Interview by Tom Jackson, HELISKI.com
I had the good fortune to ski a few weeks with Crescent Spur Heliskiing, most recently this last April. Mark and Regina have a unique offering,heliskiing in two groups of ten in the Rockies and Cariboos. Even though she knows better, Regina agreed to answer 15 Questions withHELISKI.com.
Running only two groups allows us to access all of our licensed terrain without the groups waiting on each other (which means we get lots of skiing in a day!) – and doing it at a reasonable cost. I don’t know why other operators don’t do it. This has been a good decision for us – our guests tell us they love the configuration of our program and our return rate supports this as well.
2. Your prices are among the best. Is that because
A. Your costs are lower
B. You are too nice
C. You are poor business people
Heli-skiing doesn’t have to break the bank. We are happy with what we charge. And – our price reflects our belief that it’s best to offer a base price for a set amount of skiing and then let the customer choose to ski more or not. There has been a lot of debate on offering a set amount of vertical or offering unlimited vertical. We offer 100,000 vertical feet for our 6 day package price and let you choose whether to continue skiing or not based on the snow conditions, your ability and fitness level. Our charge for additional vertical is so reasonable [actually lowest in Canada] that you would have to ski almost 206,000 vertical feet with us to reach the price that one of our competitors charges for an unlimited vertical package. While having just one bill for your package might seem convenient, in today’s challenging economy we think our guests appreciate that they are only paying for what they choose to ski.
However, we could charge YOU more Tom, if you like. [Oh, thanks!]
And – as you know, we ARE nice. [True]
3. Your lodge is in the valley between the Cariboos and the Rockies. This gives you lots of options, I know. How do the two ranges compare?
Within each range there is lots of variety/types of terrain. Most of our glaciated terrain is in the Cariboos. There is excellent tree and bowl skiing in both ranges. The snowfall is quite consistent between the ranges. Having the two ranges give us the option to choose where we think the best skiing will be on a given day. This decision combines snow quality, safety, visibility and flying conditions. This can differ from one range to the other on a given day so it is has certainly proven to be an advantage to have the choice of ranges.
4. I met lots of CMH (Canadian Mountain Holidays) alumni at Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing. Why do so many Million Vertical suits end up with you?
We see that people are trying a variety of operations. We have a great return rate – over 75% – which means that we have established a very loyal clientele. We have many guests that have skied with us for over 10 years. Our guests tell us they really like our “2+2+2” concept – 2 guides per group, only 2 groups in the entire operation, and 2 mountain ranges to choose from.
5. Your partner Mark was recently recognized with the “Founder’s Award” from the industry association, HeliCat Canada. Tell us about that, please.
The Founder’s Award is the highest HeliCat Canada award given by peers in recognition of “Extraordinary Leadership, Performance, Initiative and Contribution to the Aims and Objectives of HeliCat Canada”. Mark’s involvement with HeliCat Canada spans many years, including positions on the Board of Directors, Ethics Committee, and the Standards Committee (a position he still holds). Mark is also a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association.
Some of your readers may not know that HeliCat Canada is an organization of operators whose primary objective is to improve the safety of the sport of heli-skiing and snowcat skiing. HeliCat Canada, through its members, has sponsored a research chair at the University of Calgary, which has resulted in internationally recognized research projects and techniques that are directly used by professional practitioners today. In addition HeliCat Canada is continually updating its operation guidelines to reflect improvements in risk management. HeliCat Canada also conducts independent reviews of member operators by risk management experts to ensure that individual members are meeting the strict requirements of the operations guidelines.
Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing is now in our 20th year of operation – it seems like yesterday that we started – I guess that’s how it goes when you like what you are doing. We both started in the snowcat skiing business where we worked for a great snow cat company (me for 10 years, Mark for 6) before launching our own heli-ski company in 1992.
6. Travel to Crescent Spur is much easier than most Canadian heliskiing lodges. Last April the Trans Canada highway was closed due to a burning tanker. You called the train; had them stop to pick us up; gave us a few cases of beer and a couple bottles of Patron; and off we went to Prince George to catch our flights home. Can we do that again?
We can do that with our other groups, but I believe that your group unfortunately has been banned from any future train travel in Canada.[Who, me?]
You are right, however, in saying we are easy to reach. Everyone flies into Vancouver International Airport, and we are then a one hour direct flight to Prince George, where you are met for a 1 ¾ hour drive in our comfortable coach to our lodge.
7. Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing only offers 5 and 6-day trips. Why is that?
We are not situated close to any major cities, so we don’t draw the 3 day package interest. People want the 5-day/6-night or 6-day/7-night packages. We like this setup too as it means the group is together all week, without new guests coming in mid week.
8. How does the Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing weather and snow compare to other British Columbia Heliskiing locations?
The interior ranges of BC are a mixture of coastal and continental weather systems which means lots of snow, typically very dry snow, with minimal fog and frequent clear periods between storms. This makes for amazing skiing! [Yes, it does!]
9. What is the average vertical for a week at Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing?
It depends of course on a lot of factors but generally we will ski 130,000 to 150,000 vertical feet with good groups later in the spring reaching 200,000.
10. Your lodge has a family atmosphere (albeit a crazy family). What do you do to foster that feel?
We are just ourselves (and I think you described us pretty well..) and we have a great, friendly, highly professional staff – some of whom have been with us for 15+ years. We love what we do and I think it shows. We have guests that come from all over the world and they say they feel instantly comfortable here. We provide a warm, friendly atmosphere with incredible skiing– and the professionalism of our staff makes it appear seamless.
11. Any plans to hosts more than 20 guests at a time?
No, our program works very well as it is. Also, remember that we will run private groups where a group of up to 10 can reserve the whole lodge, helicopter and terrain for themselves. In this situation, it is truly a ‘private’ week, as there are not other groups of skiers in the lodge or on the terrain.
12. Did the term Man Soup originate in your hot tub?
I’m not sure, but I believe the correct term is “ass soup”. I’m also pretty sure it started with your last week here (of course I could be wrong…). It came about when 20 guys crowded in to our 12 person outdoor hot tub – kind of like the old days of packing a phone booth.
13. How many down days do you average in a season?
Each year is different depending on the season – but some years we haven’t missed a single day. Historically it sits around 2 days per season. We are fortunate that some of our best tree skiing is in an area we can reach in bad weather.
Our Macleod Creek drainage in the Cariboos is famous among our guests – people want to ski there whether it is a snow day or not – it’s just that good. We can ski an enormous area (miles!) of steep north facing trees from multiple landings. We get some of the best skiing of the week in when others might be unable to fly. We also have a great area in the Morkill drainage of the Rockies with dozens of tree skiing runs. [Yeah, top to bottom, perfectly spaced trees.....lather, rinse, repeat]
14. Who is your second favorite agent/tour operator and why?
We only have a favorite, no second favorites. Do you want me to say who the favorite is?? [Afraid to ask...]
15. Is there anything else you would like to add about Crescent Spur Heli-skiing?
People who haven’t tried heli-skiing should give it a shot – the value is definitely there. Most experienced skiers have the ability to do it, and will be rewarded with an incredible experience that goes beyond just the skiing.They need to give you a call! [Great idea! 866-HELISKI]
Thanks, Regina. Hi to Jessica, Erin, Adam and rest of the Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing family.
Thanks TJ (you’re the best..) [I KNEW IT! Eat your heart out Garry]