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March Goggle Tans… #bestlookever

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Spring time may be fast approaching but in our backyard, the season is far from over.  Getting a heli fix in March will give you more than just an impressive goggle tan, you will still see those #bestdayever conditions that we are known for.  

“That day was off the charts!” was how guest Craig described it when he stepped off the heli on March 11th.  He and longtime friend David have been heli skiing for the last four years, this being their second time with Great Canadian. They had no complaints about the conditions they saw during their trip, “We couldn’t have seen any more winter than what we saw yesterday, any time any month. The snow was knee deep to thigh deep.”

David and Craig enjoyed their outdoor apres after another #bestdayever.

David and Craig enjoyed their outdoor apres after another #bestdayever.

When they weren’t thigh deep in the powder, they had just as much fun on the clear bluebird days. Thanks to small groups and the best guides in the business, David explained how these factors truly make a difference. “This is the maximum experience.  We’ve been to other places but the skiing here in the last few days has been phenomenal.  Our guide has honestly been the best, most fun guide we’ve ever had. When there’s different people of different abilities and fitness, we really see that they are very intent on making certain that we have a great experience.”

There you have it.  When the top level service from Great Canadian Heli-Skiing meets fantastic March conditions, you can get the trip of a lifetime on an annual basis.  That’s why David had to add, “We’re going to be making our reservations for next year!”  

 

Welcome Stefano!

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Chef Stefano Leone

We are very excited to welcome new Executive Chef Stefano Leone to the Great Canadian Heli-Skiing Team. As a global chef with over 25 years of fine dining experience on 5 continents, Stefano brings with him a wealth of knowledge, a fierce passion for food and a whole new level of dining experience.  Since arriving in late February, Stefano has already wowed us with beautiful après-ski spreads that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the appetite. We took some time to ask him more about himself and his cuisine.  Bon Appetit!

 

What brought you to Golden and Great Canadian Heli-Skiing?

Well, I’ve worked in five continents around the world which includes big 5 star hotels and large structured organizations.  I’m here perhaps just to go back to combining my career with the lifestyle here. My first trade when I was young was a ski racer.  And then I did some certifications for coaching while I worked in Switzerland for Club Med.  I would teach during the day and run the kitchen at night.  I would like to come back to that and combine a lodge lifestyle with nature. I love nature and I love to hike.

You are known for bringing a “farm to table” concept into your cuisine.  Can you explain that?

I was president of the Slow Food Movement in Whislter/Blackcomb, back in 2000.  This is the place where you have to be a part of the slow food movement.  It’s about following the seasons, the organic products.  In Whistler we would work with the Pemberton Farms for nice baby vegetables, from Salt Spring Island we brought in lamb and goat cheeses.  This is farm to table.  Supporting the local farmers and putting their names on our menus.  We need to work with those farmers and go with the season. This is the place to do that. Yes, it’s heli-skiing but I think just like any destination resort, people travel and what makes the business is not just to heli-ski but the whole concept of the experience.  

How does your lifestyle reflect your cuisine?

To be surrounded by good food and wine. Celebrating life all the time. Travel and continuously discovering new cultures, and of course [there] is always something new, never stop learning. To entertain a guest is to make yourself responsible for his happiness so long as he is beneath your roof. The great trumpet player Louis Armstrong once said of musicians “What we play is life”. Through a dinning experience, people will connect and share and exchange and support and heal and do all the things that people crave. They reaffirm that life is worth living. I love to be part of it.

You have worked all over the world, how do you plan to use your experience here at Great Canadian Heli-Skiing?

I’m still very passionate about my cuisine and what I do.  Throughout the years, my experience from all over the world made me more of a complete chef.  A chef has to travel to understand the traditions and culture of each country.  Then you become more open minded and understanding. The more you know about the culture and the history, the better chef you are and you understand the roots.  It’s like a house, if you don’t have a strong foundation your roof will fall in.  

Guests are loving Chef Stefano's cuisine.

Guests are loving Chef Stefano’s cuisine.

Stefano shows sous chef Taylor the art of effortless plating.

Stefano shows sous chef Taylor the art of effortless plating.

Chef Stefano Leone's apres platters are a work of art.

Chef Stefano Leone’s après-ski platters are a work of art.

Chef Stefano and Bartender Shawn explain the dinner line up.

Chef Stefano and Bartender Shawn explain the dinner line up.

An beautiful appetizer.

A beautiful appetizer.

The #BestJobEver

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If you’re wondering what the best job at Great Canadian Heli-Skiing is, look no further than your social media hosts. Elora Braden and the infamous Muzza share the position for the winter months and their smiles, laughs and stories show their enthusiasm.

Elora doing what she does for work.

Elora doing what she does for work.

According to Elora, there are three reasons why being a social media host is better than every other job at Great Canadian Heli-Skiing, including the job of being a ski guide.

#1 – You don’t HAVE to ski all day. “Our ski guides are machines and we’re normal human beings,” says Elora. “While I’d love to think that I could be out there skiing all day, every day, I’m just not fit enough. Being the social media host, we get our fair share of heli-time to capture images and stories, but we don’t have to go out on the days that our legs say no.”

#2 – You get to enjoy all the fantastic meals prepared by Heather Mountain Lodge chefs. “I’ve recently discovered the glory of the breakfast sandwich. Before that it was this unreal lavender dessert. Our kitchen is constantly creating delicious meals for everyone. If I was faced with a never-ending heli-skiiing mission, I’d want our chefs to be with me.”

#3 – You get to (have to) hear all the guest stories. “Hands down the best thing about working at GCH this winter has been hearing all the stories from our guests. Not only do I run around (ski around) helicopters with a giant camera getting snaps of smiling guests having the time of their life, I also get to interview them. The stories are so inspiring and the people so amazing,” shares Elora. “I spoke with one guest who commented about the way skiing translates into everyday life. He explained now he as overcome obstacles by recalling his successes and defeats on his skis. The act of falling and getting back up again, no matter what, really resonated with him.”

Another hard day at work.

Another hard day at work.

Elora also gives special mention to “our staff, which is one heck of a team. My job would not be nearly so fun if I didn’t have this gang to share some laughs with.”

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.

Powder Discount Pulls Skiers to Canada

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BLong-7603As the US dollar grows stronger, bookings are blooming at Canadian heli-skiing operations. The lure of legendary Canadian mountain destinations, renowned hospitality, and now the “powder discount” is proving too much for our friends south of the border to resist.

The US dollar saw it’s 10-year low in July of 2011 and has been climbing steadily since. The biggest boost, however, has been over the past 12 months, which has seen the US dollar rocket from $1.20 CAD to $1.40 CAD. There appears to be no end to this rise in sight, as Canadian forecasts are predicting the US dollar to hit $1.50 CAD in 2016 and remain comparatively low “until the end of 2018 and potentially even longer.”

With close to a half-dollar bargaining advantage, American heli-skiers are looking at 50% discounts when considering Canadian operations, like Great Canadian Heli-Skiing.

“We’ve always had a large percentage of American guests, but we’ve seen a real increase in the past year,” noted Great Canadian Heli-skiing owner, Greg Porter. “Our operation, located conveniently close to Calgary, has been a favourite with American guests who want booking flexibility, a 5-star hosting experience and lots of skiing.”

“The biggest difference we’ve seen with the recent surge in the US dollar is a number of new American guests and many of our current American guests are booking a multiple ski vacations this winter.   The exchange rate cannot be argued with and we have the reputation for delivering lots of great skiing for people on a tight schedule who want to maximize their precious time in the mountains.”

LR_HeliShoot220115-13While the rise of the US dollar might seem like bad news for Canadians, in tourism-based towns like Golden and Revelstoke, it means good news for the economy. “We’re lucky to have a strong economic base in tourism and we’re ready to welcome the influx of American tourists,” shares Tourism Golden Manager, Joanne Sweeting. “Tourism brings well over $65 million per year into Golden spent on accommodation, activities, dining, retail and other services – not only are our local businesses hiring more staff but they’re able to do renovations, buy more supplies locally, and generally increase the function of the local economy.”

The rise of the US dollar, combined with the absolutely epic winter we’re having is making northern ski destinations ever more appealing. “We only have a couple seats left in 2016 and are already approaching capacity for 2017. If you’re considering a heli-ski vacation, we’d recommend you choose a date and commit soon, or you’ll be waiting until 2018 or beyond,” shares Porter. “With the strong US dollar we now have to figure out a way to extend winter!”

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].”