HELISKI.com Interview with Skeena Heliskiing

HELISKI.com Heli-Skiing Operator Interview with Skeena Heliskiing
 | Tom Jackson

Skeena Heliskiing was one of the first visits for HELISKI.com many years ago.

So it is only fitting that owner/guide Giacum “Jake” Frei is the first Heliskiing Operator Interview with HELISKI.com Heliskiing Canada Series.   Thanks!

Skeena Heli-Skiing BC Canada, Helicopter Skiing BC Canada Skeena mountain range

Jake – Great Host, Amazing Skier

helicopeter skiing Canada, Skeena Heli-skiing Canada

1.  The Skeena Mountains may be new to some heliskiers and heliboarders.  Tell us about the Skeena Mountains of BC Canada.

The Skeena Mountains have been on the heliskiing scene for about 15 years. It is a newer area for sure. What makes the Skeena’s special is the combination you get between Coastal precipitation, interior dryness and a northern cooler climate. Depending on where you fly in the Skeena’s you can have a bit more of one of these options. This allows for an operation with a larger area to switch skiing zones if the conditions vary.  Some parts of the Skeena’s have a lot of precipitation, you have a lot of natural glades, which makes for very enjoyable skiing.

2.  What made you decide to start your own heliskiing operation?

I guess what really started the idea was that I grew up just a few hours drive south of the current lodge and I always had the goal of bringing guests here to see and experience this part of B.C. The area was not new to me, it was my back yard. I have explored the Skeena Mountains since I was old enough to. In 2003 I was per chance in the government office and out of curiosity had a talk to the officials in charge of tenure leases. From that talk it never stopped. Through government I met Norman Winter, who was also looking for an area and we teamed up. Later Norm went on to develop another area near Revelstoke, BC.

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3.  You may be the best skier with whom I have heliskiied.  How did you get to be so damn good?

Thanks Tom, nice of you to say that. Hmm, I guess I can say, I devoted my entire teens and early 20 to skiing. I opted to complete my high school through correspondence and moved to Switzerland at age 15. I skied every chance I got. I also completed any course I could take and was lucky enough to ski with some amazing skiers and mountain guides from different fields. I landed my first sponsors [freeskiing] at 16, and sure did not want to let them down. I was pretty ambitious and devoted to improving my ski level to the highest I could take it. I would also say being in front of the camera really helped me improve, you see yourself all the time, see your position, your posture. You also want to get it right on the first try, hit the right spot.

4.  What is different about Skeena Heliskiing in BC Canada?

A few things that make Skeena Helisking different are:

canadian heli-skiing, heliskiing heli-boarding bc Canada Skeena Lodge

The Lodge and the Skiing are Exceptional

A.  The lodge!

B. Large area and large selection of terrain

C. Close proximity to an airport, easy access

D. Low number of down days

Heliskiing Canada, Heli Ski Canada Skeena Lodge interior

Skeena Lodge Interior, Does Not Suck

5.  You are known for European guests who like to ski fast.  Is that a fair reputation?

I would say so, yes. Even adding a bit of a straight line in there somewhere ;)   Skeena Heliskiing is also known for providing the clients with a wide variety of runs.  Not so much for lapping the same run; but trying to find runs that challenge the keen skiers, giving them a good selection, and trying to motivate them to improve as well. I love to see that someone is really stoked that he or she skied something very well. Love helping them out.

6.  What is your average vertical in a week?

Our average vertical varies per year from 118,000 feet to 151,000 feet over the last 6 years. We do ski more from late Feb onwards, due to the longer days. In January the days are shorter and we ski more technical runs in the trees.  Sometimes the big powder days are slower, as every wipe out cost lots of energy and time if the snow is really deep.  [That’s why Jake fills his choppers with good skiers…]

7.  Skeena may have the best small heliski lodge in the business.  How did you pull that off?

I also have to thank “luck” for that. During the exploration days prior to heliskiing we noticed that there was a lot of new traffic on the main road, we went to see what was going on and we drove to the lodge site just as the building was being started. Original plans were for a primarily summer-use fishing lodge. Original plans for Skeena Heliskiing were to start 2 years later, after completion of a small lodge structure in the skiing area.  Needless to say we were pretty happy when the owner said, he would rent out the lodge to us for the winters.

8.  How big is a group / lift?

A group consists of 5 skiers and 1 guide. 

9.  How many groups / lifts per helicopter

Our standard is 2 groups of 5 per heli [Awesome!].  On occasion when a party wishes it, we also run 3 groups of 5. Starting this season, if we use this program, we use our second helicopter to shuttle the groups out to reduce shuttle time.

10.  How many guests can you accommodate at any one time?

Max 15.

heli-skiing bc canada, bc heli-skiing heli-boarding Skeena Heliskiing Room

Shame to have this room all by yourself…….or not

11.  How many down days do you average per season?

The average is 7 down days per season over the last 7 years. [Surprisingly good]

12.  How far is the ride from the Smithers airport?

Depending on the road conditions, between 1.5hrs to 2 hrs.

13.  What do you do to accommodate helisnowboarders?

We actually have almost 20% snowboarders. We work with the heli-skiing booking agents, like HELISKI.com, and clients to try to organize snowboard groups, to get them together. We have a small fleet of K2 snowboards to use for snowboarders.  We have enough boards and bindings that work well for the current conditions. So the heli-boarders always have the most current, well maintained gear and no luggage hassle.  [I didn’t even beg for that plug]

14.  Are there any disadvantages to being a small operation?

      A.  You have to be more careful that the groups fit together, that every one in the group has the same level

      B.  As a business, having a small operation and a short season, it is really important that the weeks are full, or else it really hurts us.

15.  Have you ever considered extending your season?

We have, but for us the best time of the winter is from January to the start of April. Running later is a higher risk of down days since the tree skiing can be finished if it gets warm.  During November and December we are fully focused on sales in Europe for the next years winter season.

Bonus Question:   You have such a large area and you are booked solid.  Do you have any plans for expansion?

Yes, we do. We will have Cat Skiing in our area for this coming winter. We have contracted out a section of our southern tenure to Skeena Cat Skiing  www.skeenacatskiing.ca who are hard at working getting things going for this winter.  We are also looking at various different locations to start another small operation.  We have something very interesting planned for that, but cannot tell you any more right now.  I will keep you updated, but I can tell you it is a very cool concept.

Thanks, Jake.  I hope to make some turns with you again sometime soon.


Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)


Best Heli-Skiing: Best Short Heliskiing Trips Coast Range

Best Heli-Skiing Series:

The Best Short Heli-Skiing Trips – Coast Range

Heliski.com clients often ask us to put together the best short heli-skiing trips.  This usually includes 3 or 4 days of heli-skiing with minimal travel time and minimal risk.  For some, it is more about getting the best deal.   Others want to combine heli-skiing and resort skiing.

Here we discuss the best short heli-skiing trips to destination lodges.  Here we discuss the best short heli-skiing trips to destination lodges in the Coast Range.  In future posts, we will offer advice for the best heli-skiing in and around Revelstoke, Southeastern BC, and the best heli-skiing combined with resort skiing and boarding.


Travel Time

Travel time is often paramount.   Many clients need to minimize their time away from the office and the family.  So our list includes options with the most convenient travel, as well as the most reliable.  Not all airports are created equally when it comes to flight cancellations.


If convenience is very important, we recommend operators that pick up clients at the airport.    Renting a car and driving on unfamiliar roads introduces hassle and risk that some clients would rather avoid.  And some clients hate buses.

Heli Skiing Cost

Cost is also a factor for some.   Unfortunately, the price-quantity curve dictates that the best deals are for the longer trips.  But we have some alternatives for clients looking to stretch their dollars.  There are also trade-offs between unlimited vertical options and fixed-price plus extra vertical.

Down Day Risk

A down day on a 7-day trip is not the end of the world.   Re-group, rest, recuperate and enjoy some other activity.  But a down day on a 3 day trip is a disaster.   So our recommendations include operators with very few down days, as well as those with catskiing and resort backup.


The Best Short Heli-Skiing Trips – Coast Range

northern escape heli-skiing lodge and helicopter Northern Escape Heli-Skiing – One of the Best for Easy Access

Northern Escape Heli-Skiing is an excellent choice for short trips.  NEH is located just 20 minutes from the Terrace BC airport.   Guests can leave San Francisco at noon and easily make dinner at the lodge!   Another great feature at NEH is cat backup.    NEH guests ski even when the chopper cannot fly.

Northern Escape also offers a unique Vertical Option.  For a few hundred dollars per day, committed in advance, clients can add unlimited vertical to any package.  One catch – guests must decide in advance to add the unlimited vertical option.

bella coola best heli-skiing logistics Bella Coola Heli-Skiing Guests Make Turns on Arrival and Departure Days



Bella Coola Heli-Skiing has a unique travel set-up that works great for short heliski trips. Guests can heli-ski on BOTH Arrival and Departure Days!  This is how it works: after staying the night in Vancouver, guests take a 70 minute, mid-morning flight to Bella Coola. On arrival, lodge staff provide a picnic lunch, followed by a safety briefing from the guiding team. Once this is completed, guests heliski their way from the airport to the lodge.  Departure Day is just as cool.  Guests heliski their way to the airport, arriving about lunch time. Since the flight arrives back in Vancouver around 2pm, guests are able to fly home that evening!

And airfare is included in their prices.  On a 3-night trip, guests ski two full days and two half days.  4-night trips include three full days and two half days of heli-skiing.  Cool, eh?

Bella Coola Heli-Skiing also has two packages for short trips.  Tweedsmuir Lodge is their classic remote lodge experience.  Big Mountain is hotel lodging, no frills and attractive pricing.  By the way, BCHS uses the same approach on their longer heli-skiing trips, too.

Let me know and I will put together the best options for your short (or long) heliskiing trip.



Interview with Bella Coola Heliskiing: Beat British Columbia Heliskiing Guide/Owner


Interview by Tom Jackson, HELISKI.com

Bella Coola Helisports offers heliskiing and heliboarding out of Bella Coola, BC ( 1 hour flight North of Vancouver) from three different lodges. We talked to owner Beat Steiner recently about the flagship operation at Tweedsmuir Lodge.


1. Beat, Bella Coola heli-skiing and heli-boarding is known for your terrain. Tell us about the Tweedsmuir Lodge area.

The Bella Coola area’s particular attraction is the unrivaled alpine terrain we can access. The runs are long, varied and always interesting. Combine this with a solid snowpack and it’s skier’s dream come true.

In my previous life as a ski and snowboard cinematographer, I was fortunate to ski all over the world, including with heli operations on 5 continents and at many of my competitor’s lodges here in BC. It has to be said that there is nothing else like British Columbia for the skiing and snowboarding enthusiast. The particular configuration of the mountain ranges, the weather patterns, the topography, the trees and the vast spaces, makes it the best and most reliable place to ski powder in the world.

For me, Bella Coola has all of what makes BC great in the best possible combinations.

heli-ski canada, heliskiing bella coola helisports


Beat “Enjoying the Fringe Benefits”


2. You have integrated travel into your trips better than any other operator. Explain how a typical trip works, please.

For sure this seems to be a more and more important consideration in our busy world. The way it works for us is as follows: our clients catch a one hour 10 minute flight to Bella Coola [in the morning]. On their arrival at 11:30, we meet them as they disembark and drive them 300 yards to the heli port. We serve lunch, they get changed into ski clothing, do some safety exercises and then go skiing. It’s as fast and simple as that. They then ski and fly their way to the lodge, where at the end of the day, the heli drops them on the lawn outside their private chalet. It’s a very cool set up. We have clients from California, Seattle and Toronto that wake up in their own
The return journey is equally efficient. We ski and fly from the lodge and land the clients at the airport on the tarmac outside the terminal. It’s a rock star finish to the week.


3. The snow at Whistler Blackcomb has given the Coast Range a bad rap. How is your snow at Bella Coola Heli Sports?

I love the snow in Whistler. I’ve lived here for 30 years and I would argue it’s one of the most reliable places in the world to find good powder skiing and snowboarding. Yes, sometimes it can be wet, but all destinations have their issues. To me the most important thing is that it’s generally stable and we can ski super cool lines. There is a reason why so many film crews shoot their best stuff in the Coast Range from Whistler stretching north to Alaska.

As with regards to the snow in Bella Coola, I would say it’s ideal. It’s certainly lighter than here in Whistler. After all, we are further North and operate at a higher elevation. The biggest thing however, is that we operate primarily on the east side of the range, the dry side, whereas Whistler is on the Western slope. It’s the same pattern as in California where the east side of the Sierra’s drops down into the desert (there are even places in BC with rattle snakes). In any case, we have what I think is a perfect snowpack. It’s reliable, stable, and light, but with enough resistance and density that you float on top rather than ski the rocks and ice underneath. Check out the picture.

heli-ski, heliskiing bc canada

Shred Alert!

4. With a huge tenure stretching West to East, is it true you can find good snow just about any day?

Yes, 2.65 million acres! Having a big tenure does guarantee that we can pretty well find good snow every day. However, the magic of Bella Coola is not that the tenure is so big, but more the micro climatic conditions of the zone we are in. The storms roll in off the Pacific and as they move east dumping their load of snow, it gets progressively drier. Being in the transition zone means that if it’s storming we stay more in the eastern parts of our area, but if it clear and it hasn’t snowed in a while, we can head west into the big snow zone. [Nice!]


5. Some think a huge tenure is irrelevant, because operators stay close to the lodge to save on fuel. Does size matter?

It’s true that we have more terrain then we can ski in a lifetime. In total it’s 10,700 square kilometers (4,300 sq/miles). This is equal in size to the entire Swiss Alps, except there are no ski lifts, no roads, and no people. And yes, costs and logistics demand that for the most part the heli has to stay reasonably close to refueling options. However, one of the things I have always enjoyed most about skiing is exploring. Going to new places, seeing what’s over in the next valley, skiing stuff nobody has ever skied before. Lots of the guides working for our company are old ski buddies from the ski bum days, who have this same philosophy. Anyway, I like the idea that we as a company will still be exploring our area well into the future. It makes it interesting and exciting.

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6. Tell us about the Tweedsmuir lodge, please, Beat.

The Bella Coola Valley is a magical little slice of what is a magical part of the world. The reaction we get from lots of people is that they feel like they have somehow landed in Shangri-La. The vertical relief out of the valley is huge. Combine this with big rock walls and tumbling glaciers, and it creates what are some of the most stunning views in the province.
The Tweedsmuir Park Lodge sits at the base of Mt. Stupendous (the name says it all) and is on the banks of the Atanarko River. We are inside a provincial park so it’s a very pristine and wild environment.

Accommodation at the lodge is in private double occupancy chalets with the main lodge for dining and socializing. It’s a great set up offering lots of privacy, yet intimate enough that by the end of the week everybody skiing that week has gotten to know each other.

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Alps? No, Mt Waddington – highest peak in BC
7. What is the average vertical in a day of heliskiing / heliboarding at Bella Coola Tweedsmuir Lodge ?

The average vert varies a fair bit depending on whether we are skiing on a sunny day or a bad weather day. If it’s sunny and we are skiing the huge alpine lines the vert racks up pretty fast and its common to ski 30,000plus feet. On bad weather days we ski in the trees, and the average vert maybe closer to 15,000 for the day.


8. You ski in groups of 4 or 5 in A-Star ships, right?

Yes that is correct. For the most part we do 4 people per load for the sake of comfort and increased operational flexibility (we can carry more gas and fly further into our tenure). However, with the A-star B2 it is possible to add a 5th client and if we have a group of 5 that want to ski together then we try to accommodate that.

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Love to Keep a Taxi Waiting…
9. How many groups share a helicopter?

The Tweedsmuir Park Lodge can host 16-18 people per week. On a normal week this breaks down to be four heli loads, which we would service with two machines. So each machine is flying just two loads. [Wow]

As you know the standard for most heli ops is three loads. On occasion we also do three loads in one machine, but that would be the maximum.


10. How does your skiing change from January to April?

In January we ski more trees and can sometimes ski from a 7,000 foot summit right down to 1,500 feet above sea level. My personal favorite time however is probably late March and April. The days are longer, the snowpack is settled, and the weather generally more stable. This is when we do most of our exploring and ski some great circuits in the really big alpine. Even late April is not too late to get superb powder snow. Our area is very heavily glaciated and all that ice acts like a giant freezer keeping the snow cold. We have even had clients come up and ski in June, July and even as late as September. The idea was to go ski corn snow, but more often than not they also get to ski some powder.

helicopeter skiing canada, bella coola heliski canada

Bella Coola Heli-Skiing April 12th!

11. How often do people mispronounce your name, Beat?

I have to say I don’t even notice anymore. I grew up with it and it’s always been difficult for English speakers. If people ask, I tell them my dad was a drummer. The fact is that it’s actually a fairly common name in Switzerland (my dad is Swiss). It’s the male version of Beatrice and is pronounced similarly. I like it. It’s the same root as the beatitudes and beatific and comes from the latin adjective beatus which means happy, fortunate or blissful. My life has been all that so no complaints from me. [What a great answer, BE-ot]


12. What % of your guests are European?

At the moment I would say about 70% of our clients are from Europe. A few years ago the split was closer to 50/50 between North Americans and Euros. That changed with Lehman Brothers going under. [Ouch]

Also, back in those days our currency was the Canadian peso whereas the currencies are more or less at par now. I’d like to get our numbers back to a 50/50 split. I am counting on this interview to help! [Occupy Bella Coola!!]

heli-skiing, bella coola heliskiing canada

13. What is your most popular package?

The most popular program is the standard one week vertical package. This is 100,000 vertical feet of skiing over the course of a 7 night stay. With 7 nights in Bella Coola, there is an opportunity to ski 6 full days and two half days. The semi-private program is also popular and is ideal for a group of 8 people who know each other and want more input in deciding when and where to go skiing.


14. What % of your guests return the following year?

I would say that about 75% of our clients each year are returning guests and 25% are first timers.


15. We will talk about your other two lodges (Pantheon and Big Mountain) next time. Is there anything else you would like to add about your Tweedsmuir Lodge operation?

What I really want to try to emphasize to your readers is how much fun heli skiing and snowboarding is. Resort skiing simply doesn’t come close. It’s not only about the endless untracked powder either, but also the fantastic thrill of flying into the mountains in this magical machine, a helicopter, and then having the pilot put you down on some remote peak in the middle of nowhere. Being out in these kinds of environments is an awesome privilege. Being able to ski or snowboard as well is a bonus. I would strongly urge anybody that likes to ski and snowboard to book heli skiing at least once in their lifetime, either in Bella Coola or with one of my competitors. [No way, Beat. You are one of a kind!]

After all, there is a reason so many people list a day of heli skiing as the best day in their life !

Thanks, Beat, always a pleasure!


Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)


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Skeena Heliskiing Announces Base Camp – No Frills Heli-Skiing Option

Skeena Heliskiing’s Bear Claw Lodge is one of the best heliskiing lodges we have visited.  And owner/GM Jake is one of the coolest.For 2015, Skeena Heliskiing is launching Base Camp Skeena Heliskiing  – including dome tent lodging and a great value, for those who are OK without a fancy lodge.
heliskiing tent constellation  at night

Base Camp guests will ski the same great terrain. Like other Skeena Heliskiing trips, it is for 7-days only.

wide shot base camp skeena heliskiing

For 2015, Base Camp Skeena Heliskiing is running during February and March only.The price is $8900 Can., costing almost 30% less than the Bear Claw Lodge program.

base camp skeena heliskiing inside communal dome tent

Also similar to the Bear Claw Lodge program, the skiing is fast. The Bell2 takes two groups of up to five guests.Base Camp is also closer to the goods. Just one minute to the first run.

chopper at skeena heliskiing tent

The ‘tent constellation’ includes a large communal tent, a shower tent and five guest tents accommodating up to two guests each.

Skeena heliskiing guest tent inside

The structures are non-permanent, minimizing environmental impact.Jake has been testing this set up for years, and it is now ready to prime time.

jake testing heliskiing tents at skeena

Base Camp Skeena Heliskiing is only accessible by helicopter, fly-in fly-out.Base Camp is supported by the main lodge, just 12 minutes away by chopper.

Interested?  Call 866-HELISKI or email TJ.



TLH Heli Skiing – Tyax Lodge and Heli Skiing – Tyax Heli Ski

Tyax Lodge and Heli-Skiing

(TLH Heli-Skiing &


TLH Heli-Skiing Interview with HELISKI.com

We recently got re-acquainted with TLH Heli-Skiing & Heli-Snowboarding aka Tyax Lodge and Heli Skiing

(1 Group, Unlimited Vertical Helicopter Skiing.)

Hope you enjoy our operator heli-skiing interview series on Canadian Heli-Skiing!  TLH Heli-skiing BC Canada, HELI-SNOWBOARDING CANADA

I have heard you say “TLH Heli-Skiing is the best deal in the Canadian heli-skiing industry.”  Explain, please your helicopter skiing offerings.


At Tyax Lodge and Heli Skiing, aka TLH Heli-Skiing, offer a unique helicopter skiing combination of program features that offer the best VALUE in Canadian Heli Skiing. While some heli-ski operators have a couple of the features that make us stand out, we are the only ones with this particular blend that makes our product perfect for so many heliskiers – location, accessibility, heli-skiing program, lodging, price, guides and safety. Our rates align with many other operators, yet we include unlimited vertical (which we back up with vertical guarantees), Single Group heli-skiing, transfers from Vancouver (no additional flights or transfer charges), and incredible lodging. All of our programs are semi-private at the cost of a regular program.

How can TLH Heli-Skiing  afford to do just one heli-ski group per helicopter at ‘Standard’ Canadian helicopter skiing rates?

Once you have offered this program, and you have clients see how good the single group program is, you can’t really afford not to. Return clients who can’t see going back to any other way of heli-skiing will keep coming back, and then start bring their friends. Guest retention is a great testimonial. Smaller margins with better guest experiences.

You also like to extol the advantages of heli-skiing in just one heli ski group.
The Single Group heli-skiing program has so many advantages; sometimes people don’t realize how many benefits come with it!

  • You are the first to head out in the morning and the last one to come back at the end of the day which means more ski time, which of course means more skiing. You are never waiting on other groups, virtually never waiting on the machine, so you can keep on skiing.
  • If you want to ski different areas in the further areas of the tenure, you can fly out there first thing in the morning and stay out there all day instead of taking half the day to get out there and half the day to get back; with large tenures and 2-4 groups in a machine, you have to slowly make your way, taxiing groups, with one group it’s a direct flight in and back.
  • The flexibility in variable weather is greatly increased – obviously you need a longer lead time in changing weather if you need to bring in 2 or 3 more groups, so you have to head in sooner. With one group, you can stay out longer. All of these things mean more skiing, less wait times, more access, and a better experience.

How does TLH Heli-Skiing snow differ from Whistler and the Coast Range operators like Bella Coola, Northern Escape Heli-Skiing and Last Frontier Heli-skiing (LFH Heli-Skiing and TLH Heli-Skiing used to be the same heli-skiing company)?

While our close proximity to Whistler is a great selling feature for us for obvious reasons (accessibility, Whistler Combos), our location is actually in another mountain range, taking us away from the sometimes wet Coastal snow conditions. Located in the South Chilcotin Mountains, the lodge sits in a colder range where we benefit from a higher and drier environment, which often gives us better snow quality. At the same time, our 830,000 acre tenure runs from the Chilcotins into the Coast Mountains, so when the Coast gets the deep, dry dumps, we can get to that too.

TLH heli-skiing trees, Tyax Lodge and Heli-Skiing TLH heli-skiing tree area, helicopter skiing trees   TLH heli-skiing into trees, TLH helicopter skiing

TLH Heli-Skiing is known for high alpine Canadian Heli-Skiing.  Got trees to heli ski?


We are certainly known for our alpine accessibility and do try to ski the big long alpine lines, but we have great tree skiing as well. There is the opportunity to access varied terrain within our large tenure; our guides will go where the best skiing is, dependent on the current weather and snow conditions. We definitely had some great tree skiing while this last storm rolled through!

tlh heliskiing, canadian heli skiingtlh heli skiing trees, tyax lodge and heli skiing tlh helicoopter skiing, tlh Canadian heli skiing

Travel to the heli-skiing lodge by ski plane is also unique.  Walk us through the process, please.

The ski plane is a Beaver Dehavilland and it is indeed a very unique way to get into the lodge. It flies from Vancouver or Pemberton into the lodge, landing on the frozen lake in front of the resort. The ski plane is generally only used for charters but we encourage guests to utilize this option rather than driving whenever possible. We use helicopters for almost all of our air transfers.

Our regular transfers include transportation from Vancouver to the lodge, a combination of air and land travel. We pick-up in Vancouver and drive to Pemberton, 35 km’s north of Whistler – guests fly in and out of there by helicopter, weather permitting.

We can offer charters directly from Vancouver to the lodge as well, by helicopter or ski plane, a flight of only 1 hour and 10 minutes.

tlh heliskiing pad vancouver
Heli Transfers To/From Vancouver for some TLH Heli-Skiing Trips

Mostly you offer helicopter skiing in heli-skiing groups of 10 in a Bell 212, right?

Our Signature Program is 10 guests and 2 guides in a single group Bell 212, so only 10 total in the machine all day. We also run a Small Group Program with 4 guests and 2 guides in a single group Bell 407. Both of these programs are also available in our Platinum Private Package with private chalet and service team.

Are the smaller helicopter skiing groups for Heli-Skiing Privates, only?

No, they are available in the main lodge as well. You can have a small group, semi-private vacation, flying solo in your own machine, and coming back to the lodge to share in the festivities with the rest of the guests. We generally only run one 407 at a time so it is important to book this program early to secure dates.  [Private 407 for Standard Prices.  That’s awesome!]

Tell us about the Tyax Canadian Helicopter Skiing Lodge and food, please.

TLH Heli-Skiing Lodge, Canadian Helicopter Skiing Lodge

Tyax Lodge and Heli Skiing Resort & Spa, home of TLH Heli-Skiing, is a boutique Wilderness lodge perfectly suited to the overall heli-skiing experience. Fully renovated in 2010 with ongoing improvements annually, the lodge offers comfortable guest rooms, a beautiful Lakeview dining room, a full lounge and bar, a den, a ski shop, a gift shop and an incredible spa with Eucalyptus steam room, infrared sauna, wood sauna, yoga studio, three treatment rooms, and a 20-person outdoor hot tub. It is the perfect balance between an authentic backcountry heliski lodge and a contemporary resort for the modern traveler.

The dining is, of course, one of the most important elements. We always strive to make sure our culinary offerings are top-notch, and we have received particularly rave reviews so far this season. Comments this last week included “Chef Liam, Whatever you are paying him, raise it!”, “Outstanding dining”, “Food has always been very good, but it was exceptional this time.” Heli Belly is part of the overall experience and we intend to fulfill that! Our 30 ft ceiling, fireside, Lake view dining room is no hindrance to the experience.

tlh heliskiing rooms, tlh helicopter skiing bedroom tlh heli skiing, heli-ski king room apres heli-skiing, tlh heli skiing

In the summer you don’t go heli-skiing, but you do heli mountain biking.  That sounds awesome!

It is awesome!! Its actually by float plane rather than heli. We use the same ski plane from our winter charters, put floats on it and utilize it for flightseeing and mountain bike drops. The region is home to some of the world’s best mountain biking, with day drops to multiple lakes with 25-60km rides back to the lodge on single track, or backcountry hut-to-hut trips. If you are into the outdoors, we are worth visiting every season.  You can also check out www.tyax.com and www.tyaxadventures.com for summer adventures.




Interview: Cold Smoke Gear – Inspired by Heli-Skiing, Tested by Heli-Ski Guides


Cold Smoke heil-skiing apparel logo


Cold Smoke Apparel takes its name from the ultimate heli-skiing powder – cold smoke.    Cold Smoke is the latest in our continuing series of interviews with heli-skiing gear manufacturers.   HELISKI.com skyped with Randall Breitenbach and Imani Lanier of Coldsmoke apparel.  Enjoy.


Tom: So I read the description of the origin of the Cold Smoke brand, which I think is pretty cool.    And so I’m curious about the connection with Powder Mountain Heli-Skiing / Catskiing [one of 3 Whistler heli-skiing operators we represent at HELISKI.com. You’re an owner there and here. Which came first?

Randy: Powder Mountain Heli-Skiing came quite a few years ago. I got involved when it was a small cat skiing operation and it was…I think I got involved like four or five years before the Olympics came in to the Vancouver area. I bought it with a friend of mine actually from Stanford, and he raced and we did a lot of heli-skiing and stuff after college. I lived in Alaska for a few years and we’d been out and about, and he in fact was the one that kind of stumbled across it. We looked at doing something…we actually worked with Joe at Ruby Mountains and had thought about buying in with them, owning a part of his operation or building him a lodge and doing some things like that, and we never could really could get off center, so we stumbled across this place up in Whistler which had this fantastic tenure for cat skiing, and at the time though it was really kind of rundown and had a couple of old cats.

I’ve lived in Alaska for two years back in the early eighties it was a pretty exciting time and certainly a lot of fun.

In any event, back to Powder Mountain, my friend Doug Ballinger stumbled across this place and so we bought in and recapitalized it, put in some new cats, etc. And we had no advertising budget because it really didn’t make money, and so we stumbled across some kind of funny ideas of how to expand it. In fact, we had this pretty ridiculous but ended up being hilarious idea of having a beauty contest, and we had what we called Miss Powder Mountain and it went off in Whistler!


powder mtn. heli-skiing poster





It started as kind of a small deal, but what we hadn’t realized is we hit on something really big and it was before Whistler opened; it was early season. If you get the 40 hottest girls in town into a bar, the entire town comes.

Tom: Yeah, I know. I’ve been a bum four different times and, you know, if you don’t have a girlfriend by Thanksgiving you’re pretty much out of luck, right?

Randy: Right, exactly. Exactly. Well, actually I should have said it differently – the only 40 girls in town.  All 40 girls were there!

Tom: And I thought you stumbled across something brilliant, which is sex sells.

Randy: Oh no, honestly, we laughingly use that a lot. And it did, it went off, and we got a lot of sponsors, we got a lot of notoriety and we started filling the place. Like I said, we were able to get some new cats – we put in four new cats. And coming in to the Olympics, we really picked up some steam and things were going great, and with the Olympic right on the horizon we figured…we decided we wanted to get into the heli business as well and really step it up, and we worked to expand our tenure and we cut a deal with a local heli operation out at Squamish and picked up over 250,000 acres of tenure, which pretty much covers everything from Vancouver all the way into Whistler, so that whole inlet area there which is just spectacular skiing when the conditions are right because you’re looking down on the water and it is truly epic for heli-skiing.

Tom: I used to have an office in Vancouver that overlooked the seaplane landing and takeoff spot looking up toward Whistler. Just beautiful.

Randy: Yeah, it’s beautiful countryside.  And the other thing that I really liked about where we were in Powder Mountain, and this was just from years of spending a lot of time up in the mountains heli-skiing and stuff where you get shut out, and you know, not talking anything bad about Wiegele’s, but one time I had a week-long Wiegele’s trip where I was shut out for four-and-a-half days …

Tom: It’s brutal.

Randy: Oh, it’s brutal. You’re in the middle of no-where and you’re playing foosball with  a bunch of Swedish guys and it’s just not fun.

Tom: I’ll tell you, I’ve been in that movie more times than I want to remember.

Randy: Yeah.

Tom: Once I was in…yeah, I was in Valdez once and skied one out of seven days.

Randy: Same deal. And the thing that always got me going about Powder Mountain was its location and that we didn’t even try to compete with the lodging because you’ve got Whistler right there and you’ve got like…and you know, a world-class facility which is a much younger kind of cross-section, much more adventurous than some of this…you know, places like Aspen and Vail and that sort of thing but still have the size and restaurants and everything else. And what’s nice is, and we allow this, is that you sign up for heli-skiing and if helis aren’t flying you can cat ski, and if you don’t want to cat ski we don’t charge you – you can go ski in Whistler Blackcomb…..or go to bars.

Tom: Let me ask you about that because my experience is they always wait to call it off. So you’re hanging around at 9 o’clock, they say, “Oh, we’re going to make another call at 10,” or “We’re going to do an early lunch and try to get out in the afternoon,” and pretty soon the day has been pissed away. Are you able to call it early enough for people to really get on the mountain and do some skiing?

Randy: Not all the time. I wouldn’t say that, but there’s obvious, more obvious ones of course, and it’s more you know you’re socked in for the next four days. I’m not…I’m skiing Whistler Blackcomb or I’m spending time at the spa.

And the other thing that we liked is, you know, Vancouver, and I’m not a big urban guy but at the same time Vancouver’s a pretty incredible city…and we run…you know, that not many people have used because it’s pretty expensive, but we run a package where you can ski at the Four Seasons in Vancouver and we’ll come pick you up and take you up in the hills and you can heli-ski for the afternoon. It’s pretty outrageous but it’s incredible, I mean with the scenery there!

Tom: You know, this interview goes on a blog and then it goes on The Ski Channel and other places and I’ve done it with Powder Mountain and we’re promoting that idea. I think it’s extremely cool.

Randy: Yeah, no, and I’ve been very fortunate that, you know, the operation’s only as good as the people that are up there running it, and Gordon Calder, he’s our lead manager up there…

Tom: Yeah, I know Gordon.  Check out our inteview with Gordon ‘The Mayor of Whistler.’

Randy: He’s spectacular. He’s so hands-on and makes things happen and he understands that this isn’t, you know, people aren’t up there…the heli-ski guides don’t have to be assholes, you know?

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: It’s a service. We have our guides lined up out in front of the place as the people come in, shake their hands, introduce everybody. You know, as you’re getting off the heli at the bottom, we’ve been fortunate, because of those Miss Powder Mountain parties a beer, a beer was named named after our mountain … they named a lager, called Powder Mountain Lager, so everybody gets a beer as they’re getting off the heli and, I mean it’s just a neat operation in that regard.  Yeah, I mean, and they pride themselves on that, yeah. And our lead guy is a guy named Don Schwartz and he actually used to work at Mike Wiegele’s Helicopter Skiing,and he’s kind of a…he’s a pretty special guy. He has a pretty unfortunate accent where he saved some people, and he’s a pretty amazing guy. Now he’s doing all those death races and shit. The guy’s like Hercules. But he’s a really conservative good guy obviously given his past. Makes sure everyone’s safe. We’re not a Valdez. We’re not trying to rock people’s world, you know, and put the hair on their back, you know, on edge.

I want my people to make it back alive and happy.

Tom: And is one of the guides, Ken Achenbach?

Randy: Yup, Ken Achenbach who’s quite a celebrity as well, obviously, one of the first snowboarders up Calgary. He, you know, those little posters where people used to jump off cliffs that when I was in high school I thought was crazy? That was him.  Before snowboarding was cool. It was Ken. And he’s got Camp of Champions as well, so he’s continuing to push the whole winter culture.

Tom: I was a bum in Vail one year when the country went from 90% of the resorts didn’t allow snowboards to the following year 90% did. That was just amazing.

Randy: Vail snob. I was a skier.

Tom: Yeah, they started it at Beaver Creek first, so we would spend the whole day in the Beaver Creek trees on our boards, and then the following year you could snowboard anywhere.

Randy: I used to refer to them as knuckle drivers but now I’m now a boarder, so I probably board more than I ski. I switched to boarding when I moved to LA.

Tom: Oh, that makes sense… So you know how a snowboarder introduces himself?

Imani: How’s that?

Tom: “Oh, sorry dude.”


Randy: That’s good.

Tom: Alright, so anyway, the Powder Mountain Heli-Skiing / Cat Skiing guys give you feedback into the product. Maybe we should talk about that a little bit.

Randy: Yeah, years ago actually when I bought Powder Mountain Heli-Skiing, I wanted to have a company in between me and the heli skiing operation.  And that company needed a name and I used the name Cold Smoke.

Tom: Cool.

Randy: Now, honestly, at the time, didn’t think it would be available. I was kind of surprised when it was available.

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: Because I’d seen it in a number of places before. And the story, that’s pretty, you know we talk about it on the website, but it was actually at another heli ski operation, you probably know Peter Mattssen [aka Swede] out at Bella Coola Heli-Sports (read Heli-Skiing.)

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: I mean, he was actually the guide that said, “When the snow’s perfect it’s Cold Smoke”

Randy: It was hilarious, because that’s why I remember it so much, because it was the night before we were sitting at the fire. Another old saying he loved to say was, like we would be sitting there and he’d start passing around a bottle of, what was it, Crown Royal, like it was nasty, and he would say, “Drink it blue! We’re going to drink it blue!” and jump across the fire. I mean, it wasn’t really funny…

He’s quite a character. But that’s where the name came from, and when I realized I had the name and then I realized…I checked and I realized it hadn’t been trademarked, I obviously got really curious. I loved the name. I had always had a passion about the ski business and Winter culture and that sort of thing, and so I thought it was an opportunity at least to lock it up. And to do that and to cover things, I became very knowledgeable about trademark law and stuff actually over the long haul because you actually have to make this shit to protect it.

Tom: I know, and you got to show publicly… I’ve had too much exposure to that myself. I have a naming company called Nameboy that does domain names, but also I’ve had a lot of startups with a lot of trademark issues. It’s a gauntlet.

Randy: Well, that’s what kind of got me started making clothes, because I wanted to protect the name. I started making slacks or maybe T-shirts and pants and stuff…

Tom: Oh sure, yeah, you got to have some product to show.

Randy: And then I put up a website a number of years ago, and started making jackets for my guides, nothing special, honestly.  I would find a very well-made kind of off-brand jacket, personalize it a little bit and give it to my guides, basically, and used it for the cat skiing and for the heli guides and that sort of stuff. And they used them once in a while, but they’ve been sponsored…we have a lot of sponsors up here now.  We have topnotch equipment. And so the guides in the cats would wear them but not really the guides on the hill for the most part.   Roll forward a number of years and I, just kind of serendipity, met Imani. It was actually, I don’t know if you want to go in that in detail…

Randy: I was living in the penthouse of the Standard downtown, and there was a pre-Coachella party going on in the roof deck, and Imani at the time was the founder and director behind an online magazine called Western Civ Mag, and he was on the roof deck taking photos of all these pretty hot girls running around and we started talking.

And so we hit it off over a number of beers, and then he was in a situation where he had to make a decision, it was just totally coincidental that he happened to be an apparel guy and had quite an obviously pretty spectacular history and so on and so forth, and coincidentally was looking at a job that he needed to talk about with Burton back East……and honestly didn’t want to go to Vermont, so…

Imani: [Laughs]

Tom: I have a story like that for you.  In the late eighties Steve Case said to me, “You want to work at AOL? Come on back to Virginia.” I said, “Nah.”

Randy: San Francisco is pretty damn nice…

Tom: Right.

Randy: Yeah. So now it’s same thing…

Tom: So Imani, what other clothing stuff have you designed? Anything that I might have heard of?

Imani: Nike, Levis

Tom: So, smaller brands mostly?

Imani: Yeah, mostly smaller brands.


Imani: I was with Nike for four-and-a-half years in the Asia-Pacific region. I’m doing their sportswear collections for all of Asia and Australia and New Zealand. I did premium denim for Levi’s. And then before that I was part of the like street culture, street wear, the renaissance of it, like the beginnings of it with a lot of the LA brands, a couple of New York brands like Supreme and Extra Large and what have you, the Cool Kids stuff. So one of those guys that…

Tom: Yeah. I think I saw you on Entourage….

Imani: Is that what it was? [Laughs] And so yeah, I’ve been doing it for about 23 years, and when Randy and I met, you know, it’s funny because I just…he was telling me about what he was doing as far as building jackets for the guides and what have you and, you know, basically my approach with Randy was, you know, I didn’t want to be at Burton, [laughs] I really didn’t. I had just gotten back from Vermont and wasn’t happy with what I saw at all. I mean, the offices are awesome, but the neighborhood and the…you know, just it’s…there’s not a lot going on.

Tom: My first ever snowboard experience, they only had a couple of boards to rent. One of them was called The Burton Cruiser. We dubbed it The Burton Bruiser.

Imani: [Laughs]

Tom: Three out of the six people ended up with broken bones. [Laughs]

Imani: Exactly. Exactly. But I basically, you know, when Randy and I were talking it was just like, “If you ever need any help with what you’re doing with Cold Smoke, then just let me know.” And a few weeks later he got an itch and gave me a call and we met, and fortunately Randy’s a really good guy and so as opposed to just hiring me to create his vision he actually asked me to partner up with him, which was very cool.

Tom: Cool.

Imani: And so we did and we started, and that was like in April 2012. Yeah, April 2012.

Randy: Not long.

Imani: Yeah.

Tom: And, oh yeah, especially given the lead times, I was just talking to the guys who started Trew [Gear, see our recent interview] up in Hood River and they’re like almost two years out, the design production cycle…

Randy: Yeah, it’s a total pain in the ass.


Tom: I also…you might know Chip Wilson, he started Lululemon…

Randy: Yeah.

Tom: And has…manufacturing’s always been a huge challenge.

Imani: Right.

Randy: I mean, we’re trying to buck that a little bit.

Tom: Trying to speed it up?

Randy: There’s a different direction, honestly, for all of those exact reasons, you know, the whole…I’m far from an expert in this, but it seems to me directionally that like a lot of businesses, whether it’s music business, entertainment business, the whole retail, I mean we’ve already seen it change so many different areas, it’s just, …we think the retail model’s kind of broken and it has forced us.   A couple of different things that really pisses us off—pisses me off—not taking anything from the retail business and not… The interesting thing is I jumped into this not understanding what the norm is…

Tom: Which is often a good way to innovate.

Randy: Which I think was probably a much better way to look at it. I’m like, “Why do we have to do this?”

Tom: Like why does everybody have reps?

Randy: Everybody up to be ready 12 months before the season just because the buyers come in – and they hose you, regularly for the next six months…

Tom: And you need a whole fleet of stoner reps who occasionally stop by the store.

Randy: It’s crazy. There is just so much idiocy, and then obviously I’ve, through some friends and stuff, I’ve seen enough businesses and businesses fail because of big orders, because of success, honestly, and unfortunately the way that it’s geared with big companies like Nordstrom’s and stuff, they’re not set up and they’re not incented to be selective in what they order. They’ll just order whatever they want even if it never gets up on the rack. And because then they send it right back at you at the end of the season.

Tom: I think when a brand ends up in those stores it’s kind of done one way or another.

Randy: Right, right, exactly. So we’re…to try to mitigate some of that exposure and some of that risk and also to try to shorten the amount of period that we need between us deciding what we want to make and getting it up and out the door, we’re going almost exclusively on the web.

Tom: That’s cool.

Randy: We’re doing a couple stores just to be able to say that we’re in the store, but we’re really pushing the whole web model.  And the biggest point was, I mean there was all those hassles, but there was the biggest issue for us became the cost. And for us, because of the quality that…I mean, one thing that we wanted to do that was kind of my directive…I just kind of put guide rails up there and let Imani run with it, but the guide rails that I wanted in place were the highest possible quality. If my guides are going to be wearing this, this has to be the best stuff on the mountain. So I want the best new materials, I want the best zippers, I want the best seals, I want…and I want the pockets where the guides want them and I want, you know… And so we spend over a season doing that stuff, and I think putting together some equipment that’s pretty outstanding and goes toe-to-toe with anybody honestly. So we’re pretty excited about that. But then the problem was, as to getting to the retail, was a thousand-dollar jacket. [Laughs]

Tom: I know.

Randy: I mean, it was a thousand dollars.

Tom: I started Intel’s wireless business, and if you remember, the wireless model was really broken that the retail store got a big bounty for selling the phone, then they got a piece of the action ongoing. So I went to the equivalent manufacturer and said, “Why don’t you give us the money? We’ll lower the price of our hardware at wholesale, so a lower priced product gets marketed up, so we could get it into the market cheaper.”   Everybody wins……. except the retail guy.

Randy: Yeah. No, I mean, they screw themselves by setting up this way, they’re continuing to push the wrong buttons and then you’re pushing new producers out of the market, and I think it’s just an antiquated model. But anyway, for us, that thousand-dollar jacket, now we can sell it for under 600 bucks.

Tom: That’s cool.

Randy: And that’s huge. That means we can go toe-to-toe with Burton. That means I’m undercutting Arc’Teryx and we have every bit as good a jacket.

Tom: Sweet. That’s my favorite so far.

Randy: Yeah, so that’s kind of been our angle and we’re hoping that word-of-mouth that it gets out.

Tom: So, for heli-skiers, what do you think are going to be the most popular items that you’re selling?

Randy: See, it depends on if you’re a daily skier or a weekend warrior. The Tantalus Jacket far and away is our best jacket for that sort of experience. We have a lined Tantalus Jacket, which is more the weekend warrior because it’s a little bit warmer, it’s a little bit more comfortable, it feels fuller. But for guides, they don’t like the lining because they’re in it every day and it’s wet.

Cold Smoke's Tantalus Jacket


Tom: Yeah, and also for me it’s just not as flexible. I like to wear a base layer and then something long-sleeved and a vest. Take out the vest if you get cold.

Randy: What I would say though is that the lined jacket that I’m talking about is still really thin.

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: It’s not a down…I mean, it’s not an insulated jacket.

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: It’s just got some soft tricot lining.

Tom: Yeah. Yeah.

Randy: It’s softer. It’s a little more comfortable.

Tom: I just prefer a shell. Seems to be more flexible.

Randy: I mean, that’s what our guides do.

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: And then we’ve got the Panel Jacket, which is of the same material, not quite as expensive in terms of pockets and that sort of stuff but similar quality.


heli-skiing panel jacket

Imani: And we’ve got the Asymmetric Anorak, which is a little bit more of a stylish take on it but at the same time still works in the backcountry or what have you. It’s pretty much the same thing as a panel but a little bit more fashion-oriented, but still has a power skirt and still has the back tail so you don’t get powder in your pants and what have you. So those are the three top jackets, but then also we have our Down Jacket. We have a Down Vest and Down Jacket as well that I would say competes with the best of them and super-stylish.

Nasak Down Vest (looks like it might be too warm…)

Randy: Yeah, we’ve got like three or four pieces that are just for high-end backcountry access, and then we’ve got some upper ski pieces and more general Everywhere-type stuff.

Tom: Cool.

Imani: We break it down into categories. We call it ECG and DCG. So ECG is our extreme conditions gear and DCG is our daily conditions gear. But in everything that we do we want to have a performance point of view, and so is it something that’s going to work more in the city or is it something that’s going to work on the mountain? What we try and do and one of our mottos is that it’s from the mountains to the city.

Tom: Oh, that’s cool.

Imani: So with everything, we do you can come off the mountain and go into the bar.   If it’s raining or if it’s cold in the city, we’ve got something for you. All the materials that we use are the best from the best manufacturers.

Randy: Oh yeah, we’re producing in Vancouver.

Tom: Oh cool.

Imani: We’re doing it locally and…but…and that’s only because you can now and it’s because the technology’s actually come to the States. I mean, we’re basically in the same shop Arc’Teryx is, and there’s a couple of companies that can now do the seaming technology well.

Imani: But it’s now kind of imported into Vancouver, with a lot of immigrants honestly, and so it’s great. It’s great for us because now it’s a two-hour flight and we’re sitting on our stuff and watching it being made. And I have an office in Whistler that my guys can drive down. So, I mean, it’s super-super-nice.

And it…going back to this whole turnaround, what we’re hoping is to really shorten that part of the model, and there Asym heli-ski jacket from Canadaare certain things that we need in all of our pieces, and that’s the highest end fabric. So those things that have really long lead times will overstock, and then what we’ve done is we’re more selective in how quick we can get it all in town. It’s in Vancouver, and we can do smaller orders and quicker turnaround and different colors, and we take that from six months to a couple of months, and hopefully even shorter.

Tom: That’s cool, and you probably don’t have the crazy litigious environment up there that we have down here, right? As far as Worker’s Comp. and all that jazz.

Randy: Oh yeah. That’s part of it.

Imani: But the factory is really…it’s a clean factory.

Randy: It’s more expensive, don’t get me wrong. And that’s another reason why we have to go on the web? So we can price competitively.

Tom: That’s cool. So I like “from the mountain to the city.” The one I was having a hard time with is “mixing technical performance with the true look and feel inspired by classic military and workwear influences.”

Randy: Well, why are you having a hard time with that?

Tom: I don’t know. Well, what’s a military and work wear influence?

Randy: Well, basically what we’ve done, like if you look at some of the other brands, I don’t want to name brands for an interview, but if you look at kind of the other brands that are popular in the market, it’s the same old thing every year. They just rework it in some kind of way, add a new colorway or whatever, you know, the neon color blocking, etc.

heliskiing vestAnd we’ve actually really worked really hard to actually bring what the inspiration for the line is like actually to fruition in the product. So one of the things that we did with the early mountaineering and military influence, we actually went to a guy in Japan called…his name was Mr. Sakurai and the company’s called Rtec Lab, and they do a lot of stuff for a company in Italy called Stone Island.

And Stone Island is an authentic like military outerwear company out of Italy, and they do a lot of finishing and what have you to bring that look and feel.  So we actually found him and went out there and we actually were able to take our eVent fabrics like three-layer and two-layer, seam-sealed, waterproof breathable product and actually put a technique of finishing on it that made it look like one of the jackets that they first used climbing Mt. Everest. But at the same time, we have the technology and the quality of the jacket today. So no one’s been able to do that and we’re doing that.

Tom: That’s cool.

Randy: That’s pretty cool. It’s like your jeans. Each piece is done separately so it’s personalized. So each one is definitely a little different. So it’s unique in that way. I don’t know how big it’ll be on the mountain. We also make that jacket without doing that so it’s not as expensive, but if someone wants to like me fashionable, we let them be.

Randy: The other piece that actually is my favorite, and we try to bring in a little history or the surroundings in some way – in this last line there was a real influence from the local Indian and Eskimo tribes.

There was a little push through all of our products and our T-shirts that have that sort of thing, and in particular the whole…our high-end jacket, the Tantalus Jacket. The Tantalus name is a glacier that’s on our property up there and when I first brought Imani up to Whistler, before we started designing clothes, he flew and he took pictures of…to try to get an idea, you know, for exactly this reason, trying to get some inspiration, and the Camo is basically right off of those…the coloring of the glacier. So it’s all for a reason.

Imani: And another point, another product to point out, so as Randy said, this trip that we took up to Whistler and in and around Powder Mountain when we went up when we were first starting this, so we got the Tantalus Jacket, which is named on the glacier, but then the other thing that I think that you’d be really interested, since you heli-ski, the helicopter took us on the tour, and it’s Black Tusk.  We actually made a jacket that was inspired by Vietnam helicopter pilots for Black Tusk.

So we did a collaboration with them. So we took the Inuit inspiration of the tribes up there and the Black Tusk being peaked up there in the heli-ski operation. We made a jacket specifically with that in mind.


down heliski jacket

Tom:  So what’s a workwear influence? How does that figure in?

Imani: Just from a detail point of view, the type of pockets and, you know…

Tom: Like functional?

Randy: Yeah, and durability.

Imani: Durability. And we do have the DCG, which is the daily conditions skier, so with that, we’ll use like some wax canvases and what have you and kind of go back to some of the old style. There’s a jacket that Randy really loves, which is our fur-lined jacket and it definitely has like a mountaineering, or mountain man I should say mountain…working man’s like a mountain-man-type jacket, you know?

Imani: So that’s where the workwear influence comes from. It’s an aesthetic, you know? And you know, my background coming from what it is.  I think what we really wanted to do is, you know, Randy is really passionate, obviously, a big part of the ski and snow industry, and for me, I grew up snowboarding and skiing as well but not as intense as Randy.

So we grew up together, my design aesthetic with his passions

Tom: And how about the Cold Smoke Film Awards?  Was that another idea like getting the hottest chicks in Whistler?

Randy: Honestly, you’re going to laugh. It was…I mean, it was truly serendipity, dumb luck. It’s truly serendipity here as well. I was, as I said, is I have trademarking everywhere, we were contacted by an attorney out of Bozeman that was concerned about Cold Smoke name being trademarked, and it was actually a number of places in Bozeman, Bridger Bowl which goes on the front…shoot…as you enter the front signs say Land of Cold Smoke or whatever…

Tom: Oh yeah.

Randy: And so the Cold Smoke, but there was in Bozeman some kids out of college started a film festival, more of a labor of love, and they called it the Cold Smoke Awards, and they started this like 10 or 12 years ago. It’s been around for a while. It started as a really small deal and it’s gotten big. And they were…I came across it on the web and them not knowing really who we were, because we didn’t really have our website then and…But they did have a website up and it was impressive, honestly. It was…they, over the course of 10 years, you know, these three guys, and they’re the real deal. I mean, Anjan is filming with TGR or the Sherpas up in the Himalayas at least two or three times a year.

I mean, he’s the real deal. He’s actually the director. It brings in all the films. They’ve been doing this kind of back-of-the-envelope film festival that they got big also. And they have this…their academy awards in Bozeman – they call it Cold Smoke Awards, and it’s great. And they have this huge party. It’s really a reason for a bunch of ski geeks to get together and watch movies and drink beer and enjoy each other’s company. And over time what it’s become to them is not just their passion but something that they want to give back to the community because they want to try to continue to inspire people to make these movies and stuff, and the only way to do that is to get money to them somehow.

How do you do that?  And that’s really their conundrum that they’re working on right now, is how do we build up, how do we get them more resources, more exposure?  So that’s been their mantra. I just happened to fall upon these guys and went, “Oh my God, this is perfect!”

Tom: Yeah, it is perfect.

Randy: This is all over…I mean, this is…you know, I’m not going to find…I already had trademarked the name, so I’m like I didn’t fly there to say you can’t use my name, I flew there to go, “Will you become a part of our community?” And I was able to strike a deal with them. They’re my partners. They’re their separate company. But they live, you know, they do have standalone company budget. They’re under the umbrella, but they have their own mantra. Cold Smoke Apparel is a sponsor.

Tom: Yeah, makes sense.

Randy: And so they want to keep some separation because they don’t want…they’re still going to be able to take in North Face or they could bring in other apparel lines that they want to use as sponsors. They really are a standalone entity in that regard. That said, they want to give back and they get a lot of help from the Cold Smoke mothership. And given that their…we kind of feed off each other I guess is a good way to say it. Everything apparel does to go out to market, the parties we promote, the magazine articles, da da da da, all pull people to our website, which has Cold Smoke Awards on it.

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: So everything we can do to pull more people to them is a good thing. The more people they pull in that happen to come across to apparel is also good.

Tom: Yeah, that’s cool.

Randy: It’s perfect. It basically splits my marketing budget.


Tom: And what a cool way to solve a potential trademark issue, is to say, “Let’s work together.”

Randy: Yeah, that’s the genius of this.

Tom: Yeah, because usually, the typical first response is to send them a nastygram…

Randy: Right.

Tom: Yeah, from my lawyer and let’s both spend some money we don’t need to.

Imani: Well, for me the really cool thing about all of this, you know, Randy uses the word serendipitous, is that this was…what they do as a kind of…we didn’t talk about building a film awards, you know, between Randy and I, but we talk a lot about content on the website and about interviewing people and creating our own videos and this, that and the other, and it was really cool because now it’s like…now it’s already done.

Randy: Come to us. We don’t need to go out and get it.

Tom: Yeah.

Imani: And not only do we not go out and get it, but we also get the new guys.

Randy: Yeah.

Imani: Because we’re the small shop. They’re the small like under-the-radar guys.

Randy: You know, we still get TGR, we still get the bigger companies, but we also get a couple of guys with GoPro’s that climb some ridiculous ice faces and they’re panting the whole way.  And it’s pretty amazing.

Tom: Yeah, that’s cool.

Randy: Tearjerkers.

Imani: Yeah, tearjerkers.

Randy: The stories and yeah, and there’s more of a push, I mean the guys up there they call it to ski porn. They go, “Okay, so we got to throw in some ski porn so we get those guys to whoop and to holler at the bar.

Tom: Gotcha. And so then what about the Cold Smoke Magazine? Is that…?

Imani: Cold Smoke Magazine was kind of…you know, one of the things that Randy really liked, in the beginning, was the Western Civ Magazine that I was doing, and we wanted to bring that over and transition that concept over to Cold Smoke Apparel, and it’s kind of morphed itself into something all-encompassing. We’re not really going to move forward with the Cold Smoke Magazine at this point, but we are creating our own media, which we’ll have interviews. Like we had Rip Zinger, who’s a snowboarder/surfer-skateboarder. We had a big art show and we did an interview and what have you, which becomes part of our news and our media.

Tom: Cool.

Imani: So we’re continuing with that but it’s…

Tom: But mostly online?

Imani: Yeah.

Randy: Well, I mean, our whole marketing, because we are a startup, I mean we don’t have a ton of money, and just like we did with Powder Mountain we used that whole guerilla marketing, you know, we used “sex sells.”

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: And so we threw parties and we’d get some hot models to show up and we get into other blogs and stuff because we have people show up. I mean, we started throwing these little parties and it was…it’s such a great…because we had fun doing it too, on top of it all, it’s like it’s the best of both worlds.

Tom: Year before last I had an opportunity to do a shoot with Playboy Bunnies going to a heli-ski place, and I was just jumping out of my clothes. Yeah, I talked to maybe a dozen different heli operators and they all said, “Oh yeah, yeah, we can do that!” [Laughs]

Imani: “Oh yeah, yeah, please, please!”

Randy: What I think Tom is like brilliant about this whole thing is, number one, Imani coming from being a very successful businessman in general and then coming to do this as his passion, he’s been able to bring together some great talent including myself, um, [laughs]…

Tom: Yeah.

Imani: Um, you know from the apparel side, you know, from Powder Mountain Heli-Skiing and the Cold Smoke guys, and what I feel like is happening here, we call it the Cold Smoke collective, but we’re creating a lifestyle that a lot of brands like in the surf and the skate industries have done for years and they’ve been very successful at it. But I don’t think to develop a snowboard culture in my style. And I think…but I think what we’re doing is taking you to the next level, you know, all the different arms that Randy has and bringing all of those together to create a real lifestyle, I mean like I mentioned the art shows and, you know, we’re bringing people into the culture that it’s not just about—what does Danny Kass do when he’s not snowboarding? You know, we’re talking about that. we’re creating apparel for that guy who’s…he’s a snowboarder, he’s a skier, he’s ride or die, but at the same time he’s got life off the mountain, and we’re creating a lifestyle around all of that.

Tom: So that’s cool. Something in there reminded me of a funny story. I knew a guy who invested in Nixon.  He went to visit them and after the tour of the shop and everything he said, “Hey, how about a little swag? You got a shirt or a hat or something?”  Now the investor was in his 30s, windsurfer, heliskier, snowboarder – yeah, he’s not a Barney.  But the Nixon guys looked at him and said, “Hmm, sorry dude, you’re really not the right demographic.” [Laughs]


Tom: He said, “We can’t have you wearing our brand around if you’re not hip, you know.”

Imani: Wow. [Laughs]

Tom: And he was an owner of the company.  That’s some serious brand management there. [Laughs]

Randy: Amazing!

Tom: Hey, we didn’t talk about pants. I wanted to make sure to talk about pants. Do you do bibs or pants or both?

Imani: Not now.  You know, we wanted to focus on being the best at something and doing it the right way.

Randy: Yeah, I want to be the best at a few things rather than good at a lot of things.

Tom: I think that’s fantastic. I salute that. And it’s funny, the guys I mentioned before, Trew Gear, their thing is bibs. They say, “Well, we make the best bibs and we make jackets too, but that’s kind of what we want to be known for.”

Randy: Yeah, we’re venturing out with a piece here and a piece there…

Tom: Well, also, I might wear my jacket out to the city but I’m not [laughs] going to wear my bibs. It’s a much narrower market, right?

Imani: But moving into fall 2014-15, so next fall, not this one, we’re going to have women’s.

Imani: Well, we’re going to have women’s for spring, but snowboard pants, ski pants for 2014-15.

Randy: Something probably a little more stylish. I mean, you see some of the more European…and we won’t go…we won’t be North Face or whatever and just be a really high technical piece. I’m sure we’ll add some flair to it for the women.

Tom: You know, I just checked out the Marmot shell and I liked it very much.

Randy: Yeah, they’re a high-quality piece too.

Tom: Yeah, vis–à–vis North Face, for example.

Randy: They first came out, if you remember, they were the Arc’teryx. I mean, they were the new shit and… and they were like pushing that technical button, and they hadn’t stayed on it very well, I don’t think, from a marketing perspective but…

Tom: Yeah, I thought this jacket looked pretty good but yeah, I agree, they’re kind of a second-tier player it seems like. You got to look pretty hard to find them.

Randy: I think they are. I mean, I haven’t really gone through their stuff, but they were always considered a super-nice piece.

Tom: Yeah. So I was in San Francisco last weekend and had some time to kill, so those two shops were right next to each other and I went and checked them out.

Randy: North Face and Marmot?

Tom: Yeah. And I didn’t care for the North Face. I thought the Marmot was pretty cool.

Randy: Yeah. I mean, back in my day, back in Alaska back in the early eighties, I mean North Face was the shit.

Tom: Yeah.

Randy: They built the best-quality stuff. I mean, there was Bogner.

Tom: Obermeyer.

Randy: Obermeyer.

Tom: I windsurf with that dude near Aspen.

Randy: I think it was…had Spider come out yet? Maybe.

Tom: It’s funny how they go through cycles.

Randy: Yeah. No, I mean, North Face, I still have pieces that I bought back then that it fit me, you know, I could wear. I mean, they probably smell a little bit but I mean they’re amazing. That stuff lasts forever.

Tom: Are you guys going to make any layers or anything other than outerwear?

Imani: We are. We’ve got mid layer, base layer, outerwear. We currently have that. We’ve got a removable lining inside, soft shell.

Tom: Oh, cool.

Imani: So we’ve got…we’re running the gamut. Like Randy said, as we move into spring, into next fall, we are expanding on the product line and we’re figuring out how we could be, um, you know, we can outfit like the guides and our customer completely when they’re on the mountain or when they’re just out in the elements. So another one, another tagline I’ll give you is “become one with your environment.” That’s another one that we use.

Tom: Oh. That’s like everybody’s long-term goal, too. You’ll end up in the ground, becoming one with the environment, literally. [Laughs]


Tom: That’s a goal I’m sure I can achieve! [Laughs]

Imani: But yes, we have a base layer, mid layer, and outer layer.

Tom: Cool, because I wear my ski base layers out on my bike when it’s cold.

Imani: Exactly.

Tom: They serve a lot of purposes.

Imani: And we’re working with Polartec on a lot of our base layer stuff.  So we’re making sure that we’re working with the best materials and we’re working with the best factories like Randy said. One of the things that he said that I’ll never forget is, “Burton gives Powder Mountain a product for the guides to wear.” And I was like, “Well, what are we going to do? They’re wearing Burton. We want them to Cold Smoke.” And he said, “Well if it’s good, they’ll wear it.”

Tom: That’s exactly right. That’s like…I’m trying to remember the…now they can’t rent videos anymore, was Hollywood and Blockbuster. And the guy who started Blockbuster, he put his stores across from every Hollywood he could find, and the idea was, “If we can’t kick their ass, we’re straight across the street, then we’re going to lose long-term.” So I thought that was a cool approach.

Randy: Right!

Tom: So anything else you want to promote, anything else you want to feature, products you want to talk about?

Randy: No, that’s about it.

Tom: Alright, cool. Well, guys, I appreciate your time. It’s great to get to know you.

Imani: Definitely. [00:54:57] You should send us your information, we can send you over so gear.

Tom: Yeah, your PR person has promised me gear, so I am looking forward to that.

Imani: Okay.

Tom: And I’ll reciprocate with some great HELISKI.com hats.

Imani: Cool. Thank you. So when you do your next Skype meeting with Burton you can wear the Cold Smoke hat.


Tom: Great idea. I have some dude transcribe these and then I’ll put them up on the web in text. Do you want to look at it before I post it?

Randy: It doesn’t matter.

Tom: Okay. Well, if it says anything too scary incriminating I’ll x it out, but if you think of something else that you wanted to mention just fire me an email.

Randy: Thank you, Tom. Alright.

Tom: Cool. Alright. Nice talking to you guys.

Randy: Have a good day.

Tom: Alright, see you.

Heliski-In/Heliski-Out at Whistler Blackcomb! Ultimate Whistler Heli Skiing House

Whistler Heliskiing’s newest thing:  Heliski-In / Heliski-Out

whistler heliskiing in, heli-skiing out, whistler bc canada


Forget ski-in/ski-out, introducing Whistler’s newest and greatest thing – Heliski-In / Heliski-Out!

The ultimate in luxury and resort-based heliskiing convenience.  Why waste powder time driving to the helipad when you can land right next to your chalet!?


The Belmont Estate in Whistler is one of the World’s only truly Heliski -In/Heliski-Out out chalets.  And it is only 5 minutes drive to the lifts in Whistler, so down days are a thing of the past.

Check out this video of the helicopter landing at the house!


The Belmont Estate is, without a doubt, the most contemporary and private house in Whistler. The house boasts unobstructed and quintessential panoramic views over Whistler resort.  The 7 bedroom estate sits on 7 acres of land and features a helipad, making it one of the world’s only truly Heliski-in/Heliski-out properties.

whistler heliskiing, heliski in out, whistler heliskiing


With 8100 sq feet of liveable space, Belmont is among Whistler’s largest houses. The main house has 5 bedrooms all with ensuite bathrooms, and the guest house has 2 bedrooms with a loft.  Belmont is located in Stonebridge, Whistler’s most exclusive and private neighborhood and is a 5 minute drive from the ski-lifts at Creekside. The Estate features a gated laneway, heated outdoor pool, hot tub that seats 12 people, a steam room, outdoor firepits, a billiards room, a media room and a gym.


Rentals include 24/7 Private Concierge Service, a private driver, butler services and daily housekeeping provided by the professionals from https://www.maideasy.com.au/.


We work with all three of Whistler’s heliski operators.  All three operators can  land at the house.   Locally based and very experienced concierge team will suggest which of the 3 is the best for your group based on group size, skier ability level, conditions and time of the year.


Special introductory rates are currently available.   Call 866-HELISKI or email tj at HELISKI.com



Why Heliski in January? Heliskiing Operator Series: Bella Coola Heliskiing

Heliskiing Canada in January

We asked Tim Wilkinson, Sales & Marketing Director for Bella Coola Heli Sports & Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, about heliskiing in January.  Check out his answer!


heli-ski bella coola canada


January is a great time to go heli-skiing in Canada, as it usually dumps a lot! And it’s good quality, light, fluffy snow. Days are shorter and blue skies are not as common as later in the season. To offer heli-skiers something different than the norm, Bella Coola Heliskiing Sports has launched 2 new and unique programs to maximize the number of “best days ever” guests can have.


The Heli Sampler allows guests to “cherry pick” only the best days to go heli-skiing. If it is overcast and snowing heavily and guests prefer not to heli-ski, they can choose not to go! At other locations, guests have to heli-ski if the helicopters can fly (or at least surrender their vertical if they sit out). On days where people prefer not to heli-ski, there’s plenty to do. We have a 60 acre property in BC’S largest provincial park so there’s plenty of cross country ski trails…or guests can try fly-fishing, as we are located on the world famous (in fishing circles) Atnarko river! When the skies clear, skiers experience the longest runs and the best alpine skiing in the country! With the Heli Sampler, guests buy a basic package that includes private chalet accommodation (double occupancy), meals, guide service, flights to/from Vancouver and Bella Coola but not heli-skiing. Only when people choose to heli-ski do they need to pay, thus making this a relatively economical program. Only pay to heli-ski on blue bird days! This is perfect for those new to heli-skiing, have families or for busy business people who want epic days heli-skiing but also have office work to do!


The other program for January/Early February is the Heli Lite. This is like a traditional heli-skiing package but we give guests an extra FREE night of accommodation and meals. This allows guests more time in which to use up their vertical, at no extra cost. For more information email HELISKI.com or call 866-HELI-SKI.


Bella Coola Heli-skiing Availability for January:



January 20-25 (5 nights)
January 25-30 (5 nights)
January 31 – Feb 4 (5 nights)
January 31 – Feb 6 (7 nights)
February 4 – February 11 (7 nights)
February 6 – February 11 (5 nights)


BC heli-skiing bedroombc heli-ski lodgeOnsite heli-ski pads Bella Coola Heli Sports

New A-Star Elite Program at Northern Escape heli-skiing Canada in 2 Groups of 4

What’s new in Canada helicopter skiing?

Northern Escape added a new A-Star program to Canada helicopter skiing options.

Guests heliski in two groups of 4 in an A-Star.  Canada helicopter skiing operators ski in three groups per helicopter, for the most part.  The new A-Star Elite program is just two groups Canada helicopter skiing.

heli-skiing Canada, Canada helicopter skiing

A-Star B2 is common in Canada Helicopter Skiing….  But just two groups per helicopter is not!

Lodging for the A-Star Elite guests is in the Pioneer Lodge, is on the mountain side of the main Yellow Cedar Lodge.  Pioneer Lodge offers single and double rooms.

heli-ski Canada, Canada helicopter skiing cabins

Picture the Pioneer Lodge with snow all around.

smal group heli-skiing, helicoopter skiing canada

Skiing in two groups of 4 allows your group to really rack up the vertical.    So we highly recommend you add the innovative NEH Unlimited Vertical Option.  In addition to freeing you from worrying about sticker shock on Friday, it includes a higher minimum guarantee for your Canada helicopter skiing.

During prime time, A-Star Elite 7-days is $10,999 Can.   You can add the Unlimited Vertical Option for an additional $2,100.  This compares to the Classic NEH package at $9,999 –  add the Unlimited Vertical Option for an additional $2,100.  18 guests share a Koala, which is very nice, skiing in three groups of six.  (Mention HELISKI.com and get an Early Booking Incentive $400 Off)

So it’s an extra $1,000.  A no-brainer!

Like all Northern Escape Canada Helicopter Skiing packages, the A-Star Elite program includes:

  • Catskiing Backup
  • Tons of Snow
  • Just 20 minutes from the Terrace Airport
  • Great food, drink and camaraderie
  • Great Canada helicopter skiing

We have been there a few times and loved it.  But this new program is even better.  Call NEH at 866-619-3184 or 250-615-6043 or check out Northern Escape Heli-Skiing and be sure to mention HELISKI.com



Canada Helicopter Skiing with Seth Morrison at Last Frontier Heli-Skiing

I know the title sounds sexy.  I actually met him at the lodge helicopter skiing Canada ,and we had a couple of meals together.  He and his Oakley film crew were off in their own chopper (and I can’t believe he poached my line!).    I also met Kazu Kokubo, an amazing Oakley team rider and nice guy.


I saw this video on the Last Frontier Heli-Skiing Helicopter Skiing Canada site, and it reminded me of that great trip.   It was the second half of a heli-safari, having spent the first week at Ripley Creek with Team Salomon – but that’s the subject of another blog post.


Last Frontier Bell 2 is all about small groups, excellent terrain, high-speed tree skiing runs and cabins with a wood-burning stoves.   I have  been there a couple of times.  What’s not to like?!

Back to Seth Morrison.  He is one cool dude.  Unassuming, soft spoken and genuinely friendly.   We screened his life-documenting video, Ordinary Skier, one night while he provided narration.  It’s a “Documentary about Seth Morrison’s journey from middle class suburban kid to world famous skier, and his struggle to stay on top of a rapidly evolving sport.”   Very interesting journey….and he really pushes the limits.


He is no ordinary skier, but he’s a pretty ordinary guy.  Very refreshing on a Canada helicopter skiing trip.


At the end of the trip I gave him a HELISKI.com hat, which I am sure he wears daily….Thanks, Seth!





Helicopter Skiing Canda Advice for over twenty years.