We are getting closer to the Finish Line
One of my Best Day Evers is captured clearly in my mind’s eye…I am exhausted as I shuffle through the trees into the middle of the night after a grueling August day. As I stagger across the transition from trail to dirt roads on the edge of a small Alberta town called Cache Creek, the shadows of my son and my best friend lit the night up with their cheers and hollers. Uplifted, in my heart, I start running, although in reality my son and best friend are walking while talking beside me, the only energy they are expending is their projection of forward momentum on me. As the town street lights appear, the past 17 hours of suffering disappear into the darkness of the mountains that can no longer be seen. The staged drama’s characters are defined in the finale and the story retold in a way that it is infinitely more meaningful and memorable than I anticipated. Instead of being alone when I reached the end, I lept past the finish line with my son and best friend, into the future by sharing with them one of my Best Days Ever.
Although this may sound like heading home on any given Saturday night during the pandemic, it was actually the last 3 kilometers to the finish line of the aptly named 125 km mountain ultramarathon called the Canadian Death Race in the summer of 2019. While the accomplishment of finishing such a monumental challenge makes the race a milestone, the experience of having my son and best friend as my support team all day long, and celebrating as a team at the finish line makes it hit the highlight real of my life. Accepting support from others and offering support to others, not only makes suffering a little more tolerable, it makes life so much richer. I own a memory that not only increased in value during the valleys of the pandemic, but I could also draw on it to dream of peaks of life still to come in the future.
Today feels like the 120th kilometer of 125 km ultramarathon, we have had enough of the pandemic yet we keep going because the finish line is getting close. Our businesses, Heather Mountain Lodge and Great Canadian Heli-Skiing, have not been able to host guests for the past 8 months since March 16th. With recent provincial health orders, restricting travel to our community until January 8th, it will be another month before we may be able to host guests. This is no doubt one of the most challenging events of our lives, and many of you have suffered along the way with us. Yet with the promise of vaccines, there is a future where COVID 19 will be under control. There are so many people cheering us all on. So we stick with our plan, we will cross the pandemic finish line: (1) Fight to make heli-skiing happen during the 2021 Winter season (2) Launch the 2022 season stronger than ever.
Fighting for the 2021 Season Takes a Community
Recent provincial health orders in British Columbia extended non-essential travel restrictions to January 8th. Accordingly, we have had to cancel Canadian guests until January 19th and international guests until February 21st. We empathize with the disappointment that canceling our guests causes, and are so grateful for the support offered back from those who have been impacted. More than that, we have sometimes been outright inspired by the kindness and thoughtfulness that some of our guests have extended to our seasonal employees who have been out of work due to the impacts of these closures.
One such case was when we recently had guests, whom we had to cancel over the Christmas Holidays, respond with sincere care about how all of the guides and pilots on our team were doing, and then graciously deciding that not only did they want to defer their deposits to the future, they would like to give an additional $5,000 to support our team. When people care so much, not only does it help our team with the financial impact of COVID 19, it also lifts all of our spirits knowing that our guests are cheering us on to a better future. Thank you so much for making our world a better place.
Our partners Ryan and Missy Hinds, and their whole team from Silverking have also been huge supporters, allowing us the flexibility to navigate our way through all these continuous changes. Their reply to our last delay says it all, “No problem at all. We understand completely. We are always here to help out in any way possible.” We are so grateful for this understanding and support.
Maaike and I recognize the impact that the delay of opening has had on our seasonal employees. Not only do our guides, and hospitality staff misses out on doing what they love to do, they miss out on income during the Christmas season. To make sure our long-time seasonal employees are taken care of, Maaike and I are putting $50,000 into our companies to create work opportunities while we remain closed. Through government programs, we think we can multiply the effect of this commitment to have a $100,000 impact to benefit our employees and their families. We know the future is going to get better and we want to make sure that we keep our team together, to be able to deliver to all of our patient guests as soon as it is safe to do so. We will continue to focus our energy to open in January and will be prepared when the helicopter is able to lift into the mountains.
Our Guests are Ready for Future Heli-Skiing
With so much uncertainty and constant changes around the 2021 winter season, we have also turned our attention to getting ready for 2022. It’s going to be great. One of our guests made a clear action plan not only to let us know that they are ready for heli-skiing when we are open, but they are supporting us every step of the way and encouraged to share their plan to inspire others:
“I am very sorry to hear that the staff, guides, pilots, and the hospitality team will be unable to work until January 15th or later.
- Please move my deposit for the four seats to the 2022 season. Please send me the 2022 dates.
- After you open in 2021 and have had your first two weeks of clients, please contact me then and let me know availability and total pricing for booking four seats for three or four days. If that trip happens, I will pay for it in full, separate from the 2022 trip.
- If no trip with me happens in 2021, please send me at the end of the 2021 season, an invoice for a second 25% deposit on the January 2022 trip (for a total of 50% paid in advance), so as to assist Great Canadian and its team through this crisis.
Already missing the powder and camaraderie.”
We are so grateful for our guests. All we can say is Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. It’s a common theme with most of our guests whom we have had to cancel have simply placed their deposits towards February and March, or 2022. We would like to thank each of the following guests and groups for their support, “Anderson, Andrews, Bass, Bills, Caines, Crabtree Kampe, Cunningham, Doman, Durso, Frazer, Glaisner, Gray, Hedin, Hellstrom, Herman, Hill, Hilliker, Hipp, Iglehart, Kampe, Locher, Manelli, Martinson, Mermoz, O’rourke, Ott, Perry, Potter, Powell, Prince, Prytula, Rothlisberger, Schwartz, Sharpe, Sjoberg, Suna, Wedgwood, Weibel, Liwerant, Sahm, Rosenberg, Hansen, Dahl, Weiner, Seetapun, Short, Vert, Pedrizetti, Sellinger, Connolly, Budenbender, Shipp, Richards, Hanks, Clancy, Yutani, Zarbrock, Gates, Jaramillo, Lochner, Miner, Mesard, Newton, Hughes, Broglio, Flamm, Caldwell, Newcomb, McIntosh, Devine, Petersen, Halliday, Driscoll, Benjamin, Vas Dias, Cardon, Taylor, Andary, Hardy, MacNeil, dePfyffer, Nosbusch, Diele, Derrick, Brown, Mackay, Webber, Wirthlin ” You and your group’s future deposits have truly have made a difference to our business, we thank each and every one of you.
We are ready for the Future
As soon as our guests are able to join us, we look forward to providing an exceptional food experience. We have had many excellent Chefs in the past, but when we set out to find a Chef to partner with us on building a Heather Mountain Lodge branded food experience – something that captures the essence of our landscape and feeds the celebrations of the day’s adventures – we couldn’t have imagined a better person than Stephan Drolet and his family. Not only will our winter guests have meals that pair perfectly with our champagne powder, but we will also provide our summer guests with a food destination that will please their palette while they drink in the views and relive and retell the mountain adventures that they have experienced. This summer our leadership team is also launching a guided hiking program for exploring Glacier National Park which is located 2 kilometers down the road from us. With the pent-up demand created for holidays, we can see already that summer 2021 and winter 2022 are going to be very busy. We are more than ready and looking forward to it.
We are Going to Go Far
To sum things up, we are ready for the continued challenges of 2020 and 2021. We are also getting ready for the opportunities of the 2022 winter season which is already getting heavily booked. With all the challenges the taste of victory at the finish line will taste that much sweeter.
Whether it’s our guides and hospitality team creating Best Day Ever experiences for our guests that they continue to remember, or our guests supporting us by creating hope with bookings into the future, it’s certain that we are truly in this together, and we could not be more appreciative of the wonderful, guests, partners and employees that we have surrounded ourselves with.
“If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.” African Proverb.
Happy Holidays and a Blessed New Year
From Our Family to Yours
Maaike and Greg Porter