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Heliski.com Interviews Alaska Rendezvous Guides, 15 Questions with HELISKI.com

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TJ Skiing with Alaska Rendezvous Heli Ski Guides

Alask Rendezvous Heli Ski Guides

Theo Meiners is an Alaska heliskiing pioneer. We met through a mutual friend with whom we had both run the Grand Canyon in kayaks. Theo runs Alaska Rendezous Heli-Guides (ARG), on the Thompson Pass east of Valdez, Alaska. It’s the first place I had the pleasure of heliskiing Alaska. I caught up with Theo recently to talk about heliskiing Alaska.

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1. Theo, how long have you been guiding heliskiing in Alaska?

I have worked on Thompson Pass as a Heli Guide for 17 seasons, and have had an incredible run.

2. Wow, did you grow up skiing in Alaska?

I learned to ski in 1967 in the Chugach Mountains at Arctic Valley and Aleyeska, outside of Anchorage. At a very young age my brother and I were ducking the ropes and skiing 5 miles down Ship Creek to the main valley, and on a few occasions to the Eagle River drainages. We also would ski from Picnic Point at Alyeska down what now is the North Face. Don’t ask me how we survived, but we did.

3. So you have a ‘feel’ for skiing in the Chugach?

I feel that those early Childhood experiences and memories give me an inherent advantage. My feet know the texture of the snow of the Chugach Mountains – The Mountains of the Real People, as the Inuit and Chugach native peoples call their land.

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If you have not been, you should go. The scale is immense!

4. How did you find yourself guiding in the Valdez area?

I was first taken to the Valdez area by The WESC team. The late John McCune and Pete Murphy hired me to do snow pack evaluations, avalanche hazard reduction, and finally as a Judge of the 1996 World Extreme Ski Contest. It was quite the homecoming.

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5. What was your first heliskiing guide gig?

I had known Doug Coombs (legendary extreme skier and founder of Valdez Heli-Ski Guides) since he was a freshman at Montana State University in Bozeman. He had started his guide service after his success in the WESC contest. So once the ‘96 contest was concluded, Emily (Coombs) hired me first as a guide. Later I became operations and logistic manager, as well as one of the 4 lead guides.

6. What was it like in the early days of Valdez Heli-Skiing?

Those were the pioneering years. We found so much great skiing! Everyday was as thrilling as the first decent fell to our discovery team. After 5 seasons with Doug, I started my own service as Doug and Emily sold his business and went on to La Grave (still home to Doug Coombs Steep Skiing Camps Worldwide).

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Chute!

7. Tell us about starting your own Alaska heliskiing operation.

I started my business, the Alaska Rendezvous Lodge and Heli Ski Guides in 2000. I purchased 26.5 acres on Thompson Pass. I believe the Alaska Rendezvous Guide holds the high ground. We are 50 miles from the ocean, and that position on the pass give us more fly days than any of the other companies in the Valdez area.

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Above and Beyond Valdez!

8. There wasn’t anything out there on Thompson pass, eh?

I built the motel and bar restaurant in 2003. We continue to be amazed by the support the Valdez community has given to ARL/ARG. I’m very grateful to all the operators in Alaska, because everyone is doing their best to bring people to Alaska and to get them some true Big Mountain Experience.

[Not one of your typical ski chalets…but more than adequate, especially for Valdez!]

heli-skiing, helicopter skiingARG skis the confluence of three valleys = every exposure

9. Where do you go in the off-season?

I live for most of the year at the Lodge at 45 mile. I feel that being a local is a great advantage regarding the terrain, weather and culture of ‘the last frontier.’ [Very cool]

10. Now Alaska Rendezvous Guides is a family affair?

Both my son Aidan and my daughter Ali work with me in Alaska, so we are a unique family business.

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Next Generation

11. So you like the team?

I have the greatest staff that return year after year, which is also a strength. Every year their amplified experience propels them on to good terrain decisions and snow selection.

valdez heliskiing, helicopter skiingMellow LZ….Rare in Alaska

12. Having your own lodge makes you unusual in the Valdez area. I think it beats the no-tell motel and a bus ride. How many guests can you accommodate?

The Motel that we built-in 2003 can accommodate 20 guests but we also have the ability to put 10 full size RV’s in our 3 parking areas; where they can plug into our electrical system and use the facilities as if they too were in the motel rooms. So, we have as many as 40 guests on the property at any given time.

helicopter skiing alaska, valdez heli-skiing alaskaBack to the Lodge for Lunch – Unique in Alaska!

13. Your pricing is also different, charging separately for food. Explain how that works.

Yes, you are correct. We have packages designed for the groups that ride from Saturday to Saturday – the fully reserved (VIPS). But we also have an ala carte package, so we can reach every guest’s expectations and meet every person’s dream and budget. In the finical times we live in, every person should be able to reach their dream without being hurt with their commitments. My Guides, my children, want everyone who visits the Rendezvous to be able to afford their experience and trip to the Rendezvous. And I’m obligated to listen to the young people. It is not a new level, it is the new world, their world.

14. You are usually booked far in advance (and don’t need help from HELISKI.com, sadly). Lots of repeat guests, eh?

The Alaska Rendezvous has over a 70 percent return rate amongst our guests. This is the final piece of the formula for success – smart, capable, experienced, big mountain guests with the time, resources and skills to hang with the ARG staff [present company excluded….Seriously, they ski some steep stuff. I remember one LZ where there was not enough room for us all to put on our skis at the same time. I looked in every direction, and had no idea which way we were going down. This is not your mother’s heliskiing…].

alaska helisking, helicopter skiing alaskaNice Landing Zone, eh?

15. Theo, is there anything else you would like to add?

What can I say? I have been blessed by the Mountains and the universe, and get to ride the best snow and terrain in the world.

Thanks everyone,

Theo

Thanks, Theo! Hope to get up there to ski with you again soon

Best Regards,

tj

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

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Alaska Heli Skiing vs Canadian Heli Skiing — Heliski.com Reviews

Alaska Heli Skiing vs Canadian Heli Skiing

HELISKI.com Compares and Contrasts Heli Skiing Alaska vs Heli Skiing Canada

Alaska Heli Skiing vs Canadian Heli Skiing

Alaska Heli Skiing vs. Canadian Heli Skiing?  I get this question a lot from clients who want to Alaska Heli Ski.  Heli Skiing Alaska is very different from Canadian Heli Skiing.   There are stark contrasts in terrain, snow, lodging, runs, pricing, travel and amenities between Alaska heli skiing and heli skiing Canada.  The big differences heli-skiing Alaska vs heli-skiing Canada are……..

  • Heli Skiing Alaska is almost all above tree line.  Most heli-skiing in Canada has a variety of high alpine and tree skiing.   Alaska Heli Ski terrain has NO trees.
  • Heli Skiing Alaska weather is more problematic, both for travel and for skiing (I was once down for 6 days in a row in Valdez Alaska).  You may have to drive from Anchorage (5 hrs.) because the flights in and out of Valdez are canceled, often.  Alaska Heli-Ski risk….

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  • Heli Skiing Canada is more travel-friendly and more weather friendly than heli-skiing Alaska
  • Alaska heli skiing is serious steep.  They can get as extreme as you can handle.  I’m an accomplished powder skier and former ski bum. There are places that will scare the hell out of me in Alaska.  They claim to have terrain similar to Canadian heli skiing, but that is not where you heliski in Alaska.
  • Alaska heli skiing is beautiful and wild.  It is hard to relate the vastness of heli skiing Alaska vs heli skiing Canada.   But heli-skiing Alaska is striking!
  • We work with some great heli-skiing operators in both Canada and Alaska.
  • Heli Skiing Alaska is a later season than heli skiing Canada, because of the temps and the daylight. March is the early season for Alaska heli skiing.  April is prime time for heli-skiing Alaska

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  • Alaska heli skiing accommodations are not luxurious.  Nothing like Canadian heli skiing lodges.  Sometimes you commute from a Valdez hotel or even stay in a motor home.
  • There is an operator out of Mt. Alyeska that would allow you to ‘warm up’ before you go heli-skiing Alaska
  • Heli Skiing Alaska or Heli Boarding Alaska.  And you can ski the resort or go catskiing on down days.  Let me know if you want me to research.

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                      TJ Heli Skiing Alaska – Heliskiing and Scenery are Amazing and Dramatic

I would NOT try Alaska heli skiing for my first heliski trip, have a tight schedule or want the classic heliski lodge experience.  Heli Skiing Canada is the place to start.

I WOULD heli-skiing Alaska if I was craving steep, easy on time, patient and looking for bucket list check marks.

Let us know if you want recommendations for heli skiing Canada or Alaska, or both.

We represent all of the Heli Skiing Alaska Operators and just about every Canadian Heli Skiing Operator.

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Alaska Heli Skiing is Awesome!