Heliskiing Canada Discounts Available Booking in Spring
We have had many inquiries since the post outlining reasons to book 2016 heliskiing now.In addition to getting the dates you want, you can save significantly. So we put together some examples of the savings available by booking early.Let us know if you would like HELISKI.com to put together options for your group.
Book by April 30
Classic Package (3 groups of 6) low season discount is 15%; high season discount is 6%.
Elite Package (2 groups of 4 or 5) low season discount is 12%; high season discount is 5%
We discovered the coolest way to get your skis to your heliski (or resort) destination – Ship Skis. Yesterday they emailed me a shipping label which I printed and handed to a FedEx driver along with my ski bag – stuffed with clothes and my powder boards. I will rendezvous with them at Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing on Sunday…then they will be picked up from Great Canadian Heli-Skiing the following week. No schlepping, bag fees, roof racks, bellmen…..brilliant!
They pick up and deliver….anywhere. They handle everything and are around if you need them. They can do it in a day or slower/cheaper. I asked if they had thought about golf clubs…..yeah, a long time ago.
Ship Skis: You asked about golf clubs, and that’s how the whole business was based. Our parent company, Ship Sticks, was created two years ago. That took off and did extremely well, so we kind of started to branch out into other sectors, and that’s how it came about, Ship Skis. So Ship Skis is…this is really our first ski season that we’ve been in full operation. So it’s going extremely well and we’re excited about it, so.
TJ: Hey, that’s cool. So Ship Sticks, how many sticks do you ship in a year? That kind of sounds like a tongue-twister, doesn’t it?
Ship Skis: It does. I mean, and to be quite honest with you, we do, I mean, between skis, luggage and sticks, it’s hundreds of thousands of shipments a year. So it’s extremely successful and it’s taken off in every aspect, and we couldn’t be happier.
TJ: And it seems like bikes is another one that I would be interested in. Do you do bikes?
Ship Skis: It’s funny because I have kind of taken on the Ship Skis project here within the company, and as we started to meet with the resorts and as we started to create relationships with some of these ski areas, that’s the first question that they ask above and beyond skis, was, “Do you guys ship bikes?” And the answer to that is yes, we do absolutely ship bikes.
TJ: So how does it work?
Ship Skis: So basically the way Ship Skis works is it’s a door-to-door shipment service. We’re obviously partnered with UPS and FedEx, so they’re the ones that’ll actually be doing the ski shipping, luggage or boots or whatever ski unit that you decide that you want to ship, including snowboards. But we basically manage the technology aspect of it. So unlike some other sites that are out there, you know, where you call them or you go on their website and you process your shipment, they’re going to send you in the mail a shipment label, whereas with Ship Skis, our technology is integrated with UPS and FedEx where it automatically generates the shipping label for you. So it’s instantaneous. So you could schedule a shipment the morning of the day you needed to have it picked up, and it would schedule the pickup for you as well as generate the label right for you right then and there. So you’re not having to plan this out several days in advance. Obviously, you can do so, but you also have the option to drop it off if you don’t want to be home or you had other errands to run. You could also drop it off at any UPS or FedEx store if that’s easier for you.
TJ: So what countries do you operate in?
Ship Skis: Worldwide. It’s international for all the luggage, skis and golf. Some countries can be a little cost-prohibitive just because of the taxes, tariffs and that kind of thing.
TJ: And do you run…I know going in and out of Canada sometimes they want to know are these promotional items and there’s all kinds of strange nuances depending on the country, right?
Ship Skis: Right. So, unfortunately, with international shipments we’re unable to do that online at this point just because of the custom paperwork and that kind of stuff that has to be done. But we do do it over the phone. We still email you the shipping labels and the custom paperwork right away. But we handle all customs for you. I mean, so it’s kind of I’d say a convenience/concierge type of service as well where you don’t have to sit there and fill out forms and do all that stuff. It’s all automated and emailed right to you. All you have to do is really just to make sure that it’s attached to the skis or luggage that you’re shipping and the way it goes. And if there are any issues with customs, we handle that inside of UPS and/or FedEx.
TJ: That’s cool. Canada?
Skis: Yes, absolutely. Canada, we know you know, Canada is probably one of the easiest countries to ship in and out of from an international standpoint.
TJ: Got it. You know, over 90% of heli-skiing is in Canada.
Ship Skis: Right.
TJ: How far in advance do you pick them up?
Ship Skis: It really just depends on, you know, the time of transit, where the individual is shipping from and to. So, I mean, I would say an international round shipment into Canada is going to take anywhere from four to six business days. Now, we do have a couple of other options, you know, an economy and a priority. I mean, so technically it could get there in one day and it could take as long as six days, you know, just depending on how you plan in advance and how soon that you them at that location.
TJ: One day, that’s awesome! So if my wife says, “Oh, you can’t have the big car to go to the airport,” I could call you guys and say, “Can you get my skis there?” And you would say….
Ship Skis: “Yeah, absolutely.”
TJ: That is awesome. That’s amazing.
Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely.
TJ: Oh, can you pack it with other stuff? I guess it’s pretty obvious if it’s FedEx and UPS.
Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, basically what it comes down to from a pricing standpoint is weight, you know. We really don’t care what’s inside the bag, so much as much as it weighs. So we have a single ski option, we have a double ski option. Can you throw in some clothes, a helmet and that kind of stuff? Yeah, absolutely, you can. Now, the single ski can’t weigh any more than 25 pounds. That’s what we list on our website. We do have a five-pound cushion, so technically you can go up to 30 pounds. -So yeah, absolutely. If you need to throw some extra gloves or hats or whatever it may be in there, you’re more than welcome to do so.
TJ: Yeah, because a lot of these…sometimes the second flight you take, they are limited to the weight and the size of the bag. And I’ve seen them leave skis and boards in Vancouver, and you get to where you’re going and they say, “Sorry, we were a little over on that flight, but they’ll show up tomorrow.” [Laughs]
Ship Skis: Right, yeah.
TJ: Yeah, so I’m thinking just bulk stuff, you know? Like various layers and soft goods and that sort of thing. You might as well just stick them in there and save yourself schlepping the bag.
Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you could stick it all in one bag. Some people have large duffel bags. Some people have just the slimmer ones, and then they’ll pack a separate piece of luggage and ship luggage with it as well as a suitcase, so you could just wrap the tag around it and send it on its way, you’re good to go.
TJ: I flew in to Terrace with one of the owners of Northern Escape Heli-Skiing and he had a carry-on bag. [Laughs] I couldn’t believe it!
Ship Skis: Really?
TJ: He goes heli-skiing with a carry-on, yeah.
Ship Skis: Oh, that’s amazing.
TJ: It was amazing. And you always carry your boots on, of course.
Ship Skis: Sure, sure, absolutely.
TJ: Oh, so let’s say I’m going to go to this place in Revelstoke, it’s really a hotel, where do they keep the bags before I arrive?
Ship Skis: So more than likely they’ve had items shipped in there before, and a majority of the resorts that we’ve worked with from a bulk standpoint and as we began to grow Ship Skis as well, these resorts that we work with on a ski basis, if we’re not partnered with them, we’ll call them on your behalf ahead of time to make them aware that, “Hey, Mr. Jackson is going to be staying with you on this date and this date. He’s going to be shipping in his skis and any other ski gear that he’s decided to ship with us. One, is that okay? Two, are there any fees involved? Really, we have yet to have an issue with these except for Las Vegas. Some of the hotels in Las Vegas from a golf club standpoint will say, “Okay, it’s going to be 25 dollars a day to hold it.” Some people don’t mind it, some people do. But we like to make them aware of it ahead of time so they’re not saying, “Hey, you got to let me know this.”
Ship Skis: So at the end of the day, if we’re not partnered with them, we definitely give them a call, we make sure it’s okay and make sure there’s no issues, and just make them aware that, “Hey, Mr. Jackson is going to be shipping in as well as shipping out on these dates, so you’re aware.” And nine times out of 10 it’s not an issue with the hotel as long as the guest is staying there at the hotel.
TJ: You’ll probably get more business from our clients with the Ship Sticks than the Ship Skis because they fly all over the place and play a lot more golf than they do heli-skiing. Most people take one heli-ski trip a year.
Ship Skis: Sure, sure, I understand.
TJ: I just thought of something else. You know, one of the things that surprises me about heli-skiing is that the operators give you really crappy ski poles. I don’t know why that is but they’re all these old, fat, heavy aluminum things like you would get at a rental shop in the eighties, and I don’t understand it.
Ship Skis: Sure.
TJ: So I would think shipping your own poles would make perfect sense and you’d throw them in with your skis.
Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, at the end of the day, I mean, we’ll never turn business away. No matter what it is, we’re happy to ship it.
TJ: Yeah, I’m thinking you’re shipping your skis, might as well throw your poles in there and get decent poles while you’re at it.
Ship Skis: Exactly. Exactly. So it’s our goal to make it as easy as possible on the client, to make sure that they enjoy their travels to where it is that they’re going and that they don’t have to worry about sitting in a baggage claim and being nickeled and dimed by the airlines these days. So in some instances we do get a phone call that, “Hey, the airline’s charging me 35 bucks. You guys are 49 dollars.” Yeah, we understand that, but at what point are you going to pay the extra 15 dollars and say, “Okay, I don’t need that kind of rental car anymore because my skis are there?” And it becomes a convenience factor especially with skis and golf clubs, especially when you have a family of five that you’re going skiing with or a group of guys who need to rent a van. So just the whole process just makes it easier on everybody.
TJ: Amen to that. I mean, schlepping them is really the hassle. I’ve had to go stand by in a Vancouver airport for like 48 hours straight waiting on each flight coming up, trying to get on it…
Ship Skis: Wow.
TJ: …and had I had skis with me, it would have been a huge pain in the butt.
Ship Skis: And that’s how we really created our first partnership, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the Oregon coast. Because it was so difficult to get in and out of there out ofsmall planes. They partnered with us and recommended to everybody to ship with ShipSticks.com in and out because our delivery rate of 98% versus people shoving people on the small planes saying, “You can’t take those, we don’t have room,” is much more significant than us getting them there. So they are one of our strongest partners just because of the inconvenience of traveling and getting to those locations, and I imagine that’s the same aspect with the heli-skiing, is that you’re going to some locations where you’re taking smaller planes and things like that to get in and out of there.
TJ: Well, and sometimes a helicopter, but yeah, it strikes me that the golf clubs are even more critical because they’re much more personalized and difficult to replace.
Ship Skis: Exactly. Exactly.
TJ: So what about insurance? What if my sticks don’t show up where I’m going?
Ship Skis: Sure. Basically that’s…and that’s one of the benefits of using Ship Sticks or Ship Skis, and what makes us so different from FedEx and UPS. You know, obviously besides price—we’re cheaper than both FedEx and UPS—is that all of our shipments come standard with a baseline of insurance. So, for instance, skis come standard with 500 dollars of insurance and golf clubs come standard with 1000 dollars of insurance. And then, for a nominal fee, you have the ability to purchase up to 3500 dollars on each item of additional insurance should you need it. And let’s say that a driver or a ski is damaged – we handle everything on your behalf with UPS Capital Claims. So that’s where our insurance is through. So you’re not sitting there playing phone tag with them and going back and forth. We handle everything for you…
TJ: Yeah, my Delta Airlines story, right? Did you…?
Ship Skis: Yeah, I saw that., did they lose them completely? Are they gone?
TJ: It was funny, when I got there—I was going to Florida. I had business for a few days, and when I went to play golf and my driver was broken. So I rented one or whatever. On the way home, as I was checking in, I said, “Hey, you guys broke my driver on the way down here.” And they gave me a real hard time like, “Well, how do you know we broke it?” And I said, “Well, I didn’t open my bag until I played,” you know, on and on. And so they said, “Alright, well, you can file a claim,” yada yada. When I got home, the clubs never showed up at all!
Ship Skis: Wow.
TJ: [Laughs] So then I had to file a claim for the lost bag, and I bet it was two months before I got anything out of them. And then a long, long time later, they called me. This Oakland baggage claim guy goes, “I wanted to call you personally because I’m a golfer and I really feel bad about this, but we found your bag.” And when it showed up, the travel bag that it was in was completely gone. The bag itself was almost completely destroyed, like the pockets were all torn, all of the stuff was gone out of them. The driver they had broken driver on the outbound flight is now completely gone along with some other clubs, and a couple of irons were bent. So apparently it got run over either by a truck or a plane. They weren’t really sure. But they had like Saran-wrapped everything together and delivered it to me. It was just pitiful. [Laughs] But the big deal was how much of a pain in the ass Delta made it to get anything replaced.
Ship Skis: What a nightmare. What an absolute nightmare.
TJ: It really was. So have you played Bandon Dunes?
Ship Skis: I have not, unfortunately. It’s definitely one that’s on the bucket list. I’ve played a lot of good ones on the West Coast there but I have yet to play Bandon Dunes.
TJ: That’s kind of reminding me of when I had a towel from Cyprus Point on that bag that, you know, obviously went away, and I kind of miss that.
Ship Skis: Right. That’s for sure. Playing Cyprus s is quite an opportunity.
TJ: How about tracking? Where do you go when you need to track your skis? Do you go to the UPS site or is it on your site?
Ship Skis: Okay. Yeah, so basically our website is integrated with UPS and FedEx, so when you process a shipment you’re emailed a Ship Sticks or Ship Skis tracking number, and you’re able to track the shipment on our website. So we do all the tracking through our website. Each individual has their own individual tracking number that they can either just click that link from the email that they received from us or they can go to our website, type that in and track it that way. So there’s a couple of options as far as tracking is concerned.
And then, once the shipment is delivered, they’ll get email sent to them just confirming that, “Hey, it’s been delivered. Here’s where you sign for it,” so and so.
TJ: Cool. And why 500? Skis and bindings are probably going to be more than a grand. I guess golf clubs are going to be more than a grand too.
Ship Skis: Yeah. I mean, you know, if you go to UPS or FedEx, they include some insurance. We wanted to separate ourselves and say, “Okay, we’ll throw in the first thousand and we’ll throw in the first 500.” It’s a little different for skis just because of that dimension to the shipments. The rates are a little different from an insurance standpoint. But we do give you the option, like it’s $3.75 for golf clubs for every 500-dollar increment. For skis, it’s an additional five dollars for every 500 increment that you go all the way up to $3500. So if you wanted to purchase additional insurance, you’re more than welcome to do so.
TJ: Yeah. That’s pretty reasonable too, eh?
Ship Skis: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. I mean, I think that insuring with FedEx or UPS, I think they’re 7 to 10 bucks based on who you’re shipping with, so.
TJ: What if the skis don’t show up on time? Do you do anything…? I guess for heli-ski, heli-skiing it doesn’t matter, but let’s say I go to a resort and, oh, I don’t have my favorite skis.
Ship Skis: Yeah, sure. So obviously, you know, instances are going to happen and shipments are going to get delayed whether it’s adverse weather conditions or whether the shipment was sorted the wrong way. We understand that. So we have a consequential late bag policy where we pay up to 200 dollars per shipment for rentals or whatever incidentals, whatever it is that’s needed until that bag arrives.
Ship Skis: So if that bag is late, we’ll pay up to 200 dollars, again, for rentals or any incidentals that are needed until your bag arrives.
TJ: Awesome. And my next question has to do with clubs, so I’ll probably move that up to the top because I think it’s going to get more interest than the skis.
Ship Skis: Okay.
TJ: So any idea how many golf clubs do you ship every year?
Ship Skis: Hundreds of thousands for sticks.
TJ: How about skis?
Ship Skis: To be honest with you, I don’t have an exact number. Like I said, we’re in our infancy. But I know it’s upwards of a couple of thousand shipments a month. So that included luggage as well.
TJ: Yeah, so people might ship their skis and a bag with all their ski gear in it with you guys, and then they’re on a business trip and they just go to wherever and there’s your stuff.
Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely.
TJ: That’s cool.
Ship Skis: And that’s where luggage is starting to grow for us as well. We’ll get individuals that are going on a ski trip with the family or whatnot, and then will say, “Hey, while you’re in Colorado I got to go up to San Francisco for a business meeting, so I’ll just have my stuff shipped. Because it goes from the East Coast to West Coast, it’s going to take five to six business days. I’ll just ship it out so I have a fresh set of clothes and fresh luggage.” So it’s kind of one thing after another. We’ve gotten a great draw on the ski side from the golf business and vice-versa customers. So they complement each other very well.
TJ: One of my brothers is a hedge fund partner and he just leaves all his stuff at the Rustler at Alta. [Laughs]
And no matter what trip he’s on he’ll stop in Utah for the weekend and…kind of a specialized case.
Ship Skis: Yeah.
TJ: And what does it cost you, so 49 bucks each way, depending?
Ship Skis: Yeah, it really just depends where you’re shipping to and from. I mean, a ground shipment from a ski standpoint is going to cost anywhere from 39 dollars up to 69 dollars just again based on where you’re shipping from. Transit times are going to be anywhere from one day to five or six days, again depending on where you’re shipping to and from. But if you were to look at, let’s say, you know, our biggest shipping pattern is obviously from the East Coast out to the West Coast through Denver those areas there – for a single ski bag you’re going to be looking around 59 dollars.
TJ: Cool. So have you started buying up other domain names like ShipBikes, ShipSailboards, ShipKiteBoard?
Ship Skis: Yeah. Yeah, we have. You know, Ship Suitcases and Ship Surfboards and all that kind of stuff, and that’s something that we’re in the process of now. Creating a parent company where all these smaller niche companies can be under…
TJ: One umbrella, yeah. Ship Stuff.
Ship Skis: Exactly. Exactly.
TJ: I have a domain name company where you have to buy them on NameBoy.com.
Ship Skis: Okay, I’ll look at that one. You said NameBoy.com?
Ship Skis: Okay.
TJ: Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like heli-skiers and avid golfers to know about the company?
Ship Skis: No, I think it’s really just making them aware that it is out there, that it is reasonably priced, and that it is a feasible option that can eliminate a lot of hassles for the individuals, especially going on a trip and saying, “Hey, okay, I don’t have to show up at the airport two hours early to make sure I get my stuff checked in and wait in those lines.” It really comes down to being a convenience factor for these individuals that we’re saying, “Hey, for an extra 50 bucks, you’re spending three, four, five thousand dollars on your trip, why not makeyour travel experience enjoyable. Leave it in our hands and let us handle it.” So, I mean, it’s really just educating the consumer and letting them know that this new concept is out there and that it’s becoming more and more popular every day.
TJ: Yeah, for a week it’s more like ten, twelve, 15,000 for a lot of these guys.
Ship Skis: Yeah. No, I can imagine.
TJ: And money’s not the big deal. The other thing that might be helpful is the guys who make very specific powder skis like DPS (read our interview) , is probably the most well-known in this community, or RAMP (HELISKI.com Interview) or whomever. I think if it were easy to get your skis to and from the heli outfit, they might sell more skis.
Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely, and that’s definitely something that we’ve experienced, or not experienced but, I mean, have looked into as going to some of these ski manufacturers and saying, “Hey, if somebody buys a set of skis, let us throw a little coupon in there or a little blurb about Ship Skis to let them know you can ship your skis.” And it was funny we were just at a ski show up in Vermont at Mount Snow and we had a couple of rental ski companies come to us as well as who said, “Hey, you’re going to wipe us out of business because at the end of the day it’s 40, 50 bucks to rent a pair of skis for the day when if you have your own and you’re going to be out there for three or four days, you know, at that same price to ship them there for one set of rentals, so…
Ship Skis: …it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
TJ: I would turn them back around and say, “If you could get the skis you really want in advance of your trip and not have to go to the rental shop, to me that’s worth 50 bucks each way.
Ship Skis: Right.
TJ: Because if you…I almost never travel with skis anymore, but if you go to a resort, then you got to go find a shop and then you got to hope that they have the skis that you want in the size that you want, and you’re going to pay a ton of money, like maybe a hundred bucks a day.
Ship Skis: Exactly.
TJ: So why not these guys in Vermont could turn it into a business for themselves and say, “Quality ski rentals where you’re going to be, shipping is included in the price,” and they could turn it into a new business that has broader reach than…
Ship Skis: That’s right. That’s right. I mean, that’s definitely one way to look at it. And from a golf business side, you know, some of the rental club companies that are out there and said, “Hey, let us handle all the shipping of the rental clubs for individuals that are going to Hawaii and don’t want to take their clubs and that kind of stuff.” Everybody has their own set of golf clubs at the end of the day where…
TJ: Yeah, and I just think for the most part heli-skiers will take whatever the operator has. I have these DPS skis, two years ago I shipped them in advance, unfortunately not with you guys. Well, when I got there one of the guides was skiing on them. [Laughs] And it was okay with me, but it struck me that he’d rather have these skis than the ones in their fleet. And so it got me thinking, I bet there’s a lot more heliski clients like that.
Ship Skis: Now, let me ask you this question, being an avid heli-skier there. When you ship your skis up there, if you do, would you ship it to the hotel or resort that you’re staying at or would you ship it right to the operator?
TJ: Well, most of these places are a remote lodge in the middle of nowhere, and so I’d ship it to the lodge.
Ship Skis: Okay.
TJ: I mean, there’s a handful that you have to fly in by helicopter, but they all have an office that’s near a road where you could ship it to. And there are also some operators that are in ski towns like especially Revelstoke and Whistler where you’re staying in a hotel, not a lodge, so you just send them to the hotel.
Ship Skis: Now, Heliski.com, what is your main purpose, just rating these places or…?
TJ: Yeah, our mission really is to attract, educate, engage heli-skiers. So we try to get them on our mailing list, we blog about stuff like this and review the different areas. And when somebody decides they want to go heli-skiing, they get a hold of us and we walk them through their criteria, what’s important to them, how many people are going, how many days, what kind of experience they’re looking for, and then I’ll find out who matches that criteria and has availability and what’s the pricing and send it to them. Then we’ll talk and help narrow it down and eventually they’ll book, and they just say to the operator, “Oh, I’ve talked to TJ and he helped me pick you guys,” and then they’ll send me a commission check after they get paid.
Ship Skis: Okay. Awesome. So you’re acting as really just an expert advisor?
TJ: Yeah, just being an agent. In Europe they call them tour operators, but I don’t do the airline reservations and that sort of jazz. I just say, “Oh, you’re looking for a group of four from New York that wants unlimited vertical in March? Then you should go to Eagle Pass Heliskiing.”
Ship Skis: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So now how many times a year do you go heli-skiing?
TJ: Two or three.
Ship Skis: Two or three times?
TJ: Yeah. It’s tough. You might have seen my wife walk by, so it’s hard for me to get ‘tower clearance’ to go more often than that.
Ship Skis: Okay.
TJ: But every year I turn down free trips. It’s just something I swore I would never do, turn down free heli-skiing.
Ship Skis: Now, that’s something that, you know, not being an average skier and not too familiar with heli-skiing, is that something that you’ll do on a daily basis or do you do it one day or…?
TJ: Oh yeah, you’ll do it like…like on this trip in March, I’m going to go six days in a row. I want to say it’s brutal, but that’s what my dad woud call “crying in your beer.” I am getting to the point where I worry about which body part’s going to give out, you know, my knees, my back, whatever. But I pretty much work out all year long just so I’ll be ready. You don’t want to be the guy who’s holding back your group ever. [Laughs]
Ship Skis: Exactly. Exactly. Now, how many people will fit in a helicopter when you do that?
TJ: It depends on the chopper. A lot of them hold four guests and a guide. There are some that hold five, some that hold six. A lot of operators will take them big choppers that hold 10 or 11 and they’ll serve multiple groups with that. So on the one extreme, four groups of 10 people sharing a helicopter, on the other extreme, you can have your own four-person helicopter. So that’s kind of the range. CMH (Canadian Mountain Holidays) is the market share leader, and they focus almost exclusively on these big choppers and big lodges with 44 guests at a time, because it’s just more cost-effective that way, right?
Ship Skis: Yeah, sure.
TJ: To have 11 people riding in each lift. But you can pay a little bit more and have a little bit more flexibility if you go with a smaller chopper.
Ship Skis: That’s great.
TJ: I appreciate your time, Jeffrey, and I appreciate you sending my skis and stuff.
Ship Skis: No, I appreciate the opportunity and, you know, anytime you need to ship your skis or clubs for that matter, give us a call. We’re happy to be here for you.
TJ: Oh, great. Nice to meet you.
Ship Skis: Alright, nice meeting you. Have a good one.
HELISKI.com Gear Interview: TREW GEAR Heliskiing Apparel is “Technylish”
Continuing our Heliski Gear Interview Series with a new company from my old stomping ground – Hood River, Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge. Tripp Frey, Co-Founder/CEO of TREW GEAR and I skyped about their innovative technylishapparel. Enjoy.
Tom (TJ): So what’s the best thing going for heli-skiers out of your TRUE GEAR line, the Cosmic?
Tripp: You know, it just depends. It’s more like a personal preference thing. Yeah, I mean the bibs are awesome.
Tom: Yeah? I love the name, TREWTH Ski Bibs
Tripp: You know, that was kind of our flagship product and that’s what I would be like, the bibs are where you want to be, because if you’re going to take a digger you’re going to have protection from all the snow and it’s not going to be down your pants. And it’s a super-fabric, which is really great for getting it out in the heli, and scuff guards against your skis and all that kind of stuff.
Tom: Which jacket is best for heliskiing?
Tripp: On the jacket side, it’s kind of more personal preference, you know. The Cosmic [above] is kind of sleek and simple, whereas the Bellows [bellow] has like a lot of storage. So if you’re trying to bring a lot of stuff with you, then maybe the Bellows is your go-to…
Tom: I think it might be because sitting here my only complaint about this one is that I don’t really have a good goggle pocket. There’s not someplace I can get in and out of it.
Tom: And in the helicopter, you get about a minute and a half from when you get in and get your seatbelt on to change from goggles to glasses or vice-versa or wipe off your goggles and that kind of stuff. So it’s got to be close, it’s got to be easy, and really almost all the shells don’t have a big enough pocket.
Tripp: You’re looking for storage, the Bellows is your one, and if you’re looking for kind of like the really progressive jacket that’s going to combine the…you know, it’s really going to embody technylish, it’s the Pow Funk. It’s kind of the most stylish, youthful that’s, you know, progressive colors. Same material. You know, it’s all the same material.
Tom: Alright. So how do you distribute? How do people get Trew gear heliskiing apparels?
Tripp: Good question. We have about 50 dealers around North America, and so you can visit or try to find a local retailer, and of course you can always find us on our website , trewgear.com. We sell gear off our website. We have online partners like backcountry.com, where you can also get our product.
Tom: You were talking about how you got into this business.
Tripp: Yeah, sure. Um, well, I moved to Hood River (OR) to work for another small little company that maybe you’re familiar with called Shred Alert.
Tom: Oh, sure, I know Heather.
Tripp: And I got to know Heather, who owned it, through a friend. And so I was just finishing grad school and came out here to work for her. Kind of had like an entrepreneurial edge, wanted to work for a small company and try to grow or do something on my own. And so I came here, worked for her—I didn’t know anyone—and I’ve just always been a passionate outdoors person, skier particularly.
But I only worked there for about six months, and then the entrepreneurial interest was too strong and so strong I called up two really good friends who were twin brothers, John and Chris Pew. They moved out here. And we kind of had this vision for technical apparel that could be done a little bit differently, and that was kind of our only kind of guiding light. And then we just felt like, “Let’s use the top-of-the-line materials, but let’s design it from a little bit of a different perspective. Let’s focus on durability. Let’s focus on utility in terms of storage and having a lot of storage options. Let’s focus on colors and making the jackets aesthetically beautiful.” And so, just kind of rethinking…although less design for pure alpinism and a little bit more design for just skiing and snowboarding.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Tripp: So, it might weigh a few ounces more, “Okay, fine, maybe you’re not taking on Everest. Okay.”
Tripp: But for your everyday use of inbound, side-country and hut trips, heli-skiing – it’s going to be more than sufficient. It’s going to be ideal, kind of the ‘quiver killer.’
Tom: Yeah, I like that. And it’s kind of a lower price point than, I don’t know, Arc’Teryx or some super-premium. Is that part of the philosophy or you’re right on par, do you think?
Tripp: Well, I mean I think our goal is to offer similar quality and construction techniques and fabrics. We don’t use Gore, and that’s pretty much the driver of the really high price points, is just that we don’t use Gore. We don’t necessarily believe that Gore is any better than anything else. I mean, I think from a performance standpoint, obviously they have done a remarkable job of marketing their brand and people recognize it and have recognition from both manufacturing and the end consumer.
Tom: That’s funny. It’s like Windows is to computers for an analogy – it’s that you pay a big premium for an OS that’s not great. So the price of the box is way more than it should be.
Tripp: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think Gore-Tex is a good product too, but I actually think the best analogy is Intel. Intel has…you know, Gore-Tex, you don’t know what it looks like. It’s like a processor – you have no idea what it looks like, but when you walk into Best Buy you’re like, “Oh, I have an Intel processor. Must be the best.” But you have no idea. You never see it. You don’t…you can’t… You just…it’s a component that no one sees and understands and they market it really well.
Tom: I agree with you, and I’m an Intel is my alma mater.
Tom: Yeah. There are a bunch of guys out there in the Gorge that are ex-Intel.
Tripp: Right, right.
Tom: Well, that’s interesting. I never thought about Gore driving up the price. It’s kind of like, in the world of audio…I can think of another analogy, but now let’s move on. It sounds like you’re pretty busy and I want to keep moving.
Tripp: Oh, no worries.
Tom: But I think Mt. Hood is a great place to test and refine clothing. And just a quick aside, I remember on a snowboard one day standing on the edge of a little precipice, and the wind was blowing so hard it blew me backwards up the hill.
Tripp: No joke. On those winter storms, it’s like 70 MPH winds or more.
Tom: Yeah, and biting cold, a little bit heavier snow than some places, and it’s look like a moonscape. I was looking at one of your team riders and she’s standing up on what…I guess it’s Mt. Baker, but it looks like Hood, everything just covered in ice. It’s a gnarly environment, so I’m sure it’s a great place to design and test clothes.
Tripp: Yeah, it is. We get to experience a variety of weather conditions relatively close to home, everything from rain to heavy snow, and you get up high you get tons of wind. And over here we get a couple of really dry storms. We get it all, and now that we’re kind of expanding our product line. Our heritage is in kind of the technical shells. But our product line has expanded and now we have like this, which is like a synthetic insulated garment, which is a really cool take. It’s a fully reversible and really technical piece, but done a bit differently. And you know, performance – soft shell, so it has new pieces that we’ve kind of been working on that we debuted this year. So yeah, it’s a great place to kind of test all of these things out.
Cool Soft Shell – Wyeast
Tom: Cool, yeah. I got one of your soft shells [WYEAST, above, which I love], but the hard shell for heli-skiing is the sweet spot for me.
Tripp: Yeah, yeah, I totally agree.
Tom: And so do you have a powder clause? Like how much snow do you have to get on Hood before you’re allowed to take the morning off and go make turns?
Tripp: Well, we’re still pretty small little company and there’s the three of us who founded it with one other guy, and we don’t really have a policy other than going on and using gear is of value. So, you know, every day is probably not good, but when it’s good get up there and for sure.
Tom: I hear you. That’s like me with heli-skiing – I got to, I don’t have a choice. It’s my job.
Tripp: Yeah, it’s a rough life.
Tom: And so I guess I didn’t know the Shred Alert connection in the era. Shred Alert spinoff – that sort of cracks me up.
Your design philosophy, you mentioned you do it differently, and that’s differently as in the attributes you mentioned, which were the technical yet maybe a little bit more stylish?
Tripp: You know, we have this word that we use, “Technylish,” which is technical and stylish.
Tom: I love it.
Tripp: It’s kind of one of our approaches, technylish. Again, I mean, I think our lack of a background in technical garments has pros and cons, but when we sit down and think about a garment we don’t have the pedigree that someone who worked or has training in apparel construction who went to school for it and has worked at a big company, so we kind of just think more about what does our customer want and what do we want. And someone who had years of training might say, “Well, we can’t do that because we can’t have this price point and we can’t…you know, this is going to use too much fabric here and that doesn’t make any sense…”
It’s just when you’re free of the paradigms of someone who has a background in working in a big company with a lot of structure, we think it allows your outfit to kind of be a little bit more creative.
Tom: I think you’re exactly right. I remember at Intel when they went from the 486 to the Pentium they took a completely new team. So they didn’t use anybody who had designed in the 486 era because they wanted to avoid people saying, “Oh, you can’t do that. You can’t do it this way,” or, “That won’t work,” you know?
They wanted a fresh start, which to me, for a company that big literally betting the company on that, is mind-blowing, but I like the approach.
Tripp: Of course there are downsides and that’s that unforseen consequences of doing certain things and stuff not always working out how you envisioned it, but I think for the most part it’s a positive more than a negative.
Tom: Cool. And do you take a look at competitors? Like you’ve got Columbia sort of a neighbor here, but Columbia Acr’Teryx, North Face, the usual suspects. Do you get one of each of their jackets like an auto manufacturer does and kind of deconstruct it or see what they’ve done or are you literally starting with a blank slate?
Tripp: Um, no. We definitely obviously keep our pulse on the competitive landscape. We do a couple of other things. One, we look at like…we try to look at different information in terms of what product categories are selling well, which would be like this. So this is like the synthetic…like the Patagonia, Nano is probably their bestselling piece.
They don’t…no one really sells that many technical shells. So this is where you got to get your volume up and you got to start doing stuff. So we look at kind of like high-level, kind of what categories are doing well, but then within a category and where we’re looking at a particular piece, yeah, we definitely like deconstruct and buy other stuff. We’d borrow other people’s gear and take a look at it, deconstruct it. And try to learn about like what people are doing and think that we can do better.
And we’re like, “Well, what if we did that?” “Yeah, for sure.” “What if we did that?” We put our little spin on it.
Tom: So is there kind of a larger market? I’m sure you look at the market in terms of volume. I’m guessing that there’s a wannabe segment of people who want to look like they’re technical, but when they go to the mall in their four-wheel drive that they never take to the mountains… So is that a big kind of sweet-spot target or is that not part of your thinking?
Tripp: No, it is. I mean, we design our products for our core customer, and hopefully by default there are people who see that and they’re like, “Ooh, I want to be that person,” and they wear our new jacket around town.
Tom: Yeah. That’s a cool logo by the way.
Tripp: Yeah, thanks. I don’t know how anyone does…or why anyone else didn’t trademark it, but they hadn’t, so.
Tom: I love the name too, actually. You know, at this point, I have a domain name company [nameboy.com] and I know how hard it is to get a domain, let alone a trademarkable, recognizable term, so it’s cool.
Tripp: Yeah, yeah, , and…I’m the T-R in Trew, and then the two guys that I work with, their last name is Pew, P-E-W, so we’re kind of Tripp and Pew put together.
Tom: Wow. Because these days I’m seeing so many brands that are just kind of a different spelling on a recognizable term, you know, for brandability, trademarkability. So you got both going. That’s cool.
Tripp: Yeah, so.
Tom: Do you guys…you think you have a snowboard bias at Trew?
Tripp: No. We probably sell 80% to skiers.
Tom: Oh really? I mean, heli-boarding, not snowboarding.
Tripp: Yeah, yeah. Ah, no. We’re definitely trying to do both.
Tom: I feel like Hood had a higher percentage of boarders than a lot of mountains. Do you think that’s true or not really?
Tripp: Mmm, I don’t know how many…I don’t know.
Tom: Cool. You should hit up some of the—just unsolicited advice—hit up some of the heliskiing operators and see if they would put their guides in your gear.
Tripp: And so we provide them with their outfits, and then they buy some stuff to sell in their store.
Tom: That’s amazing. I wonder if maybe that’s how I ended up finding you guys, because I know Jake reasonably well.
Tripp: Oh, you do? Yeah.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been there. Have you skied with him?
Tom: You should hit him up.
Tripp: Yeah, we are getting a couple of seats. Another thing we’re doing this year is we have this RV that we bought when we first started going. So we converted into a mobile store. So the RV’s going around to dealers in the industry events and stuff, and one of the big…the big promotion running is if you spend 100 dollars on the RV your email gets in a raffle to win a free week of heli-skiing with Skeena.
Tom: And does the website tell you where the mobile store is going to be?
Tripp: Yup, there’s a counter in there kind of updated…you know, we’re trying to keep it fresh and updated, things we’re trying to change a little bit, but yeah, if you just go there it’s trewgear.com/tour.
Tom: So who drives that thing around?
Tripp: We kind of all do but we hired a guy to do it for the winter – between now and middle of January.
Tom: Yeah, like if he’s going to go from Jackson Hole to Telluride, “I’ll see you there.”
Tripp: Yeah, he just drives and we meet him up along the way.
Tom: That’s the way to go. It’s like a rock star tour where you just…you fly the jet and you meet the crew there with all the stuff.
Tripp: That’s right.
Tom: And does it go to ski resorts, like you would see it at a resort hanging out?
Tripp: Yeah, I mean, we’re going to kind of figure that out a little bit. I mean, you know, right now there’s no resorts – we’re just kind of going to dealers. So we’re pretty much going to be in the Northwest for this next month, and then we’re going to be in the Bay Area actually in middle of November.
We’ll be in Tahoe and Reno, and then Salt Lake, and then Colorado, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, and then that’ll be kind of it.
Tom: That’s cool. I can get those dates out to our list and see if people will show up to meet you there. That’d be cool.
Tripp: Yeah. It’s such and interesting area, such a huge city and there’s like two or three shops that are like good shops. Lombardi’s is the one that we want to be in, probably. California’s a weird place. [you can say that again] There’s not a lot of independent shops anymore.
Tom: It is a weird place for that. There’s also a great shop in Berkeley, California Ski Company, who really kind of specializes in boots but they sell gear, and I think they’re pretty good.
Tripp: Right. Yeah, there’s just not a lot of independent shops and it’s kind of like a strange situation.
Tom: Your website says, “When geopolitical instability drives you deep into the mountains to live off the land and shred glades of private pow, the TREWTH is the only bib you’ll need.” Who writes that stuff? That is classic.
Tripp: Yeah. We work with this guy—he lives in Park City—who does all of our copy.
Tom: It’s just hilarious. So what’s been the hardest part about starting a brand and getting it up and going?
Tripp: Um, my, good question. A lot of things.
Tom: I actually know Chip Wilson, who started Lululemon, and I remember the manufacturing was a huge challenge because he needed money and he needed sizeable orders, he was having it done in far-off places that you had to go visit, and it was kind of a big deal.
Tripp: That’s the biggest challenge for sure, is manufacturing. It’s getting the things you want from a faraway place, and it’s the hardest thing. And you think you ought to go just kind of like give them all these specs, and they ought to be able to just whip it up. But no. It just takes so much effort to like oversee it…
Tom: Yeah. Distance, language, culture, money, all that stuff.
Tripp: Yeah. Yeah.
Tom: Timing. What’s been the most fun part of it?
Tripp: The most fun thing is, well, that’s a good question. I mean, obviously being out there and spending time on the mountain in the gear that you make and have people recognize that it works is a pretty darn good feeling. But I think…so that’s like, on an instinctual level, that’s the best, that’s the best feeling, is when you’re like out there using your gear and you’re like, “This is so cool.”
Tom: That is cool.
Tripp: But, you know, it’s nice to know that we’re building a brand, and we’re all really committed to growing this company and getting it…keep building. We’re still a small little company. Yet somehow we managed to create the illusion that we’re some grand huge thing.
Tom: I think that’s the goal of all startups, right? I call it Operation Blowfish where you try to look like you’re much bigger than you really are.
Tripp: Yeah, so…yeah, I think we’ve done a really good job of that and… But it’s really cool to see a brand that resonates and, you know, can keep putting out products that people want.
Tom: Yeah, that’s cool. And do you get any product feedback from Jake [Skeena Heliskiing] and his guys about the gear?
Tripp: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, we got a whole, you know, long email, maybe an attached document with all kinds of feedback.
Tom: Oh, that’s cool. He’s a great guy. Have you skied with him?
Tripp: No, haven’t.
Tom: I’ve skied with a lot of great skiers – he’s probably the best I’ve ever skied with.
Tom: Unbelievable, yeah. I mean, for 15 years in Europe he raced moguls, and so his technique is flawless, fast, smooth. The guy is just amazing.
Tripp: I got to try to get up there.
Tom: You do have to go up there. One of the problems is he’s always booked. I mean, he’s…I almost never send anybody to Jake because by the middle of summer booked with Europeans, because he draws from that same market that he used to live in.
Tom: And I’ll bet right now he’s got one week with any availability in the whole season. Maybe hit him up for cancellations because you could hop up there pretty easily from Oregon.
Tripp: Yeah, we gave him gear and he’ll give us a couple of seats, but I just kind of got to be ready to make a move real quick and get up there.
Tom: Yeah. You have to be in shape. They ski fast. Europeans don’t mess around.
Tom: So what else do you do for fun? You’re a kiteboarder?
Tripp: Kiteboarder, mountain biker, runner, and yeah, those are kind of my standard for the Gorge [Hood River Gorge, Oregon/Washington]
Tom: Yeah, it is. I was a windsurfer, a dinosaur now, but mountain biking, and I swam, I didn’t run, but I’ve just skied too many bumps, I guess.
Tom: So what about neon? Back in the day we used to say, “Friends don’t let friends wear dayglow,” but now it seems to be coming back.
Tripp: Um, yeah, that’s coming back a little bit. Like this year’s line we’ve featured a little like, some neon zippers and stuff. Nothing too crazy, just kind of like little hits. I think all of the stuff is so cyclical, you know. It just comes and goes. It’ll come back.
Tom: So I wonder how you figured that out then, like what are you designing next winter stuff?
Tripp: Oh, next winter stuff has already been designed six months, seven months ago.
Tom: I mean, 2014-15 stuff?
Tripp: Yeah, seven months ago.
Tom: No kidding?
Tripp: Were early, and we’re even behind. We’re slow at the most.
Tom: A year and a half in advance?
Tom: Wow, that’s amazing.
Tripp: This industry is really challenging. I mean, that’s one of the biggest things, is I don’t think many people… there’s not many startups. There’s not that many startups in technical apparel because if you spend any time doing it you realize how difficult it is.
Tripp: There are enormous lead times with raw materials and production takes an extremely long time, and so yeah, you have to have your sample order in by May so that they can have samples here in the fall so you could take them to your dealers, because you have to get orders from Northeast and Patagonia and Marmot their orders with their retailer…retailers have to have their orders in by December 1st basically for the following season.
Tom: Wow. What if you miss it? What if you come out with neon and that year everybody’s out of neon and you’re…is the whole company at risk?
Tripp: Yeah. It’s very difficult to try to figure all that out and, you know, a lot of these retailers. It’s December and they haven’t even sold for the winter. They have no idea what’s selling, what’s not. I mean, it’s just a real…it’s a conundrum, the whole supply chain is slow and I think the people who can mix that up…and we’re trying to figure out a way to kind of shake that up. Selling more direct, selling more off of the website is one way to kind of combat that, because you can sell for cheaper, because you don’t have to build wholesale margins.
Tom: And…I mean that must be challenging in a couple of ways because if you cut out the retailer, then you’ll kill them off or lose them. So is that kind of a balancing act?
Tripp: Yeah, totally. I mean, you can’t do both. You can’t sell product direct off a website and at a low price and then also try to sell it retail. You have to choose.
Tripp: But, you know, the web is not going away, so.
Tom: Yeah, I know…
Tripp: Retailers who try to fight the web are fighting a losing battle.
Tom: And so at what point do you have to have the money to make the order?
Tripp: It depends. Everyone…I’m sure it’s all different with different organizations, and if you’re maybe more stylish you get better terms from your factories and stuff. Typically, it’s 50% upon placing a purchase order, and then 50% upon ship.
Tom: And then are you able to borrow that from the bank like a line of credit?
Tom: Yeah. And where did your startup money come from?
Tripp: Yeah, yeah, I mean, like I said we’re a small little company still. We’re not rolling in it. I promise you that.
Tom: Yeah. Are you still looking for money then, like to go…?
Tripp: No, now we’re not.
Tom: It seems to be a constant struggle – as soon as you close one round, you have to start thinking about the next one. So it’s not nice that you’re not consumed by that. I’ve done a bunch of startups and it just seems to be the way to go – as soon as you close one round you start thinking, “Alright, our next horizon is six months out and we have to have these things done by then,” and that sort of thing.
Tripp: Yeah. Yeah, no, thankfully we’re kind of in a spot where now we’re okay. Well, we’ll see. You know, we’re all trying to grow our business a lot in the next couple of years and it’s going to require some more capital somehow probably.
Tom: Yeah, and a lot of companies can succeed themselves to death when they run out of cash. How about production? I guess the only one that I’m all that familiar with is Arc’teryx. They seem to have a limited production. Like if you go try to order something in August-September, a lot of the good stuff in the colors that you want is already sold out.
Tripp: What do you mean, off their website?
Tom: Yeah, and so I wonder, is it a conscious decision they make to not end up with leftover inventory at the end year, they’d rather make it a little harder to get a hold of and not have anything left over, than they would build a whole bunch extra that may end up sitting around?
Tripp: Yeah. I mean, that’s smart. I mean, yeah, I don’t know…I know they do sell direct off their website but I’m not sure…you know, that’s the whole point of getting these preseason orders in December is so you make to order.
Tom: Yeah. Maybe it’s the pro deals. They only allocate so much for the pro deals.
Tripp: Oh yeah, they probably do limit the pro deal. I mean, if you’re looking at their process, they probably offer certain things depending on availability.
Tom: That makes sense. I’m curious, do you end up with stuff at the end of the year that you sell at Overstock or somewhere like that?
Tripp: The goal is no, but yeah, we typically do a little bit. Yeah.
Tripp: Most companies do. Managing your inventory is just so hard.
Tom: Yeah. And who decides what stuff you’re going to build and in what quantities? Like do you guys have discussions internally where you say, “I love this jacket,” and another guy says, “No, that one’s never going to sell,” and how do you decide how much of a commitment to make to that?
Tripp: Oh, we look at preseason buy. We have a forecasting model that we plug stuff into and it gives us kind of like bell curves on sizes and based on what people are ordering, and we look at like past year’s information in terms of what sold and kind of try to equate what colors would,, “Okay, the brown from last year is equivalent to like the green this year, that one did this well, and so forth.
Tom: Damn, that sounds like an interesting challenge.
Tripp: It is.
Tom: There’s a lot of guesstimating going on.
Tripp: Very true.
Tom: So what has been the bestseller for you guys so far?
Tripp: The bib, for sure.
Tripp: Yeah. It’s kind of our flagship product. When we first came out with it, no one was doing a full-on technical free-ride bib, and now everyone is doing it.
Tom: Yeah, they seemed to be just kind of bags with suspenders on them, and back in the day there was nothing to them.
Tom: Like pockets and they didn’t have much in the way of features and all that. Now they’re super-high-tech.
Tripp: Now they are feature-rich for sure.
Tom: The one I ski in has kneepads, believe it or not, sewn in so when you’re kneeling to get in and out of the chopper there’s more comfy.
Tripp: Oh, excellent.
Tom: But I think that’s probably not a feature that a lot of people are going to buy.
Tripp: Who makes them?
Tripp: They make a heli-specific pant?.
Tom: Yeah, and a guide jacket. Yeah. Again, it’s not a feature… Might be a good feature for the girls’ bib. [Laughs]
Tripp: We make a women’s bib, I’ll have to think about that.
Tom: I’ll work on the name.
Tripp: Yeah, yeah. You come up with a name. We sell the Chariot bib but we can do a spinoff of that.
Tom: [Laughs] Chariot?
Tripp: That’s the name of our women’s bib.
Tom: Okay. I’ll work on that. [Laughs] I’m sitting down picturing the logo kind of redone in a way that would be more provocative as well.
Tripp: Right. Okay. Let’s see where you’re going with that…..
TREW GEAR Team Rider Shawnie Rasking gives the TREW thumbs up
Tom: I crack myself up. So let me see if I have any other interesting to ask you, because I digress. Oh, so have you ever been heli-skiing or heli-boarding?
Tripp: Well, I have, yeah.
Tom: Where did you go?
Tripp: Ah, went with SEABA in Haines, Alaska.
Tom: Oh, how was that?
Tripp: Yeah, well, amazing.
Tom: Alaska, man. Tell me, what was your reaction to it?
Tripp: It’s just…it’s unbelievable, the beauty, the mountains. I mean, it just really is remarkable and spectacular.
Tom: It is.
Tripp: And skiing when it’s…I mean, I spent a bunch of time in British Columbia on hut trips and stuff, heli and hut trips. And, I don’t know, I’m not sure what’s better, but Alaska or British Columbia has the best skiing on the planet. I’ve never skied in Europe but, yeah, there really is something else in…Just when you get up in the heli and you get up high and you can see the ice fields and just as far as you can see just massive peaks, and then you have the ocean and it’s just really incredible.
Tom: Isn’t that amazing? I have the same feeling. It is truly spectacular. The scenery alone, it just seems like everything’s on a bigger scale. In addition to that, it’s steep as hell, right?
Tom: They probably take you to some stuff that just scares you.
Tripp: Oh yeah.
Tom: I remember standing on a peak where it wasn’t big enough for all of us to put our skis on at the same time. We had to take turns.
Tom: And then you look all around and I couldn’t tell which way we were going down. It all looked like certain death to me. It was just amazing! And they can you stuff as steep as you want. It’s awesome.
Tripp: Yeah. No, I had the time of my life. I’ve started saving up my pennies to go to that again.
Tom: Cool. I just interviewed a guy with a new operation up there that sounded pretty cool – Black Ops.
Tom: Yeah, that’ll be out, I don’t know, we’ll see in a couple of days. Hopefully the interview will be done. But yeah, I know a bunch of the guys up there, so if you go again I’ll be happy to give you advice.
Tripp: Sweet, yeah. I just kind of met the SEABA guys, through friends of friends and met Sunny and a couple of other guys and stuff, it was an amazing trip.
Tom: Cool. Anyplace else? You said heli and hut trips, so they drop you at the beginning of the week and then come get you?
Tripp: Yup. I mean, up in Canada I’ve been in Fairy Meadows Hut, I’ve been to Ice Fall and to Swordshore. All are heli in, so you get…yeah, for a week, you know?
Trip: Then you tour for the whole week.
Tom: Yeah, that’s more hardcore. You don’t have as much gray hair as I do.
Tripp: I’ve started working on it…
TREW Eagle Heliski Pant
Tom: Cool. And so where do you like to go kiting?
Tripp: I love the Coast. I mean, around here, I prefer to go up the Coast than actually the Gorge, to be honest with you.
Tripp: I like Roosevelt if I’m going to kite the Gorge out East, but I’ve traveled, um, not recently but between five and eight years ago I went to Brazil three times.
Tom: Oh wow.
Tripp: And I’ve just been down there for a week many times and amazing kiteboarding down there. Amazing windsurfing too.
Tripp: I like to getback to a warm-weather spot.
Tom: Yeah, I heli-skied with a guy who has set up his own kiteboarding school down in Texas…
Tripp: South Padre Island, probably.
Tom: Yeah, and he has like helmets with a microphone and headphones built in and he’s got built in two-way radio, chase…
Tripp: Jet skis, yeah. It’s a good place to learn, actually. I’ve been there a couple of times as well.
Tom: It’s shallow, right?
Tripp: Yeah, shallow. That’s a big thing for kiting. Same thing probably windsurfing, so you can stand up…if you end up downwind, you can stand up and walk back up, walk to the beach and you’re not just like flopping around in the water.
Tom: Yeah, like the Outer Banks (North Carolina) same thing.
Tom: So have you guys thought about doing any crossover? I remember meeting the Da Kine founder, Rob, who had at the time of 350 SKUs. Anytime they see a problem, like they invent a little doodad to fix it. Have you thought about crossing over into summer or water sports?
Tripp: Um, a little bit but not really. I mean, we’re just trying to expand kind of our winter line and encompass kind of more lifestyle wearability, you know? Like the skis, you know, just like performance soft shells, and then next year we have like…we’re really expanding this part of our line. The stuff that people wear on a day-to-day basis, it’s not as expensive. I mean, whether it’s a 400- or a 500-dollar jacket, you know, that’s our price point for our shells, it’s not…or 700 dollars like an Arc’teryx, but it’s still pretty expensive.
Tripp: You know, people don’t buy that that often. So we need stuff that people even who don’t need that kind of jacket will buy.
Tripp: I mean, Arc’teryx is kind of the…
Tom: Price leader?
Tripp: Well, price leader, but they’re the exception to the rule. Whereas they actually do make a lot of technical…they sell a lot of technical shells. They sell three-layer Gore-Tex shells and they make leaps and bounds more than anyone else. I mean, you’d be surprised, I mean, Patagonia has like their Super Alpine Jacket, which is a really nice jacket, it’s a three-layer Gore-Tex shell, it retails for about 600 bucks, same thing as Arc’teryx, but I bet Patagonia sells a third or a quarter or less of the amount of their technical shells that Arc’teryx sells.
Tom: It’s surprising too because I would guess the Patagonia brand is much more…has much more equity than the Arc’teryx brand with the exception of the, you know, people way out on the curve who are hardcore skiers, boarders. Like my mom’s heard of Patagonia, right? I’m sure. But Arc’teryx, no way.
Tripp: Yeah, yeah, but I mean that’s like, you know, Patagonia makes…they don’t make a lot of money on the technical shells. They make money on their pants and their Nano Puffs and their fleeces.
Tom: Yeah, fleeces, right?
Tripp: It’s the day-to-day kind of stuff that’s really wearable that’s how they’re making their money.
Tripp: They’d still make the really technical stuff because that’s really important. I mean, that’s important for their brand, just like we would never stop making our super-technical stuff, but I think even Arc’teryx sells a lot of other stuff. They sell more technical stuff than anything else, but they still sell a lot of fleeces and, you know, whatever, other shirts and jackets. They sell other stuff too.
Tom: Yeah. I mean, my introduction to them was when my luggage didn’t show up at a heli-ski lodge and there was another dude there who had an entire Arc’teryx outfit for me to use until my stuff showed up. And I was kind of bummed that my suitcase came because it was way nicer than any of my stuff…
Tom: Hey, so fleece, are you guys into that?
Tripp: We have a new fleece issue that’s 100% made in USA. It’s kind of cool. Check it out on our website.
Tripp: It’s called The Vaporizer.
Mens Vaporizer Fleece:
Womens Vaporizer Fleece:
Tripp: And it’s Gore-Tex power-dry fleece. So that’s the super-high-performance-grid fleece and it comes from Massachusetts, and we did the cut-and-sew in Oregon, so it’s all made in the US.
Tom: Oh, cool.
Tripp: And so it has a great like mid layer, like right over your long johns.
Tripp: And it breathes really well, helps regulate temperature.
Tom: My typical heliskiing outfit is a base layer, then a thin mid layer, long-sleeve, and I’ll pack a vest in my backpack, and you get a…everybody who heli-skis now has to know how to tote a pack anyway. If it’s cold up with the vest on, but if it’s not That seems to work for everything because you’re in and out of the chopper so fast and you’re skiing a lot and you’re skiing five minutes between runs maybe.
Tom: You guys make a vest?
Tripp: We have a vest coming out next year.
Tom: Cool. Next year as in 14-15?
Tripp: Yeah, 14-15.
Tom: Great. Send one to me, please.
Tom: I can’t believe how far ahead you have to think. That’s crazy.
Tripp: Yeah, it really is crazy.
Tom: That’s mind-blowing. I mean, you’re figuring out the product line before you… Well, I guess you do know what’s sold sort of preseason.
Tripp: Yeah, I know preseason, but yeah you’re just like creating products that are…yeah, so it’s just crazy. And from a cash flow perspective, you know, it’s like it’s kind of nuts.
Tom: So you expect some of the soft shell stuff to be popular with heliskiers, too?
Tripp: Like I was saying, the Polar Shift and The Vaporizer has kind of like great layers and pieces that accompany the shells.
Tom: Alright, cool.
Tripp: Cool. Well, I really appreciate you reaching out and giving our little company a little shout-out.
Heli-skiing requires the combination of money, skill, adventure and health. Few qualify. Most of our clients are taking advantage of the heli-skiing window opened by disposable income, skill, and appetite for adventure, and closing by age.
Heli-skiing is an elite sport. Fewer than 1% of skiers ever heli-ski. For every day of untracked powder heliskiing, there are over 1,000 resort ski days.
Your heli-skiing window is Open when…..
The kids are gone or going.
The second wife has redecorated the house, etc.
You have disposable income.
Your trust fund is liquid.
The business can survive a week without you.
Your bucket list becomes real.
You realize a part of how measure life is by ‘peak’ events.
It is time to treat yourself.
How to Jump Through Your Heli-Skiing Window
Rally your best ski buddies.
Get early ‘Tower Clearance’ – you know how by now.
Make a deposit.
GET IN SHAPE!
Call or email HELISKI.com. Tell us your budget for time and money, as well as you wish list for powder, terrain, travel convenience, lodge atmosphere, group size, skiing speed, etc. We will give you the best options – free. Call 866-HELISKI
Ketchum Idaho is the place to catch up with Tag Kleiner, Director of Marketing at Smith Optics. The lastest in the HELISKI.com Gear Interview explores Smith Googles, Helmets and Sunglasses.
1. I know you go heli-skiing in Valdez every Spring. What goggles do you wear?
I wear our I/O…it forms a perfect seal on my face and I’m yet to have any fogging problems, especially with our new 5X Anti-Fog inner lens. I’ve used our Phenom Turbo Fan in the past, but like the ease of lens change with our I/O and haven’t found that I need the additional fog-fighting technology of our Turbo Fan.
2. The I/O Recon has a built-in heads-up display and real-time tracking of you and your buddies!?! That’s a game changer!
The new I/O Recon google gives you all the lens interchangeability of our I/O Family of goggles combined with Recon Instruments’ MOD Live heads-up display.
Speed, altitude, GPS mapping, jump analytics, vertical, and more are delivered directly to your eye as well as Bluetooth connectivity to your smartphone for music, text, and call information. Add full helmet compatibility and two included Performance Mirror lenses with Vaportor Lens Technology with Porex Filter and 5X Anti-Fog inner lens, and you’ve got the I/O Recon.
3. Which is less likely to fog – high volume or low volume goggles?
High Volume goggles are definitely less likely to fog, but often it comes down to the individual. If you’re prone to heavy sweating and creating a lot of body heat, you’re more likely to have fogging issues. Also, if you’re wearing a helmet, you’ll want to make sure that your goggle and helmet work as an integrated system. If there’s not a system like Smith’s AirEvac (which draws warm air out of the goggle and exhausts it through channels out the back of your helmet), you’re fogging issue might not be your goggle, but rather how your goggle and helmet are working together.
4. I wear glasses, so I’m a HUGE fan of the Turbo Fan. Does Smith Optics own patents around those?
Yes, we have a patent on the Turbo Fan technology. We actually introduced a more quiet, more stealth Turbo Fan on our I/OX Elite Turbo Fan this season. [So the ringing in my ears was not the chopper after all!]
5. What’s the difference between the Spherical Series and Regulator Series of Smith snow goggles?
The difference is in the lens. Every goggle in our Spherical Series features our optically correct spherical lens with our patented Vaporator lens technology with Porex™ filter and our 5X Anti-Fog inner lens. The Vaporator technology seals the two lenses together with a silicone bead creating an airtight, bomb-proof seal and eliminating lens delamination (the #1 cause of between-the-lens fogging). The Porex™ filter allows the thermal lens to adjust to air pressure differences at different elevations while preventing water vapor entry. [That’s key, as heliskiers change altitude more rapidly than lift-bound skeirs and boarder]
Our Regulator Series has a mix of optically correct spherical and cylindrical lenses, each featuring our patented Regulator adjustable lens ventilation, allowing the user to control the airflow through the goggle.
6. What’s the latest on changeable lenses?
With our I/O Family (I/O Recon, I/O, I/OX, I/OS, and I/OX Elite Turbo), Change is Easy for every face shape and size, as well as Head-Up display technologies in our I/O Recon and Turbo Fan in our I/OX Elite Turbo. We invented the interchangeable goggle category, and the I/O remains the standard to which everyone else is measured.
7. Can it be done in one chopper ride?
You can change a lens in an I/O in less than 10 seconds…easily done in a heli ride.
8. I lived in Sun Valley for a winter, and did not meet too many people with real jobs. How did you get so lucky?
I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but Ketchum is an amazing place to live and raise a family. I’ve traveled to most ski towns in the US, and very few compare to Sun Valley when it comes to community and access to an amazing outdoor lifestyle.
9. Do you get out for some R&D on the hill?
As much as I can. We have a 7″ rule, and if there’s 7″ of new snow on the ground our office is pretty empty. [My old girlfriend had a similar rule]
10. Have you heliskied with Sun Valley Heliski Guides?
Yes. Amazing operation, amazing guides, and great terrain. It’s always amazing to get above the mountains in Ketchum and see how vast the Pioneer, Boulder, White Cloud, Smokey, and Sawtooth ranges are.
11. You sell lots of products that are not optical. I ski in one of your helmets, the Variant Brim. I like it as much as you can like a helmet. Do you sell a lot of brain buckets?
We were very excited to enter the helmet market in 2006/07 and felt we brought a new technology to the market. We looked at a helmet and goggle as an integrated system, both needing to work together to ensure your goggles didn’t fog and that your gray matter was protected. We’ve been very fortunate to have success in the category, and continue to innovate our helmet product to reduce volume and weight while continuing to provide world class protection.
12. Your Evolve Technology uses re-ground urethane?
We use re-grond urethane as well as a material called Pearlthane ECO bio-TPU. The Pearlthane ECO is derived from plant-based oils separate from the world’s food supply and performs equally as well as traditional urethane while contributing up to 40% fewer global warming emissions. [Cool]
13. Do all Smith Optics products have a lifetime warranty?
Yes. We’re proud to stand behind every product we make with the most comprehensive lifetime warranty plan of any goggle, helmet, or sunglass on the market.
Adamants CMH – Small Groups, Deep Snow, Good Friends
(and some new ones)
Adamants CMH Interview by Tom Jackson (TJ) Heliski.com
Last season I was lucky enough to be a guinea pig for Adamants CMH new small group heli-skiing program. So it seems like the right
CMH Heli-Skiing lodge to start with for the HELISKI.com 15 Question Interview, alphabetic order not withstanding.
Adamants CMH Lodge – Picture Perfect
1. Adamants CMH has an amazing lodge, for starters. I use this picture a lot! How does this lodge compare to the other 10 CMH Heli-Skiing lodges?
This lodge is very similar in style to several of our other backcountry helicopter ski lodges including the Bobbie Burns,Bugaboos, Cariboos, Monashees, Gothics and Galena. All feature comfortable bedrooms, spa facilities and a stretch room, and super-comfortable living and dining spaces for relaxing after an epic day of heli-skiing.
2. Adamants CMH is remote (fly-in only). It can be rough. For example, notice the location of the hot tub on the deck in the lower right corner. Consider how far it is away from the bar! How about a fridge or mini-bar out there??!
We don’t have to have a mini-fridge – we have the biggest fridge going: Mother Nature! We are happy for our guests to take drinks out to the hot tub in plastic cups and extra drinks stay really cold in the snow.
3. How did you pick the Adamants CMH to pioneer your new small group initiative?
The Adamants offers a great mix of terrain – from big mountain glaciers to well-pitched, naturally spaced tree skiing. It is a tenure that offers the best of all worlds, which makes it ideal to support small groups zipping around all kinds of interesting terrain.
4. What other CMH lodges offer small group helicopter skiing packages?
For many years now we have been welcoming guests to CMH Kootenay with a small group program, so it is fantastic that we are adding to this line-up with small groups in the Adamants. We also have a few small group options at CMH Monashees. Check them all out!
5. How does Adamants CMH small group differ from CMH’s classic trips? What will be the big changes for the guest? The staff?
The beauty of the Small Group program is that guests are utilizing a Bell 407 helicopter, which is a fast and nimble machine. This allows groups to access smaller landing areas in tighter terrain – so the options for skiing are more varied. With smaller groups, guests are able to load and unload more quickly, so the pace of skiing automatically increases. Small group heli-skiing is perfect for guests who wish to maximize their skiing time – it is also great for a group of 5 friends who want to ski together in what feels like your own private group.
Adamants / Selkirk Mountains
6. How would you describe the terrain at the Adamants?
Located 350 kilometres west of Banff, the Adamant Lodge is situated at the confluence of four major alpine valleys. Named for the surrounding diamond-hard peaks in a sub-range of the Selkirks, the Adamants are famed for long glaciers, deep valleys, and rugged vistas. Classic tree skiing and huge, open glacier terrain are the main reasons why skiers come to the Adamants.
[I can vouch for both. We skied great trees while it dumped a meter of new. Then we skied the high alpine when the weather cleared. Hundreds of perfect turns in a row!]
7. During my trip, it snowed for the first three days and we skied some epic powder. How does Adamants CMH weather/snow compare to the other CMH areas?
The Columbia Range, where the Adamants are located, is renowned for deep, dry powder snow. Combine that with perfect mountains which feature high peaks, well-spaced trees, and deep valleys and you can’t ask for any better geography for a heli-ski area. All of CMH’s areas are located within the Columbia Range because of these exact factors.
8. What skill level does CMH recommend for Adamants CMH heliskiing and heliboarding guests?
We suggest that in order to enjoy heli-skiing you should be at least a strong intermediate skier or boarder who can tackle black diamond runs at big ski resorts, even though you might lack some style doing so. It really comes down to fitness – the more fit you are the more fun you will have. We will ask you in advance what type of skiing you enjoy so you are matched up with other skiers of similar ability.
Me, studying for my next blog post at Adamants CMH
9. Adamants CMH has a great deal of tree skiing and ‘cut blocks’ from logging very close to the lodge. Does that proximity allow for flying more often in marginal weather?
The key for a great heli-ski area is the ability to access skiable terrain in snowy winter conditions. When the clouds are low we ski in the trees – in valleys close to the lodge. Cut blocks make perfect heli-skiing terrain because they create great features when covered with feet upon feet of fresh powder snow. Even when the clouds come in we get lots and lots of skiing.
Christian Ladurner, Great Adamants CMH Guide / Bonus: Excellent Photographer
10. One of our guides, Christian Ladurner, (pictured here) is also a professional photographer. He took pictures on a couple of days that we later purchased online. Cool idea. Has CMH ever done that as other lodges or CMH empire-wide?
Lots of our guides take great pictures and post them to our CMH website, where guests are welcome to download and share with their friends. There are already some amazing snow shots taken this season –take a peek and it will convince you this is the year to come heli-skiing.
11. The bus ride in can be long. Any plans to shorten travel to Adamants CMH?
Great places can take time to get to – especially when it comes to heli-skiing. Our goal is to transfer our guests to their CMH lodge as quickly, safely, and conveniently as possible so we include ground transfers from Calgary directly to the heli-pad or lodge (excluding CMH Kootenay). Some guests choose to fly into Kelowna and drive to the helipad, which can shorten the transfer time slightly. For the 2013 season – we will be providing our Adamants guests ground transportation from Calgary to Golden and then a heli-transfer from Golden, BC to the Adamants. This will reduce the bus ride significantly.
12. On the last night we had a rockin outdoor party in a snow amphitheater built by the staff. Does that happen every week at CMH Adamants?
Each week is a little bit different based on the guests who are staying at that lodge and the staff that are working. Each week something special usually happens – but we like to mix it up and keep things fresh!
France au poudre…..et sans pere!
13. My buddy Harry fell in love with a hot French woman named France (pictured above) who is half his age. He wants to know if you can make any guarantees that it will happen again?
Ha – lucky him, glad he enjoyed his holiday!
Not the Only Reason Harry is Smiling…..and this was Day 1
14. Do you think you will ever have anyone from HELISKI.com back to CMH Adamants?
All guests become family, and family is always welcome – let us know when you want to come back. [Schwing!]
15. Is there anything else you would like to our heliskiing and heliboarding subscribers about CMH Adamants?
Bring on the snow – and we look forward to welcoming you to the CMH Adamants or any of our other CMH lodges.
Tom Jackson CPO (Chief Powder Officer) HELISKI.com 866-HELISKI (866-435-4754)
CMH has been doing the four groups of eleven routine for 40 years. No mas. For the 2012 Season everyweek is a small group week at Adamants. And to kick it off, prices stay the same! Starting at just $8,750 CAD for 7 days. Two Bell 405 helicopters, three groups of five each. A total of 30 guests in one of the coolest lodges in which I have ever had the pleasure of eating, drinking, recovering and sleeping.
I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peek (or is it peak?) in February with my buddy Harry. We’re both still smiling. He declared it “the best heli trip I’ve ever taken”. And you can trust him, he is a CMH veteran and he has a real job.
On Tuesday morning I was so sore I could barely drag myself to the hot tub. Stretch class and copious amounts of great food at breakfast, and I was good to go. Here is the proof:
We did have one travel challenge (par for the course, it seems). We got to Golden and passes closed in front of us and behind us. CMH rallied to put us up in the no-tell-motel (liquor store on the ground floor). On the following morning they arranged to helicopter the entire group in. Very cool, and less time in the bus, I mean coach.
Most of the 45 locations we represent will allow us to offer 2011 pricing for 2012 trips. Some require only a deposit to lock in the price, otherwise want half or full payment. We can also help you find the best operators and locations for your group.
Groups per Helicopter
Weather and Temperatures
Resort ‘Warm Up’ Before
Drop us an email or call 866-HELISKI (866-435-4754)
Let us know:
Jane Carswell of CMH tells us, “I guess our women’s trip is a little bit unofficial, but we are putting together a group for women at Revelstoke for 4 days – March 24 – 28. Price is $3820. It is being hosted by our very own Ellen Slaughter who runs our Bodacious in the Bugaboos Women’s heli-hiking adventures. We’re hoping for a group of 10 women and they will ski together. The guide could be male or female. They will lunch with the rest of the CMH Revelstoke guests, and hang out with them in the evenings. Sort of a group within a group.” Email if you are interested.
The best of both worlds. Great terrain, excellent operator, and the nightlife and resort of Revelstoke. In case of bad weather, ski the longest vertical of any resort in North America. Packages from a day to a week. Keep in mind that it is harder to get to than most. Check it out.
Revelstoke – where the snow is deep, terrain is big, varied, and ideal for all skier-levels. A little different from a remote setting, it is based out of the Regent Inn in Revelstoke. More post-skiing opportunities like swimming in the local 25 m pool, running trails, a movie theatre, coffee shops and restaurants, and a solid internet connection.
Access to both the Monashees and the Selkirks, Revelstoke is defined by deep snow, big, open alpine and glacier terrain, and tree skiing equal to the best of any other CMH area. Its great size and quick accessibility by vans and helicopters allow CMH Revelstoke to find good skiing even in inclement weather.
In 2008, the newly expanded Revelstoke Mountain Resort opened: this once small-town ski area is now a world-class mountain resort, boasting over 5,000 vertical feet of skiing and an historical annual snowfall of 40 – 60 feet (that’s 1200 – 1800 cm). CMH guests are guaranteed skiing, even on those rare days when the helicopter cannot fly.
A few other reasons why CMH guests love Revelstoke:
• Out-the-door proximity to quaint mountain boutiques, coffee spots, and a variety of fine cuisine restaurants and night clubs
• Access to the neighboring health club.
• Complimentary admission to the new Revelstoke Aquatic Centre — one of B.C.’s finest, offering an indoor hot tub with a ‘lazy river’, a 25 metre lane pool, a waterslide, a sauna and steam room, and an over-the-pool climbing wall
• Business Center with Full business connection for those who require it: phone, fax, email and internet access with wireless throughout the hotel; cell phone/iPhone/Blackberry coverage; and great selection of other ‘down day’ activities (is that an oxymoron?? including Nordic (x-country) skiing; snowmobiling; and the nearby Halcyon Hot Springs.
Our friend Beat Steiner, who runs Bella Coola Helisports, has a very cool offer. Heliski a half-day on each end of your trip, so you can get an extra day! This is especially cool for maximizing a short trip. And, not only do you get to heliski/heliboard on both travel days, Beat picks up your airfare from Vancouver and back!
Bella Coola Helisports is the original and most experienced operator in Bella Coola offers 1.5 million acres of the most sought after heliskiing and boarding on the planet. This is now one of the largest tenures in the world.
They have one of the easiest accesses of any heliskiing destination in BC. Their goal is to have you heliskiing/heliboarding on the day of your arrival and the day of your departure.
So their 3-day package gives you 4 possible days of heliskiing/boarding. That is because you fly up one morning, ski the afternoon; ski three full days; then on the last day you ski the morning and fly out in the afternoon. 4-day package gives you 5 possible heli-skiing days, 5-day gives you 6 days…..you get the idea. You can also read our summary at BCHS.
And, Beat will include the airfare from Vancouver to Bella Coola and return!
Bella Coola has two options, (not including their Private Pantheon, a unique setting which is ideal for a group of 8):
Big Mountain program is a no frills, attractively priced choice (Put together a group of 4 and you can save money and rack up the vertical).