November 3, 2011
Interview by Tom Jackson, HELISKI.com
Recently we visited with Gordon Calder who runs Powder Mountain Heliskiing and Catskiing in Whister-Blackcomb, BC. He goes by Gord, and is the unofficial mayor of Whistler Village. What follows are 15 or so questions with HELISKI.com and HeliskiingReview.com
1. Gord, Powder Mountain used to be a catskiing-only operation. What made you decide to move up? (bad pun intended)
It has always been a dream, and when dreams come along you grab them and run.
2. Where is your terrain, in relation to Whistler-Blackcomb Resort?
15 minutes South. [387 square miles of terrain, so there is always a good aspect and angle to heliski.]
3. You get more snow than Whistler, too, eh?
30% more snow on average; if you don’t believe me I’ll prove it to you.
More Snow than Whistler!
4. Describe a typical day of heli-skiing with Powder Mountain.
All I can say is “Bucket List,” with Whistler as your backcountry lodge.
Your Heli Day:
7:45am Meet at Gone Bakery in the Whistler Village, behind the grocery store, to check in and sign your waiver. Be dressed and ready to ski except for your ski boots. We drive you and your equipment to our simple base lodge The Powder Mountain base Lodge is 20 minutes south of Whistler on Highway 99 at the Chance Creek turn off, or to the Black Tusk Heliport in Squamish depending on weather conditions, where you meet your guides. .
With Gone Bakery being right behind the grocery store, you can watch everyone race for powder as you saunter over to the Backside of Gone Bakery with your guide for your ride down to our lodge. Please be on time. Time wasted is skiing wasted. You can never get back turns you missed.
8:00am Departure for “Your Best Day Ever” from the Gone Bakery. Don’t be late.
9.00am At our simple base lodge we have a cozy fireplace and bathroom facilities. After a short talk on the day’s proceedings and a short helicopter safety briefing, we load up the helicopter and head out into the backcountry.
Book and Ski Guaranteed: If the weather makes it impossible to fly, your powder day will be from our snowcat that we keep ready in case of the weather not cooperating. If your day is from the cat instead of the helicopter, you will only be charged for a day of catskiing not heliskiing.[cool]
9.15am – 9.45am You step out of the helicopter and begin a quick orientation to make you feel comfortable and to ensure you are familiar with our safety procedures and equipment. After that, it’s time to get our first taste of the day’s snow. You will be at an altitude between 6,500 and 8,000 feet, clicking into your bindings for the first run of the day. The first run is always a “Let’s Get Acquainted” run to let everyone get warmed up and so the guide can get an idea of everyone’s ability so they can plan the day that gets the best skiing or riding for the group. The groups’ ability and snow conditions determine what kind of terrain and runs we will be riding.
3.00pm – 3:30pm The end of your day depends more on the energy level of the group, snow and weather conditions, etc, than what time it is.
3:30 – 3:45pm You return to our Base Lodge, then transfer into our 4×4 vans and head back to Whistler.
4:30pm You are usually back in Whistler, dropped at Gone Bakery. [grinning ear to ear]
Bonus Question: As the unofficial mayor of Whistler, what are the best après-ski bars in Whistler Village?
5. If the weather looks iffy to fly, do you tell your guests to stay in town and ski Whistler?
HAHAHAHAHAA! No we jump in a cat and hit the most epic trees on the planet.
6. You ski the A-Star, so groups of four?
We do A-Star groups of 4 and a 214 for groups of 10.
7. How many groups per helicopter?
A-Star up to 3 groups of 4. In the Bell 214, 2 groups of 10.
8. Do you usually have space on short notice, or should guests make reservations before they get to Whistler?
If you only have one or two days to shred then book ahead. If you’re here for a week or so, feel free to roll last minute. We have a 24 hour cancellation policy and do not charge your card until the night before the trip leaves, so if you cancel there is no fee. [Cool]
9. Can you recommend lodging in Whistler?
There are so many amazing places it does not really matter, just make sure your not right above a night club or you could get no sleep at all. [great insider tip…]
10. So, how did you come up with the name for Powder Mountain Heliskiing Catskiing?
Pretty easy, we have Powder and a Mountain. [Huh!]
11. Other than a Private, you offer 3-run and 5-run packages.
$595 for 3 runs
$995 for 5 runs
How much vertical does each usually get?
Tons, most people don’t have the legs for what we offer!
12. Once your guests have had a taste, do you send them straight to
What’s the right answer? Of course!
13. So you are my gateway drug, eh?
We have Gateway and the Endway just jump on board for the ride. At Powder Mountain the answer is YES to every question. [Sounds like my old girlfriend]
14. Do you take a lot of heli-boarders?
With Ken Achenbach and Don Schwartz as the owners that is a big yes.
Powder Mountain is OWNED by Riders!
15. Do you provide powder boards for guests?
No we suggest going to summit ski and sport in the Hilton hotel.
Anything else you want to add?
The only way to describe our place can be said in just two words.
LOL, you are the man, Gord!. Thanks. See you soon.
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)