We recently spoke with owner-operators Kevin & Amber about their 2013 inaugural heliskiing season at Bearpaw Heliskiing. Read about their first season exploring British Columbia’s expansive terrain, and all the behind-the-scenes stories of working as a heliskiing operator.
- Bearpaw Heliskiing takes off! Photo courtesy of Heliski Operator
1. Bearpaw only offers private packages with one small group per helicopter. What lead you to that unique model?
We want to offer skiing how we like to ski… in a small group, no waiting, no farming snow, lots of turns and fresh tracks all the time. Another factor was that there was no accommodation in Sinclair Mills so we had to start from the ground up. We wanted to create something super unique, something different from the big heli-ski operations.
Our lodge facility is being built one small building at a time, all of which are reclaimed old hand hewn log cabins restored to rustic 5 star accommodation. Currently we boast having the smallest heli-ski lodge in the world, but its pretty cool!
2. Last season was your first season. How did it go?
Awesome! It was a great season. We had a big snowpack 450cm+ and the powder was amazing. We had guests from Norway, Germany, Oregon, Washington, and of course some crazy Canucks.
3. Do you still have some first descents and runs to name remaining?
Oh yeah, plenty!
4. You boast BC as the “premier tree skiing destination.” Why is your tree skiing the best?
Our tree skiing is 100% natural here; we don’t need to make tree skiing by glading. We are skiing in decadent old growth spruce forests,
which have large natural openings, perfect for tree skiing.
5. Bearpaw has literally been on my map [of all heliski operations] for a while. What were the hurdles to opening?
Getting a long term tenure was the first big hurdle. We wanted to make sure we had it before building our lodge facility. The next hurdle was acquiring the perfect piece of private property to build on, then building the facilities in our spare time when we are not building log homes for clients (our other passion & business in our life).
6. Bearpaw is just North of Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing and CMH McBride. Good neighborhood, eh?
Awesome neighborhood! We can’t say enough about & thanks to Mark and Regina Aubrey from Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing. They are amazing people, so supportive of us (and Bearpaw). They are good friends and are always there for us. We have learned from the best! We also know that CMH are the leaders in the heli-skiing industry with strong stewardship practices and we look up to the great ones.
7. Your tenure is massive. Is Bearpaw the biggest heliskiing tenure in Eastern BC?
We definitely have a big tenure, but we don’t think its the biggest. Our tenure size is similar in size to Mike Wiegle’s Helicopter Skiing at 1.2 million acres.
8. Flying in-out of Prince George is very handy and reliable. Do they have flights out of Calgary this season?
Yes, Central Mountain Air just started to offer direct flights from Calgary to Prince George 4 days a week, only a 1 hr 45 minute flight! [Great!]
9. Tell us about the four mountain ranges you heliski.
Who else has 4 mountain ranges in their backyard, or tenure? We ski in the McGregor Range which is the closest to the lodge. It offers the best tree skiing, face shots and facilitates our bad weather skiing, with treed runs up to 3800 ft.
The Dezaiko Range offers much bigger alpine bowls, but no shortage of great tree skiing.
The Missinchinka Range has a little big of everything including the deepest snowpack in the tenure.
The Rockies offer our biggest alpine bowls and glaciated terrain with peaks up to 9600′, ski runs up to 5000′ long and spectacular scenery.
10. “The McGregors are the new Monashees!” Are there some new plate tectonics in BC?
Well, actually, no… The Monashees are thought to be the best tree skiing in the province, but not too many people know about the McGregors. So, if you think the Monashees are good, you ain’t skied nothing yet!
11. ”New” is not a feature promoted by many heliskiing operations. Tell us about your guides.
Bearpaw maybe a new heli-ski operation, but we have been backcountry skiing and working in these mountains for over 30 years. It’s our stomping grounds. All of our guides are fully certified ACMG Ski Guides with years of experience. Most of our guides have been guiding our exploratory heli-ski trips for the past 5 years, prior to our opening season last year, and have been guiding at nearby heli and cat ski operations.
12. Do you see many bears?
The only bears you will see here in the winter are Bear Cub Martinis! But, we do see a lot of bears during the rest of the year.
13. Now it’s getting interesting… OK, so what’s in a Bear Cub Martini?
Bear Cub Martini recipe:
2 oz. Schramm Vodka (distilled in Pemberton BC)
0.75 oz. fresh organic lemon juice
0.75 oz. wildflower homey syrup (1 part honey to 1 part warm water)
Small handful of muddled fresh B.C. raspberries
14. What happens if your chopper breaks down?
No problems whatsoever in this department. We are using Yellowhead Helicopters which has lots of depth to their fleet, so getting another machine in quickly is easy. The flight from their hangar at the Prince George Airport to our lodge is only 15 minutes.
15. How many down days did you experience last season?
None! We have really, really good ‘bad weather’ skiing, close to the lodge.
For more information on Bearpaw Heliskiing tours, visit: www.bearpawheliskiing.com