Hayley is a passionate skier, adventurer, and an Australian entrepreneur who has been searching for snow powder days her whole life. Originating from the least powderous continent on earth, has not stopped her succeeding in this quest, in fact it led her to numerous international powder adventures that formed the basis for Total Heliski, her heliski and catski and boarding promotion and booking company.Read More
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The next morning, as I stirred awake for another day in paradise, my first sensation was pain in every muscle in my body. My face and eyes were still puffy, just how I’d imagine a castaway from a ship wreck might be.
In my mind, whilst lying in bed, I recapped on the previous two days both in and out of the water in La Ventana. This place attracts kite boarders some of who come for months, some come from far, far away. It’s definitely a bit like a cult, a smug little in-club I thought! And after the two harrowing water days with permanent sun and salt water in my eyes, endless salt water drinking, not to mention my battered ego from constant failure, I was starting to appreciate perhaps why this might be so. To think, that every one of these people had been through this ‘initiation ceremony’ I’ll call it, and at once I had new-found respect for these people. Again my mind oscillated back to the thoughts of my beloved skiing, and I wondered is this how beginner skiers see the world also? I don’t know, when you learn to ski, you don’t almost drown. You maybe experience severe cold and painful falls, I guess they are comparable. Again, thank you mum and dad for putting me through this when I was three and can barely remember!
As I embarked on my second day of water kite boarding with Alan and Xantos from 4elementskiteboarding, this time the wind was right in the stunning La Ventana bay. I was told by Alan (my instructor) that La Ventana was named the best kite boarding location in the world. At the top of the top 10 for consistent wind and conditions of the location (the beach orientation is perfect for downwind kiting). As I looked out to the bay, I couldn’t help but think, they might be right. It was gorgeous. Now, let Battle Day 2 begin!!
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I know I’ve written about this before in my HaylesTrails blog.
Well, today, I had my first day of waterborne kite boarding lessons in the sleepy Mexican fishing village of La Ventana on the Baja peninsula. This town gets overtaken by kite boarders and windsurfers every winter, because of its consistent winds and perfect orientation for down-winding on a kite board. It’s a paradise from every which way you look, and pleasantly un-commercial. There are very few hotels and restaurants, just a couple of bars and no tourist shops. There’s but one kite board shop, a few more kite board schools, and everything revolves around just a few places, meaning in any given week, you’re likely to run into the same kiters again and again. If you’re from the West Coast of USA or Canada, and a keen kiter, you’re likely to bump into folks from home as I did. You learn quickly the meaning of ‘Baja Time’, which is that everything pretty much shuts down by 9 or latest 10pm each night. Such is the pull of the promise of next days’ wind, and the addiction and commitment of the worshipers to the religion of kiting! All very ‘genial’, as the French would say.
Today, Christmas Day, 2014 is the first day of my first ever kite boarding holiday. I’ve done lessons in San Francisco before, but this is my first dedicated holiday to this new sport, which has, for years now intrigued me. And to be honest, I did it with intrepidation at the potential frustration I am going to experience trying to learn a new sport now, and at the same time concerned for the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) I’d possibly experience by not heli skiing at this time of year.
Every ski town has them, I have been one, and in fact many of my readers probably have. The ski bum or I prefer to use the term ‘Soul Skier’. It’s the guys or girls who live to ski, who do everything in their power to be able to ski most days of the season, and do so (in some cases) year after year. They maybe pro, maybe not. They may have given up a real career or relocated just to pursue their passion. Either way, they are pretty much the biggest rippers and chargers on the mountain, adding to the mountain scenery in spectacular ways with their finesse, athleticism, and energy.
The term ‘Dawn Patrol’ originally referred to surfer’s getting up extremely early – sometimes before sunrise (i.e, “dawn”) to go surfing, a time when the waves are their purest, unaffected by wind, and when according to surfers, it feels most spiritual to surf. Surfing and skiing of course share many parallels (and enthusiasts). But for me, it was the the application of the concept to an early morning in the mountains that made for an extra special experience one February morning last winter. Reminiscent of a heli ski day, as close as I’m ever likely to experience in a resort.
We’ve all been watching with wonder and amazement the performances and emotional achievements of the worlds best winter athletes at The Sochi Olympics. Whilst also hearing the back story of this being the $51 billion Olympics, where not everything was ready on time, and the tap water is also a gold, silver and bronze colour! Sochi, and the resort of Krasnaya Polyana where many of the events are staged, was a small, rustic Russian village and ski hill up until the start of the games. I saw this first hand when I went there to heliski four years ago.
Early on last summer, I experienced a very difficult time in my life, after I suffered a serious road biking accident. I was first hospitalized, underwent surgery, then was out of all action, recovering for six months with strong pain from four badly broken ribs and a punctured, then collapsed lung. However, I was grateful that my injuries were not permanent, many others are not so lucky. With this in mind, I was determined to experience that missed summer in a special and powerful way at the next available opportunity. I thought why not head down to South America for an epic adventure, the best they can offer?
At the victory press conference for the 2013 America’s Cup, a reporter asked Jimmy Spithill, captain of Team Oracle USA, how he felt to be down 8-1 ‘matchpoint’ as it were, in the middle of the yacht racing series, after four long years of work, and with Team Oracle USA owner Larry Ellison, breathing down his neck. His answer was telling. Jimmy replied ‘It was very motivating’. I don’t think anyone would have expected or thought of that to be his answer, yet, it precisely described the only possible mindset that could allow Team Oracle USA to be able to crawl back from what appeared to be an impossible position to proceed to win the Cup from under the Kiwis expectant noses. That sheer determination to do better, to be singularly focused, and motivated at a time when everyone expected they would be discouraged and perhaps have lost all hope, was nothing short of remarkable.
‘To the truly engaged, work and play are one and the same’, Bill Tai (Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, Pro Kite Surfer, and Co-Founder of Mai Tai)
What happens when you combine some of the world’s most promising entrepreneurs, a buzzing kite surfing community, and the hottest kite boarding pros from all four corners of the world? It’s called ‘Mai Tai’, and I am not sure when you last took up a new sport, but here’s my story of losing my snow kiting virginity. Skiing with a windy twist!
It didn’t need to be a full-on powder day for me to recognise Mt Baker as a hidden gem in a world of powder options. I arrived on one of the busiest days of the season, with foggy, overcast skies, and several days since fresh powder had fallen. However, these conditions didn’t detract from the fact that Mt Baker had (and often has) the deepest snow base in the world.
Heli skiing and boarding may be portrayed in extreme films as for experts only, but for us mere mortals the reality is thankfully very different. I am personally not an ex racer, nor an ex freestyler, nor a pro. I am just a very experienced, keen skier, with a hunger for powder and an attitude that seeks thrills and adventure. While heli skiing is certainly not for beginners or under-confident skiers, the wonderful experiences it affords are accessible to anyone capable of tackling with aplomb red and black runs in all conditions.
Totally legal in many destinations around the world, in France heliskiing is against the law. While I may be a big fan of thrills on the slopes, I’m not so interested in drama off the slopes, yet I’ll be hosting our heliski tour in France this winter with no fear of repercussions. How?
In case you haven’t noticed, I love heli skiing. So much so that I started my own company based on one simple premise: Guide my clients to discover and visit locations and experiences that I love to ski. Period.
I’ve written previously about the amazing experience of heliskiing endless powder, remote wilderness, incredible views, awesome lodge experiences. I used to think heli skiing in Canada or Alaska is pretty exotic, cool, epic- all those words. But then, I went heli skiing in The Himalayas and that changed my view on everything.
After an awesome winter of 2012 adventure heli skiing and heli boarding some of the best locations on earth, I had added some top heli skiing spots in Canada and an epic Total Heliski Tour to heliski the Himalayas to my repertoire. But like Yin and Yang, this year as summer rolled around, I felt something was missing. Then I remembered it was two years since I had been scuba diving. I don’t recall what happened in 2011, but my knee reconstruction recovery took most of my attention away from my favourite adventure activities, including scuba diving. During my last scuba trip to the Red Sea (See Part A of this blog), I’d vowed from now on to focus on ‘destination diving’ (the heliski equivalent) via purpose-built liveaboard multi day scuba trips.
If you are a keen powder skier or heliskier like me, you are probably equally as adventurous in the summer time. For me, one of the summer sports I love is scuba diving. But like my skiing passion, I decided a long time ago that life is too short to waste, so I wanted to indulge in scuba diving only in the best spots around the world – the heli-skiing Canada equivalent of no less than the deepest, fluffiest powder under bluebird skies. In diving terms, it’s the clearest, bluest, warmest water, with the most abundant fish and corals, plus the chance to see big, audacious creatures like sharks, manta rays, or large turtles.
The saying bigger is better, but is that necessarily true? When it comes to the premium heliski experience, we are firm believers that bigger choppers aren’t necessarily better, and here’s why.
When embarking on a heliski adventure, your morning usually begins around 7am. Over breakfast the group’s energy and excitement mounts in anticipation of the day to come. Gazing outside, several feet of fresh powder snow has completely covered the once green and lush mountains, converting them into a winter wonderland. But what will really get your pulse racing is the sound of the approaching chopper, its blades whirring through the crisp air. The thud thud thud grows louder and everyone can see the small helicopter, the Bell 407, coming in to land.
So, when you’re heli-skiing in Canada or Alaska, here’s the low down on the helicopters generally used for heli-skiing:
The Queens Diamond Jubilee was an impressive extravaganza concluding without a hitch in the UK this past weekend. I think I join many other proud and patriotic Brits in taking my hat off to the UK for orchestrating yet another successful celebration with such pomp and ceremony following on from last year’s Royal Wedding. Few other nations could pull off such events to the scale and precision that the Brits do, and this must surely contribute to the perpetuation of tradition from which the UK tourism industry thrives.
In 1965, Hans Gmoser began the first commercial heliskiing operation in BC, Canada. Today, Western Canada commands more than 90% of the world’s market share. Here’s why it’s so popular.
1. It’s HUGE!
There’s nowhere like Canada for variety. Eight mountain ranges in BC alone provide the ideal terrain for skiers and boarders of all skill levels to experience the thrill of a helicopter ride to an untouched ridge. Hit a different run every day of the season, and you’ll never run out of fresh challenges.
2. Nature’s finest
We’ve all got our gripes with popular resorts. Lift line-ups a mile long; packed pistes; and when runs close, your ski pass still costs the same.
Well, whatever’s bringing your skiing holiday down, why not soar above it? With only yourself and the mountain for company, you can carve up the powder wilderness. Eat lunch looking out over seemingly infinite peaks; spot wildlife darting out of sight as you descend; and at night, relax by an open fire in a secluded lodge.
3. The never-ending season…
Well, spring’s arrived – time to stow away the skis and crack out the hiking boots, right?
Wrong! Canada’s unique geography allows winter to endure above the tree line right throughout April, keeping the snow beneath your feet just as light, fluffy, deep and fresh as it was in January.
And with places such as Banff and Jasper remaining open for resort skiing as late as mid-May, you’ve got the option of nudging the summer on the pistes, or enjoying a little warmth at ground level before jetting off to the Arctic, where it’s skiing season all year round.
If you’re interested in Heliskiing Canada, browse our great package deals to find yourself the holiday of a lifetime.
The Central British Columbia region is well known for a plethora of heliski operations, after all this is where heli skiing was born.
But there is an area in mid-northern BC where moose and the ethereal white Kermode bear begin to replace the population. It’s also no coincedence that it is home to some of the best heli skiing the world has to offer.
PART 2: REVELSTOKE
Mrs Simpson, wife of Don Simpson, the original visionary and former resort developer of Revelstoke, once described Revelstoke to me as ‘It’s like Aspen was in the 60’s’. Of course, I wasn’t around in the 60’s in Aspen to be able to verify, but it’s a pretty complimentary comparison, and I think I can see why. 2011 marked 125 years of the community of Revelstoke, originally founded as a railway town, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was built through the Selkirk and Monashee mountains, the town soon saw the tourism potential and named Mt Revelstoke a national park in 1914.
PART 1: CES TOUR TRIP REPORT
The primary reason for my visit to British Columbia was to host a Total Heliski Member Tour at our operator, whose renowned tenure at Eagle Pass sits opposite the ski resort of Revelstoke. Arriving from the distinctly barren and over-the-top environment of Las Vegas where the party had been undertaking a large electronics industry conference known as CES, it couldn’t have been more of a contrast to land in the hazy, overcast, snow-covered airport of Kelowna early in the afternoon of Jan 14. Our drive up to the lodge made us excitable as our driver broke the news of the current epic snow conditions to us, all the while as the snowfall got heavier and heavier on the windscreen. I was justhoping that we were going to have enough decent weather to be able to fly the next day.
I enjoyed my visit to the Total Heliski London Show 2011 even more than I was expecting. Why? Because I came away having won a 3 day heliski holiday with Snowwater in Canada!
Even though I’d heliskied before I was very apprehensive as I’d heard that Total Heliski was for “hard core” skiers whose aim was to cover the maximum number of vertical meters during their stay. Being fifty-seven (and three quarters), a little older than the average Total Heliski customer, I realised I had to get into serious training. I took my 22 year old daughter Katie – at least that brought our average age down a bit!
I often have requests from my friends and Total Heliski Members to post footage of the great experiences I have heli skiing. These are also the personal memories that I cherish now and forever, since you can’t take anything but memories with you from this Earth. Taking still photos with the small point and shoot cameras is a breeze, but getting great video footage, whilst not holding up the heli program and wanting to enjoy the experience always illuded me until the appearance of the GoPro Camera.
Getting fit for the Northern Hemisphere ski season? If you’re a serious snowsports enthusiast, then the answer must be yes. But spare a thought for what it would be like if you had to get ski fit after a serious injury last season? I for one, have had to do this, after a tough few months of rehab from a pretty big knee injury and two knee surgeries. So, getting back to ski fitness is not just a good thing to do, for me, it’s been essential to ensuring an injury-free future.
With the ski season fast approaching, I have been inundated with questions from friends and clients on everything heli skiing. Their main questions, I call Heliski 101, and can be summarized in three words:
When? What? How?
When is the best time to go skiing?
What can I expect once I get there in terms of facilities?
How do I prepare for heli skiing?
As I was walking around the London Ski Show last week, looking at the various skis on display I couldn’t help but marvel at the choice these days. There are now so many different types of skis to choose from and some of them like the new Salomon BBR look more like a surfboard than a ski! With my experience skiing for so many years in different conditions and all around the world, I knew what I wanted, but I saw a number of faces around me looking from ski to ski wondering where to begin!
Being the founder and CEO of Total Heliski brings it perks, I can’t deny.
They usually occur in the winter, however, a few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited by a Total Heliski client to sail with him and his Australian pro-crew, on his yacht in the Rolex Maxi Yacht Regatta held in Porto Cuervo, Sardinia, Italy.
In my last blog post, I started writing about common myths about heli skiing. Here I continue the series….
Myth 2: Heli Skiing is exorbitantly expensive and only the extremely rich and famous should think about doing it.
Reality: It is definitely an investment above a regular ski holiday, since it’s an incredibly difficult logistical experience to supply safely, but there are lower entry points that you expect
In my last blog post I interviewed Mike about his first heli skiing experience. Apart from the questions I asked him for the blog we also got talking about heli skiing in general and why it took him so long to hear about it. One of the things that stood out during my conversation with him was the fact that, there are a lot of myths and pre conceived notions, most of them wrong, about heli skiing. These myths are what put a lot of people off the idea of trying heli skiing!
I have written a number of blog posts about my passion for heli skiing and my experiences during my trips. And whenever I speak to people, especially the ones new to heli skiing, I speak to them about what it is like for me to experience the fresh powder when I ski. During one such conversation I said to myself “Hang on a minute. What they really need, is to hear from someone who they don’t consider an expert. They need to hear from someone, who until recently was just as new to heli skiing as they are!”
This got me thinking and I decided to get the thoughts of my client, and friend, Mike who had recently gone on a Total Heliski trip.
The Total Heliski team asked him a few questions and this is what he had to say….
So Mike, what made you take the plunge and go heli skiing in the first place?
Hayley’s awesome salesmanship at the Heli Skiing Show, insisting anyone can do it who can competently ski or board off piste in a resort. I had relatively little snowboarding experience compared to what I expected you needed and hoped I would cope in the field!!
Midsummer in the northern hemisphere means lots of outdoor theatre, parties, BBQs, and picnics. But whilst we may be ‘ski-dreaming’ in summer, our operators are investing in improvements for your skiing pleasure.
Not a lot really, but I thought this was a neat title to use for this blog entry about my recent experience at the 2010 (London) City Ski Championships.
Whilst Total Heliski members were flying through the pow-pow in Canada, Alaska, and Europe this season, Total Heliski set our sights on our mission to convert a whole bunch of neat, disciplined ski racers into free- willed, hedonistic heliskiers.
I was chatting to one of my operators last night, to their lead guide, who told me that he’s in the heliski business for his love of heli skiing (no surprise). And he told me that the reason he wanted to work with me, was because he could see from my website and had heard through the grapevine, of the passion that I hold for skiing and specifically heli skiing. No surprise either.
Due to a recent injury, I’ve been forced to take a little break from heli skiing. Of course, I am devastated, but, on the plus side, this gave me a chance to do some other things with my time during winter for once. A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine suggested I visit possibly the world’s most influential festival in music, film and everything- the-internet, none other than SXSW (pronounced south-by-south-west), or just ‘south by’ to the indoctrinated.
But then again, ISPO 2011 isn’t exactly your every day trade show. What’s ISPO you ask? Well, it’s the world’s largest sporting goods trade fair, and it’s literally a gear freak’s wet dream. The most extensive ISPO is held in Munich every year, and has grown to a size no less than 12 (Yes 12) massive exhibition halls full of every conceivable brand of sporting goods ranging from winter to summer sports that you can imagine.
This blog was written just after my trip last year.
As I sit here on the plane, on the long flight home from Valdez Alaska, I am literally brimming with blogs that I can’t wait to write about my adventures up here. To think that for the Easter holiday in the UK, I considered going to Marrakech instead of AK. Unbelievable to me now, given how epic it’s been.
This was to be my 4th trip across the Atlantic this year, to explore amazing heli skiing options. But when Matt White, heliskier, owner and operator of Valdez Helicamps suggested I hit it at Easter, he was spot on with his timings. The conditions were excellent.
I am fascinated by the concept of ‘ tipping point’ as it relates to the commitment to go heli skiing (for first timers), not in the collective sense of the market, but in the individual sense. In business speak, the tipping point normally refers to the moment when a product or service achieves mass adoption. For Facebook it was several years ago, for Groupon it’s more recent. As an expert on heli skiing, I wish I was better at determining the individual tipping points of my clients sooner. It might allow me to better manage my time and disappointment. Here’s what I mean.
As 2011 unfolded for me, almost 18hrs after it did for my friends and family I’d just left behind in Australia, I was fortunate to be in one of my favourite places on earth, doing my favourite past time. I was in interior British Columbia, tucked away in a little known remote heliski lodge called Snowwater, embarking on a 4 day heliski tour with my Total Heliski company clientele.
I am sitting on a plane, embarking on the second leg of (I am guessing), my 40th trip around the world. Today I left for a Heliski and Catski trip across British Columbia, Canada, I am hosting for Total Heliski Clients.
As we have been in the peak sales period now for Heliski and Catski Tours, I have recently been thinking about my interesting predicament as the CEO of Total Heliski, my heliski bookings and media business.
Singles Heli-skiing anyone? When a bad situation turns into good. And good turns into an opportunity.
I couldn’t help myself, but I shed a small, private tear this morning.
I don’t often cry, but it’s been almost a week now, that we have had the global volcanic crisis. And, I have had the opportunity to have the company of two Aussie girlfriends who have been stranded extend their stay with me. One, Liz is my dearest best friend since university who was visiting en route to further travels. The other, Dani is a recent friend, who owns Swiss Ski Safari, one of my Total Heliski operators, she was popping into London to do some business. Both are stranded and not surprisingly, we’ve had an amazing time together hanging out in my Kensington apartment, especially since the London weather has been amazing. We were discussing how the three of us feel like we’ve known each other for years, and that if it weren’t for this incredible event, that we wouldn’t have had this chance to hang out and have so much fun together. I am sure that there are stories like this all over the world right now.
Is it about the journey or the destination?
The destination: For all the talk in my last blog about the journey. Let’s face it- when it comes to heli skiing or heli boarding, it’s totally about the destination.
So, in the last post, I shared the founding of Bella Coola Helisports. Now- let me paint the picture of your destination and the experience that is ‘Bella Coola’. Here’s a little photo essay. After all, they say a picture tell a thousand words, and to be quite honest, experiencing the real thing pretty much left me speechless…
The story goes like this:
Imagine, taking a group of your best ski or boarding buddies,
Is it about the journey or the destination? Part 1
Given that this year alone, in my quest to test the goods for Total Heliski, I have circumnavigated the world several times, spending over 100 hours inside a metal tube, or in obscure airports doing transfer layovers, I started pondering about the age old question, whether in heli skiing (as in life), Is it the journey or the destination that matters more? So, I start Part 1 of this piece, with the argument for the journey.
Heli skiing Russia style, Krasnaya Polyana (KP)
I set off for Sochi one January Friday afternoon after my business duties in Moscow with two aims in mind. One to check out Krasnaya Polyana, the Russian ski resort hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. The other, to go heli skiing Russia- style with the French- owned Russia heliski operator I represent with Total Heliski. I achieved one of the two- you can guess which one.
Out the back of Kicking Horse Ski Resort with Great Canadian Heliski Mountain Guide- Dave Rutherford.
Ever wondered why a guy who gets paid to heliski would want to strap on a pair of skins and walk up hills for fun? Well, meet Dave Rutherford. A Canadian BC powder country local who started his career as a Banff liftie, and progressed to become a Level 4 Canadian Mountain Guide, and ‘2IC’ at Great Canadian Heli skiing. Ask him this question, and he might tell you that he appreciates the fortitude from ‘earning your turns’. That’s easy for him to say……
Epic and consistent. Sitting on a train en-route to Austria for the British Telemark Ski Championships, reflecting. At last weeks London Total Heliski Info Show event, the crowd were blown away with the pictures I shared of epic and consistent skiing at Chatter Creek Cat over New Years. Here are a few shots that sum it up. Mmmm. Where to start?
Talk about a whirlwind few months. When I look back on it, I kept getting signs from all sorts of people and places that I felt were encouraging me to invest my time and energy into something that turned out to be Total Heliski.
Wow, Christmas rapidly came. As an Australian living in the Northern Hemisphere, firstly, its still a novelty to have the wintery Christmas lead up, with the Christmas lights experienced in the dark as they should be. However, you always have to make some decisions at least 6mths before about whether it will be a ‘return home, see family’ Christmas or a ‘go on holiday Christmas’. In my case this year, because I did the Christmas thing in Australia in November, I was able to do the latter, and you will see how thankful I am.
I thought the most appropriate starting point for my blog is to talk about my philosophy: Seize life, realize your dreams and create everlasting memories. It really is at the heart of my blog and my new company called Total Heliski. I came up with this sentence recently when I was trying to crystallize what I am all about? What makes me happy and drives my life? And what could I perhaps share positively with others?