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Mano e Mano

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“I saw my dad fall and I realized he was human, just like the rest of us.”
“I didn’t fall, I leaned into the turn.”

Peter and Blake are just one father-son combo that have visited Great Canadian Heli-Skiing this winter.  It’s their second heli-ski trip together, but first to Great Canadian, and their enthusiasm was evident… or maybe it was the fatigue… or the 6 days in an extraordinary environment…

Peter and Blake just before slaying some powder!

Peter and Blake just before slaying some powder!

“Heli-skiing is not just the skiing.  It’s not just up and down.  You’re put in an environment where you’re not around technology and you’re not around all these distractions of normal life.  You’re literally sitting here 3000m up on your skis and just talking on the top of a mountain.  You have a lot of cool moments.  It’s a personal and intimate experience,” shared Blake.  “We had this silly banter going for most of the week where we just said the most ridiculous things to each other.  It was hilarious.  One day my dad totally cut ahead of me in line yelling ‘there’s no family or friends on a powder day.’”

From Peter’s perspective, the trip was about connecting with his son: “Nobody else in my family can understand this.  The first time I took Blake heli-skiing he was an intermediate snowboarder with no powder experience. It was not an easy first experience, [but here we are again]. You’re creating memories.  Unbelievable memories.”

Peter is a long-time avid heli-skier and when asked why he’d choose heli-skiing as the best way to connect with his son in the winter months, Peter shared, “I firmly believe that anybody who is a… skier [or snowboarder], if you want a high-end experience with the best possible skiing, you need to get out there and try [heli-skiing].  I have a short list of places I’d recommend and Great Canadian is one of them.  It’s easy to get here, you’re not competing for or paying for extra vertical, and the small groups are great.  Great Canadian has a good guide team – they’re really accommodating and professional; I’ve been other places where the guides make you feel like you should be honoured to ski with them.  The flexibility – where you can start your trip on any day of the week – is very useful.  … and the skiing is great.  Most other places I’ve skied you sit out half of your days because of weather.  Of course, I wanted to share all of these experiences with my son.”

Both Peter and Blake agree that this trip was “all time” and are already considering coming back again this winter.  “Blake is already soft-selling me on another trip.  He was like, ‘maybe I’ll go to Miami with some friends, or, if you’re going to Great Canadian again, I’d consider coming along… [laughing].”

The World’s Top-5 Best Boutique Heli-Skiing Operations

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The world loves to ski, proven by the thousands of ski resorts around the world. But did you know there are only about 40 dedicated heli-skiing operations, 17 of which are located in British Columbia, Canada? Despite accounting for less than half of all heli-skiing operations, BC boasts a whopping 90% of the world’s heli-skiing days (about 90,000 days per year!). That’s about 900 lucky skiers and snowboarders making fresh tracks every day during the relatively mild BC winter season. To put that into perspective, Whistler Blackcomb’s chair lifts can accommodate 65,507 skiers per hour!

Of the 40 heli-skiing operations in the world, there are reasonably few “boutique” operations that break the mould of 12-person groups and large helicopters. Boutique heli-skiing is typically defined by group size, destination and experience.  If you’re looking for gourmet food, unique destination-style accommodation and group sizes of less the 5, boutique is the only heli-skiing to consider.

DSC09273The five best boutique heli-skiing operations in the world are:

Ruby Mountain Helicopter Experience – Founded by Utah ski patroller and adventure seeker, Joy Royer, in 1977, Ruby Mountain has earned the reputation as North America’s secret powder stash.

Tordrillo Mountain Lodge – is positioned in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness, ready for anyone that is looking for extreme adventure and adrenaline.

Arctic Heli-Skiing – Skiing from peak down to the ocean, or night skiing by the light of the midnight sun are truly heli-skiing experiences that you will not find anywhere else on this planet.

Mica Heli-Skiing – is the castle in the sky, with 5-star amenities in the backcountry of British Columbia.  This specific zone receives all of the BC Interior snow-storms in addition to it’s own special selection of lake-effect snow.

Great Canadian Heli-Skiing – has claim to prime heli-skiing terrain located at the east gate of Canada’s Glacier National Park, home to two of the snowiest weather stations in Canada.  The accessible, yet epic, location allows for flexible trips start dates and durations.

Read the full e-book here.

Six Ways to Maximize your Heli-Skiing Experience

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Here you are, ready to slay some powder at Great Canadian Heli-Skiing.  Maybe it’s your first heli-skiing trip, your longest, or you’re new to the whole unlimited vertical concept.  Regardless, we find that most of our guests appreciate our six recovery tips for maximizing their stay and comfort.

1. Drink… and we’re not talking about booze!  We’re all about the Wooly Toque lounge, chowing down on powder and enjoying a fine glass with meals, but water is going to be a #1 way to keep your body tuned.  Hydration at elevation, especially when giv’n’er, is key.  Try to consume a minimum of 2 litres per day.

Lots of wine for the discerning palate.

Lots of wine for the discerning palate.

2. Pace Yourself.  Don’t dig yourself into a deep ditch on day one.  Remember that there is more epic-ness to come and you don’t want to be riding in the heli later… especially if there is snow in the forecast!  If you’re getting tired, take a run off – ask your guide which runs are the “must not miss” and sit a couple of the others out.  We’re all on the same team, trying to maximize the fun!

Great Canadian Heliskiing, BC

3.  Stretch.  Great Canadian Heli-Skiing offers guided stretching classes every morning.  Go.  Don’t think you’ll get it done on your own.  The classes are very welcoming and gentle – no need to worry about traumatic yoga injuries!  Stretching is a great way to warm up your body for a day of skiing.

4.  Get a Massage.  You’re on vacation!  Take advantage of the massage therapy available at the lodge.  This will improve blood flow to your muscles, speed recovery, and feel darn good!  There’s no shame in being so relaxed you fall asleep on the table.

5.  Sauna.  This goes hand in hand with drinking water, stretching and getting a massage.  Sauna’s boost blood circulation (especially if you go for the snow roll between sessions), help you sweat out the stress of work and the beers you may have consumed the night before, and ours provides a perfect venue for sharing stories of your day.

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Cozy sauna!


6.  Smile.  Just like stretching warms you up for day of heli-skiing, smiling stretches your face, opens your mind, and builds the stoke of the entire group.  If you want to enjoy one of your best days of heli-skiing, start it with a smile (high-fives don’t hurt, either).


Great Canadian Heli-Skiing is a boutique Heli-Skiing operation located next to Rogers Pass, Revelstoke and Golden, in British Columbia, Canada.  Offering flexible packages, unlimited vertical and small groups of 4, Great Canadian Heli-Skiing is an ideal winter vacation destination for visitors looking for an epic powder experience.

Humble Al

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Some might call Alison Dakin a pioneer.  Some might describe her experiences as epic.  Some might go so far as to say she’s a living legend.  But if you ask Alison you’re not going to hear much about any of it.

Alison is as humble as they come.  She grew up just south of Golden with three sisters and no ski hill. That didn’t stop her from getting out on Nordic skis and even doing some ski touring in Rogers Pass with leather boots: “With the equipment, enthusiasm, and energy we ended up straight-lining a lot.  Nobody told us about turns!”

Alison Dakin

But how does a mountain-straight-lining-country-bumpkin end up as a top ski guide and Great Canadian’s Assistant Guiding Operations Manager?  “I got a summer job with the Alpine Club of Canada at their summer mountaineering camps.  I basically washed dishes, cooked a bit and handled all the camp chores.  It was a great job and it gave me the opportunity to meet some of Canada’s top guides of the time – in the late 70s and early 80s.  Those guys were real ‘gentlemen of the mountains.’  While a lot of people think of them as some sort of untouchable heroes they were very humble and encouraging to a kid like me.”

While guiding has typically been a male realm, Alison was cutting her teeth at the same time as Sharon Wood, Helen Sovdat, Sylvia Forest and Diny Harrison so it seemed “normal.”  … as normal as being on the leading edge of female guiding can be.  It’s no surprise that she went on to found and operate Golden Alpine Holidays for 20 years – a series of three backcountry lodges that support ski touring trips.

When she got so busy that guiding didn’t seem to fit into her routine anymore, Alison sold Golden Alpine Holidays in 2006.  She was enjoying time off in 2007 when some of the Great Canadian Guides tried to convince her to “come skiing on her birthday… oh… and bring your guiding equipment.”  … the rest is history.

Just like the trail that Alison has blazed in the mountains around Golden, Great Canadian is also setting an example in heli-skiing with an industry-leading five female guides and one female pilot.  As Alison says, “It just feels right.  We’ve got a great dynamic within our guiding team and with the pilots – which I think has a lot to do with the male/female balance.  We’re not hiring women just to have some ponytails and lighter helicopters – it’s just kind of happened this way and we’re stronger for it.”

Stan “Power Tool” Metcalfe

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Stan. Stan Metcalf.  Power Tool.  GCH Ski Guide.  Physiotherapist.

Stan is the epitome of professional ski bumming.  Heading into his 5th season of guiding with GCH, he’s found a way to make skiing full time work for his family and bank account in the small Town of Golden, BC.  With his alter ego as a physiotherapist and business owner, recently winning awards for business renovation and professional services in Golden, BC, we decided to ask Stan the obvious question – why Great Canadian?

“I guide for Great Canadian because of their 100% commitment to excellence.  This commitment is not only for the possible skiing for our clients but also trickles right down into everything we do including meals, coffee and the little things.  If something is not perfect, we’re working to get it there.  This 100% commitment by the company, staff and all the guides makes GCH an easy place to work, and work hard!”


Stan shredding some early season Rogers Pass powder on a family ski day.

In our casual setting Stan speaks highly of Great Canadian, his co-workers, the management, and the terrain… “I know I say in my online bio that 40-watt is my favourite run, but it changes.  Last year my absolute favourite was Cheap Scotch.  It was so good in varied conditions, holds snow well, and it has a beautiful setting.  Probably the best thing about it is that we can take groups of all levels up there and everybody has a good time.”

After 8 years of guiding at GCH, I asked Stan to reflect back on his best memory.  “Hands down, my best memory was skiing with my parents and brother for a few days.  The funny thing was that the snow was not perfect – we found some good areas but had to work for it.  I guess the thing that really made it my top memory was that feeling of doing something epic and special with my family.  Heli-skiing is about more than the epic snow – it’s about the experience, the reward, and who you’re sharing it with.”