The great debate: heli skiing or heli snowboarding. I do both, so I think I can be unbiased comparing and contrasting heliboarding and heliskiing. So here are my advantages and disadvantages, helicopter skiing or helicopter snowboarding? In order to help settle the debate (or perhaps ignite the fire, I’ll let you be the judge), here is a list of advantages and disadvantages to both heli-snowboarding and heli-skiing.
Advantages to Heli-Skiing over Heli-Snowboarding
In a word: powder. Yes, it is the same for heliboarding and heliskiing, but it is the reason both are awesome.
Feel the rush of falling into deep powder, as you cut new tracks across the mountain. Skiers tend to sink, offering a unique experience that most helisnowboarders do not achieve. Heliskiing deep powder can me losing your vision on the ‘down stroke.’
But it can happen on every other turn when heliboarding….
Stepping into your bindings is much easier than sitting down to strap on a snowboard, and having to stand back up. No benches in the backcountry for heliboarders.
Skis are arguably easier to handle and maneuver in voluminous amounts of powder. Stopping and starting is easier than snowboarding, and a pair of poles is a big advantage. I know, heli snowboarders, you can carry poles, too. Picking a safe place to stop out of any obvious avalanche danger, is most important. Helisnowboarders must be able to get started again on your own, which is a bigger challenge.
Advantages of Helicopter Snowboarding / Heliboarding vs. Helicopter Skiing
Powder (yes, again). The smooth, untracked snow surface offers the sensation of surfing that most heliskiers do not achieve.
Speed. Let’s face it, heli snowboarding is faster, especially on big wide-open terrain.
If anything, the biggest challenge for heliboarding may be finding a way to stop. Speaking of stopping, be sure that you are up for the task of stopping when helisnowboarding.
Helicopter snowboarding can be the ultimate thrill for expert snowboarders.
When heli Snowboarding you never cross your skies, catch an edge or lose a ski, issues to be handled when heliskiing. Those are huge advantages over heliskiing.
Helisnowboarding in variable conditions can be easier than heliskiing. As the group descends, the snow can change consistency. A snowboard handles light and heavy snow better than skis.
Advantages to Both Heli-Snowboarding and Heli-Skiing
Heli skiing and heli snowboarding both offer a chance to become one with the mountain.
You don’t have to stand in lift lines or ride chairlifts or snow machines….or hike!
Fresh powder doesn’t disappear by 9:30 – 10:00 AM when heli-skiing or heli-boarding, like it does at resorts.
The speed of the helicopter allows for many more runs and much more vertical than resort or backcountry skiing.
Accredited guides reduce the risks associated with backcountry or off piste skiing and riding.
And riding a chopper, moving in 3-day is very cool!
One more thing, apologies to Tom Petty, but neither are good to meet girls…..
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.
Base Camp guests will ski the same great terrain. Like other Skeena Heliskiing trips, it is for 7-days only.
For 2015, Base Camp Skeena Heliskiing is running during February and March only.The price is $8900 Can., costing almost30% less than the Bear Claw Lodge program.
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.
The ‘tent constellation’ includes a large communal tent, a shower tent and five guest tents accommodating up to two guests each.
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.
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.
I’m just back from a tour of the most famous heli-skiing mountain range, the Monashees. Along with perfectly spaced trees and some great high alpine, the Monashees offer a steady snowfall that practically guarantees new snow every day.
And the Epic Center of the Monashees and some argue heliskiing in BC Canada, is Revelstoke, BC. It’s home to
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. Variety. 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.”
2. More 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. 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. Group Size and 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. Pricing. A week can range from $7-12K. 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. 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.
7. 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.
CMH Heli Skiing Kootenay – CMH Kootenay Heli Skiing
[This interview was conducted while CMH and K2 had a Kootenay Heli Skiing partnership. Now CMH Heli Skiing Kootenay is solely a CMH Heli-Skiing offering]
K2 is becoming a bigger part of heli-skiing. Mike Gutt tells us about the new CMH lodge/partnership the CMH K2 Rotor Lodge, and K2’s most popular powder boards in the latest HELISKI.com Gear Interview.
1. K2 partnered with CMH on a new heliski lodge. Tell us about that.
We entered into a partnership agreement with CMH four years ago and have expended on the partnership each year. Last year we hosted a K2 demo week at the Kuskanax Lodge in the town of Nakusp. This was the first time we visited this CMH operation and it immediately felt like home for K2. The staff, the town, the setup all resonated with the way K2 communicates the brand. We started talking more with the CMH crew and they pitched the idea of turning that location into a K2 branded lodge. We jumped at the opportunity and here we are.
2. So this year, every guest to the new K2 CMH Lodge get a new pair of 2014 K2 skis of their choice??
This is true. Each guest will get to select a ski from our new 2013/14 collection that will be unveiled at the SIA and ISPO trade shows in late January/early February.
3. I know you did a couple of demo weeks at Kootenay last year, giving a free pair of K2s. What K2 models of skis were most popular among those guests?
It all depends on the skier, since each person looks for something different. That is the beauty of K2, we make different skis for different skiers. Take Seth Morrison and Sean Pettit for example. Both approach the mountain differently and need a tools designed to work for them. With that being said the SideSeth and Pettitor were two skis that really stood out to the guests. The BackDrop was another model that got great reviews.
Pon2oons, SideStash, DarkSide and Coomback skis have been the most popular.
6. K2 used to enjoy a reputation for sketchy graphics. Remember the Cheeseburger? Times have changed, eh?
Times have changed but the personality of the brand is the same. Look at the HellBent for example, you can’t get any more sketchy that that.
7. I’m a huge Stones fan, so the Rolling Stones models get my vote for the coolest graphics! Need my shipping address?
In all seriousness, I can probably get you a deal on them.[Thanks for the offer, but, me pay for gear? Riiiiight, I’ll get back to you…]
The K2 site has a cool way of narrowing down the best boards, eh? Check it out.
8. Seth and I were at Last Frontier in February. Was he riding the OBSETHED?
No, The new SideSeth skis most likely.
9. Love the nod to big mountain gods, and the double entendre in the COOMBACK.
Wait until you see the next round and the tribute to Doug Pioneering the Chugach range.
10. What else would you like heliskiers to know about K2 gear?
We develop skis for skier and have worked with the guests at heli operations like CMH to make sure we are developing products that make skiing more enjoyable to a variety of skiers. At K2 it’s all about Serious Fun.
Interview with Northern Escape Heli Skiing GM, John Forrest
I recently caught up with John Forrest, General Manager of Canadian Heli-Skiing operator Northern Escape Heli-Skiing in Terrace, BC Canada on behalf of HELISKI.com.. John is also past president of HeliCat Canada, the Canadian heli-skiing & heli-boarding operator industry association. I have skied at Northern Escape Heliskiing a couple of times. Hope you enjoy as much as I did.
We’ll, I’ve been doing this pretty much all my life. I think this may be my 25th year of guiding now…? Anyway, I became a guide while I was still quite young and never looked back. When I was in my early 20’s I started a snowcat skiing company and then moved on to heliskiing where I began managing the operations for a new and growing company. Together with the owner of that company we founded yet another heliskiing company, which I then sold my interests in to start Northern Escape Heli-Skiing. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve loved every moment of it. I guess I also spent a few seasons in there at some of the larger heliskiing and snowcat skiing areas just to round out my experience. I’d like to think that I’ve taken all the great things I’ve learned from all the places I’ve experienced and packaged them together at Northern Escape Heli-Skiing.
2. Yours is the story of the Canadian Heli-Ski Moses, wandering British Columbia until you found the perfect spot. Tell us how you picked this terrain for Northern Escape Heliskiing, please.
Wow, that makes it sound rather biblical… We chose the Terrace area for Northern Escape Heli-Skiing for several very specific reasons. First, it’s renowned for one of the deepest, most reliable snowpacks in the world. Second, the terrain is spectacular with huge alpine and amazing gladed trees. Access was also important, as most people’s time is now more valuable than money. Our guests fly directly here, and it’s one of the easiest destination heliski areas to get to. They usually save at least 1 or 2 days travel time and the associated expense buy skiing/riding with us. Our location also allows us to ski/ride a full day every day, thus our “week” long packages are really 7 full days.
3. What made you decide to start your own heli-skiing Canada operation – Northern Escape Heli Skiing?
It was just a natural path in life for me. It’s something I love and I’m lucky enough to have been able to make a living doing it. I still guide pretty much every day and I love that I can do that.
4. You added catskiing backup at Northern Escape Heliskiing last year. How did that work out?
Yes, the addition of our snowcat back-up program has been very successful. Everyone, including the guides, love the fact that we ski every day. I’ve noticed over the years that our guests now expect more from their heliskiing holiday. Also, with the addition of shorter 3, 4 and 5 day trips, peoples’ time is more valuable. Back in the day, one down day in a week was pretty average and it was a welcome rest day in a seven-day package. Now-a-days, one down day in a three-day package can be very disappointing. Thus the advent of our Snowcat Back-up and ZERO down days! It can actually be some of the best skiing of the week in the cats, as you’re out at the height of the storm when it’s just dumping, and we’re doing lap after lap of steep, gladed trees. The runs average over 1800 vertical feet and there’s everything from steep trees and pillows to more mellow terrain. The guests love it. Also, you’ll find that there are many ways to count a down day and every operator has their own method [True. Some operators do not count a down day, even if you only heliski one run!] But one thing for sure is that if you have enough snow to have a viable heliski area, you must also have some poor weather… and if you have to spend a day or two of your package skiing one or two “poor weather” runs over and over (think bump lines here) due to that poor weather I would question whether you should count those or not? [Also true. Lapping flat terrain near the lodge is not what Canadian heli-ski experience is about, eh?] I guess that’s up to you and the operator…Northern Escape Heli-Skiing is more about quality and not quantity, although we do rack up a lot of vertical each week. With our snowcat back-up, we have a huge amount of terrain available to ski and ride and we find the experience is much better than pushing the weather and skiing/riding one or two runs over and over just to be out in the heli. We found that it also increased our safety margins as we didn’t find ourselves fighting to fly in the poorest of weather just for those skied-out runs. In a week, we generally have six days in the helicopter and one day in the snowcats. That basically gives you a bonus day with us, whether in the heli or snowcat, as many operators “week” packages are only really 6 or at best 6 ½ days anyway. Heliskiing
5. Northern Escape Heli Skiing is one of the only operators flying the Koala helicopter. Why is that?
The Koala is an amazing ship. It’s very fast and that allows us to be able to explore the far reaches of our immense tenure (1.8 million acres). We also fly in A-Star helicopters for smaller private groups and film crews, one of our other specialties, and we occasionally have a Bell 212 or 205 for larger groups that want to all ski together. Our fleet is quite flexible which allows us to tailor a package to each individual groups’ needs.
6. Groups of six are a perfect fit for Northern Escape Heliski trips, eh?
Yes, our Classic Groups in the Koala ski in groups of six and three groups to the machine. It’s a nice manageable size and it’s still quite sociable as well. As mentioned we also have smaller and larger Private groups and film crews depending on their desires. 7. Some operators are not good with calendars. Is a Week really 7 days of heliskiing at Northern Escape? That’s funny! Yes, our weeks at Northern Escape are a full 7 days. Given our easy access, we are able to ski a full day on the last day of the week and this enables us to include more of what you came for, skiing/riding! Basically it gives us at least 1/2 a day more skiing in a week and in many cases a full day more each week. Combine that with our guaranteed skiing everyday and your assured of a great week with us. 8. What is your average vertical in a week? I had to consult our averages in our Operational data base to answer this one honestly… Looking back over the past 7 seasons, we average 24,000 vertical feet per day in the helicopter and last year about 15,000 vertical per day in the snowcats. You’ll have to do the math on that for me. [6*24 + 1*15 = 159K/week!! That’s the kind of math I LOVE to do.]
9. I love the Northern Escape Heliskiing Yellow Cedar Lodge, and just 20 minutes from the airport. Does that make Northern Escape Heli-Skiing the shortest travel time of any Canadian heliski operator?
I believe so, but I haven’t been to every other operation. I do know that our guests love the convenience of our easy access and that it saves them time and money when skiing/riding with us. Book your flights directly to Terrace via Vancouver and sit back and relax. Our lodge has that remote feeling, but it’s just so much easier to get there. [Travel tip: book your Terrace leg as a continuation of your international flight and save big bucks!]
10. How many guests can you accommodate at any one time?
We operate with a max of 18 Classic guests at Yellow Cedar Lodge. 10 Private guests at one of our Private Lodges and 10 film crew at yet another separate lodge. Each would have their one Helicopter or two.
11. What do you do to accommodate heli-snowboarding at Northern Escape Heli-Skiing?
Heliboarding makes up about 25% of our clientele. They love it here. Most of our lines are straight fall line with very little, if any, traversing. Most of our guides, including myself, are also snowboarders so we can choose appropriate terrain. We also often have full groups and even full lodges of snowboarder, but if there are just a few in the week we try to group them together. It makes choosing the appropriate terrain for each group easier and makes the guests happier.
12. Are there any disadvantages to being a small heli-skiing operation?
Economies of scale are more difficult with small operations, but the advantages are also many. It costs us more to do many things that we feel should be part of every package and operation. As an example, we include all the latest safety equipment in each package, that includes the avalanche airbag backpacks. We have a new fleet of custom built Prior skis which are also included in each package.
13. Your slogan is “It’s Deeper Up Here,” sounds like my blog…………. How much snow do you get at Northern Escape Heli Skiing?
I’ve skied a lot of places and I’ve never seen this much snow. It’s not uncommon to see 5 to 7 meters of settled snow at treeline and more than 8 m in the alpine and glaciers. For us as skiers that means a huge base and the more faceshots than you can imagine. Better bring you snorkel!
14. You offer Steep Camp, and you host film crews, so you’ve got the goods?
YES! We generally have film crews with us shooting for 4 to 8 weeks each season. They choose us for our terrain and snow.
15. During one of my visits to Northern Escape Heliskiing, your partner Benny burned my old Marmot one-piece as an offering to the powder gods. That chopper is parked right on that spot! We got a big dump that night, so, it worked! He also gave me a new two-piece suit, which I love. But is he a little nuts?!
Ya, Benny’s awesome! He is truly a driven skier and loves the sport, but he hates one piece suits. And you have to admit that yours was from an aging era gone by, so he probably did you a favor. Besides, you looked awesome in that new Northern Escape Heli-Skiing 2 piece!
Thanks, John. I will see you in January, cause it’s deeper up there!
Helicopter Skiing Canada in One Group with Unlimited Vertical, and Easy Travel from Whistler
1. TLH Helicopter Skiing Canada is the only Canadian heliskiing operator offering just one group per helicopter in a standard, Classic package. Every group heli skis with their own helicopter. How did you decide to offer what amounts to an inexpensive Private Helicopter Skiing Canada package?
“At TLH Helicopter Skiing Canada we separate ourselves from the pack by offering Canadian heliskiing and heliboarding packages that are more boutique and exclusive. A single group per helicopter offers the guest an unrivaled experience in the mountains as there is no waiting for additional groups. This also allows us greater bad weather tolerance as we do not have to extract multiple groups from the field with one helicopter. Every group heli skis on its own.
After a big snowfall when the sky opens up to that endless bluebird day we are out into our big terrain skiing within 10 minutes. Packages that offer three groups per heli will have the third group waiting at least 30+ minutes to fly out after the first group, even when the first run is close to home. The first group out will also have that 30 minute wait to get onto their second run. The single group helicopter eliminates this wait time.
Single groups also give our Canadian helicopter skiing program more flexibility in marginal snow conditions. We can move our program in and out of different drainages quickly and efficiently as we don’t have to ferry 3 loads in and out of zones.”
[I love that!]
TLH Heli-Skiing Canada High Alpine Terrain? Check
2. On top of just one group per machine, you offer unlimited vertical! Other Canada heliskiing operators tell me that it reminds them of the rancher who won the lottery, who plans to ‘keep on ranchin til it’s gone.’
How can you make money offering one group and unlimited vertical?!?
“Over the last 20 years of operating, TLH Heli-Skiing Canada has gained an intimate understanding of how much the average Canadian heli-skiing client is capable of skiing. With this in mind, we ran a pilot project to see if our vertical numbers reflected what guests would ski on an unlimited basis and budgeted accordingly. The pilot was a success, and we decided to carry it forward into our regular program. When guests can eliminate the need to balance their budget while they earn their turns, everyone “just heli skis.” . The experience is greatly enhanced because they will ski morning to night and never concern themselves with the add-ons to their bill. No one gets left in the lodge after reaching their guarantee to save money, and the skiing becomes an unlimited possibility. The skiers that have seen our 200,000 vertical weeks, with no additional charges, would ask “how we can afford not to?” as they re-book.
One Group per Group! Like a Limo vs. a Taxi
3. Critics of the unlimited vertical heli skiing Canada offerings point out that the guests and operators are not goal congruent (high tech marketing jargon, sorry I couldn’t resist).
What do you say to skeptics who contend you may quit early or otherwise slow the pace to save money?
“Our answer to this is that the ‘proof is in the pudding’ so to speak.
Our average daily vertical for 2011 was 8700m or 27,710 ft per day. Over 7 days that’s 200,970 ft. [WOW!]
Most Canada heli skiing packages that the competitors offer give you 100,000 vertical feet before you start paying for every additional 1000 ft. The last 4 weeks of 2011 saw us skiing over 200,000 ft. weekly, with one week at 250,000. As far as quitting early goes, our daily program runs from 0830 to 1630 in the field, and the only time we come home early is due to tired legs or bad weather.”
5. Flying a 212 helicopter must be much less expensive. Comparing to 407’s or A-Stars, what’s the difference in operating costs?
“Each aircraft has different operating costs based on the type of helicopter and the required maintenance on them. Generally smaller helicopters cost less to operate than a Bell 212. ” [Sorry, I was thinking per person]
Keep it running, we’ll be right down!
6. The group is only as fast as the slowest heliskier. What happens if the one group has a “lagging gaper” who can’t hang?
“At TLH Heli-Skiing Canada, all of our groups in the single group program run with 2 guides. When we have a dramatic split, one guide will take the faster skiers and lap the slower guys or pick a different line to cater to ability levels.” [Good answer!]
7. TLH Heli-Skiing Canada is probably the most convenient to Whistler-Blackcomb of any destination Canadian heli skiing operator. Describe the travel from Whistler.
“The transfer to TLH Heliskiing Canada is part of the adventure and experience, and a perfect start to your heliskiing holiday.
A 20 minute land transfer from Whsitler to Pemberton brings you to the airport, where you will board a DE Havilland Beaver ski plane. A 30 minute beautiful scenic flight over the mountains brings you to Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa, where you will land on the frozen lake in front of the lodge. [Very cool!]
All of our packages include this air transfer. When traveling by land, a pretty drive along a classic mountain highway offers views of frozen rivers, deep valleys, and diverse peaks. The Duffy from Pemberton to Lillooet is well-known for its incredible ski touring access and terrain.
Our proximity to Whistler allows us to build custom combo tours for guests who would also like to visit the world-renowned resort while on vacation.”
8. How about travel from, and return to Vancouver?
“Guests coming from Vancouver will travel up the Sea to Sky corridor through Whistler to Pemberton then connect with our air transfer to Tyax. The Sea to Sky is a famous, scenic drive through some of the best recreational playgrounds in Canada, including North Vancouver, Squamish, and Whistler. With views over the Pacific Ocean, you move through some of the most ideal terrain for outdoor activity in all of British Columbia, while being captivated by the view of the white-capped Tantalus Mountain range towering in the background.”
The Lodge and Guests Rooms were Completely Remodeled Last Year
9. Your lodge has been upgraded recently. What’s new?
“Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa, the home of TLH Heliskiing Canada, underwent a massive renovation last summer and fall. We opened the 2011 heliskiing season with a completely revamped property. The space has been elegantly updated to modern standards to meet the expectations of the contemporary traveler while the ambiance of the lodge has been maintained; the goal of our renovations was to upgrade and enhance the level of luxury while maintaining the rustic feel of the lodge, representing our wilderness setting.
All guest rooms were completely renovated while the main areas saw complete upgrades and re-decorating, including the bar and lounge, the dining room, outdoor patio, and the den. The furniture in this Canadian heli-ski lodge has been replaced on all levels. That includes easy chairs and leather sofas in the bar, warm inviting sofas in the lobby and bedding of the highest quality in all guest rooms.
The exterior of the lodge has seen all the balconies and decking replaced, giving the exterior of the lodge a modern and clean look. Our newly renovated kitchen is now producing a dining experience far beyond what was available historically. And very importantly for our heliskiing guests, we now offer a brand new spa with three treatment rooms, an infrared sauna, a wood sauna, a steam room, yoga studio and well-designed change rooms guaranteed to relax our guests. We will continue to improve our product and services as we move forward to winter 2012, including a new outdoor Jacuzzi in the fall renovations and an even greater emphasis of guest satisfaction and service.”
“They help connect us to clients on a broader spectrum; they are specializing in the product which in itself is very specialized.” [Yeah, it’s a niche of a niche, eh?]
11. Some clients are concerned about heliskiing so close to Whistler, where some storms dump heavy snow aka Sierra Cement. How does your snowfall amount and quality compare with other heliskiing destinations?
“Luckily TLH is on the East side of the Coast Mountains. The storms have to rise over the high peaks of the mountain range and then drop their snow on us. This means we avoid the warm temperatures on the West side of the Coast Mountains, where TLH heli skis! That combined with the influence of the cold interior plateaus to the east of us we receive deep, dry snowpacks, quite different than that of Whistler.”
This Ain’t Whistler…
12. How many down days do you average in a season?
“1/2 day per week.
So pack your sunscreen! ” (My daughter makes me use sunscreen to limit the damage!)
13. What percentage of your guests is heliboarders, and what do you do to accommodate knuckle draggers?
“The heliboarding numbers vary from week to week but on average I would say 40% of our guests are on boards. When we have boarders in the group we simply alter our terrain choices to eliminate long traverses or flat sections.” [SWEET!]
How do snowboarders introduce themselves?
14. Do you know how snowboarders introduce themselves?
“OH! Sorry, Dude!”
[I’m not hating, I do both]
15. Is there anything else you would like to add about TLH Helicopter Skiing Canada?
“We offer a boutique product in an amazing lodge with a ski program that is suited to people that really want to ski. Canadian Heli-skiing needs a shot in the arm and we are attempting to do it. Products and programs have been stagnating, and I think you will find most heli operators following our lead (once again) over the next few years! My comments are based on 13 years of heliskiing as a mountain guide, working actively in the guiding and the management of the heliskiing industry. We will be launching a new website this winter to bring our online presence up to the quality of our operation.”
Thanks, Cliff! Looking forward to seeing the new lodge upgrades and skiing some deep untracked!
CPO (Chief Powder Officer) HELISKI.com WhistlerHeliski.com
Whistler Heli Skiing is one of two operators offering heliskiing at Whistler-Blackcomb. We recently visited with Whistler Heli Skiing, the original helicopter skiing operator in Whistler. Enjoy!
1. Whistler Heli Skiing has been completing bucket lists since 1983. You must lead the world in bucket list fulfillment. How often does a guest say “Best Day Ever?”
Every time we go Heli Skiing Whistler guests are ecstatic and pumped from the day they had. Whether it be their first time or their 20th time we have the terrain and the snow to keep guests having “the best day ever!”
2. Whistler Heli Skiing offers 3, 4 and 5 run packages. What do most clients choose?
We actually offer 3, 4 and 6 run packages. We recommend picking a package that suits your ability, pace of skiing and or your goals for the day. Most first timers start with a 3 or 4 run package depending on their ski experience especially in powder.
3. Can guests buy extra runs? How much?
Yes we typically offer extra runs depending on the day (conditions, weather, timing). $120-140 Can.
4. What is your average vertical per run?
4 runs (approx. 6,000 – 10,000 vertical feet, or 1,800 – 3,500 vertical meters of skiing)
6 runs (approx. 9,000 – 15,000 vertical feet. or 2,700 – 4,600 vertical meters of skiing).
5. Does Whistler Heli Skiing recommend lodging for your guests?
Most guests are in the resort of Whistler for a couple of days skiing on Whistler Blackcomb or doing other activities as well as heli-skiing. That’s one of the best things about Heli Skiing Whistler is that there numerous options for places to stay in Whistler based on your budget, or other requirements. We typically recommend staying in Whistler the night before to check in and get ready for your Heli-day. We always make the final call on whether we can go Heli-skiing or have to cancel due to weather the morning of.
6. How many guests are in each lift?
It depends on the package you purchase. The 3 and 4 run packages are in the Bell 205 Helicopter which typically holds between 7-10 guests. The 6 run package is in the Bell 407 which holds up to a maximum of 5 guests.
7. How many lifts per helicopter?
Depending on the time of year and volume of guests we have up to 3 groups per helicopter.
8. What happens if the weather does not cooperate?
If Whistler Heli Skiing has to cancel due to poor weather we offer guests a FULL Refund and or the ability to move to the next available day or try to get them out on the next they want to go.
9. So you have a photographer / videographer?
Yes it is included in the 3 and 4 run packages. A photographer will work with each group to take some photos and a video of one run of each group.
10. How many of your guests are heli-boarding?
I’d think 30-40% of our guests are heli-boarders.
11. Do you have powder snowboards for your guests?
Yes Whistler Heli Skiing (WHS) has many great powder boards to rent. We highly recommend boarders use them as it makes the day so much easier and fun to really float on the fresh snow.
Season dates for 2011-12 are Dec 3rd 2011- April 22nd 2011
13. Can guests get a deal if they book more multiple days?
Yes we offer $100 off and free rentals for subsequent days within the season.
14. Do you offer deals to groups?
Depending on the time of year and availability WHS does offer some incentive for groups of 10 or more people to pre-book Heli-skiing.
15. Anything else you would like to add about Whistler Heli Skiing?
Just beyond the ski lifts of Whistler and Blackcomb, minutes from North America’s #1-ranked Ski Resort, awaits the ultimate high-alpine experience. Imagine carving through untracked powder, endless terrain and breath-taking scenery. With hundreds of ski runs, there is a tremendous variety of slopes to accommodate all levels of skiers and boarders from intermediate to expert. The skiing varies from wide-open glaciers to beautiful gladed tree runs. The heli-ski area is made up of several zones and is approximately 50 miles north/south by 30 miles east/west (80km by 50km). Your guide will select terrain within a zone according to snowfall, the weather, and your group’s ability.
Thanks. See you in Whistler!
CPO (Chief Powder Officer) HELISKI.com 866-HELISKI
This summer HELISKI.comvisited with Jessica Quinn, who co-owns and operates Points North Heli Adventures with her husband Kevin. As you might guess, she happens to be one bad betty! The conversation follows.
1. How do you contrast Alaska Heliskiing with BC Heliskiing.
Honestly there is no comparison. The terrain and snow pack that Alaska offers is unlike that of anywhere in the world! The warm moist air converges with the cold glaciers creating a maritime snow pack that allows snow to virtually stick to places that make riding some of the steepest terrain in the world accessible. Not to say that we have a wet snow pack, as that is not the case. The snow quality in the Chugach is perfect and can often times feel like Utah powder. Alaska is the super bowl of helicopter skiing. We like to refer to it as Disney Land on steroids!
2. Is your terrain all high alpine, or do you have tree skiing, too?
Trees are very limited in all regions of Alaska. We do have trees but remember, tree line is Alaska hovers around 1500’ above sea level. We do have tree skiing early season (Jan / Feb) when temps are cold and we can ski to the valley floors, but honestly the famous terrain of Alaska is in the alpine. Most often we are tree skiing at our local chair lift, Mt Eyak on “activity days”… Others refer to this as a “down day”. [nice euphemism!] At PNH there are no down days, just activity days riding our chair lift. Typical runs in the helicopter terrain in Alaska start at or around 6500’-7000’ descending down to around 2000’ or higher. Average runs are anywhere from 2000’ – 4000’ in vertical.
No matter who you decide to visit in Alaska, if you get good weather, you’re going to have a great trip! Everyone has something to offer and we are all different. What sets PNH apart from the other operators is:
We are truly “all-inclusive with a beautiful lodge located on Prince William Sound with the Chugach in our backyard and the ocean in our front yard. We have 3 beautiful A-star helicopters that are located outside your window and act as an “alarm clock”. We are away from the other 5 operators in Valdez meaning there is no race to access the terrain in the morning. You will never see another aircraft flying in our area. Additionally, Alaska Airlines flies into Cordova 3 times daily, meaning there are no commuter flights to connect to and then long bus rides and car trips to get to our lodge. PNH is the only operator in the area that is a member of the United Stated Heli-Ski Association. There are only 2 operators in Alaska that are part of HSUS.
Cordova has a chair lift, Mt Eyak. The chair came from Sun Valley in the early 70’s. It allows for great skiing on “activity days” when aircraft cannot access the heli-ski terrain. PNH has numerous yurts allowing for non-motorized ski touring access. Yurts are stocked with firewood, food and various amenities for your comfort. The objective at PNH is to keep you skiing everyday. If you choose not to ski, we also have sea-kayaks, a local surf break and boats to take you fishing. Cordova is home to the famous Copper River and a trip to town is unique in itself. No roads connect to Cordova meaning that each and every local that resides here has made an effort to get here. The Cordova chamber of commerce motto is “Alaska’s best kept secret”. We can only encourage you to find out the secret for your self. Our return rate alone speaks for itself. We are averaging just over 80% returns. Our clients come as new guests and return as our long time loyal friends. Last but not least, PNH has been featured in the last 10 Warren Miller films consecutively.
Scenery and Steeps, Both EPIC
4. How much vertical do you average in a week and how many days of riding?
An average is anywhere from 60,000’ to well over 100,000’ if the weather is on your side. An average week comes down to the weather, no matter where you go in Alaska. No one has a “blue hole” or force field. All of us get the very same weather coming in from the Gulf of Alaska. We try to be very honest with people and tell them that they are going to experience weather in Alaska. In an average week guests should get 2-3 big days of riding. They can get more if the weather is in their favor. Some operations will keep you at their remote heli base waiting to get 1 run in at 6pm after waiting all day. Our view is simple. Send you to the chair lift, ski all day and in the event the weather cooperates, we will be flying you into the mountains when it does clear.
5. Alaska is known for steep. Do you advise newbie’s to try BC heliskiing before they come to Alaska?
We advise everyone to come to Alaska! What is so unique about Alaska is the amount of terrain it has to offer. At PNH we have over a 1000 square skiable miles of terrain. More terrain than one could access in a lifetime! Movies and magazines have made Alaska this extreme spooky place, however, we can tell you honestly; there is something for everyone. We can only encourage you to choose an operator that is a member of the US Heli Ski Association.
6. How can you tell on the phone if a client is going to be able to hang?
Everyone on the phone has questions. Generally the same questions arise. When is the best time? Will I get stuck with weaker skiers? How many to a group? These are all valid concerns. If we cannot match you with folks of the same desires and ability, we have 27 employees waiting to go ski and ride wherever you so choose. There is no best time. It’s when the weather cooperates. Alaska has something to offer everyone. We say this in confidence.
Unique Spot in Cordova on Prince William Sound
8. Describe your lodging at Points North Heli.
Our lodging at PNH is very unique. We operate out of the Orca Cannery, a 20-acre parcel directly on the waterfront complete with a wood fired sauna. We do not have a 5 Star lodge like that of the CMH’s or many of the Canadian style lodges, but our facility is very clean and comfortable. Our dining hall is filled with a large screen TV, ping pong, foosball video games etc. Our facility feels like going to “camp” as a kid. All of our rooms are clean and spacious with their own restrooms and showers allowing for privacy. We are very proud of our facility and its something that separates us from many of the others in Alaska.
9. What helicopters do you use? How many guests per lift? How many lifts per helicopter? Sorry, three questions in one…
We utilize the A-star B2 exclusively. Groups are 4 riders to 1 guide. We are lucky to say that we have had the same helicopters, pilots and mechanics now for 12 of our 14 years. North Star Helicopters out of Juneau, Alaska is one of the top operators in the state. They are Alaskan pilots with thousands of hours flying in Alaska, winter and summer. On and average fly day one can expect to get 8-12 lifts in a day, averaging 25,000 -40,000’ of vertical depending on what it is your riding.
Ships, Birds, Choppers….A rose by any other name
12. What packages does Points North offer?
Our package includes ALL of your meals, lodging, transportation in and around Cordova including airport pickup and drop off along with all state of the art safety gear. Additionally, you get 4 helicopter hours of actual fly time. An average day is around 1 hour and 15 minutes of fly time in the early season and 1 hour and 30 minutes in the later part of the season. 4 helicopter hours is generally getting you 3 big days of riding. It is not common for guests to go over their 4 heli hour buy in, given the weather factors in Alaska. If in the event you do get 4 or 5 days of riding you simply pay as you go. Once you go over your 4 helicopter hours you are not expected to ski, however we bet that you will want to. A package for 7 nights lodging (all-inclusive, meals, lodging and transportation) and 4 heli-hours is $4,875.
13. Tell us about traveling to Points North Heliskiing.
Getting to Cordova and our location is very simple. Alaska Airlines flies in and out of Cordova 3 times a day. Access is from either Anchorage or Seattle. Our facility is 15 minutes from the airport. We pick you up and drop you off. It is about the easiest place to access in all of Alaska for heli-skiing.
14. What are the steepest slopes you ski with guests?
This is a question that depends purely on the guest and the conditions at the given time. It’s common for guests to come to Alaska and think they could never ski something like they just did. A common response is “that was the best run of my life” and the guide response is “ I thought the last run was…” Runs can range from 10 degrees down the glacier to 60 plus degrees and more. The snow pack that Alaska offers allows for access to these famous slopes. The skier and his / her ability is what allows them to gain access to the steep slopes if they choose. At PNH the guide will take you to your first few runs and from there you and your group decide where you would like to go next. If conditions allow for the run your choosing, the guide’s job is to make certain you can do it and make it happen safely. We are not selling you vertical. You will get that. We are selling you an experience of a lifetime!
Wild? Ski with your own landing zone flag…
15. Anything else you want to add?
No mater where you choose to go Alaska, each operator has something for you. We can only encourage you to ask the proper questions and do your research prior to your trip. Additionally, when heli skiing in US, make certain the look for the US Heli Skiing Association logo.
Thanks for your time here with us!
No, Jessica, thank YOU for the giving us the full story about Points North Heliskiing out of Codova, Alaska. I have only been to a few places in Valdez, so I hope to get up there soon!
CPO (Chief Powder Officer) HELISKI.com 866-HELISKI
Detractors point out that unlimited vertical lacks goal congruence with the operator. The hourly expense of the helicopter provides a huge economic incentive for operators to shorten the day. Some think it may tempt operators to call it early, take a long lunch, start late, etc. or even to call a ‘down day’ early. The operator has your money and a disincentive to fly.
Operators who offer a basic price with extra vertical charges point out that paying in advance for unlimited vertical can be very expensive if you don’t have a great week. It can result in a much higher price per run or per vertical foot. For some, the break-even point can be over 200,000 vertical in a week, although prices and extra vertical fees vary.
Another consideration is the date of the trip. Unlimited vertical in Northern British Columbia in January is limited by the hours of daylight. And conversely, unlimited Alaska heliskiing in April could go on for 16 hours…..
We encourage clients to do the math before booking (or HELISKI.com will do it for you). These minimums and extra vertical fees vary (not to mention the math converting currency and meters vs. feet). Let us know if we can help. 866-HELISKI
We will help you decide which is the best heliskiing deal for your group.
One of my favorite operators has a low base price and a low vertical charge. I calculate that you can get twice the guaranteed vertical for the same price that another operator charges for unlimited vertical.
Like I used to say to my ex, “Do the math.” Then decide what’s best for your group.
PS. Operators vary widely on their willingness to accommodate clients for missed vertical. In fact, some operators have been known to start late and quit early to minimize helicopter expenses.
PSS. Some packages include unlimited vertical. In fact, a couple of operators offer unlimited vertical on every package! Others offer it during the early and late season. It may be built into a higher price. It is worth shopping around.