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Whistler Heli vs Powder Mountain vs Coast Range Heli

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Have a 4 day trip to Whistler upcoming in February and my group of 3 has decided to spend one day heli-skiing.  First timers (yet Expert resort skiers) all around.  First of all, I know that the best way to do this is a week-long trip to a dedicated heli operator...but for family, time, and budgetary reasons that won't be happening this season.  So we're focused on the single-day option.  I'm looking to see if anyone has any insight or opinions on Whistler Heli vs Powder Mountain vs Coast Range Heli (the 3 main single-day operators running out of Whistler Village).  


I've done some initial research and based on my findings, here are my current thoughts (please shoot holes in them and correct where needed).  


Whistler Heli - The "biggest" and owned by Whistler/Blackcomb.  From what I've read the group sizes can get very large and it sounds like most of the time even though they advertise the largest area, they stick close to Blackcomb.  I'd prefer not to deal with a massive group size which simply slows everything down.  Due to the link to Whistler, would theoretically run into more intermediate skiers here?


Powder Mountain - This one was interesting.  I was convinced that this was the way to go because they offered Heli and if the weather was bad they'd switch you out to a Cat.  I made an errant assumption, however, that the heli would allow us to access terrain far above/beyond the cat option.  They informed me this week that the heli and cat terrain is exactly the same.  In fact, they basically told me cat skiing was 1/2 the price for unlimited runs.  This focus on cat terrain makes me concerned.  We have local cat ski operations in my area and I'm truly looking for that heli experience.  I'm now thinking perhaps we book with a dedicated Heli operation and if we get grounded due to weather, we can try and book a last minute cat trip with Powder Mountain.


Coast Range - I'm waiting for an email response from them.  All I know is what is on their website.  They advertise themselves as the "boutique" skiing option which means small/personalized groups.  This sounds very alluring to me.  I like the idea of a more personalized experience.


So, most of what I know is based off their websites and (admittedly biased) email responses form them.  Does anyone on the forum have any experiences or information to share?  Quality of terrain?  Groups sizes?  Would love to hear anything to assist me in my booking.  Thank you!

post #2 of 12

I skied Whister Heli - one day - a couple of years back. Since it was just me - I waited till the night before to put down my money. It was a great sunny day. There were approx 25 people who had signed up. There were about 4 of us - who claimed to be experts. I say claim - becos they don't test you - they just go by what you tell them. So the 4 of us with a guide went in a separate helicopter. Others were in another intermediate group. They had a larger Helicopter - but I don't know if they had one or two helis.  We were off and running soon after. we had one guide. 


I don't know exactly where they took us - whether it was behind blackcomb or not - but it was fantastic. I think we had 4/5 longs runs. I forget now. I was pooped at the end of it. I think the other 3 guys in my group went for an extra  run - which they paid extra for. 


overall it was very efficiently run. Most of the areas we skied were above tree line. I am guessing they were on some glacier nearby. We had some fairly interesting steep lines. They were all wind buffed because of the altitude.  We did not see any skiers or helis anywhere nearby.



I have no exp with the other operators. 

post #3 of 12

I am going to ressurect this thread as I am planning on doing a single day of Heli this Febuary when I am at Whistler with my ski club.  Will probably doing this alone as other members are either too cheap or are not confident enough with thier skills.


I am wondering if the OP got his Heli day in and which Heli operation he chose.


I would also appreciate any other feedback the other Barking Bears may have.



post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hey!  OP here...


We landed up at Coast Range and I have nothing but GLOWING reviews for it.  


Even though we were there in Feb we hit a warm patch.  It rained in the Village most days.  We drove by Powder Mountain on the way up and their elevation seemed MUCH lower...very happy we didn't land up there.  What Coast Range did (see below) was not possible at Powder Mountain being that they Heli and Cat on the same terrain.  Don't have much of an opinion on Whistler but I did talk to a few people that said it is a heli-ski factory...big groups...and the terrain is all right around Whistler.  Which brings me to:


We had originally booked our day for Friday.  We arrived in town Wednesday night the weather was looking much better for Saturday so we walked into the office in the Village and switched our day with no problem.  Saturday morning we arrived at the Westin (meeting place) and it was raining pretty good in the village and socked in with fog.  A guy in our group said he was scheduled for Friday but they didn't fly.  The driver came in and told us we were "on hold" due to weather and they were going to take another 30 min to make the call.  It wasn't looking good.


Finally they gave the thumbs up that they were going to try but made it clear that they could cancel at any point.  We rode out to Pemberton in the shuttle and it was raining out there too.  After the training we went up in the heli and here's the most important part...we then proceeded to fly 20-30 minutes away to find good weather!  And find it we did...bluebird day!!!  There was one face we skied that they hadn't skied in 5 years.  The fact that they could fly so far away to find the good stuff was key.  The first run sucked because we started at a low elevation and there was crazy crust due to the warm weather.  After that we went HIGH to the good stuff (again, would not have happened at Powder Mountain) and had an epic day.  Not too deep but a blast nonetheless...


Keep in mind the rain at Whistler...now see the weather we had:



That version doesn't play on Mobile devices (or tablets) due to the music...if you want the no music version it's here:



The face they hadn't skied in 5 years was is at the 8:14 mark in the video.  Unfortunately my buddy had a sprained knee and biffed it on the descent and I had to rescue his ski...


Coast Range rocked and was worth every penny (and yes, we all paid for the extra run).  Let me know if you have any questions!

post #5 of 12

Thanks for the quick update!  These guys have moved to the top of my list.  I have a phone call into them to ask some specific questions.


I would still like to hear other opinions from other customers of Coast Range or other Heli operations.


I am getting psyched!


Rick G

post #6 of 12

Well, I took advantage of their early booking program and booked my day of Heli with Coast Range Heli Ski for Feb 7th.  Of course that now means that Feb. 7th will be all rain and fog, but at least I am booked!


Thanks again for the quick reply.


Rick G

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Awesome.  You made a great choice!


We're trying to figure out our annual guys' trip now...if we go back to Whistler I'll definitely be hitting Coast Range again!


I was a complete noob and had tons of questions...let me know if I can answer any of yours!

post #8 of 12

Thanks for the advice.  I am really excited about this trip to Whistler.  I haven't been there since 93 and I know things have changed quite a bit up there.


Why don't you and your buds come to Whistler the week of Feb 2nd and join me?  To prepare for my day of Heli I am going to do a 2 day extreme clinic from these guys.  http://www.extremelycanadian.com/steep-ski-clinics/2-day-clinic  maybe you guys would like to join me there as well.


Looks like I will be having an adrenaline filled week!


Rick G

post #9 of 12

Hey all, considering you are talking about my baby I thought I would chime in. Coast Range does have good Heli skiing in Pemberton no doubt, but to say "That would not happen at Powder Mountain" when you have not been here and affecting how people view our service when you clearly have nothing to base you comments on  seems a bit odd to me, I have many clients that want to heli, when they cannot fly we go cat and they are very happy. When you come in the store and we tell you about the difference between cat and heli we are acting on your behalf and not ours as we really don't care which  machine you choose to get your pwdrfix in, it is up to you. To be clear the Heli terrain of 240,000 acres is a totally different place than our Cat terrain of 5000 acres. Without trying to sound petty and trying to knock the other guys all I can say is we have a very large amount of very happy skiers that come back year after year. This is evident from our 30,000 fans on face book with glowing reviews. If you are in Whistler and would like to discuss more feel free to call my cell phone anytime. 604-966-4699 or you can email me directly at gord@pmheli.com. 

  Thank you 

 Gordon Calder

 General Manager

   Powder Mountain Heli and Catskiing.



post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 


Thanks for joining and posting.  Always great to hear more opinions.  I think you are taking my post way too personally and just like you feel that I don't know all the details of your business, you don't know all the details of my situation.  And for you to say I clearly have nothing to base my comments on is just flat out wrong.  


First of all, I'm no expert.  I stated in my post that I'm a complete noob.  I was just laying out the information I found about our specific situation in a factual manner.  You're free to dispute them, but to say I'm "affecting how people view your service" and that I "clearly have nothing to base your comments on" is a bit extreme.  Before I get into the details, let's say this...you run a wildly popular business.  You have many happy customers.  Nowhere in my post was I saying that wasn't true.  Now, to my specific situation:


My comment that "would not happen at Powder Mountain" was directed toward the fact that it was nasty weather at Whistler yet with Coast Range they flew WAY out and we had a blue-bird powder day (as shown on my video).  I went back to the day we went, February 11 and saw that Powder Mountain made two posts on your Facebook page that day.  They were:


"Ok this is not funny anymore.........start snowing or I'm going to get my bike out."


"If you don't look outside, you won't see that the conditions are less than great. So just stay indoors until it get's cold and snowy then call me. Netflix is in full effect."  


So I go back to my original comment.  Your Facebook page is telling your customers that Netflix is in full effect while I had a blue bird heli day in shin/knee high pow.  Based on that alone, I would argue that my statement that my situation would not happen at Powder Mountain is still very valid and true.  Would love to hear if I'm mistaken.  And if I was mistaken, perhaps your should change the tone of your postings on FB.  


My statement was also based on an email exchange that you and I had when I was planning my trip.  I mentioned that I presumed that the helis could reach much higher terrain than the cats...driving the difference in price.  You replied with "The only difference would be the machine, the skiing and elevation are the same. Twice the runs for half the price."  So, to me (again, a noob), I read that to be that on the crappy rainy day that Whistler had last February 11th, your Powder Mtn helis would not reach any higher elevations or different terrain than your cats.  Which again goes back to my comment that I believe what Coast Range did (fly to higher elevations, further away) would not have been possible at Powder Mountain.  Again...would love for you to clarify and inform the broader audience that my assumption was incorrect.  It's the information I had at the time (especially when your FB page was talking about Netflix while we were out skiing).  


I totally respect your desire to "defend" your business, but I firmly believe my post was simply a retelling of OUR SITUATION.  Not a general condemnation of your business.  Seems like your response was a bit overkill.  But, as with all things on an Internet forum, that's just my opinion...

post #11 of 12

Possibly over kill sure I take every part of this company to heart and live and breathe PM. I won't go back and forth more than this last post and will not look as it get's to painful and seems slightly childish after awhile. but I went back to Feb 11th and noticed you left out the amazing  comment that was left there by another guest "see you next year guys, Big thanks to Don and Ken for making our day EPIC!" That said I would  say that Coast Range has a great product and amazing skiing, so for who ever is going skiing have the best day you can and that is all. 
 Powder Mtn............out.

post #12 of 12

Rather than starting a new thread, I will start here.


I am also an expert resort skier who hasn't been out west in a few years (started a family blah blah blah) but finally realize with my second child on the way that I will probably be "5 years older if I don't this year" thanks to good ole Warren ringing in my ear.


Anyway, I am coming to Whistler Feb 19 - 26. I am going with my Father who definitely doesn't want to go Heli. I however, have vowed to myself that I will this year for the first time.


There is a chance that a friend of mine will join me but from everything I have read and talked about with people, its best to fill a Helicopter if possible. So anyone going to be out there during that time and want to join in? I have met barking bears before and always had a great experience.


I have booked via whistler resort but I can always change that if I find a better option. I would love to find my Pop a ride-a-long program but I haven't heard of any companies offering that. He would of course be willing to pay but not full price for the ski... Its a difficult request and I don't expect to fulfill it but you never know if you don't ask.


So please post up or send me a PM if anyone is inetersted. I have already contacted my mass of Canadian friends (all 2 of them) since I am a southerner in the Carolinas.


I am hoping to get a couple days in before I Heli to warm up the legs so I would be looking to fly sometime between 21 - 25.


From experience is it best to go ahead and book or play it by ear for the weather....?

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