Tatla Lake, British Columbia—Pantheon Helisports, North America’s newest and most adventurous heliskiing operation, will this spring be the first to offer what Pantheon calls HeliAssist"¢ trips, which offer a combination of ski touring supplemented by daily heliskiing-style helicopter lifts deep within British Columbia’s Coast Range north of Whistler. In addition to its first full season of heliskiing trips in February and March 2006, Pantheon will offer HeliAssist"¢ trips in April.
Guests on Pantheon HeliAssist"¢ trips will be able to explore some of Canada’s longest powder-skiing runs (up to 5,000 vertical feet) and some of the last unexplored ski terrain in British Columbia (Pantheon’s operating area contains half a million acres) in a higher adventure format — one that also costs about half the price of small group-format heliskiing trip.
“Right now, there’s just no middle ground between the more adventurous feel of a ski touring trip and the higher cost of heliskiing, and HeliAssist represents something in the middle that doesn’t yet exist, said Eric Ringdahl, Pantheon’s founder. “There are touring operations where you get a helicopter ride in, ski tour for a week, and then a ride out at the end of the week. And there’s full-blown heliskiing, where there is little or no room for exploration and self-powered ascents of slopes that are inaccessible by helicopter.
“We’re creating a hybrid that allows groups to exponentially increase the amount of skiing they’d get just from ski touring alone, yet at the same time allows for the exploratory and adventurous feel of ski mountaineering. Essentially, it’s what you’d do if you were a ski mountaineer in search of that perfect run of the season and you happened to have your own pilot, guide and helicopter.
With the HeliAssist"¢ format, eight guests per week are flown into a remote, expedition-style camp deep in the Coast Range. From that comfortable base camp — which has a heated locker-room tent for drying gear and a spacious chef’s tent for dining and socializing — guests enjoy excellent, fresh cuisine prepared by an on-site chef (who doubles as the Yoga instructor) and out-the-tent-door access to some of BC’s best ski touring.
When the weather and snow conditions permit, guides and skiers radio for a helicopter stationed nearby to give them quick access to high alpine ski descents. On average, one helicopter lift nets ski groups an extra 5,000 vertical feet. One helicopter lift per day is included in the base cost of the trip (though groups can choose to use multiple lifts on some days and none on others). Groups can also choose to use the helicopter more or less, depending on their budget and abilities, which adjusts the price accordingly. This kind of a-la-carte helicopter use for skiers does not exist anywhere else in BC so close to such world-class terrain.
“The HeliAssist once a day means that it’s possible to ski 10,000 or 12,000 vertical feet in a day, compared to a more common average of 5,000 or 6,000 feet at a traditional touring operation, Ringdahl said. “That means you can reach terrain that you couldn’t otherwise ski while ski touring because it would take you the whole day just to access it. And because the group has the ability to tour, HeliAssist also means the skiers can also reach terrain that’s not accessible to traditional heliskiers. Sometimes there’s a run you really want to ski but no convenient places to land. So HeliAssist opens up the options in a variety of ways.
Ringdahl said the HeliAssist format is unique and not likely to be replicated elsewhere because no other there are no other pristine ski touring areas void of other uses so close to an existing heliport. He got the idea for HeliAssist, and believes there will be interest among skiers in it, because there’s been an explosion in backcountry touring in recent years, and because he thinks there’s interest in an adventurous ski experience with a price tag lower thaan traditional heliskiing.
“This is how we always went heli skiing. It grew out of our own experience, he said. “And when we started sharing out stories with people, the thing we heard a lot was, ‘that’s what I want to do.’ The mindset was not that we wanted to maximize our vertical every day. We wanted to go out and find that run of season, that run of a lifetime.
This winter Pantheon will offer limited availability of HeliAssist format ski trips in order to insure high quality. In coming years, HeliAssist will be expanded based on demand. A week of HeliAssist"¢ skiing at Pantheon costs $5,000 Canadian, including accommodation, guides, meals and heli-time (one lift a day, extra lifts available for the cost of heli time). Tax, alcohol and flight from Vancouver are not included. The flight from Vancouver costs $360 Canadian round trip, and guests may also choose to drive.
For more information, visit www.pantheonheli.com or call toll free in North America (866) 404-HELI.
About Pantheon Helisports
With 700 square miles of ski terrain in the Pantheon, Waddington and Niut Ranges located between Whistler and Bella Coola, British Columbia, Pantheon Helisports opened in winter 2005-06 to offer a distinctly different ski experience. Guests at Pantheon ski more adventurous terrain (some of the biggest ski runs in BC, options for first descents), ski in smaller groups (more skiing, less waiting), and experience a more remote, untouched and sublime setting (there are no other commercial uses in any of Pantheon’s half-million acres). Pantheon’s terrain is world class; the mountains were featured set in movies such as Seven Years in Tibet, KundunI and K2. Heliskiing guests stay at the Pantheon Lodge with its rustic, comfortable guest cabins, situated on the White Saddle Ranch near Tatla Lake, BC.