Pacific Crest Heli-Guides in partnership with HeliTahoe has announced plans to offer helicopter skiing and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe for the upcoming 2010-11 winter season. The operation will be based out of the Truckee Airport and access more than 100,000 acres of privately owned lands located along the spine of the Pacific Crest. By comparison, the combined total skiable acreage at all 14 ski resorts surrounding Lake Tahoe is less than 25,000 acres.
Besides a few small heliskiing enterprises in the early 1970′s, this will be the first full-fledged helicopter skiing operation launched in the Lake Tahoe region or in the entirety of the Sierra Nevada for that matter. The ambitious undertaking will include a number of year-round recreational options accessed by helicopter such as sight-seeing, mountain biking, fishing and hiking.
“To say this is a dream come true is an understatement. More accurately it is a culmination of my lifelong passion for skiing powder, my extensive experience within the ski industry and good timing,” said Dave Rintala, owner/operator of Pacific Crest Heli-Guides. “I can’t wait for the season to start given the prospect of skiing first descents on a daily basis, naming new runs and exploring fresh terrain with clients.”
The operation will be limited to a maximum of 16 guests per day with a ratio of one guide per four guests. The cost structure will be based upon flight time rather than vertical feet allowing like-minded guests to customize their experience based on their budget, their desire to ski/ride as much vertical as possible and/or their desire to explore a variety of different zones. Full day trips will start at $899 per person.
The biggest variable typically affecting the success of a helicopter skiing operation is weather. Pacific Crest Heli-Guides, however, plans to dovetail its daily operations with its existing snowcat operation to ensure clients who book in advance are guaranteed a day of backcountry skiing or snowboarding even during storm cycles. Pacific Crest Snowcats has been in business for nine seasons and operates on 3,000 acres of reserved terrain located between Squaw Valley USA and Sugar Bowl Resort. California’s only backcountry-based snowcat operation, Pacific Crest Snowcats boasts some of the best expert terrain accessible via snowcat in North America.
The terrain accessed via helicopter will be no different with an endless variety of open bowls, perfectly spaced trees, steep chutes and technical couloirs geared towards the advanced to expert skier or snowboarder. The north-facing aspects will hold their snow days after a storm while the south-facing aspects will provide for ideal corn conditions in the spring. The maritime snowpack found in the Sierra Nevada typically provides for stable conditions, not to mention the side benefit that the typical Sierra snowstorm is measured in feet rather than inches.
In fact, last season Lake Tahoe reported more than 600 inches of total snowfall which resulted in the region reporting its second busiest season on record. Additionally, backcountry skiing and snowboarding continues to be one of the fastest growing segments of the ski industry which has resulted in a return to the roots of the sport with skiers and snowboarders now placing a premium on untracked powder and the solace of being in the mountains.
“The timing couldn’t be better to open a business rooted in outdoor adventure with its main goal focused on sharing the beauty of the Sierra Nevada one powder turn at a time,” said Rintala. “Our approach is simple: we found incredible terrain, added a crew consisting of the most qualified guides in the industry and created an affordable, flexible price structure.”
In addition to founding Pacific Crest Heli-Guides, Dave “Happy” Rintala has been operating Pacific Crest Snowcats for close to a decade and is also one of the owner/operators of Alaska Backcountry Adventures, the original heliskiing operation located atop Thompson Pass near Valdez, AK. Rintala serves as the lead guide and primary avalanche forecaster for both of these operations. The guide staff for Pacific Crest Heli-Guides will draw heavily upon current guides at both Pacific Crest Snowcats and Alaska Backcountry Adventures bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and local field experience to ensure seamless operations. Guests can relax and enjoy their powder turns knowing that the individual guiding their group is an experienced avalanche forecaster with EMT certifications that has helped to set the industry standards for both client safety and customer satisfaction.
Rather than position the operation as a competitor to the existing Lake Tahoe ski resorts, both Pacific Crest Snowcats and Pacific Crest Heli-Guides view their unique offerings as products that complement the variety of world-class skiing and snowboarding options already available in Lake Tahoe.
“The addition of a helicopter skiing operation to the region allows Lake Tahoe to position itself as a complete winter destination on par with locations such as Whistler, Jackson Hole, Utah and Colorado,” said Rintala. “Pacific Crest Heli-Guides looks forward to being part of the ultimate Lake Tahoe skiing or snowboarding experience.