Heliski with four-time Olympian, Chemmy Alcott

Elemental Adventure •

Our host, Chemmy, was the first British skier to win a world cup run and competed in 4 Winter Olympics before turning to presenting the BBC’s iconic Ski Sunday and leading personal development through coaching, speaking and yoga-based recovery. Her expertise and passion will bring another dimension, building your confidence, strength and flexibility over the course of the trip.

Chemmy will be taking 11 lucky skiers on an invitational trip to search for deep untracked powder in the wilderness of northern British Columbia and to improve their powder skiing skills and build backcountry knowledge and experience.

“We designed this trip with one aim - to maximise the chances of scoring the best skiing conditions imaginable” Chemmy

• Photo: Chris Kirkham
  • This is the world’s largest single heliskiing tenure
  • 20-30 metres of snow falls each winter
  • The trees are awesome to ski, but also create visibility for flying in bad weather
  • Mid-season dates maximize the chances of a deep, well-preserved snowpack
  • Small groups = less tracks and minimal waiting
  • Dedicated helicopter to explore and find the best snow

A tenure of over 10,000km2 is hard to comprehend. To put it in context, that makes it 28 times bigger than France’s Trois Vallées – and it is inundated with snow and reserved for just 30 skiers each week each winter. Terrain ranges from open alpine bowls to steep tree skiing and dramatic glaciated terrain.

Spot the heli to comprehend the scale... • Photo: Elemental Adventure
Spot the skier to comprehend the depth... • Photo: Reuben Krabbe

The Heliskiing Programme

The skiing will take place at Last Frontier Heliskiing's Ripley Creek over 7 days in 3 groups of 4 (+guide) with our own helicopter. The week will begin with briefings, issuing of safety equipment and transceiver training on arrival, followed by the chance to choose your skis from Last Frontier’s kit store which is packed with big fat skis.

Our guides will be searching for the best conditions and terrain to suit but also to challenge the group and develop our powder skiing technique and confidence. The package includes 30,500 vertical metres (which we expect to exceed) which very roughly translates into around 35 runs. The order of groups will rotate to ensure that everyone gets the same opportunities to ski and Chemmy will move between groups so that she can ski with everyone and share pointers on skiing in the kind of conditions that most of us rarely get to experience.

Each day, one group will leave directly from the helipad just down the road from the Ripley Creek Inn, while others will take a short road transfer to a staging area. This enables us to save waiting time and get deeper into the tenure. The guides’ morning meeting will be where the guides decide where to head based on accumulated data on latest snow conditions, weather, avalanche risk and the capability of the group, but the programme for the day will be adapted in real-time based on what we find in the field.

Descents can exceed 1000 vertical metres, starting in the alpine before diving into the trees where a buddy system is used for safety. The longest single run in the tenure is around 2000m – perhaps more powder turns in a single run than most of us get to ski some whole winters.

A hearty picnic lunch will be served in the field each day, usually consisting of sandwiches, hot soup, tea, coffee and treats. It goes without saying that allergies and dietary requirements are taken into account.

• Photo: Dave Siver
• Photo: Reuben Krabbe

Ripley Creek

Our base for the week will be the Ripley Creek Inn in the little town of Stewart, British Columbia. This is no alpine resort – located right on the Alaskan border at the end of the Portland Canal, its history is in gold mining and you’re more likely to find a gun shop and a liquor store than a Prada boutique or an overpriced restaurant. The hotel is spread across several heritage buildings in the town centre with meals and drinks served at the Bitter Creek Café. It is a rustic, no-frills kind of place and the rooms are simple yet spacious, but the food is good and plentiful and stories and laughs are shared in the hot tub or at the bar of the Bitter Creek Café. A walk to Alaska is a “must”, but check the morning forecast before you get “Hyderized”.

• Photo: Steve Rosset
• Photo: Steve Rosset

The Itinerary

The trip will run in the optimal period to maximise the chances of deep snow and good weather. By late February, the snowpack has had time to build up and stabilize but both the days and the breaks between storms are getting longer.

You will need to arrive in Vancouver by the evening of Thursday 22 February where we will stay overnight before taking the domestic flight north to Terrace on Friday morning. We will be greeted at Terrace before transferring by road to Stewart where we check in to Ripley Creek. Safety briefings, transceiver training and ski selection will be done before dinner. Heliskiing will take place from Saturday through to Thursday. On Friday 1 March we will ski for most of the day before transferring back to Terrace by road. We will stay overnight in Terrace before taking the Saturday morning flight back to Vancouver and connecting to our international flight. For anyone returning to Europe, this means arriving home on Sunday 3 March.

• Photo: Steve Rosset
• Photo: Geoff Holman

How Good a Skier Do I Need to Be?

The trip is aimed at anyone who enjoys skiing powder. There is a common misconception that heliskiing is only for extreme skiers. In reality, good snow conditions mean it is often easier than skiing in resorts and while there is no shortage of steep terrain around Ripley Creek, managing avalanche risk means that we are likely to be skiing runs of similar pitch to European “red” runs much of the time. That said, skiing in trees can often be steeper and tighter so you should be confident making turns in powder in trees without falling regularly.

If you ski like Lyndsey Dyer, it helps... • Photo: Grant Gunderson
...but as long as you can manage the trees, you'll be fine! • Photo: Reuben Krabbe

What is the price what’s included (and excluded)?

The trip is priced at CA$18,975 per person, excluding 5% sales tax. This includes:

  • Pre and post-heli skiing hotel nights (1 night in Vancouver, 1 night in Terrace) on B&B basis
  • Return ground transfer from Terrace to Ripley Creek Inn
  • Seven nights’ accommodation at Ripley Creek Inn in a twin room (breakfast lunch and dinner included)
  • Seven, days of heliskiing including 30,500, vertical metres
  • Guides certified by the ACMG / IFMGA
  • Technique tips from Chemmy
  • Use of powder skis, poles and all safety equipment including avalanche transceiver and avalanche airbag.

Additional costs you should factor in include:

  • Anything not mentioned above.
  • International flights to Vancouver and internal flights to Terrace (please consult us before booking).
  • Single occupancy supplements (CA$110 per night at Ripley Creek; price on request for pre/post heli hotels)
  • Heliskiing in excess of the guaranteed vertical (charged at CA$195 per 1,000 vertical metres). This is entirely optional and the amount of extra skiing that might be possible can vary significantly depending on conditions. In general, we advise people to budget on spending around CA$1,800 on extra skiing.
  • Insurance. This must cover you specifically for heliskiing and include medical and trip cancellation cover. Please ask us for advice if you are unsure of your options or consider our customised heliski insurance.
  • Alcoholic drinks.
  • Taxes and gratuities.
Ready for lift off? • Photo: Ashley Barker

How to Book

To secure your place you should ask us to reserve a seat. We will send an invoice for a 30% non-refundable deposit. Following receipt, we will issue a confirmation invoice at which point your booking is confirmed. Please do not book flights or anything else until this has been issued.

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