AK Steep + BC Comfort = Valdez Heli-Ski Guides

Posted By: The Ski Channel on February 4, 2013 3:38 pm

Here is the latest in our Heliski Operator Interview Series – Valdez Heli-Ski Guides (VHSG). 
Mandy, Goddess of Valdez Helisk Guides, Alaska

I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Raynor and Mandy (marketing manager and Scott's handler) at the Hog Island Oyster Bar in San Francisco in December.   Scott has an impressive resume including avalanche expert, guide, ice climber, ski bum, fisherman (running a crab boat ala Deadliest Catch), Alaska heliskiing pioneer and now VHSG owner.  Mandy is also a bad betty from Utah.  Oysters, chowder, beer, tequila and a view of the Bay resulted in the following discussion.   Enjoy.

1.  Mandy, is hot.  Can you think of any reason our subscribers should
call me instead of her??

You are more objective?

2.  VHSG built a cool new lodge for 2013. Tell us about it, please.

Built in 2011, the new lodge is an 18,000-square-foot custom designed heli-ski lodge built on the footprint of the historic Tsaina Lodge. Perfectly staged in the heart of Thompson Pass, the Tsaina houses 32 guests in 16 single- and eight double rooms with private baths. The restaurant is phenomenal and, of course, the bar, reminiscent of the original, is always a great time. All of it, including a boot and gear drying room and fitness room, is just steps away from the VHSG heli-pad.

Valdez Heli-Skiing Guides Lodge

3.  Does this mean VHSG is going soft, and catering to FGP clients???

Yes and no. The core of our business continues to be geared toward the advanced and expert skier and rider. But one of the many beauties of the Chugach is that there is also a lot of terrain that is suitable for the advanced-intermediate skier and rider.

heliskiing alaska lodgealaska heliskiing luxury

valdez heli-skiing alaska dining room

4.  Scott, you are one of the old timers in the Alaska Helicopter Skiing business.   Will you summarize your heliski resume?

Alaska Heliskiing Guide, Scott Raynor

Scott Raynor – The Pablo Escobar of Heliskiing?

I started out as a self-employed backcountry ski touring guide in the western Chugach. For five years I combined this with snow safety work at events throughout Alaska. As the Alaska heli-ski industry evolved, I was lucky enough to be connected with good companies. During my second year heli-ski guiding I became the VHSG operations manager and avalanche forecaster. Four years later, in 2000, I bought the company. I’ve also heli-ski guided internationally, in places like Chile, New Zealand and Greenland.

5.  VHSG is unique in how you organize your groups.  How do you run two helicopters and up to 24 guests?

Actually, we run three helicopters with up to 32 guests. We offer different package styles that determine which helicopter each client will be in: a public or private ship. The public ship is for up to 16 guests in four

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groups of four. We also offer the exclusivity of a private ship for groups of up to eight guests.

Valdez Heliskiing Guuides

6.  Tell us about your location, and why you chose it.

It’s really the best location for heli-skiing in the Chugach. Located 35 miles inland in the heart of the range, our terrain gets hit with the coastal storms but also benefits from clearing skies of the interior. Our base at the Tsaina Lodge is just north of Thompson Pass and the clouds typically abate at this location. [Check out this video of the early days of Valdez heliskiing]

7.  Describe the terrain, please.

We have an incredible variety of terrain at our fingertips, most of it heavily glaciated. There are steep mountain faces, large powder bowls, long couloirs and everything in between. We have it all.

VHSG Heli-Skiing Terrain

8.  How many days do you fly in an average week?

Five. We typically fly 80 percent of our season.

9.  You price it by runs, why?

It’s a lot easier for the client to track.  [I resemble that!]

10.  What is the average vertical in a week that a guest can expect to ski?


11.  What dates are you open in 2013?

We are open March 3 through April 27, 2013.

12.  Why is it that the snow 'sticks' to the steeps better in the Chugach/Valdez than other areas??

Typically our snow comes in warm and leaves cold, [ Like my old girlfriend....]the perfect recipe for snow sticking to all aspects of steep terrain. It’s also a great recipe for good snow stability.

13.  Many BC heliskiers are intimidated by Alaska.  Ski porn makes it look death-defying. Can the CMH and Wiegele clientele handle Alaskan helicopter skiing?

Yes they can. Ski movies and magazines always showcase the steepest of the steeps; it is the most dramatic. What they don’t show is the vast, and equally spectacular, terrain that most heli-skiers enjoy in reality. A majority of our runs are just straightforward steep powder skiing. No cliffs, no jumping; just good, old-fashioned steep skiing fun!

Alaska Heliskiing

14.  How about first time heliskiers?

First-timers are always welcome. A successful VHSG stay for a first-timer is not based so much on prior heli-ski experience as it is on his or her powder skiing skills. Guests need to be confident and capable of skiing in deep powder snow.

helicopeter skiing alasaka with VHSG

15.  Can we see more of Mandy?

Mandy and Friend

Thanks, Scott!


Tom Jackson

CPO (Chief Powder Officer)

Skype  HELISKI.com

Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder