This winter marks North America’s first full cold season in the midst of COVID-19. Where the onset of the pandemic abruptly closed many heliski lodges last March, those same lodges have been working for months to put new health and safety protocols, according to the most updated requirements from medical experts, in place to welcome guests back this winter.
One of the emerging trends in the industry is an option to buy out the entire heliski experience for you and your chosen bubble of people. Where you would normally be sharing a helicopter and the lodge with other groups, and might even be skiing with people outside your party, some operations are now emphasizing full lodge buyouts to give their guests the most comfort and assurance possible. These are some of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for the most luxurious ski vacations on offer.
Mica Heli-Skiing is widely known as the most luxe heliski operation in the industry, offering small-group skiing in a spectacular alpine environment that spans over 500 square miles of mountains. The modern-crafted lodge, perched above Kinbasket Lake, hosts only 20 guests max, boasts two rooftop hot tubs looking out over the lake and its surrounding peaks, a ritzy bar, fireplace lounge, and rotating art on the walls from its artist-in-residence program. The dining room’s row of floor-to-ceiling windows showcases alpine sunsets best enjoyed over Mica’s signature innovative gourmet meals made with seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients.
Custom lodge experiences are nothing new for the seasoned guides and savvy staff at Mica, who’ve already created such experiences as bringing in a five-piece orchestra that composed and performed a piece for a guest during their stay, building backflips from snow outside the lodge for one keen group to hit after après, and flying a grand piano onto a glacier. Mica has also been offering full lodge buyouts for guests since its inception, making it practiced in the industry.
“We have several guests that book out our lodge exclusively and we work closely with them to create customized experiences that are all about them,” said Nicole Frico, CEO of Mica Heliskiing. “If they want to ski hard and fast then that’s what we do, if they want to have lunch on a glacier we work with them to make it happen. For us it is all about making sure they have the time of their lives with the people they care about most.”
Great Canadian Heli-Skiing
As a family-owned and -operated lodge since 1988, Great Canadian Heli-Skiing prides itself on being the innovator of small-group heliskiing. All of its packages in any given winter are skied in small groups of four guests or less and include unlimited vertical (no extra vertical charges). Its timber-frame lodge offers rare drive-in access, situated as it is on Rogers Pass on the doorstep of Glacier National Park (which frequently sets records for the snowiest place in the country), and also uniquely offers flexible trip dates from two days up to ten.
This winter, Great Canadian has created a few different private packages to accommodate guests looking to ski with their bubble, from private group (buying out extra seats in the helicopter to ski with just your party), private helicopter (so you don’t have to share the helicopter with other groups), to the full lodge buyout of the entire experience. For this last, most luxe choice, Great Canadian offers the option of one helicopter, best for groups of 12 or less, or two helicopters, for group sizes of 13 or more.
“People are starving for opportunities to share experiences together,” said Greg Porter, owner of Great Canadian Heli-Skiing. “Our Private Lodge heli-skiing package is about comfortably reuniting you with those you care most about, to celebrate life, the most valuable luxury in our current reality. Our small groups and unlimited vertical, gives our guests control to feed their souls with adventure and personal connectivity. ”
Founded in the 1960s by the legendary Hans Gmoser, Canadian Mountain Holidays is the world’s original heliski operation. From its pioneering beginnings in an abandoned sawmill camp, it now has lodges all over British Columbia, including CMH Valemount. This lodge was already CMH’s private luxury offering out of its locations, and was voted “One of the World’s Five Most Luxe Lodges” by SKI Magazine. Its ski terrain encompasses 500 runs over 925 square miles.
Its ten rooms with private balconies hold ten guests maximum, making it an already exclusive experience. The premises also hold a bouldering wall and a pool in addition to the other usual heliski lodge amenities like a hot tub, sauna and fitness room. The beauty of CMH is that it also caters to non-skiers with activities like dog sledding, snow shoeing, snowmobiling or cross-country skiing around the lodge—which means you don’t have to abandon your non-skiing partners, family, or friends for this dream vacation.
“Given the current global conditions, now more than ever, people are searching for ways to adventure while being able to feel safe.” says Jeremy Levitt, President of CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures. “CMH Valemount creates a unique opportunity to do just that. From the second you step onto your private jet from Calgary Airport, you and your cohort are in for a completely private experience, from the exclusive lodge to your own helicopter and guides ready to show you all of the secret stashes in our massive Cariboo tenure.”