Pacific Crest Heli Guides make historic first turns in Lake Tahoe

Posted By: The Ski Channel on January 26, 2011 7:47 am

Pacific Crest Heli-Guides in partnership with HeliTahoe has officially added heliskiing to the world-class skiing and snowboarding options available to destination guest visiting Lake Tahoe. Capitalizing on the deepest early season snowpack in more than a half century, a lucky group of eight pioneering souls joined two of the company’s founding guides on a bluebird powder day in early January to celebrate the historical first turns of the new operation. This marked the first time in over thirty years that skiers accessed the bountiful snowpack of the Sierra Nevada via helicopter, and most likely the first time ever for snowboarders given the fact the sport had yet to be invented the last time heliskiing was attempted in California back in the early ’70s.

“What a way to start a season” said Dave Rintala, owner/operator of Pacific Crest Heli-Guides. “With more than twenty five feet of snow already on the ground, the timing could not have been better to explore our endless terrain, name new runs with guests and share a few summits with my fellow guides and friends who helped make this day a reality.”

Far from being new to the business of backcountry skiing and snowboarding, Dave “Happy” Rintala has been the owner/operator and lead guide for Pacific Crest Snowcats situated between Squaw Valley USA and Sugar Bowl Resort for almost a decade. He has also served as the lead guide and avalanche forecaster for Alaska Backcountry Adventures near Valdez, the original heliskiing operation in Alaska. Thanks to his extensive industry experience and longtime involvement at the local level, Rintala was able to draw on some of the most qualified guides in the business along with veteran helicopter pilots in order to get this dream-come-true business off the ground.

The operation is based out of the Truckee Airport and accesses more than 100,000 acres of reserved terrain located along the spine of the Pacific Crest from Donner Summit to the Sierra Buttes. More than four times the skiable acreage of all 14 Lake Tahoe resorts combined, the limitless terrain consists of open bowls, perfectly spaced trees, undulating rollers and north-facing chutes and couloirs. This new operation will allow Lake Tahoe to position itself as a truly world-class winter destination attracting advanced to expert skiers and snowboarders from around the world.

Full day trips start at $899 per person with the cost structure based upon flight time rather than a fixed number of runs or 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. Professional guide service, backcountry safety gear and a personalized lunch are also included in the price. The operation will be limited to a maximum of 16 guests per day with a ratio of one guide per four guests.

The biggest variable typically affecting the success of a helicopter skiing operation is weather. Pacific Crest Heli-Guides, however, has dovetailed 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.

In partnership with the Cedar House Sport Hotel, Pacific Crest Heli-Guides has announced “The Ultimate Powder Mission Package” showcasing the best skiing and snowboarding Lake Tahoe has to offer. The five night, four day package includes five nights lodging at the beautifully appointed Cedar House Sport Hotel, two days of lift tickets at either Alpine Meadows, Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort, Sugar Bowl Resort or Squaw Valley USA, one day of backcountry snowcat skiing with Pacific Crest Snowcats and one day of heliskiing with Pacific Crest Heli-Guides. Package prices start at $1,817 per person and also include daily breakfast, one dinner at the on-site fine dining restaurant Stella and lunch for both the snowcat and heliskiing portions of the trip (based on midweek rates, double occupancy; subject to availability). Premium packages are also available that consist solely of snowcat and heliskiing options. Pacific Crest Heli-Guides and Snowcats meet for their trips at the Cedar House Sport Hotel each morning at 8:00am allowing for the ultimate in convenience for guests. Contact the Cedar House Sport Hotel at 866.582.5655 for further details or log on to

“The Cedar House Sport Hotel has positioned their property as the ideal basecamp for destination guests looking to experience unique outdoor adventures in Lake Tahoe,” said Rintala. “The property has hand-selected the vendors with which it partners and we are excited to be a part of these offerings; similarly, we are certain that our clientele will enjoy the modern elegance and superior service that has become a trademark of the Cedar House.”

On the topic of outdoor adventure, Pacific Crest Heli-Guides in partnership with HeliTahoe also  offers a full spectrum of options during the winter months for the non-skier including mountaintop snowshoe tours, mountaintop wine tasting, mountaintop dinners with custom menus prepared tableside by personable chefs and scenic flight options filled with breath-taking views of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, Mt. Tallac and the Desolation Wilderness. During the summer months, guests can choose from helicopter accessed hiking and backpacking, guided fishing expeditions, downhill mountain biking, mountaintop wine tasting and dinners and numerous scenic flight options.

Providing year-round helicopter accessed adventures near Lake Tahoe, Pacific Crest Heli-Guides in partnership with HeliTahoe specializes in outdoor recreational opportunities that connect guests with the raw energy of some of the most magical places in the world. Trips can be customized to meet the wildest of imaginations or the most modest of budgets. Charter flight options are also available in and around the Lake Tahoe area including shuttle service to and from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.