HELISKI.com Operator Interview: Great Canadian Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding

Great Canadian Heliskiing and Heliboarding

Small Groups, Unlimited Vertical, Flexible Dates and Easy from Calgary

1. How did you come up with your name? [tongue firmly in cheek]

 

The name comes from the experience people get from skiing/riding with us!

 

2. You are known as a boutique operator. What is different about Great Canadian Heli-Skiing?

 

Back in 2003 our owner, Greg Porter, first coined the term “boutique heli-skiing” to describe the format in which we ski. We have been around since 1988 and now a few others have also started using the same term. In 1988 we were the 1st heliskiing company in Canada to heliski exclusively in small groups of 4, then in 1994+1995 we tried out Unlimited Vertical then in 2006 we became the 1st company to incorporate it full-time in all packages.

 

What really separates us from the rest now is our FLEXIBILITY. Without doubt, we have the most flexibility in the Canadian heliskiing industry. With our location being the closest multi-day operation to an international airport (Calgary), most people can arrive mid-day and be eating dinner in our lodge that night and heli-skiing the very next day. Our guests can start ANY day of the week. And for ANY duration! We are the only company that offers this level of flexibility. This is a big advantage for time-sensitive people. We are here to accommodate our guests schedule!

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3. Tell us about your format. 3 groups of 4 per machine and unlimited vertical, right?

 

Without doubt, the Small Groups format with Unlimited Vertical is the best way to heliski. People are now catching on that skiing in a group of 4 is much more fun than a large group, plus you get more skiing done and it’s easier to match up people of similar abilities.

 

4. What’s your average vertical for a week?

 

Our AVERAGE vertical in a week (6 days of skiing) is 141,000 ft! And note I said AVERAGE. So stronger skiers can ski more than that.

 

5. You are way to the East in BC. Compared to other British Columbia helicopter skiing, does that mean you get less snow, but it’s lighter?

 

It’s much lighter! And we get 46 feet of it every winter which is a huge amount. I think most people would prefer to ski dry, light, fluffy snow than a few more feet of heavier, wet snow. In addition, because of this we have WAY fewer down days. At Great Canadian, we average just 2 down days ALL SEASON long, so there’s more skiing and no need for snowcat backup….we’re here to heli-ski!

 

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Eastern British Columbia Snow – Light and Dry

 

6. Describe the travel from the Calgary airport?

 

Getting here is super easy. Arrive into Calgary around lunch time, take the major highway in Canada (the TransCanada) and in 4 hours you have checked into our lodge. This saves you money as no extra city hotel nights are necessary, and most importantly, it means few travel days and more days you get to skiing!

 

7. Great Canadian Heli-Skiing is a little pricey compared to some Canada heliski options. How do you justify it?

 

So is a Porsche…. you get what you pay for! [I should never have told him what I drive]

The same with heli-skiing. When comparing heli-skiing operations, it is important to compare apples with apples. It’s illogical to compare us, with small groups, to an operation that has 12 people in a group, as our operational costs per person are much higher, however the experience is so much better. We want to provide a more personalised, intimate and tailor-made experience to each of our guests.

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8. That is a cool lodge. How many guests can you accommodate at any one time?

 

We cap numbers at 24. We feel this is a perfect number. It also allows us to run 2 helicopters, each with 3 groups of 4 people.
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9. Compare and contrast January, February and March at Great Canadian Heli-Skiing.

 

If you want super deep pow and steeper terrain, join us Dec to early Feb. If you prefer high alpine and glaciers, come in mid-March to April. If you are after a mixture, join us in February. Having said that, you can get any of those conditions at any stage of the season!

 

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1, 2, 3, 4….plus Guide = 5

 

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

 

Only 2 ALL SEASON LONG! We’ve even had a couple of winters when we have had ZERO down days!

 

11. Describe the terrain you ski and how it compares to other heli skiing Canada areas.

 

We have hundreds of heli ski runs, offering every type of terrain – glaciers, open bowls, gladed trees, pillow lines – and every slope angle and exposure.  Great Canadian stands out in the industry because of the quality and accessibility of our terrain above our base at Heather Mountain Lodge (our heli-pads are at the lodge and the closest runs are just 60 seconds away!).   One of our greatest assets are the burnt forests. This is where a forest fire has come through and destroyed all the undergrowth and small branches, leaving beautifully spaced tree trunks. This terrain often has the best snow conditions and it’s steeper. Even guests who don’t normally like tree skiing really enjoy our burnt forests.

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Best Use of a Burnt Forrest!

 

12. What do you do to accommodate heliboarders?

 

I’m one of them! Also, our owner Greg Porter used to be on the Canadian National Snowboard team….although that was back when if you could do a 540 you’d get sponsored! [Oh, nice dis on the boss. Better give him credit for the photos at least]

Our guides are snowboard-aware, so they will avoid flat spots where possible and if there is a tricky transition, they will forewarn boarders.

We carry the Burton Fish, Malolo and Supermodel in our rental fleet. Fat skis and snowboards are included for free in our packages.

 

13. How many of your clients are fist timers?

 

We have quite a few first timers joining us. They are attracted to our Small Groups. It’s much less intimating than holding up a large group! And Advanced skiers/riders needn’t worry about being in a group with people of much lesser ability, as with the small group format it is much easier to group people of similar abilities…..and people often come with friends or family to make up their own private group of 4!

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Great Canadian Heliskiing, Kicking Horse Resort, Calgary BC

 

14. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is nearby. Is it really the Jackson Hole of Canada?

 

Yes! Kicking Horse rocks! I’ve skied both extensively and the terrain difficulty breakdown is very similar. Kicking Horse has 4,131 feet of vertical, just 8 feet shy of Jackson’s. And like Jackson, what is designed as a blue run is often a black run elsewhere! We can create combination packages for our guests who want to combine a few days of resort skiing with a few days of heli-skiing.

 

15. Anything else you would like to add?

 

This winter is shaping up to be another BIG SNOW year. Reputable meteorologists are saying we are heading into another La Nina like last year….and last year was AMAZING! You will not want to miss heli-skiing this coming winter! Thanks TJ!

Thank you, Deane.  I’m looking forward to taking you up on your invite.
Best,
tj

Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)
HELISKI.com
HeliskiingReview.com
866-HELISKI
(866-435-4754)

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Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder

Helicopter Skiing Canada Operator Interview – TLH Heli Skiing Canada — HELISKI.com

TLH Heicopter Skiing Canada

Helicopter Skiing Canada in One Group with Unlimited Vertical, and Easy Travel from Whistler

1. TLH Helicopter Skiing Canada is the only Canadian heliskiing operator offering just one group per helicopter in a standard, Classic package.  Every group heli skis with their own helicopter.  How did you decide to offer what amounts to an inexpensive Private Helicopter Skiing Canada package?

“At TLH Helicopter Skiing Canada we separate ourselves from the pack by offering Canadian heliskiing and heliboarding packages that are more boutique and exclusive. A single group per helicopter offers the guest an unrivaled experience in the mountains as there is no waiting for additional groups. This also allows us greater bad weather tolerance as we do not have to extract multiple groups from the field with one helicopter.  Every group heli skis on its own.

After a big snowfall when the sky opens up to that endless bluebird day we are out into our big terrain skiing within 10 minutes. Packages that offer three groups per heli will have the third group waiting at least 30+ minutes to fly out after the first group, even when the first run is close to home. The first group out will also have that 30 minute wait to get onto their second run. The single group helicopter eliminates this wait time.

Single groups also give our Canadian helicopter skiing program more flexibility in marginal snow conditions. We can move our program in and out of different drainages quickly and efficiently as we don’t have to ferry 3 loads in and out of zones.”
[I love that!]

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TLH Heli-Skiing Canada High Alpine Terrain?   Check

 

2. On top of just one group per machine, you offer unlimited vertical! Other Canada heliskiing operators tell me that it reminds them of the rancher who won the lottery, who plans to ‘keep on ranchin til it’s gone.’

How can you make money offering one group and unlimited vertical?!?

“Over the last 20 years of operating, TLH Heli-Skiing Canada has gained an intimate understanding of how much the average Canadian heli-skiing client is capable of skiing. With this in mind, we ran a pilot project to see if our vertical numbers reflected what guests would ski on an unlimited basis and budgeted accordingly. The pilot was a success, and we decided to carry it forward into our regular program. When guests can eliminate the need to balance their budget while they earn their turns, everyone “just heli skis.” . The experience is greatly enhanced because they will ski morning to night and never concern themselves with the add-ons to their bill. No one gets left in the lodge after reaching their guarantee to save money, and the skiing becomes an unlimited possibility. The skiers that have seen our 200,000 vertical weeks, with no additional charges, would ask “how we can afford not to?” as they re-book.

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One Group per Group!  Like a Limo vs. a Taxi

3. Critics of the unlimited vertical heli skiing Canada offerings point out that the guests and operators are not goal congruent (high tech marketing jargon, sorry I couldn’t resist).

What do you say to skeptics who contend you may quit early or otherwise slow the pace to save money?

“Our answer to this is that the ‘proof is in the pudding’ so to speak.
Our average daily vertical for 2011 was 8700m or 27,710 ft per day.
Over 7 days that’s 200,970 ft. [WOW!]

Most Canada heli skiing packages that the competitors offer give you 100,000 vertical feet before you start paying for every additional 1000 ft. The last 4 weeks of 2011 saw us skiing over 200,000 ft. weekly, with one week at 250,000. As far as quitting early goes, our daily program runs from 0830 to 1630 in the field, and the only time we come home early is due to tired legs or bad weather.”

 

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Got Tree Skiing? Check

 

4. What is the average vertical for a week at TLH Helicopter Skiing Canada?

See above [That is one hellacious average!]

 

5. Flying a 212 helicopter must be much less expensive. Comparing to 407’s or A-Stars, what’s the difference in operating costs?

“Each aircraft has different operating costs based on the type of helicopter and the required maintenance on them. Generally smaller helicopters cost less to operate than a Bell 212. ” [Sorry, I was thinking per person]

 

TLH helicopter skiing, heli skiing canadian

Keep it running, we’ll be right down!

 

6. The group is only as fast as the slowest heliskier. What happens if the one group has a “lagging gaper” who can’t hang?

“At TLH Heli-Skiing Canada, all of our groups in the single group program run with 2 guides. When we have a dramatic split, one guide will take the faster skiers and lap the slower guys or pick a different line to cater to ability levels.” [Good answer!]

 

7. TLH Heli-Skiing Canada is probably the most convenient to Whistler-Blackcomb of any destination Canadian heli skiing operator. Describe the travel from Whistler.

“The transfer to TLH Heliskiing Canada is part of the adventure and experience, and a perfect start to your heliskiing holiday.

A 20 minute land transfer from Whsitler to Pemberton brings you to the airport, where you will board a DE Havilland Beaver ski plane. A 30 minute beautiful scenic flight over the mountains brings you to Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa, where you will land on the frozen lake in front of the lodge. [Very cool!]

All of our packages include this air transfer. When traveling by land, a pretty drive along a classic mountain highway offers views of frozen rivers, deep valleys, and diverse peaks. The Duffy from Pemberton to Lillooet is well-known for its incredible ski touring access and terrain.

Our proximity to Whistler allows us to build custom combo tours for guests who would also like to visit the world-renowned resort while on vacation.”

 

8. How about travel from, and return to Vancouver?

“Guests coming from Vancouver will travel up the Sea to Sky corridor through Whistler to Pemberton then connect with our air transfer to Tyax. The Sea to Sky is a famous, scenic drive through some of the best recreational playgrounds in Canada, including North Vancouver, Squamish, and Whistler. With views over the Pacific Ocean, you move through some of the most ideal terrain for outdoor activity in all of British Columbia, while being captivated by the view of the white-capped Tantalus Mountain range towering in the background.”

 

helicopter skiing, tlh heli skiing canada room

The Lodge and Guests Rooms were Completely Remodeled Last Year

9. Your lodge has been upgraded recently. What’s new?

“Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa, the home of TLH Heliskiing Canada, underwent a massive renovation last summer and fall. We opened the 2011 heliskiing season with a completely revamped property. The space has been elegantly updated to modern standards to meet the expectations of the contemporary traveler while the ambiance of the lodge has been maintained; the goal of our renovations was to upgrade and enhance the level of luxury while maintaining the rustic feel of the lodge, representing our wilderness setting.

All guest rooms were completely renovated while the main areas saw complete upgrades and re-decorating, including the bar and lounge, the dining room, outdoor patio, and the den. The furniture in this Canadian heli-ski lodge has been replaced on all levels.  That includes easy chairs and leather sofas in the bar, warm inviting sofas in the lobby and bedding of the highest quality in all guest rooms.

The exterior of the lodge has seen all the balconies and decking replaced, giving the exterior of the lodge a modern and clean look. Our newly renovated kitchen is now producing a dining experience far beyond what was available historically. And very importantly for our heliskiing guests, we now offer a brand new spa with three treatment rooms, an infrared sauna, a wood sauna, a steam room, yoga studio and well-designed change rooms guaranteed to relax our guests. We will continue to improve our product and services as we move forward to winter 2012, including a new outdoor Jacuzzi in the fall renovations and an even greater emphasis of guest satisfaction and service.”

 

10. What’s the best thing about working with Canadian helicopter skiing agents like HELISKI.com?   Bonus Question: What do you think about shameless plugs by interviewers?

“They help connect us to clients on a broader spectrum; they are specializing in the product which in itself is very specialized.” [Yeah, it’s a niche of a niche, eh?]

 

11. Some clients are concerned about heliskiing so close to Whistler, where some storms dump heavy snow aka Sierra Cement. How does your snowfall amount and quality compare with other heliskiing destinations?

“Luckily TLH is on the East side of the Coast Mountains. The storms have to rise over the high peaks of the mountain range and then drop their snow on us. This means we avoid the warm temperatures on the West side of the Coast Mountains, where TLH heli skis!   That combined with the influence of the cold interior plateaus to the east of us we receive deep, dry snowpacks, quite different than that of Whistler.”

tlh heli-skiing bc canada

This Ain’t Whistler…

 

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

“1/2 day per week.

So pack your sunscreen! ” (My daughter makes me use sunscreen to limit the damage!)

 

13. What percentage of your guests is heliboarders, and what do you do to accommodate knuckle draggers?

“The heliboarding numbers vary from week to week but on average I would say 40% of our guests are on boards. When we have boarders in the group we simply alter our terrain choices to eliminate long traverses or flat sections.” [SWEET!]

 

helisnowboarding bc canada

How do snowboarders introduce themselves?

14. Do you know how snowboarders introduce themselves?

“OH! Sorry, Dude!”

[I’m not hating, I do both]

canadian heli-skiing

 

15. Is there anything else you would like to add about TLH Helicopter Skiing Canada?

“We offer a boutique product in an amazing lodge with a ski program that is suited to people that really want to ski.  Canadian Heli-skiing needs a shot in the arm and we are attempting to do it. Products and programs have been stagnating, and I think you will find most heli operators following our lead (once again) over the next few years! My comments are based on 13 years of heliskiing as a mountain guide, working actively in the guiding and the management of the heliskiing industry. We will be launching a new website this winter to bring our online presence up to the quality of our operation.”

 

Thanks, Cliff!  Looking forward to seeing the new lodge upgrades and skiing some deep untracked!
tj

Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)
HELISKI.com
WhistlerHeliski.com

866-HELISKI
(866-435-4754)

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Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder

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Half-Price Heliskiing, Mar 26 – Apr 2, $5900 at Galena, a Premier CMH Lodge

We just discovered an amazing deal at CMH’s Galena lodge, March 26 – April 2.  It’s designed for parents to bring a kid, but it is now open to anyone!

It’s $5900. Awesome deal if you don’t mind some kids in the lodge/chopper.  Galena trips are normally $10,770

Or bring your kid for half-price!!


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CMH Galena is Known for Deep Powder

CMH is the largest heliski outfit, with 12 lodges/areas to choose from.  Some with more extreme terrain than others.   Galena, Bobbie Burns and Monashees are to most aggressive.

They invented heliskiing!  Forty-one years of accumulated experience allow them to claim ‘Our staff and guides, some of them veterans from the very early days, will proudly show you the friendliness, hospitality and great times in the mountains that bring 70% of our guests back every year.’

Galena is “best known for ultra-deep powder and varied, challenging tree skiing.”   This week they will cater to the group’s ability.

Travel is somewhat arduous, 7 plus hours, plus 2 to get in.  The ferry ride breaks it up.  This lodge has a cult like following and usually books up fast.

CMH Helicopter Skiing, Canada
Galena Terrain is Legendary at Canadian Mountain Holidays

Call me ASAP if you want to hold seats – 1-866-435-4754

Heliskiing with Your Kids

Ever seen a kid heliskiing? It’s rare, but possible – and so are deals, all the way up to college-age.

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The folks at Last Frontier Heliskiing not only allow it, they offer discounts to kids who are skiing with their parents. This can include college age ‘kids’, so check it out!

For smaller kids, they should be over age 12. Of course the ankle-biters have to be able to make turns in powder. And hopefully the kid is taller than last night’s dump….but I digress.

Give them a call 888-499-4354 or email Mike, and him TJ of HELISKI.com referred you. You can get a great deal and an amazing, unique memory for you and your kid.

Heli-Skiing with your Kids

A Heli-Skiing Down Day Will Make You Think

Years ago I was sitting in a remodeled gas station in a remote corner of British Columbia. Fog from the nearby river combined with low clouds to keep our helicopter grounded. Our hosts suggested a road trip to Alaska so that we could say we had been there……I passed.

I said to the person across from me, “I wish I could talk to someone who has been to these places before I book.” That was the genesis of the first helicopter skiing review site, HeliskiingReview.com. It offers objective reviews and advice, based on both my heli skiing experiences and those of many others.

From that modest beginning, Heliskiing Review has grown to be the biggest directory of heliskiing Canada operators. In later years, we added Alaska heliskiing, North America heliskiing and beyond.

Heliskiing is like other high-end all inclusive holidays – the experience must meet the expectations. That’s where we come in for helicopter skiing information.

This summer my partner Mike and I introduced Heliski.com, the ultimate resource for BC heliskiing and the Canadian heli ski community. It includes details on 95% of the heliskiing and heliboarding operations in the world. Heliski.com is also a community, facilitating communication and networking among those of us who love heliskiing and heliboarding.

We have added a store, newsletter, forum, pictures, videos and a Heli Finder utility to help visitors find the best trip for their group. Also new this season are partnerships with the two biggest operators – Canadian Mountain Holidays and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing. Check it out, join Club Heliski.com and let us know what you think.

See you there,
tj