Interview by Tom Jackson
Last Frontier Heliskiing has two lodges. Today I spoke with Mike Watling, Director, Sales and Marketing, about the Last Frontier Heliskiing Ripley Creek Lodge.
Look for our upcoming interview with owner George Rosett about his other operation, Last Frontier Heliskiing Bell 2 Lodge, coming soon.
1. Mike, Ripley Creek is known for more aggressive skiing, right?
Yes it is TJ. Some steep tree skiing and some monster alpine runs – some over 6000 vertical feet.
2. It’s also more aggressive on pricing, eh?
Right again. We can keep the prices lower at Ripley Creek because we are operating from a town. At our other lodge, Bell 2, we are totally self-sufficient which comes at price.
3. The lodging is actually a hotel. How does that work?
It’s a hotel but not quite like anything you have seen before. Erase any images of Holiday Inns or Best Western. This is a historic mining town and has a real Alaskan feel. The Ripley Creek Inn has quirkiness to it that our guests love. One of the buildings on property actually used to be abrothel. [Perfect for anyone who thinks they got screwed at another heliski outfit, eh?]
4. Your guests have their own dining setup, too, right?
You’ve done your homework haven’t you TJ…Yes we have the private use of a little restaurant just across the street from the hotel. Good food but nothing overly fancy. You are not paying for white linen at Ripley Creek, it’s all about the skiing!
5. How does the terrain compare to Last Frontier’s Bell 2 Lodge?
That’s a tough one but we get asked a lot. In short the terrain is very similar, but if I were to have to give you something concrete – probably more variety of tree terrain at Ripley Creek.
6. Describe the travel to Ripley Creek.
- Fly Vancouver to Terrace (2hrs)
- Ground transfer Terrace to Stewart (4hrs)
It’s called the “Last Frontier” for a reason. Just as the best surf locations are not found in downtown LA…. You need to travel to get the goods.
[Well said, and I hope I sit next to you on the bus!]
7. What is the average vertical for a week at Last Frontier Heliskiing’s Ripley Creek Lodge?
Around 160,000 feet [WOW!], but if there’s a keen group of skiers who want more – no problem – we can have shortened lunches. And in the spring ski much later. If you want to go home with jello legs – no problem bring it on….
Looks like Alaska, eh? It might be…
8. What is the best feature of Last Frontier Heliskiing at Ripley Creek?
I’m gonna enter the world of politics and say that there isn’t just one thing – it the whole thing. There’s a certain raw feel about being at Ripley Creek which you just don’t find at other locations…and it’s probably the small town that gives it the edge.
9. How does the weather compare to other parts of British Columbia?
Weather – everybody loves to compare weather, statistics etc. I think all skiers and heliskiers appreciate that it’s something we cannot control. There is always the chance of a down day. We only have the one helicopter operating from Ripley Creek most weeks so it’s not like we need the space in poorer weather to fly multiple machines. That’s definitely an advantage.
10. You ski in three groups of five, right?
Yup – total 15 pax. Sometimes we will run a private ship too. [Ship, that sounds cooler than chopper, I may have to start using it more]
11. How many down days do you average in a season at Ripley Creek?
About 1 a week.
12. What packages are you offering for 2012?
4, 5 and 7 days trips. A Safari which runs 4 days at Bell 2 Lodge followed by 3 days at Ripley Creek or vice versa; as well as what we call the Rippin’ at Ripley trip – kina like a steep camp for advanced skiers only.
13. Anything special offered [steep, safari, etc.]
Looks like a jumped the gun in Q 12! [just like a Ripley Creek Heliskiing dude. I bet he laps slow groups in a heartbeat]
Yes sireee. One plank or two – we don’t discriminate.
15. Is there anything else you would like to add about Last Frontier Heliskiing at Ripley Creek?
Hmmm. You can walk across the border into Alaska to get Hyderised. [Hyder Alaska is walking distance and famous for down-day debauchery]
Thanks, Mike. That seems like a good place to call it.
I hope to get up there to try the Safari this season!
Photo credits: Cafe and Lunch are Simon Pukl, others Randy Lyncks