffle to win a free week of heli-skiing with Skeena.

Tom: And does the website tell you where the mobile store is going to be?

Tripp: Yup, there’s a counter in there kind of updated…you know, we’re trying to keep it fresh and updated, things we’re trying to change a little bit, but yeah, if you just go there it’s trewgear.com/tour.

Tom: So who drives that thing around?

Tripp: We kind of all do but we hired a guy to do it for the winter – between now and middle of January.

Tom: Yeah, like if he’s going to go from Jackson Hole to Telluride, “I’ll see you there.”

Tripp: Yeah, he just drives and we meet him up along the way.

Tom: That’s the way to go. It’s like a rock star tour where you just…you fly the jet and you meet the crew there with all the stuff.

Tripp: That’s right.

Tom: And does it go to ski resorts, like you would see it at a resort hanging out?

Tripp: Yeah, I mean, we’re going to kind of figure that out a little bit. I mean, you know, right now there’s no resorts – we’re just kind of going to dealers. So we’re pretty much going to be in the Northwest for this next month, and then we’re going to be in the Bay Area actually in middle of November.

We’ll be in Tahoe and Reno, and then Salt Lake, and then Colorado, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, and then that’ll be kind of it.

Tom: That’s cool. I can get those dates out to our list and see if people will show up to meet you there. That’d be cool.

Tripp: Yeah. It’s such and interesting area, such a huge city and there’s like two or three shops that are like good shops. Lombardi’s is the one that we want to be in, probably. California’s a weird place. [you can say that again] There’s not a lot of independent shops anymore.

Tom: It is a weird place for that. There’s also a great shop in Berkeley, California Ski Company, who really kind of specializes in boots but they sell gear, and I think they’re pretty good.

Tripp: Right. Yeah, there’s just not a lot of independent shops and it’s kind of like a strange situation.


Tom: Your website says, “When geopolitical instability drives you deep into the mountains to live off the land and shred glades of private pow, the TREWTH is the only bib you’ll need.” Who writes that stuff? That is classic.

Tripp: Yeah. We work with this guy—he lives in Park City—who does all of our copy.

Tom: It’s just hilarious. So what’s been the hardest part about starting a brand and getting it up and going?

Tripp: Um, my, good question. A lot of things.

Tom: I actually know Chip Wilson, who started Lululemon, and I remember the manufacturing was a huge challenge because he needed money and he needed sizeable orders, he was having it done in far-off places that you had to go visit, and it was kind of a big deal.

Tripp: That’s the biggest challenge for sure, is manufacturing. It’s getting the things you want from a faraway place, and it’s the hardest thing. And you think you ought to go just kind of like give them all these specs, and they ought to be able to just whip it up. But no. It just takes so much effort to like oversee it…

Tom: Yeah. Distance, language, culture, money, all that stuff.

Tripp: Yeah. Yeah.

Tom: Timing. What’s been the most fun part of it?

Tripp: The most fun thing is, well, that’s a good question. I mean, obviously being out there and spending time on the mountain in the gear that you make and have people recognize that it works is a pretty darn good feeling. But I think…so that’s like, on an instinctual level, that’s the best, that’s the best feeling, is when you’re like out there using your gear and you’re like, “This is so cool.”

Tom: That is cool.

Tripp: But, you know, it’s nice to know that we’re building a brand, and we’re all really committed to growing this company and getting it…keep building. We’re still a small little company. Yet somehow we managed to create the illusion that we’re some grand huge thing.

Tom: I think that’s the goal of all startups, right? I call it Operation Blowfish where you try to look like you’re much bigger than you really are.

Tripp: Yeah, so…yeah, I think we’ve done a really good job of that and… But it’s really cool to see a brand that resonates and, you know, can keep putting out products that people want.

Tom: Yeah, that’s cool. And do you get any product feedback from Jake [Skeena Heliskiing] and his guys about the gear?

Tripp: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, we got a whole, you know, long email, maybe an attached document with all kinds of feedback.

Tom: Oh, that’s cool. He’s a great guy. Have you skied with him?

Tripp: No, haven’t.

Tom: I’ve skied with a lot of great skiers – he’s probably the best I’ve ever skied with.

Tripp: Really?

Tom: Unbelievable, yeah. I mean, for 15 years in Europe he raced moguls, and so his technique is flawless, fast, smooth. The guy is just amazing.

Tripp: I got to try to get up there.

Tom: You do have to go up there. One of the problems is he’s always booked. I mean, he’s…I almost never send anybody to Jake because by the middle of summer booked with Europeans, because he draws from that same market that he used to live in.

Tripp: Uh-huh.

Tom: And I’ll bet right now he’s got one week with any availability in the whole season. Maybe hit him up for cancellations because you could hop up there pretty easily from Oregon.

Tripp: Yeah, we gave him gear and he’ll give us a couple of seats, but I just kind of got to be ready to make a move real quick and get up there.

Tom: Yeah. You have to be in shape. They ski fast. Europeans don’t mess around.



Tom: So what else do you do for fun? You’re a kiteboarder?

Tripp: Kiteboarder, mountain biker, runner, and yeah, those are kind of my standard for the Gorge [Hood River Gorge, Oregon/Washington]

Tom: Yeah, it is. I was a windsurfer, a dinosaur now, but mountain biking, and I swam, I didn’t run, but I’ve just skied too many bumps, I guess.

Tripp: Mm-hmm.

Tom: So what about neon? Back in the day we used to say, “Friends don’t let friends wear dayglow,” but now it seems to be coming back.

Tripp: Um, yeah, that’s coming back a little bit. Like this year’s line we’ve featured a little like, some neon zippers and stuff. Nothing too crazy, just kind of like little hits. I think all of the stuff is so cyclical, you know. It just comes and goes. It’ll come back.

Tom: So I wonder how you figured that out then, like what are you designing next winter stuff?

Tripp: Oh, next winter stuff has already been designed six months, seven months ago.

Tom: I mean, 2014-15 stuff?

Tripp: Yeah, seven months ago.

Tom: No kidding?

Tripp: Were early, and we’re even behind. We’re slow at the most.

Tom: A year and a half in advance?

Tripp: Easily.

Tom: Wow, that’s amazing.

Tripp: This industry is really challenging. I mean, that’s one of the biggest things, is I don’t think many people… there’s not many startups. There’s not that many startups in technical apparel because if you spend any time doing it you realize how difficult it is.

Tom: Yeah.

Tripp: There are enormous lead times with raw materials and production takes an extremely long time, and so yeah, you have to have your sample order in by May so that they can have samples here in the fall so you could take them to your dealers, because you have to get orders from Northeast and Patagonia and Marmot their orders with their retailer…retailers have to have their orders in by December 1st basically for the following season.

Tom: Wow. What if you miss it? What if you come out with neon and that year everybody’s out of neon and you’re…is the whole company at risk?

Tripp: Yeah. It’s very difficult to try to figure all that out and, you know, a lot of these retailers. It’s December and they haven’t even sold for the winter. They have no idea what’s selling, what’s not. I mean, it’s just a real…it’s a conundrum, the whole supply chain is slow and I think the people who can mix that up…and we’re trying to figure out a way to kind of shake that up. Selling more direct, selling more off of the website is one way to kind of combat that, because you can sell for cheaper, because you don’t have to build wholesale margins.

Tom: And…I mean that must be challenging in a couple of ways because if you cut out the retailer, then you’ll kill them off or lose them. So is that kind of a balancing act?

Tripp: Yeah, totally. I mean, you can’t do both. You can’t sell product direct off a website and at a low price and then also try to sell it retail. You have to choose.

Tom: Yeah.

Tripp: But, you know, the web is not going away, so.

Tom: Yeah, I know…

Tripp: Retailers who try to fight the web are fighting a losing battle.

Tom: And so at what point do you have to have the money to make the order?

Tripp: It depends. Everyone…I’m sure it’s all different with different organizations, and if you’re maybe more stylish you get better terms from your factories and stuff. Typically, it’s 50% upon placing a purchase order, and then 50% upon ship.

Tom: And then are you able to borrow that from the bank like a line of credit?

Tripp: Yup.


Tom: Yeah. And where did your startup money come from?

Tripp: Mostly just friends and family.

Tom: Yeah? That’s cool. They’re probably happy now, eh?

Tripp: Yeah, yeah, I mean, like I said we’re a small little company still. We’re not rolling in it. I promise you that.

Tom: Yeah. Are you still looking for money then, like to go…?

Tripp: No, now we’re not.

Tom: It seems to be a constant struggle – as soon as you close one round, you have to start thinking about the next one. So it’s not nice that you’re not consumed by that. I’ve done a bunch of startups and it just seems to be the way to go – as soon as you close one round you start thinking, “Alright, our next horizon is six months out and we have to have these things done by then,” and that sort of thing.

Tripp: Yeah. Yeah, no, thankfully we’re kind of in a spot where now we’re okay. Well, we’ll see. You know, we’re all trying to grow our business a lot in the next couple of years and it’s going to require some more capital somehow probably.

Tom: Yeah, and a lot of companies can succeed themselves to death when they run out of cash. How about production? I guess the only one that I’m all that familiar with is Arc’teryx. They seem to have a limited production. Like if you go try to order something in August-September, a lot of the good stuff in the colors that you want is already sold out.

Tripp: What do you mean, off their website?

Tom: Yeah, and so I wonder, is it a conscious decision they make to not end up with leftover inventory at the end year, they’d rather make it a little harder to get a hold of and not have anything left over, than they would build a whole bunch extra that may end up sitting around?

Tripp: Yeah. I mean, that’s smart. I mean, yeah, I don’t know…I know they do sell direct off their website but I’m not sure…you know, that’s the whole point of getting these preseason orders in December is so you make to order.

Tom: Yeah. Maybe it’s the pro deals. They only allocate so much for the pro deals.

Tripp: Oh yeah, they probably do limit the pro deal. I mean, if you’re looking at their process, they probably offer certain things depending on availability.

Tom: That makes sense. I’m curious, do you end up with stuff at the end of the year that you sell at Overstock or somewhere like that?

Tripp: The goal is no, but yeah, we typically do a little bit. Yeah.

Tom: Yeah.

Tripp: Most companies do. Managing your inventory is just so hard.

Tom: Yeah. And who decides what stuff you’re going to build and in what quantities? Like do you guys have discussions internally where you say, “I love this jacket,” and another guy says, “No, that one’s never going to sell,” and how do you decide how much of a commitment to make to that?

Tripp: Oh, we look at preseason buy. We have a forecasting model that we plug stuff into and it gives us kind of like bell curves on sizes and based on what people are ordering, and we look at like past year’s information in terms of what sold and kind of try to equate what colors would,, “Okay, the brown from last year is equivalent to like the green this year, that one did this well, and so forth.

Tom: Damn, that sounds like an interesting challenge.

Tripp: It is.

Tom: There’s a lot of guesstimating going on.

Tripp: Very true.


Tom: So what has been the bestseller for Trew GEAR so far?

Tripp: The bib, for sure.

Tom: Yeah?

Tripp: Yeah. It’s kind of our flagship product. When we first came out with it, no one was doing a full-on technical free-ride bib, and now everyone is doing it.

Tom: Yeah, they seemed to be just kind of bags with suspenders on them, and back in the day there was nothing to them.

Tripp: Yeah.

Tom: Like pockets and they didn’t have much in the way of features and all that. Now they’re super-high-tech.

Tripp: Now they are feature-rich for sure.

Tom: The one I ski in has kneepads, believe it or not, sewn in so when you’re kneeling to get in and out of the chopper there’s more comfy.

Tripp: Oh, excellent.

Tom: But I think that’s probably not a feature that a lot of people are going to buy.

Tripp: Who makes them?

Tom: Arc’teryx.

Tripp: They make a heli-specific pant?.

Tom: Yeah.

Tripp: Okay.

Tom: Yeah, and a guide jacket. Yeah. Again, it’s not a feature… Might be a good feature for the girls’ bib. [Laughs]

Tripp: We make a women’s bib, I’ll have to think about that.

Tom: I’ll work on the name.

Tripp: Yeah, yeah. You come up with a name. We sell the Chariot bib but we can do a spinoff of that.

Tom: [Laughs] Chariot?

Tripp: That’s the name of our women’s bib.



Tom: Okay. I’ll work on that. [Laughs] I’m sitting down picturing the logo kind of redone in a way that would be more provocative as well.

Tripp: Right. Okay. Let’s see where you’re going with that…..

F13_THUMB_T_BLK F13_THUMB_T_GLD heliskiing logo TREW

Tom: [Laughs]

Tripp: Nice.


TREW GEAR Team Rider Shawnie Rasking gives the TREW thumbs up


Tom: I crack myself up. So let me see if I have any other interesting to ask you, because I digress. Oh, so have you ever been heli-skiing or heli-boarding?

Tripp: Well, I have, yeah.

Tom: Where did you go?

Tripp: Ah, went with SEABA in Haines, Alaska.

Tom: Oh, how was that?

Tripp: Yeah, well, amazing.

Tom: Alaska, man. Tell me, what was your reaction to it?

Tripp: It’s just…it’s unbelievable, the beauty, the mountains. I mean, it just really is remarkable and spectacular.

Tom: It is.

Tripp: And skiing when it’s…I mean, I spent a bunch of time in British Columbia on hut trips and stuff, heli and hut trips. And, I don’t know, I’m not sure what’s better, but Alaska or British Columbia has the best skiing on the planet. I’ve never skied in Europe but, yeah, there really is something else in…Just when you get up in the heli and you get up high and you can see the ice fields and just as far as you can see just massive peaks, and then you have the ocean and it’s just really incredible.

Tom: Isn’t that amazing? I have the same feeling. It is truly spectacular. The scenery alone, it just seems like everything’s on a bigger scale. In addition to that, it’s steep as hell, right?

Tripp: Yeah.

Tom: They probably take you to some stuff that just scares you.

Tripp: Oh yeah.

Tom: I remember standing on a peak where it wasn’t big enough for all of us to put our skis on at the same time. We had to take turns.

Tripp: Really?

Tom: And then you look all around and I couldn’t tell which way we were going down. It all looked like certain death to me. It was just amazing! And they can you stuff as steep as you want. It’s awesome.

Tripp: Yeah. No, I had the time of my life. I’ve started saving up my pennies to go to that again.

Tom: Cool. I just interviewed a guy with a new operation up there that sounded pretty cool – Black Ops.

Tripp: Yeah?

Tom: Yeah, that’ll be out, I don’t know, we’ll see in a couple of days. Hopefully the interview will be done. But yeah, I know a bunch of the guys up there, so if you go again I’ll be happy to give you advice.

Tripp: Sweet, yeah. I just kind of met the SEABA guys, through friends of friends and met Sunny and a couple of other guys and stuff, it was an amazing trip.

Tom: Cool. Anyplace else? You said heli and hut trips, so they drop you at the beginning of the week and then come get you?

Tripp: Yup. I mean, up in Canada I’ve been in Fairy Meadows Hut, I’ve been to Ice Fall and to Swordshore. All are heli in, so you get…yeah, for a week, you know?

Tom: Cool.

Trip: Then you tour for the whole week.

Tom: Yeah, that’s more hardcore. You don’t have as much gray hair as I do.

Tripp: I’ve started working on it…






heliskiing pants TREW

TREW Eagle Heliski Pant


Tom: Cool. And so where do you like to go kiting?

Tripp: I love the Coast. I mean, around here, I prefer to go up the Coast than actually the Gorge, to be honest with you.

Tom: Uh-huh.

Tripp: I like Roosevelt if I’m going to kite the Gorge out East, but I’ve traveled, um, not recently but between five and eight years ago I went to Brazil three times.

Tom: Oh wow.

Tripp: And I’ve just been down there for a week many times and amazing kiteboarding down there. Amazing windsurfing too.

Tom: Cool.

Tripp: I like to get back to a warm-weather spot.

Tom: Yeah, I heli-skied with a guy who has set up his own kiteboarding school down in Texas…

Tripp: South Padre Island, probably.

Tom: Yeah, and he has like helmets with a microphone and headphones built in and he’s got built in two-way radio, chase…

Tripp: Jet skis, yeah. It’s a good place to learn, actually. I’ve been there a couple of times as well.

Tom: It’s shallow, right?

Tripp: Yeah, shallow. That’s a big thing for kiting. Same thing probably windsurfing, so you can stand up…if you end up downwind, you can stand up and walk back up, walk to the beach and you’re not just like flopping around in the water.

Tom: Yeah, like the Outer Banks (North Carolina) same thing.

Tripp: Yeah.


Tom: So have you guys thought about doing any crossover? I remember meeting the Da Kine founder, Rob, who had at the time of 350 SKUs. Anytime they see a problem, like they invent a little doodad to fix it. Have you thought about crossing over into summer or water sports?

Tripp: Um, a little bit but not really. I mean, we’re just trying to expand kind of our winter line and encompass kind of more lifestyle wearability, you know? Like the skis, you know, just like performance soft shells, and then next year we have like…we’re really expanding this part of our line. The stuff that people wear on a day-to-day basis, it’s not as expensive. I mean, whether it’s a 400- or a 500-dollar jacket, you know, that’s our price point for our shells, it’s not…or 700 dollars like an Arc’teryx, but it’s still pretty expensive.

Tom: Yeah.

Tripp: You know, people don’t buy that that often. So we need stuff that people even who don’t need that kind of jacket will buy.

Tom: Yeah.

Tripp: I mean, Arc’teryx is kind of the…

Tom: Price leader?

Tripp: Well, price leader, but they’re the exception to the rule. Whereas they actually do make a lot of technical…they sell a lot of technical shells. They sell three-layer Gore-Tex shells and they make leaps and bounds more than anyone else. I mean, you’d be surprised, I mean, Patagonia has like their Super Alpine Jacket, which is a really nice jacket, it’s a three-layer Gore-Tex shell, it retails for about 600 bucks, same thing as Arc’teryx, but I bet Patagonia sells a third or a quarter or less of the amount of their technical shells that Arc’teryx sells.

Tom: It’s surprising too because I would guess the Patagonia brand is much more…has much more equity than the Arc’teryx brand with the exception of the, you know, people way out on the curve who are hardcore skiers, boarders. Like my mom’s heard of Patagonia, right? I’m sure. But Arc’teryx, no way.

Tripp: Yeah, yeah, but I mean that’s like, you know, Patagonia makes…they don’t make a lot of money on the technical shells. They make money on their pants and their Nano Puffs and their fleeces.


TREW Polarshift
TREW Polarshift

Tom: Yeah, fleeces, right?

Tripp: It’s the day-to-day kind of stuff that’s really wearable that’s how they’re making their money.

Tom: Yeah.

Tripp: They’d still make the really technical stuff because that’s really important. I mean, that’s important for their brand, just like we would never stop making our super-technical stuff, but I think even Arc’teryx sells a lot of other stuff. They sell more technical stuff than anything else, but they still sell a lot of fleeces and, you know, whatever, other shirts and jackets. They sell other stuff too.

Tom: Yeah. I mean, my introduction to them was when my luggage didn’t show up at a heli-ski lodge and there was another dude there who had an entire Arc’teryx outfit for me to use until my stuff showed up. And I was kind of bummed that my suitcase came because it was way nicer than any of my stuff…

Tom: Hey, so fleece, are you guys into that?

Tripp: We have a new fleece issue that’s 100% made in USA. It’s kind of cool. Check it out on our website.

Tom: Okay.

Tripp: It’s called The Vaporizer.

Mens Vaporizer Fleece:






Womens Vaporizer Fleece:


F13_VAPORIZER_W_GE_FRONT heliskiing fleece vaporizer


Tripp: And it’s Gore-Tex power-dry fleece. So that’s the super-high-performance-grid fleece and it comes from Massachusetts, and we did the cut-and-sew in Oregon, so it’s all made in the US.

Tom: Oh, cool.

Tripp: And so it has a great like mid layer, like right over your long johns.

Tom: Yeah.

Tripp: And it breathes really well, helps regulate temperature.


Tom: My typical heliskiing outfit is a base layer, then a thin mid layer, long-sleeve, and I’ll pack a vest in my backpack, and you get a…everybody who heli-skis now has to know how to tote a pack anyway. If it’s cold up with the vest on, but if it’s not That seems to work for everything because you’re in and out of the chopper so fast and you’re skiing a lot and you’re skiing five minutes between runs maybe.

Tripp: Right.

Tom: You guys make a vest?

Tripp: We have a vest coming out next year.

Tom: Cool. Next year as in 14-15?

Tripp: Yeah, 14-15.

Tom: Great. Send one to me, please.

Tripp: Sure.

Tom: I can’t believe how far ahead you have to think. That’s crazy.

Tripp: Yeah, it really is crazy.

Tom: That’s mind-blowing. I mean, you’re figuring out the product line before you… Well, I guess you do know what’s sold sort of preseason.

Tripp: Yeah, I know preseason, but yeah you’re just like creating products that are…yeah, so it’s just crazy. And from a cash flow perspective, you know, it’s like it’s kind of nuts.

Tom: So you expect some of the soft shell stuff to be popular with heliskiers, too?

Tripp: Like I was saying, the Polar Shift and The Vaporizer has kind of like great layers and pieces that accompany the shells.

Tom: Alright, cool.

Tripp: Cool. Well, I really appreciate you reaching out and giving our little company a little shout-out.

Tom: Hey, my pleasure, Tripp. Nice to meet you.

Tripp: Nice to meet you, too.

Tom: Bye. Thanks, bye.




helicopter skiing alaska, bc heli-skiing

7 Reasons to Try a New Heli-Skiing Location Next Year

helicopter skiing alaska, bc heli-skiing
Why Try a New Heli-Skiing Location Next Year?

In heliskiing, momentum is a good, but inertia is not. Are you going to the same heliskiing operator year after year? Take a look around. It may be time to think about a change for 2014.

You and your buddies owe it to yourselves. Don’t automatically sign up for the same week, at the same place next year when you check out. There will be plenty of dates available, and good prices. Consider your options.
We represent every operator, and our recommendations and service are free. Here are 7 reasons to consider getting out of those tracks!

1. Heli Skiing Variety.

Variety is the spice of life. Mountain ranges, snow, terrain, lodges, travel, group size, pricing, down days, catskiing backup, and more. My mom used to say, “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

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2. More Helicopter Skiing Choices.

Since we started offering reviews and recommendations 20 years ago, there has been an explosion in the number of heli-skiing options. There are dozens of choices in British Columbia, Canada alone.


3. Travel to and from your Heli Skiing Lodge.

If minimizing your travel time is important, there are some great choices. Cost and reliability of flights and roads are also important considerations.

How about reaching the lodge in time for dinner, and skiing the next morning? Or fly to Vancouver, spend the night, fly up in the morning and heliski that afternoon. Another benefit to easy access travel is that it may also increase the skiing time you have available on the last day.


4. Heli Skiing Group Size and Heli Skiing Lodge Size.

Have you tried small group heliskiing? It is very different – much faster, more comfortable and less susceptible to weak links. Some drainages cannot handle 12 tracks, let alone 24, 36 or 48.

How about sharing the chopper with one or two groups to eliminate waiting? One operator is offering ONE GROUP per helicopter and unlimited vertical! How about a lodge that holds 12 guests, instead of 40 of your closest friends?


5. Helicopter Skiing Pricing.

A week can range from $10-15K US. And you may be writing a big check on checkout for extra vertical. We have many unlimited vertical options as well as hybrid models.


6. Alaska Heli Skiing.

If you can hang in BC, you can hang in AK. And to paraphrase Warren Miller, ‘if you don’t go this year, next year you will be a year older!’ You do not want to retire from heliskiing without Alaska on your resume.

Valdez heli skiing Alaska, heli ski Alaska


7. Helicopter Skiing Flexibility.

We offer trips of any length and can start and stop on any day you choose. Warm up at a resort like Whistler, Revelstoke or Kicking Horse. Or combine heliskiing with catskiing to save you legs and your wallet.


Let me know when your group likes to go, and where. I will give you some options so that you can be the hero. I can hold dates and get you the same re-booking discounts, too.
Email tj@HELISKI.com or call me at 866-HELISKI.

Valdez Heli Ski Guides Interview – Valdez Heli Skiing with Comfort

Is Valdez Heli Ski Guides the Best Alaska Heliskiing in Valdez?

Valdez Heli Ski Guides Interview

To interview Valdez Heli Ski Guides about Valdez Heli Skiing, I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Raynor and Mandy (marketing manager and Scott’s handler) at the Hog Island Oyster Bar in San Francisco in December.   Scott, owner/manager of Valdez Heli Ski Guides, has an impressive resume including avalanche expert, guide, ice climber, ski bum, fisherman (running a crab boat ala Deadliest Catch), Valdez heli skiing pioneer and now Valdez Heli Ski Guides owner.  Mandy is also a bad betty from Utah.  Oysters, chowder, beer, tequila and a view of the Bay resulted in the following discussion.   Enjoy.

Best Heli-Skiing in Alaska, Mandy the Goddess of Valdez Helisk Guides

1.  Mandy, who does nearly everything at Valdez Heli Ski Guides, is hot.  She could be the best Alaska heliskiing rep.  Can you think of any reason our subscribers should call me instead of her??

You are more objective?


2.  Valdez Heli Ski Guides built a cool new Valdez heli skiing lodge for 2013. Tell us about it, please.


Built in 2011, the new lodge is an 18,000-square-foot custom designed heli-ski lodge built on the footprint of the historic Tsaina Lodge. Perfectly staged in the heart of Thompson Pass, the Tsaina houses 32 guests in 16 single- and eight double rooms with private baths. The restaurant is phenomenal and, of course, the bar, reminiscent of the original, is always a great time. All of it, including a boot and gear drying room and fitness room, is just steps away from the VHSG heli-pad.  [Could be the best Alaska heliskiing lodge.]

Valdez Heli Ski Guides’ New Valdez Heli Skiing Lodge

Valdez heli skiing lodge, Valdez Heli Ski Guides


3.  Does this mean Valdez Heli Ski Guides is going soft, and catering to FGP clients???


Yes and no. The core of our Valdez heli skiing business continues to be geared toward the advanced and expert skier and rider. But one of the many beauties of the Chugach is that there is also a lot of terrain that is suitable for the advanced-intermediate skier and rider.

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4.  Scott, you are one of the old timers in the Valdez Heli Skiing business.   Will you summarize your heliski resume?

Valdez Heli Ski Guide, Scott Raynor


I started out as a self-employed backcountry ski touring guide in the western Chugach. For five years I combined this with snow safety work at events throughout Alaska. As the Alaska heli-ski industry evolved, I was lucky enough to be connected with some of the best heli skiing  companies. During my second year heli-ski guiding I became the VHSG operations manager and avalanche forecaster. Four years later, in 2000, I bought the company. I’ve also heli-ski guided internationally, in places like Chile, New Zealand and Greenland.


5.  Valdez Heli Ski Guides is unique in how you organize your groups.  How do you run two helicopters and up to 24 guests?


Actually, we run three helicopters with up to 32 guests. We offer different package styles that determine which helicopter each client will be in: a public or private ship. The public ship is for up to 16 guests in four groups of four. We also offer the exclusivity of a private ship for groups of up to eight guests.

alaska Heliskiing, best heli-skiing

6.  Tell us about the Valdez Heli Ski Guides Lodge location, and why you chose it.


It’s really the location for the best heli-skiing in the Chugach. Located 35 miles inland in the heart of the range, our terrain gets hit with the coastal storms but also benefits from clearing skies of the interior. Our base at the Tsaina Lodge is just north of Thompson Pass and the clouds typically abate at this location. [Check out this video of the early days of Valdez heliskiing]


7.  Describe the Valdez heli skiing terrain, please.


We have an incredible variety of terrain at our fingertips, most of it heavily glaciated. There are steep mountain faces, large powder bowls, long couloirs and everything in between.  Valdez heli skiing has it all.

 Alaska Heliskiing Terrain

8.  How many days do you fly in an average week at Valdez Heli Ski Guides?


Five. We typically fly 80 percent of our season.


9.  You price it by runs, why?


It’s a lot easier for the client to track.  [I resemble that!]


10.  What is the average vertical in a week that a guest can expect to book at Valdez Heli Ski Guides?


120,000 vertical feet [VERY GOOD FOR VALDEZ HELI SKIING]


11.  What dates are you open at Valdez Heli Ski Guides?


Early March through April .


12.  Why is it that the snow ‘sticks’ to the steeps better in the Chugach / Valdez heil skiing region than other areas??


Typically our snow comes in warm and leaves cold, [ Like my old girlfriend….]the perfect recipe for snow sticking to all aspects of steep terrain. It’s also a great recipe for good snow stability.


13.  Many BC heliskiers are intimidated by Valdez heli skiing.  Ski porn makes it look death-defying. Can the CMH and Wiegele clientele handle Valdez heli skiing?


Yes they can. Ski movies and magazines always showcase the steepest of the steeps; it is the most dramatic. What they don’t show is the vast, and equally spectacular, terrain that most heli-skiers enjoy in reality. A majority of Valdez Heli Ski Guide runs are just straightforward steep powder skiing. No cliffs, no jumping; just good, old-fashioned steep skiing fun!

Valdez Heli skiing, Valdez Heli Ski Guides

14.  How about first time Valdez heliskiers?


First-timers are always welcome. A successful Valdez Heli-Ski Guides stay for a first-timer is not based so much on prior heli-ski experience as it is on his or her powder skiing skills. Guests need to be confident and capable of skiing in deep powder snow.

Valdez Heli Ski Guides, valdez alaska heli skiing

15.  Enough Valdez Heli Skiing, can we see more of Mandy?

Mandy of Valdez Heli Ski Guide and Friend

Thanks, Scott! and Mandy!




P.S.:  Valdez Heli-Ski Guides ownership and offerings have changed since this interview.   Call or email me to get the latest review and advice.  866-435-4754

last frontier heliskiing bell 2 heliskiing lodge

Last Frontier Heliskiing challenges Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing and CMH

Boutique Canadian Heli Skiing by Last Frontier Heliskiing Canada

The evolution of heliskiing continues with Last Frontier Heliskiing.  Smaller operators are offering alternatives to CMH Heli-Skiing and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing.  This series will give a brief summary of the operators in the Coast Range of British Columbia Canada.

The Coast Range of British Columbia is home to some of the heliski industry innovators:  Bella Coola Heliskiing, Northern Escape Heliskiing, TLH Heliskiing, Skeena Heliskiing and Last Frontier Heliskiing.  Coastal weather patterns provide copious amounts of powder, and travel is usually MUCH easier than the more famous operators to the East.   How do they compete with the big boys (CMH and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing) and deal with the huge amounts of snowfall?

Glad you asked.

Each of these BC coast range heli-ski destination operators have a strategy, or two, to differentiate their offerings.

Today, we take a closer look at Last Frontier Heliskiing and their two lodges.


wiegele heli ski, last frontier heliskiing


Last Frontier Heliskiing takes you WAY North to get good snow.   Last Frontier is situated on the edge of the Alaskan Panhandle in Northern British Columbia.  It may take a little longer to get up there, but you will be rewarded with the largest single heliski area in the world, record-breaking snowfall and some of the most varied terrain found anywhere. They have two unique bases of operation.

last frontier heliskiing, last frontier heli skiing area


Last Frontier Bell 2 Lodge is a self-contained heliski village featuring luxurious log chalets, each complete with wood burning stoves.  The area offers a great combination of tree skiing and high alpine terrain.   I have been there a couple of times, and these cabins are great.     So is the skiing!  The cabins remind some of the chalets at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, eh?  Check out the location of Last Frontier Heliskiing Bell 2 Lodge.

last frontier heliskiing cabins, crush mike wiegele helicopter skiing


Last Frontier Heliskiing Ripley Creek, where the lodging is a hotel in an old gold mining town, has incredible long glaciated runs of up to 5,000 feet!    It’s like a combination of BC and Alaska heliskiing.  Not fancy, but very cool.  The trip includes one border crossing to Hyder, Alaska to get Hyderized by downing a huge, mysterious shot that will not be memorable…..


last frontier heliskiing vs mike wiegele helicopter skiing, last frontier heli skiing


Last Frontier Heliskiing also offers a unique Heliski Safari option, which involves skiing from one lodge to the other, half-way through the week.  The 60 mile trip offers spectacular heliskiing and unforgettable scenery with countless glaciers.  I did this trip last season, and it is phenomenal!   It is truly a safari, taking advantage of whatever looks good along the way.  It sells out fast, so let us know if you want to make a reservation.

ripley creek heliskiing, last frontier heli skiing safari


Each of these operators has figured out a way to offer something unique and very appealing to help compensate for the occasional down day.  Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing and CMH Heli-Skiing have some hungry competitors, including Last Frontier Heliskiing……which is good.

Email or call and we will help you find available trips with Last Frontier HeliSkiing, including the Heliski Safari.  866-HELISKI or Skype HELISKI.com

Best Regards,
Tom Jackson

CPO (Chief Powder Officer)

Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder

There are many aspects to consider for your ideal heli-skiing Canada trip. Some of the things to ask yourself, and to tell HELISKI.com, will allow us to narrow down the dozens of destinations for your heli-skiing in Canada.

  • Do you prefer an intimate heli-ski lodge or ‘the more the merrier?’
  • Do you want to heli-ski in a group of four or are you OK in a group as big as eleven?
  • How many days or dollars can you spend heli skiing Canada?
  • Do you prefer heliskiing trees, bowls, glaciers and high alpine or all of the above?
  • Do you want unlimited vertical, or do you want a base amount with the option to pay for extra heli-skiing Canada? (We are happy to do the math for you.)
  • Do you want to get to and from your heliski Canada lodge as quickly as possible, or do you have time to burn?
  • When do you want to schedule heliskiing Canada?
  • Do you want to try heliskiing Canada during or after a resort skiing vacation?
  • Where are you originating travel?
  • Do you want a remote, rustic lodge from which to heliski Canada?
  • Do you want catskiing or resort skiing options in case the helicopters cannot fly?

Canadian Mountain Holidays or CMH Heli-Skiing offers more Canada for over 50 years! Most CMH Heli-Skiing lodges are remote. Some require a helicopter ride to access the lodge. Different lodges serve different terrain, snow qualities, group sizes and trip lengths. We are happy to recommend those that fit your group best. choices than any other operator, and they have been heli-skiing.

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing is the second largest operator, and has been heli skiing Canada almost as long as CMH Heli-Skiing. There are two lodging options at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing – Blue River and Albreda. They offer different lodging and heli-ski Canada options that also vary throughout the season. HELISKI.com can help you choose.

There are dozens of smaller operators for your heliskiing Canada pleasure. Do you want a great, classic lodge like Skeena or Mica Heliski Canada? Do you want easy access so you spend your time heli-skiing Canada like Northern Escape Heli-Skiing? Do you want unlimited vertical, like Great Canadian Heli-Skiing and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing? Love trees? Consider Bearpaw Heliskiing, Last Frontier Heliskiing Bell 2 Lodge, or one of the CMH Heli-Skiing areas that specialize in trees. If you want your own food and lodging, check out RK Heli-Skiing. How about one group per helicopter at TLH Heli-Skiing Canada.

There are myriad choices. Email or call 866-HELISKI so we can get started putting together the best fit for your heliskiing Canada trip!