Alaska Snowboard Guides Interview – Heliboarding Innovators

Alaska Snowboard Guides Interview – Heliboarding Pioneers


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


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


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


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


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


  • We provided Free Demo gear for our inclusive packages.


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


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


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


  • We are the only operator that truly caters to snowboarders – Why would you ride with anyone else? That said we offer amazing ski guides too. Honestly we don’t care what you ride….
[foogallery id=”5123″]
  1. Let’s do the numbers. Why do you say your heliboarding pricing is the best value?

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

heliboading alaska

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

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

We offer Lib Tech Snowboards and Union Bindings

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

– Gnu Barret Christy


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


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


  1. Tell us about your Custom Heliboarding Packages?


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


  1. What is your mix of heliboarders and heliskiers?


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


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


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


  1. What are the dates of your heliboarding season?


March – April


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


The Chugach Suites. The Finest lodging available in Valdez

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


  1. How many lifts do you run?

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


  1. Got trees?


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


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


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


  1. How long have you been operating / guiding?


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


Cool. Thanks, Dave.




HELISKI.com Interview Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing

helicopter skiing in Canada

Heli-Ski Canada Interview: Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing answers 15 Questions with HELISKI.com

Oct 19, 2011, 08:22 am | Tom Jackson

I had the good fortune to ski a few weeks with Crescent Spur Heliskiing, most recently this last April. Mark and Regina have a unique offering, heliskiing in two groups of ten in the Rockies and Cariboos. Even though she knows better, Regina agreed to answer 15 Questions with HELISKI.com.

crescent spur heli-skiing, heli-ski canada

2 Groups of 10 are Unique

1. Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing is the only heli-skiing Canada operator that runs two groups of ten guests. Why do you? And why doesn’t any other operator?

Running only two groups allows us to access all of our licensed terrains without the groups waiting on each other (which means we get lots of skiing in a day!) – and doing it at a reasonable cost.  I don’t know why other operators don’t do it.  This has been a good decision for us – our guests tell us they love the configuration of our program and our return rate supports this as well.

2. Your prices are among the best. Is that because
A.  Your costs are lower
B.  You are too nice
C.  You are poor business people

Heli-skiing doesn’t have to break the bank.  We are happy with what we charge.  And – our price reflects our belief that it’s best to offer a base price for a set amount of skiing and then let the customer choose to ski more or not.  There has been a lot of debate on offering a set amount of vertical or offering unlimited vertical.  We offer 100,000 vertical feet for our 6 day package price and let you choose whether to continue skiing or not based on the snow conditions, your ability, and fitness level.  Our charge for additional vertical is so reasonable [actually lowest in Canada] that you would have to ski almost 206,000 vertical feet with us to reach the price that one of our competitors charges for an unlimited vertical package. While having just one bill for your package might seem convenient, in today’s challenging economy we think our guests appreciate that they are only paying for what they choose to ski.

However, we could charge YOU more Tom, if you like.  [Oh, thanks!]

And – as you know, we ARE nice. [True]

heli-skiing, helicopter skiing canada
Co-Owner Regina hard at work!

3. Your lodge is in the valley between the Cariboos and the Rockies. This gives you lots of options, I know. How do the two ranges compare?

Within each range, there is lots of variety/types of terrain.  Most of our glaciated terrain is in the Cariboos.  There are excellent tree and bowl skiing in both ranges.  The snowfall is quite consistent between the ranges.  Having the two ranges give us the option to choose where we think the best skiing will be on a given day.  This decision combines snow quality, safety, visibility, and flying conditions.  This can differ from one range to the other on a given day so it has certainly proven to be an advantage to have the choice of ranges.

heliskiing, crescent spur heli-skiing canada

4. I met lots of CMH (Canadian Mountain Holidays) alumni at Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing. Why do so many Million Vertical suits end up with you?

We see that people are trying a variety of operations. We have a great return rate – over 75% – which means that we have established a very loyal clientele. We have many guests that have skied with us for over 10 years. Our guests tell us they really like our “2+2+2” concept – 2 guides per group, only 2 groups in the entire operation, and 2 mountain ranges to choose from.

5.  Your partner Mark was recently recognized with the “Founder’s Award” from the industry association, HeliCat Canada.  Tell us about that, please.

The Founder’s Award is the highest HeliCat Canada award given by peers in recognition of  “Extraordinary Leadership, Performance, Initiative and Contribution to the Aims and Objectives of HeliCat Canada”.  Mark’s involvement with HeliCat Canada spans many years, including positions on the Board of Directors, Ethics Committee, and the Standards Committee (a position he still holds).  Mark is also a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association.   

Some of your readers may not know that HeliCat Canada is an organization of operators whose primary objective is to improve the safety of the sport of heli-skiing and snowcat skiing.  HeliCat Canada, through its members, has sponsored a research chair at the University of Calgary, which has resulted in internationally recognized research projects and techniques that are directly used by professional practitioners today.  In addition, HeliCat Canada is continually updating its operation guidelines to reflect improvements in risk management.  HeliCat Canada also conducts independent reviews of member operators by risk management experts to ensure that individual members are meeting the strict requirements of the operations guidelines. 

Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing is now in our 20th year of operation – it seems like yesterday that we started – I guess that’s how it goes when you like what you are doing.  We both started in the snowcat skiing business where we worked for a great snow cat company (me for 10 years, Mark for 6) before launching our own heli-ski company in 1992.

heli skiing canada, crescent spur heliskiing

6. Travel to Crescent Spur is much easier than most Canadian heliskiing lodges.  Last April the Trans Canada highway was closed due to a burning tanker. You called the train; had them stop to pick us up; gave us a few cases of beer and a couple of bottles of Patron, and off we went to Prince George to catch our flights home. Can we do that again?

We can do that with our other groups, but I believe that your group, unfortunately, has been banned from any future train travel in Canada. [Who, me?]

You are right, however, in saying we are easy to reach.  Everyone flies into Vancouver International Airport, and we are then a one-hour direct flight to Prince George, where you are met for a 1 ¾ hour drive in our comfortable coach to our lodge. 

7. Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing only offers 5 and 6-day trips. Why is that?

We are not situated close to any major cities, so we don’t draw the 3-day package interest.  People want 5-day/6-night or 6-day/7-night packages.  We like this setup too as it means the group is together all week, without new guests coming in midweek.

8. How does the Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing weather and snow compare to other British Columbia Heliskiing locations?

The interior ranges of BC are a mixture of coastal and continental weather systems which means lots of snow, typically very dry snow, with minimal fog and frequent clear periods between storms.  This makes for amazing skiing!   [Yes, it does!]

heliski canada, heliskiing

9. What is the average vertical for a week at Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing?

It depends of course on a lot of factors but generally, we will ski 130,000 to 150,000 vertical feet with good groups later in the spring reaching 200,000.

heli-ski canada, helicopter skiing canada

Cozy and Casual Lodge at CS

10. Your lodge has a family atmosphere (albeit a crazy family). What do you do to foster that feel?

We are just ourselves (and I think you described us pretty well..) and we have a great, friendly, highly professional staff – some of whom have been with us for 15+ years.  We love what we do and I think it shows.  We have guests that come from all over the world and they say they feel instantly comfortable here. We provide a warm, friendly atmosphere with incredible skiing– and the professionalism of our staff makes it appear seamless.

11. Any plans to hosts more than 20 guests at a time?

No, our program works very well as it is.  Also, remember that we will run private groups where a group of up to 10 can reserve the whole lodge, helicopter, and terrain for themselves.  In this situation, it is truly a ‘private’ week, as there are not other groups of skiers in the lodge or on the terrain.

heli-skiing Canada, helicopter skiing canada

Glacier Skiing in the Cariboos

12. Did the term Man Soup originate in your hot tub?

I’m not sure, but I believe the correct term is “ass soup”.  I’m also pretty sure it started with your last week here (of course I could be wrong…).  It came about when 20 guys crowded into our 12 people outdoor hot tub – kind of like the old days of packing a phone booth. 

13. How many down days do you average in a season?

Each year is different depending on the season – but some years we haven’t missed a single day.  Historically it sits around 2 days per season. We are fortunate that some of our best tree skiing is in an area we can reach in bad weather

Our Macleod Creek drainage in the Cariboos is famous among our guests – people want to ski there whether it is a snow day or not – it’s just that good. We can ski an enormous area (miles!) of steep north facing trees from multiple landings.  We get some of the best skiing of the week in when others might be unable to fly.   We also have a great area in the Morkill drainage of the Rockies with dozens of tree skiing runs.  [Yeah, top to bottom, perfectly spaced trees…..lather, rinse, repeat]

14. Who is your second favorite agent/tour operator and why?

We only have a favorite, no second favorites. Do you want me to say who the favorite is??   [Afraid to ask…]

heliskiing canada, helicopter skiing canada

Artsy, rare pic of my brother Dash doing work

15. Is there anything else you would like to add about Crescent Spur Heli-skiing?

People who haven’t tried heli-skiing should give it a shot – the value is definitely there.  Most experienced skiers have the ability to do it and will be rewarded with an incredible experience that goes beyond just the skiing. They need to give you a call!  [Great idea!  866-HELISKI]

Thanks, Regina. Hi to Jessica, Erin, Adam and rest of the Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing family.

Thanks, TJ (you’re the best..)    [I KNEW IT! Eat your heart out Garry]


Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)

HELISKI.com Interview with Mica Heliski Guides

HELISKI.com Operator Interview: Mica Heliski Guides, 15 Questions with Mica Heli Skiing

Sep 12, 2011 07:33 am | Tom Jackson

We caught up with Darryn Schewchuck, GM of Mica HeliSki Guides (aka Mica Heliskiing and Mica Heli Skiing) as the summer is turning to fall in the Canadian Rockies.  He is still riding his dirt bikes, but looking forward to another great winter of light, deep snow.

Here are Mica Heli Skiing Guides 15 Questions with HELISKI.com.


1. Hey Darryn, Mica Heliskiing has been recognized in the press recently. Tell us about that, please.

Recently we were rated “Best Heliskiing” in BC Canada by the editors and writers of SKIING Magazine in their 2011 Resort Guide.  Ski Canada rated our powder “second to none” in their “best of” issue last fall, and Good Connoisseur Magazine rated Mica Heli Guides “the best once in a lifetime experience”.  These recognitions are based on several factors, 2 groups of 4 per heli, max 16 guests, dry champagne powder and incredible terrain found in the BC Rockies.

mica heli skiing british columbia canada, mica heliskiing BC Canada mica heli ski guides

Mica Heliskiing Blue Bird Day, Cold Smoke Anyone?


2. Mica Heli Skiing seems to have more options than most operators. The Classic is three groups of 4. The Premium is two groups of four and two helicopters?!?

Definitely the option to ski more vertical!  At MICA our standard program is called a Premium Tour – 4 groups of 4 guests serviced by 2 A-Star helicopters (2 groups of 4 per heli, similar to what is referred to as a semi-private with other operations).  30 of our 36 tours this season are Premium tours.  The other 6 tours are a combination of a Private Tour (4 guests with their own private A-Star) and our Classic Tour (3 groups of 4 sharing one A-Star). Maximum capacity at MICA is 16 only guests.


3. Some Mica Heli Skiing packages are unlimited vertical and others have extra vertical charges, right?

Correct, our December and early Jan tours are unlimited vertical (no extra vert charges) and we also offer some vertical incentives for April tours which cover most of our guests vertical.  All season we guarantee 4500 meters/day.  At MICA we have averaged only 1.5 no-fly days per season over the last 8 seasons, for the odd day we can’t fly we go Catskiing (Cat vert is not counted in the 4500m/day). [Nice!]

Mica Heli Skiing Canada Lodge View, mica heliskiing View, and this image, courtesy of Mica Heliski Guides


4. How did you come up with such a cool spot for the new Mica Heliski lodge?

The position of the lodge is very spectacular indeed!  Our hot-tubs have one of the best views in the world.  The main purpose of the lodge position was elevation.  We wanted to get above the low cloud, fog and freezing rain found lower in the valley which is what hinders flight for many other operators.  The other benefit is that we ski right down to the lodge at the end of the day, and can Catski right from the lodge.


5. Catskiing backup is getting more popular. How often do you use it at Mica Heliskiing?

MICA was the first to start using the Cat for backup four seasons ago.   We had the cat from our sister operation Island Lake Catskiing for snow removal around the lodges, so we put it to good use.  We typically take guests Catskiing one or two full days per year.  Additionally a few times each season we will do a cat run or two in the morning, the weather will break and we go heliskiing for most of the day.  The forest directly above MICA lodge has been gladed providing excellent 2500 vertical foot tree skiing right to the lodge.  So its quick and easy to rack up some pretty good vertical Catskiing at MICA.  We don’t count the Catskiing vert in the package and it is very rare for a guest to not make minimum vertical on a tour at MICA.


Mica Heli Skiing image Keri Knapp, Mica Heliski

Two Hot Tubs with this View!


6. Mica Heliskiing even has a backup outdoor hot tub!  Did you think of everything?!?

When you are a remote backcountry lodge you need to have a backup for everything.  For the last eight seasons, we’ve been compiling the guest comments and work hard to improve all aspects of our program dramatically each season. We have created something very special a MICA.


7. The Monashees have been made famous by CMH Heliskiing.  I have skied the Adamants, Selkirks and Cariboos, all somewhat nearby. How would you compare your terrain?

Mica’s terrain is the western slope of the BC Rockies across the lake from the Monashees and Selkirks.  We have a lot of steep tree skiing (similar to CMH Monashees) but the Rockies are visually more spectacular like the Alps.  We ski a lot of trees, have the world’s best pillow lines and have big alpine terrain. MICA’s terrain is very diverse; we have something for every taste.


8. Mica Heliski guests fly into Kelowna. Tell us about the trip to the lodge.

We pick up in Kelowna and drive to Revelstoke (2 hours).  At the office in Revelstoke we sign the waivers and get lunch for the trip north to Mica Creek (1.5 hours).  From there it’s a quick 10 minute flight up to the lodge.  We also have direct flight options from Kelowna (1.5 hours) or Revelstoke directly to Mica Lodge (45 mins).


9. Do you have many guests stopping in Revelstoke to ski/ride for a few days to warm up for heliskiing with Mica Heli Skiing?

Yes, we have quite a few guests who ski Revelstok Mountain Resort (RMR) for a pre-MICA warm up.  We will cover their lift tickets and usually I will ski with them to show them “the goods” at RMR.  It’s a tough part of the job but someone has to do it.


10. What are the biggest challenges of operating a boutique heliskiing lodge for only 16 guests?

The biggest challenge is getting new people seats in our high season, most sell out 10 months in advance!


11. You have a lot of ‘lifers’ coming back to Mica Heliski every season, right?

Yes, the majority of guests are regulars who bring groups each year and rebook their spot for the following year upon departure.


12. Love your old tagline. Is it really “Deeper at Mica?

The majority of our guests will tell you MICA has the deepest powder they have ever skied.  There are places on the coast with a deeper snowpack, but coastal snow is not the same as the interior’s cold smoke.  MICA tends to be slightly cooler in temperature than the Selkirks and Monashees, which is why we have the super dry “Champagne Powder” that everyone raves about.  Like Utah, but deeper!


13. Is it true Mica Heli Skiing is almost booked solid.

Jan 14 to April 3 is 95% sold, only a few seats left.  The good news is that Dec and early Jan are when we get some of our deepest skiing.  And April is fantastic. Longer days and more sun opens up a lot of the really big alpine runs that we don’t get to in early season.  Shoulder season is excellent skiing, and we have some great vertical incentives as well.


14. How will you fit in FAM trips for HELISKI.com to Mica Heliski?

I guess I will have to give you my seat…or not…we will talk.  [Damn!]


15. Do you ever abbreviate your title to Director of S&M?

Yes, but only on the last weekend of the month ;)


Thanks, Darryn.  I hope I can get up there to experience Mica Heli Guides soon.

Best Regards,
Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)

Interview Selkirk Tangiers Revelstoke Heli Skiing

Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing Revelstoke

Revelstoke Heli Skiing

Selkirk Tangiers Revelstoke Heli Skiing Interview

Interview by Tom Jackson, HELISKI.com

1. How long has Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing Revelstoke been flying out of Revelstoke, BC, and how many skiers and riders have had their best day ever with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing and Heliboarding?

This is our 40th year of operation at Selkirk Tangiers Revelstoke Heli Skiing!

Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We’ve got a huge client base from all over the world.

revelstoke heli skiing, selkirk tangiers heli skiing revelstoke

2. A few years ago you joined forces with Revelstoke Mountain Resort. How have things changed?

It has created lots of opportunities for us to create new packages and offerings for our guests (heliski out of Nelsen Lodge, Lift & Heli Combo incl. 3 days of heliskiing and 2 days at RMR…). We still offer our guests the same amazing heliskiing products we always have but with a lot more options.

3. Your 500,000-acre tenure includes the Monashees and the Selkirk Mountains. Compare and contrast the two, please.

A lot of the same goods! Both ranges run North-South through and around Revelstoke, BC. The Selkirk mountain range lies to the East of Revelstoke and the Monashee mountain range lies to the West of town. The bulk of our tenure is located in the Selkirk mountains so we tend to spend a lot of the time there, but we do like to check out the Monashee side of STHS as often as possible as well! They both include plenty of treeskiing, alpine bowls and glaciers for our guests to enjoy.

4. I get ‘Selkirk’ (the mountain range), but what the heck is Tangiers in Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing Revelstoke?

It’s Tangiers is the name of a zone river in our northern Selkirk terrain, named after the Tangiers river. It is where the company’s original founder and owner, Peter Schlunegger, took his first heliski guests to heliskiing with STHS 35 years ago!

5. What percentage of your clients do a single day heli skiing Revelstoke?

40-60%. Since we are ‘turning over’ guests daily rather than weekly, this allows us to accommodate many more people each week in our Day Heli programs than our multiday programs. However, we find that many single day clients end up adding at least a 2nd day to their experience and a lot will come back the following year for multiday packages!

6. Can you please summarize the three single day heli skiing Revelstoke packages?

Day Heli Experience – a great introduction to heliskiing including 3 runs

Day Heli Advanced – for skiers/boarders with previous heliski and/or extensive backcountry experience. Includes 3,000 vertical meters rather than the 3 runs incl. in the Experience package.

Private DayStar – our premiere day heliskiing experience. You and up to 3 friends in your own helicopter with your own guide experiencing all our terrain has to offer! Includes 5,000 vertical meters of skiing.

ALL these packages also include breakfast, lunch, and après-ski snack, ski/board rentals, ACMG certified ski guide, safety equipment and training. Extra runs/meters available for a fixed rate (based on weather, time and group consensus).

Small choppers are also an option from Selkirk-Tangiers

7. What is the most popular multi-day Revelstoke heli skiing package?

We see lots of guests booking our 3 Day Classic packages because it is a great fit for busy schedules. The 6 and 7 day Classic packages still tend to be very popular however, lots of people are still looking for that traditional week-long heliski experience!

8. Tell us about lodging for multi-day guests with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing?

We are based out of the Coast Hillcrest Hotel, located 5-min from downtown Revelstoke. A beautiful rustic log themed hotel, there are plenty of amenities (spa, hot tubs, fantastic dining room, lounge, work out facility, STHS retail shop etc.) for our guests to enjoy.

Best Day Ever Groundhog Day

9. What other multi-day Revelstoke heli skiing packages are available?

We have Private AStar packages for groups of 4 or 8, flying from the Hillcrest Hotel, Nelsen Lodge or Bighorn Lodge (at the base of RMR).

New this season we have a special 3 day Women’s Retreat (Jan.7-10 and Mar.10-13) just for the ladies, a 3 day AStar Steep Camp (Mar.3-6 and Mar.17-20) for clients looking to explore some of our more aggressive terrain and get more vertical, and our new Lift and Heliski combo incl. transfers from Kelowna airport, 6 nights accommodation, 2 ski days at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, plus 3 heliski days with STHS.

10. What is the average vertical for a day at Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing Revelstoke?

Depends on a number of factors – what the weather is doing, time of year, what package the guests are booked for. Typically we will see a range of 1,500-3,000 vertical meters per day for our day packages and 3,000-5,000 for our mult-iday packages. However, if we have plenty of light, great weather and keen skiers/boarders, we can see groups skiing up to 8,000+vertical meters some days!!

Tree Skiing from Revelstoke

11. Tell us about your Selkirk Tangiers Revelstoke Heli Skiing Only packages.

These packages offer a little more flexibility for our guests. They can still ski with STHS but are free to arrange accommodations for elsewhere in Revelstoke. Available for certain 1, 2 and 3 day packages.

12. What are the options for Private Heli Skiing at Selkirk Tangiers Revelstoke?

Our private packages can be 1-7 days in length, with our 3,,4,5 and 7 day AStar packages including lodging at the Hillcrest hotel. Shorter private AStar packages can be arranged without accommodation for clients who already have somewhere to stay in Revelstoke.
Revelstoke Heli Skiing

13. If the weather grounds the helicopter, can guests go catskiing or make it to the Revelstoke Mountain Resort in time to get a full day?

Multi-day packages: if there is a down day during your multi-day package, guests have the option to go to the ski resort. The group’s guide will drive the group there/back and ski with them; lunch and lift ticket will be provided. If at the end of the package, guests haven’t reached their guaranteed heliski vertical for weather reasons, we will refund at a set rate for the unskied meters.

Day Heli packages: Guests will get a full refund plus have the opportunity to get a ride to the ski resort if their heli day is cancelled first thing in the morning. If they do go out and at the end of the package guests haven’t reached their guaranteed heliski vertical, we will refund at a set rate for the unskied meters/runs.

2 Edges or 4…

14. What percentage of Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing guests are heliboarding?

Hard to say, but it seems to be around 30-40%. It’s definitely not just for skiers, we’re happy taking skiers and boarders out and have a great fleet of rental powder skis & boards to choose from.

15. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing Revelstoke?

There’s a reason we’re still offering up heliskiing and boarding for our guests after being around for 40 years – we know what we’re doing and our guests love it, coming back winter after winter! Revelstoke is a world-renowned destination for heli skiing for good reason and we’ve done our best to provide just that for thousands of our guests from all over the world.

Thanks. I hope to get back up there to Revelstoke to make some turns with you soon!



Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)

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.

canadian heli-skiing, heli-ski canada

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.

heli-ski british columbia, helicopter skiing bella coola bc

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.

heliskiing, helicopter skiing canada

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)


heliski canada, helicopter skiing canada heli ski canada, heli-skiing canada

heli-skiing canada, helicopter skiing bc canada

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.




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

Black Ops Valdez Heli-Skiing – HELISKI.com Interview

Valdez Heliskiing with Black Ops Valdez Alaska

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

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

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

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


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



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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Tom:             Oh.

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


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

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


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

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


Tom:             Close to home, yeah.

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


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

Tabatha:        Exactly.


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

Tabatha:        Oh, really? Wow.


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

Tabatha:        Huh.


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

Tabatha:        (Laughs)


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

Tabatha:        Yeah…visibility?

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

Tabatha:        Yeah, sometimes it can be pretty bad.


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Tom:             That’s cheap.

Tabatha:         Yeah, not too bad.


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Tom:             So how are you doing your marketing?

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Tom:             Alright, great talking to you.  Cheers.


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.

Why Heliski in January? Heliskiing Operator Series: Eagle Pass Heliskiing – “Snorkels Recommended”

heliskiing EPH canada


Heliskiing in January at Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing means ‘Bring your snorkel!’

The Monashee Mountains around Revelstoke, British Columbia Canada offer up copious amounts of dry, light powder.  The new lodge is a treat for the 12 lucky guests (see pictures below)


Here are the comments from Kiel and Ryan about January heliskiing at EPH.




heliskiing revelstoke bc


“At Eagle Pass Heliskiing January is our favourite time to ski.

Historically, January is Revelstoke’s most consistent month for snowfall.

This means we get more opportunities to explore our legendary Monashee trees – perfectly spaced old growth trees, beautiful burnt tree forests and an overabundance of dry powder snow. Snorkels are highly recommended.”



heli-skiing january eph



“Early January is a great time to come – January has tons of snow!  Start your year off right!


We have a some availability:

3 Day Trip
– NEW YEARS TRIP! Arrive January 1st – Depart Saturday January 4th
– Arrive Wednesday January 8th – Depart Saturday January 11th
– Arrive Saturday January 12th – Depart Tuesday January 14th

4 Day Trip
– Arrive Sunday January 26th – Depart Thursday January 30th


Longer trips available upon request for these time periods.


Email or call TJ to hold your seats – 866 HELISKI


echo-bay-bar echo-bay-inside out winter EP Heliskiing Lodge echo-bay-interior echo-bay-summer

Let us know if you are interested.




Join HELISKI.com Newsletter

Email Address*
We will never share your information.

First Name

* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

CMH Bugaboos Interview – Birthplace of Heliskiing. 10 Questions with HELISKI.com

CMH Bugaboos, the first heliskiing lodge/area started by Canadian Mountain Holidays in 1965.  It’s next in our series of heliskiing operator interviews with HELISKI.com and HeliskiingReview.com.



1.  CMH Bugaboos Lodge is “The Birthplace of Heli-Skiing” Tell us about that.


2015 represents the 50th birthday of the heli-ski industry, a pretty significant milestone indeed.  Even though the industry has changed significantly since those early days, one thing that never gets old is standing on top of those magnificent mountains, pointing your skis (or board) down the fall line, and dipping into some perfect powder turns.  Technology, skis, helicopters and accommodations may have changed, but the experience of deep powder snow in untouched mountains remains the same.  It is a gift from nature. [Well said!]


heli-skiing bugaboos peaks


2.  Heli-Skiing these mountains since 1965, you must be getting to know the best runs, eh?


These mountains are big and the landscape is constantly changing.  It is amazing how we are still exploring the nooks and crannies of our terrain even after all this time.  We definitely know where to look for great runs, but each season our guides are still able to root out new, exciting lines to test out.


bugaboo heliskiing cmh canada


3.  What level of ability and heli-skiing pace is best suited for CMH Bugaboos? 


The Bugaboos is a fantastic place to come if you are looking for a wide mix of terrain including tree runs combined with high alpine glaciers, stunning scenery, and the experience of a comfortable, cozy and luxurious remote lodge. The Bugaboos has it all – great skiing by day followed by all the bells and whistles for the perfect après ski experience. You can relax after a full day in the mountains by cozying up by the fire, a soak in the roof-top hot tub, testing your skills on the 4-story climbing wall, treating yourself to our massage services, or enjoying a few extra cocktails from our fully stocked bar.



4.  Bugaboos is roughly half way between Banff and Revelstoke.  Tell us about getting there.


Guests typically fly into Calgary where we’ll transport them by motorcoach to the Bugaboo Lodge heli-pad (2 hours west of Banff).   The bus leaves early in the morning from Calgary so we can have you out heli-skiing by the afternoon!  Return ground transfers from Calgary are included in our CMH Bugaboo packages.



5.  Easier access is why Bugaboos offers a variety of trips (Family, Masters, Intro, Fusion), including 4, 5 and 7-day trips?



Access is one of the reasons, but also because the Bugaboos are so iconic.  People travel from all around the globe just to witness the grandeur of these mountains. Skiing amongst the peaks of the Bugaboo Spires is truly magnificent and makes this location so coveted.  It is one of our most popular locations because of the mix of terrain and the extreme beauty of the area.  As a result, we like to offer as many trip options as possible to keep our guest happy.


heliskiing bugaboos, heli-skiing bc


6.  Bugaboos are in the Purcell Mountains.  Tell us about the heli-ski terrain, please.


The Purcell Range includes a wonderful mix of alpine glaciers together with excellent tree skiing. The Bugaboos represent a sub-range within this larger area, a sub-range that is visually spectacular.  The Bugaboo Spires are an anomaly of alpine beauty. They are made of granite, the stone that comprises most of the famous rock spires of the world, from the Himalaya to Patagonia, Yosemite to the Alps. It resists the carving power of glaciers better than most rock, so it tends to form smoother faces, as if the ice were a giant knife in the hand of a master sculptor cleaving great slices from the mountains to leave great cathedrals of stone. In the surrounding mountains, the glaciers shaped the softer sedimentary rocks as well, but left more rugged faces as if the carving force of the glacier were in the hands of a drunk with a bulldozer.  [Poetic!]


Places like the legendary Mont Blanc massif in the Alps have similar climbing opportunities, but as a ski destination the Bugaboos have become known worldwide as a place to have an experience unlike anything else on earth. The tectonic intrusion that pushed the granite into the sky also lifted the surrounding area into a high plateau, creating deep valleys on all sides and ski runs that begin within snowball-throwing distance of the surreal rock walls and go for miles down rolling steep glaciers into uninhabited valleys.



7.  And the lodge has been remodeled four times?


The lodge has changed and grown since 1965.  It is a lodge that has embraced its history while keeping up with the needs of our modern guests.  The lodge is a living museum where the mountain stories continue to be layered on.  Our guests can see how the building has grown and expanded over the years – with renovations in keeping with the natural surroundings.  Today the lodge boasts a 4-story climbing wall, roof-top hot tub, steam room, dry sauna, private guest rooms with heated bathroom floors, and wifi to keep everyone connected.  Guests can relax in our library or check out the many mountaineering artifacts in museum cases.  The lodge is rich in history and a modern tribute to the sport of mountaineering.


heli-skiing lodge room CMH bugaboos



8.  CMH Bugaboos opens early and stays open later than most, eh?


The Bugaboos is a very popular heli-ski location that gets great annual snowfall. As a result, we are able to open early and heliski well into late April/early May.  From a snow perspective we could keep going, but by that time of year our guests have turned their interests towards summer oriented sports.


9.  Which of the other ten areas is most similar to Bugaboos?


From a historical and terrain type experience, our CMH Cariboo Lodge is relatively similar: excellent mix of terrain, beautiful historical location, fantastically BIG mountains,  and a remote, but full service backcountry lodge.


10.  What else would you like to share about the CMH Bugaboo Location?


Go – it should be on your bucket list!

Thanks, Sarah!