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HELISKI.com Interviews Snowwater Heli-Skiing. 15 Questions with HELISKI.com

Snowwater Heli Skiing

Small Groups at Snowwater Heli-Skiing & Heli-Boarding BC Canada

1. Let’s start with the name – Snowwater Heli Skiing Canada. I’m sure linguists love it – a word that describes an element in two different physical states, right? Do you have other examples (kidding)? Or do you raft and fish in the summer, in which case you need a comma: Snow, Water. So what’s the story with the name Snowwater Heli Skiing & Heli-Boarding??

Yes our name can be somewhat misleading, as it sounds like we either have watery snow (which of course we don’t), or that we provide activities involving both snow and water (when we only provide skiing). Actually, Snowwater is named after the largest Peak above our lodge, Snowwater Peak. This creek, which runs from Snowwater Peak, is our main water source and also feeds our hydro-plant, providing us with eco-friendly power for 2/3’s of the year.

2. The Kootenays enjoy a reputation of tons of snow and great trees. Describe the terrain you ski at Snowwater, please.

Ina nutshell that is the Kootenay: tons of light snow and world famous tree skiing.

The terrain at Snowwater Heli-Skiing is superb. We have acres and acres of steep old growth forests, with runs from 1500 to over 3000 vertical feet. The snow is consistently light and powdery. We also have high alpine bowls, steep couloirs, and meadow after meadow of unbroken powder. We really have it all and are able to ski every day in great conditions most of the season.

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That’SNOWWATER

3. You also run Valhalla Powder Cats. What are the similarities and differences?

Valhalla is a snowcat business, offering single and multiday trips. At this point there is no lodge based skiing (this is planned to change as well), although we offer accommodation in Nelson or the Slocan Valley with these packages. At Snowwater, we have a secluded on-mountain lodge, complete with fine dining, hot tubs, heated floors and massage facilities. All of our trips are all-inclusive, so it is a very relaxing atmosphere. We also have snowcat backup at Snowwater, which means we never have a down day – ever.

I would say that Valhalla is particularly known for its terrain. There is a huge variety of steep fall-line descents through trees, cliff features, chutes, or wide open bowls – it is simply the best cat skiing around

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4. What is the average price paid per vertical foot at your catskiing and heliskiing operations?

I’m not sure of those statistics actually. What I do know is that we offer the most cost-effective skiing in the industry. Unlimited vertical at both ops! I would imagine the cost is well under average to the client. This is one of the reasons we went to all-inclusive. Nobody really wants to spend all day counting vertical, and having to ski runs to the bottom when the conditions are perfect. We ski where the snow is best, as long as clients want to, and there is are no arguments at the end of the trip about vert! [Nice dodge, Maria!]

5. You offer catskiing backup, which I have benefited from personally. We alternated all day as the weather blew in and out. Very cool. How often do you use the cat backup?

It really depends on the season and the month. Some seasons when the snowfall is nonstop, it can be challenging for us to get too far in the heli. But we have now spent three summers glading this local terrain, and it has virtually changed the entire experience. It is simply fantastic backup terrain, or bad weather heli terrain. Some seasons we can go for weeks without ever stepping into the cat, other times we use it more often. But if we use it, it usually means it’s really dumping – so nobody ever complains!

We are proud to have pioneered ‘snowcat backup’ in Canada, effectively eliminating ‘down days,’ and ensuring all guests ski or ride everyday.

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6. Your Kootenay Sampler is a unique way to combine resort skiing, catskiing and heliskiing at a very reasonable price. Explain that package, please.

Yes this is probably the best value in the industry! It is a one of a kind package. This is a progressive 7-day powder trip allowing the client to ease into the week, and culminates in 3 unlimited days of heli skiing at the lodge. A lot of Europeans like to come for 7-day trips when they come all the way across the ocean – and this is one of their favorites.

You can pick from either Whitewater (which has a new lift), or Red Resort for a starter day. Then ski two days with Valhalla [Powder Cats], enjoying cat skiing and getting used to deep, untracked powder in the big mountains. This is followed by a rest day, whereupon you can enjoy Nelson, and its abundance of ski and art shops, as well as make a trip to Ainsworth Hot Springs – which has limestone caves to swim in and is really worth a rejuvenating visit! Finally the trip culminates in 3 days of heli skiing at Snowwater, living like royalty for the rest of this Kootenay adventure! All ski rentals, accommodation and most meals are included. It’s really a fantastic value for one’s money.

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Snowwater Heliskiing Cabins are New, Nice and Single!

7. You make it possible to get to the lodge in one day from the left coast, right?

We changed our arrival time to 4:30pm at our office. The late arrival time allows guests to make it here in one day. We found that people would prefer to get here all in one day, than to have the experience of flying into the lodge, and have to spend an extra day travelling there and back. It also allows the lodge staff a couple of hours to clean all the en suite bathrooms after the guests leave, as clients usually like to shower just before they leave.

8. Do most guests fly into Castlegar, BC or Spokane, Washington?

Most guests fly into Spokane, rent a car and then drive up. Castlegar is a bit of a gamble with weather as it is a small airport. But some people still fly there, or to Trail with Pacific Coastal , which tends to be more reliable than Castlegar, but is a longer drive to our office.

9. We rented a car in Spokane, and enjoyed a beautiful 3.5-hour drive. How far is Castelgar?

Castlegar is a 15 minute drive to our office – located at the junction of highway 3A and 6.

10. Is Snowwater exclusively unlimited vertical pricing?

Yes that is correct. We offer exclusively unlimited vertical, all-inclusive trips. Why get an extra bill at the end of your trip?
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What’s Not to Like?

11. What is the average vertical for a week at Snowwater Heli Skiing Canada?

It is easier for me to say what the average vertical is per day, as we offer mainly 3 and 4 day trips. It is common that clients will get 20,000 vert. a day, and even as high as 40,000. No one ever complains about vertical here.[Epic]

12. You now include three glasses of wine with dinner? I think I know who had that idea! Patric is kind of a wild man. How can you keep up?

Actually we include all wine and beer with your trip, but politically that is how we have to say it. icon_wink

And Patric is now our in-house sommelier!

Keeping up with Patric? Well, that is a combination of years of practice…and knowing when to ignore him!

13. I liked that your lodges are limited to only 12 guests. What are the advantages and disadvantages to being a boutique operator?

Yes we offer a very high service with this small amount of clientele. Next year we plan to go to single occupancy, so there is a lot of new construction in our future, including a spa building, man cave, and gourmet teaching kitchen.

Our goal with each trip is to provide a heliski experience that is as exclusive as it is personalized. We are creating a Snowwater alumni who love to return year after, naming new runs, enjoying the changes, and becoming our friends who we often visit in the offseason. Also, small groups really allow us to provide exception cuisine and cocktail service!

But alas, catering to only 12 people isn’t really an opportunity doused in high profit margins. It turns out we do this for a lifestyle that we have grown to love and could never give up. This is why most ops have at least 18 people at their lodges and often as much as 36. It really gives them the chance to put more money in their pockets, but it is nothing like the close, intimate experience we have here, that keeps our clients and staff coming back year after year.

14. Who is your favorite booking agent and why?

Well TJ of course! Ha!

Our favorite booking agent is the agent who brings us the most clients! It is great to have an agent who you know is really rooting for you and helping to convince clients that this is a great place to come. With us being small, agents are limited in what they can sell to make money on us. We understand that, but we still hope that they see the value in promoting our business! Agents that are easy to work with through the whole booking process as the favorite – and TJ is definitely at the top for how he deals with both clients and operators. [nothing like begging for a compliment, eh?]

15. Is there anything else you would like to add about Snowwater Heli Skiing Canada?

Yes Snowwater is small group heli skiing. We fly in small, cohesive groups in the fastest and most powerful machines in the industry – the B2 A-star. Small group heli skiing is unlike any other type of skiing. It will magnify your entire wilderness experience in the mountains and change your life forever.

Finally our mandate is simply to be better and better every year – always striving for ways to improve and keep us interested and motivated. There are a lot of plans down the line for Snowwater – just wait and see – it’s quite exciting!

Thanks, Maria. I had a great time at Snowwater and hope to get back up there soon. ‘Hi’ to Patric, too. This interview will end like every Snowwater Heliskiing trip, with fireworks!
tj

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

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Snowwater Heliskiing – a Blast

HELISKI.com Interviews Points North Heliskiing / Heliboarding Alaska Helicopter Skiing. 15 Questions with HELISKI.com

This summer HELISKI.comvisited with Jessica Quinn, who co-owns and operates Points North Heli Adventures with her husband Kevin. As you might guess, she happens to be one bad betty! The conversation follows.

1. How do you contrast Alaska Heliskiing with BC Heliskiing.

Honestly there is no comparison. The terrain and snow pack that Alaska offers is unlike that of anywhere in the world! The warm moist air converges with the cold glaciers creating a maritime snow pack that allows snow to virtually stick to places that make riding some of the steepest terrain in the world accessible. Not to say that we have a wet snow pack, as that is not the case. The snow quality in the Chugach is perfect and can often times feel like Utah powder. Alaska is the super bowl of helicopter skiing. We like to refer to it as Disney Land on steroids!

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Got Steep?

2. Is your terrain all high alpine, or do you have tree skiing, too?

Trees are very limited in all regions of Alaska. We do have trees but remember, tree line is Alaska hovers around 1500’ above sea level. We do have tree skiing early season (Jan / Feb) when temps are cold and we can ski to the valley floors, but honestly the famous terrain of Alaska is in the alpine. Most often we are tree skiing at our local chair lift, Mt Eyak on “activity days”… Others refer to this as a “down day”. [nice euphemism!] At PNH there are no down days, just activity days riding our chair lift. Typical runs in the helicopter terrain in Alaska start at or around 6500’-7000’ descending down to around 2000’ or higher. Average runs are anywhere from 2000’ – 4000’ in vertical.

3. What sets Points North Heliskiing apart from other Alaska Heliskiing?

No matter who you decide to visit in Alaska, if you get good weather, you’re going to have a great trip! Everyone has something to offer and we are all different. What sets PNH apart from the other operators is:

We are truly “all-inclusive with a beautiful lodge located on Prince William Sound with the Chugach in our backyard and the ocean in our front yard. We have 3 beautiful A-star helicopters that are located outside your window and act as an “alarm clock”. We are away from the other 5 operators in Valdez meaning there is no race to access the terrain in the morning. You will never see another aircraft flying in our area. Additionally, Alaska Airlines flies into Cordova 3 times daily, meaning there are no commuter flights to connect to and then long bus rides and car trips to get to our lodge. PNH is the only operator in the area that is a member of the United Stated Heli-Ski Association. There are only 2 operators in Alaska that are part of HSUS.

Cordova has a chair lift, Mt Eyak. The chair came from Sun Valley in the early 70’s. It allows for great skiing on “activity days” when aircraft cannot access the heli-ski terrain. PNH has numerous yurts allowing for non-motorized ski touring access. Yurts are stocked with firewood, food and various amenities for your comfort. The objective at PNH is to keep you skiing everyday. If you choose not to ski, we also have sea-kayaks, a local surf break and boats to take you fishing. Cordova is home to the famous Copper River and a trip to town is unique in itself. No roads connect to Cordova meaning that each and every local that resides here has made an effort to get here. The Cordova chamber of commerce motto is “Alaska’s best kept secret”. We can only encourage you to find out the secret for your self. Our return rate alone speaks for itself. We are averaging just over 80% returns. Our clients come as new guests and return as our long time loyal friends. Last but not least, PNH has been featured in the last 10 Warren Miller films consecutively.

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Scenery and Steeps, Both EPIC

4. How much vertical do you average in a week and how many days of riding?

An average is anywhere from 60,000’ to well over 100,000’ if the weather is on your side. An average week comes down to the weather, no matter where you go in Alaska. No one has a “blue hole” or force field. All of us get the very same weather coming in from the Gulf of Alaska. We try to be very honest with people and tell them that they are going to experience weather in Alaska. In an average week guests should get 2-3 big days of riding. They can get more if the weather is in their favor. Some operations will keep you at their remote heli base waiting to get 1 run in at 6pm after waiting all day. Our view is simple. Send you to the chair lift, ski all day and in the event the weather cooperates, we will be flying you into the mountains when it does clear.

5. Alaska is known for steep. Do you advise newbie’s to try BC heliskiing before they come to Alaska?

We advise everyone to come to Alaska! What is so unique about Alaska is the amount of terrain it has to offer. At PNH we have over a 1000 square skiable miles of terrain. More terrain than one could access in a lifetime! Movies and magazines have made Alaska this extreme spooky place, however, we can tell you honestly; there is something for everyone. We can only encourage you to choose an operator that is a member of the US Heli Ski Association.

6. How can you tell on the phone if a client is going to be able to hang?

Everyone on the phone has questions. Generally the same questions arise. When is the best time? Will I get stuck with weaker skiers? How many to a group? These are all valid concerns. If we cannot match you with folks of the same desires and ability, we have 27 employees waiting to go ski and ride wherever you so choose. There is no best time. It’s when the weather cooperates. Alaska has something to offer everyone. We say this in confidence.

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Unique Spot in Cordova on Prince William Sound

8. Describe your lodging at Points North Heli.

Our lodging at PNH is very unique. We operate out of the Orca Cannery, a 20-acre parcel directly on the waterfront complete with a wood fired sauna. We do not have a 5 Star lodge like that of the CMH’s or many of the Canadian style lodges, but our facility is very clean and comfortable. Our dining hall is filled with a large screen TV, ping pong, foosball video games etc. Our facility feels like going to “camp” as a kid. All of our rooms are clean and spacious with their own restrooms and showers allowing for privacy. We are very proud of our facility and its something that separates us from many of the others in Alaska.

 

9. What helicopters do you use? How many guests per lift? How many lifts per helicopter? Sorry, three questions in one…

We utilize the A-star B2 exclusively. Groups are 4 riders to 1 guide. We are lucky to say that we have had the same helicopters, pilots and mechanics now for 12 of our 14 years. North Star Helicopters out of Juneau, Alaska is one of the top operators in the state. They are Alaskan pilots with thousands of hours flying in Alaska, winter and summer. On and average fly day one can expect to get 8-12 lifts in a day, averaging 25,000 -40,000’ of vertical depending on what it is your riding.

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Ships, Birds, Choppers….A rose by any other name

12. What packages does Points North offer?

Our package includes ALL of your meals, lodging, transportation in and around Cordova including airport pickup and drop off along with all state of the art safety gear. Additionally, you get 4 helicopter hours of actual fly time. An average day is around 1 hour and 15 minutes of fly time in the early season and 1 hour and 30 minutes in the later part of the season. 4 helicopter hours is generally getting you 3 big days of riding. It is not common for guests to go over their 4 heli hour buy in, given the weather factors in Alaska. If in the event you do get 4 or 5 days of riding you simply pay as you go. Once you go over your 4 helicopter hours you are not expected to ski, however we bet that you will want to. A package for 7 nights lodging (all-inclusive, meals, lodging and transportation) and 4 heli-hours is $4,875.

13. Tell us about traveling to Points North Heliskiing.

Getting to Cordova and our location is very simple. Alaska Airlines flies in and out of Cordova 3 times a day. Access is from either Anchorage or Seattle. Our facility is 15 minutes from the airport. We pick you up and drop you off. It is about the easiest place to access in all of Alaska for heli-skiing.

14. What are the steepest slopes you ski with guests?

This is a question that depends purely on the guest and the conditions at the given time. It’s common for guests to come to Alaska and think they could never ski something like they just did. A common response is “that was the best run of my life” and the guide response is “ I thought the last run was…” Runs can range from 10 degrees down the glacier to 60 plus degrees and more. The snow pack that Alaska offers allows for access to these famous slopes. The skier and his / her ability is what allows them to gain access to the steep slopes if they choose. At PNH the guide will take you to your first few runs and from there you and your group decide where you would like to go next. If conditions allow for the run your choosing, the guide’s job is to make certain you can do it and make it happen safely. We are not selling you vertical. You will get that. We are selling you an experience of a lifetime!

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Wild? Ski with your own landing zone flag…

15. Anything else you want to add?

No mater where you choose to go Alaska, each operator has something for you. We can only encourage you to ask the proper questions and do your research prior to your trip. Additionally, when heli skiing in US, make certain the look for the US Heli Skiing Association logo.

Thanks for your time here with us!

 

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No, Jessica, thank YOU for the giving us the full story about Points North Heliskiing out of Codova, Alaska. I have only been to a few places in Valdez, so I hope to get up there soon!
Best,
tj

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

All Photos: Court Leve

Heliski Presidents’ Day Weekend – 4 Choices

We have a number of good options for 3-day trips over Presidents’ Day. Travel to each of these is reasonable for a short trip. Let me know if you want to hold seats. Or book directly and tell them Heliski.com referred you.

Wasatch Powderbird Guides out of Snowbird Utah has space over Presidents’ Day. I have skied with them a few times. I had a great time.

$3366 US. And if you book all three days within the week they’ll give you $35 per skier per day.

Let me know if you want to hold seats. Saturday is filling up.

Sun Valley Heliski Guides. They have space over Presidents’ Day for $1100/day.

 

Another cool option is Helitrax in Telluride, Colorado. They can take you over Presidents’ Day for $849/day (multi-day price).

Check them out at www.helitrax.com

Snowwater has 3-day Feb 12, 13 and 14 (Fri-Sun) for $4600 Canadian, unlimited vertical. Fly in/out of Spokane, WA.

Snowwater offers boutique heli skiing, a huge operating area, and cat backup. You ski every day. Fly to the lodge on the afternoon before your first day; then fly out on the afternoon of the last day. New for 2010, all packages are unlimited vertical and unlimited alcohol.

Snowwater is located in the southern interior region of BC known as the Kootenays. The area was chosen for its spectacular beauty and superb, light deep powder. Their tenure includes over 150,000 acres of pristine wilderness ensuring an exclusive adventure of a lifetime. They guarantee you ski or ride every day. If they can’t fly due to inclement weather then we jump in their luxurious snowcat (oxymoron?) with plush recliner seats and rocking with tunes. Fly to Spokane, WA and drive or take their shuttle 3.5 hours north.

You can also do a custom trip in Europe. Start with a Car Hire Switzerland and ski the Alps!

If you book with any of these, please let them and me know that we referred you.

Thanks,

tj

Heliski.com

Heliski Presidents’ Day Weekend – 4 Choices

We have a number of good options for 3-day trips over Presidents’ Day.  Travel to each of these is reasonable for a short trip.  Let me know if you want to hold seats.  Or book directly and tell them Heliski.com referred you.

———————————–

Wasatch Powderbird Guides out of Snowbird Utah has space over Presidents’ Day.   I have skied with them a few times.  I had a great time.

$3366 US.  And if you book all three days within the week they’ll give you $35 per skier per day.

Let me know if you want to hold seats.  Saturday is filling up.

———————————–

Sun Valley Heliski Guides.  They have space over Presidents’ Day for $1100/day.

—————————–

Another cool option is Helitrax in Telluride, Colorado.  They can take you over Presidents’ Day for $849/day (multi-day price).

Check them out at Telluride, Colorado Heliskiing,

———————————-

Snowwater has 3-day Feb 12, 13 and 14 (Fri-Sun)  for $4600 Canadian, unlimited vertical.  Fly in/out of Spokane, WA.

Snowwater offers boutique heli skiing, a huge operating area, and cat backup.  You ski every day.   Fly to the lodge on the afternoon before your first day; then fly out on the afternoon of the last day.  New for 2010, all packages are unlimited vertical and unlimited alcohol.

Snowwater is located in the southern interior region of BC known as the Kootenays.  The area was chosen for its spectacular beauty and superb, light deep powder.  Their tenure includes over 150,000 acres of pristine wilderness ensuring an exclusive adventure of a lifetime.  They guarantee you ski or ride every day.  If they can’t fly due to inclement weather then we jump in their luxurious snowcat with plush recliner seats and rocking with tunes.  Fly to Spokane, WA and drive or take their shuttle 3.5 hours north.

If you book with any of these, please let them and me know that we referred you.

Thanks,

tj

Heliski.com

How early can you Heliski in Canada?

We are working with a couple who want to go helicopter skiing in early December. Most heliski operators start the season after Christmas or New Years. (In fact some have great deals on heli skiing around New Years and early January.

As it turns out, we found some great options with both Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing and Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH). 3, 4 and 7 day heliskiing trips are available starting the last week of November!

The resort-based heli-skiing operators start around mid December. These include Helitrax Heliskiing Telluride, Whistler Heliskiing and Wasatch Powderbird Guides heli-skiing in Snowbird, UT (say that three times fast).

Resort + heliski options are available early season from Great Canadian Heliskiing, Snowwater Heli Skiing, Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing to name a few.  Snowwater and Great Canadian also offer catskiing combined with heliskiing.

So, it’s never too early to heliski!