Following the snow this year, I ended up at one of the most impressive places I have ever visited. Terrace, BC, boasts some of the most incredible terrain south of Alaska and took my breath away at every turn. I was lucky enough to stumble across Northern Escape Heli Skiing in search of things to do in the area.
I had vaguely heard about the operation but didn’t know much about it. We arrived at the Yellow Cedar Lodge on a 40cm bluebird day and skied big alpine lines all day long. It was hard to wipe the smile off of my face. Can’t ask for more than that! Northern Escape boasts more than 250 named runs and 5,500 square km’s of terrain. I literally felt like I was on top of the world with huge mountains in every direction as far as my eye could see. The area is lightly populated, so you can pretty much guarantee you won’t see a soul while skiing. They also have unlimited vertical and backup cat skiing, so no matter what the weather is doing, you are guaranteed to ride. Deep powder, professional staff and big mountain terrain will make you want to come back for more. If heli skiing all day isn’t enough, Northern Escape runs several luxurious lodges with workout rooms, après-ski, delicious homemade meals and saunas. You can check out pictures from my trip at the bottom of the page.
“…it only gets skied once every couple years as it’s really big and very long with a consistently steep pitch through huge alpine terrain with icefalls and broken glaciers.“
I was able to interview the general manager of Northern Escape, John Forest, and ask him about his operation:
Can you give a quick background on your career prior to Northern Escape?
Prior to Northern Escape I worked with and managed several other leading heliskiing companies. I’ve been guiding for 30 years now and pretty much all of that is in the heli and snowcat business. When I was 22 I started a cat skiing company and prior to Northern Escape I also started and sold another heli skiing company.
How did that influence you to open up this operation and what sets it apart from the rest? Also how many lodges/helicopters do you run during peak season?
I started Northern Escape after selling a heli skiing company I started a little north of us. I was looking for a remote atmosphere but wanted much easier access for our guests. Time is a valuable commodity for most of our guests and with our location they can generally save a couple days of additional travel time and expense when compared to most of our competitors.
Of course the terrain was a biggy and the terrain around here never ceases to impress me. We have huge alpine and some of the most amazing tree skiing I have ever experienced. We implemented our Cat Skiing back up 6 or 7 years ago and it is just the icing on the cake.
There’s nothing like still being able to ski even when the heli is grounded by heavy snowfall. It’s not heli skiing, but it sure beats sitting in the lodge and watching it snow… We operate 3 helicopters in main season and we have 3 snowcats for back up.
I hear the locals at the local mountain(shames) complain of wet snow. Do your clients deal with the same problem considering you are so close to the coast? Also, how much snowfall do you receive per year?
It’s kinda funny, but most locals don’t know much about where we ski and can only make comparisons to the local ski hill, Shames Mountain. One of the big differences is the ski hill is very low and on the main Skeena valley.
Once you get a little higher and out of the main valley, it’s much cooler. Most of our runs bottom out and we pick up at or above the elevation of the top of the ski hill. Thus our snow is generally deep and dry. We average a 5 meter (15 feet) deep snowpack at treeline and can have upwards of 8 to 10 meters (24 to 30 feet) on the glaciers.
I got a brief peak at your terrain map and it looks extensive.Your website says you have more than 250 named runs and 5,500 square km’s of terrain. What is your favorite area/run and why? Did you have other runs or zones you would like to mention?
I’ve had so much fun exploring this area over the last 13 years and there’s still many new runs to be skied. One of my favorites is a big glaciated run called “Once Upon a Time” it only gets skied once every couple years as it’s really big and very long with a consistently steep pitch through huge alpine terrain with icefalls and broken glaciers. It’s spectacular.