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Northern Escape Elite Package - Reviews

Best Skiing and Experience of my Life!

Frank S
06/05/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Rider Ability
    Expert
  • Country
    USA
  • Month:
    February
This was my second trip with Northern Escape and one of my best for sure. This year we opted for the Elite Upgrade and I can say I really appreciated the Semi-Private experience.

As usual, getting to the lodge is quick and easy. From the East Coast you fly directly to Terrace and are having drinks at the lodge that same day. The lodge itself is rustic, but comfortable and the food is amazing as always!

This trip we were blessed with great snow, some of the best I have ever skied, but we did have a 1/2 day of poor weather. Not to worry though as the guides whisked us off by heli to the cat backup base where we were skiing in no time at all. The weather cleared shortly after 2 that afternoon and we heliskied for the rest of the afternoon. What a great day and I can tell you that the cat back up really makes a difference.

We'll be back again next season and looking forward to it already!

Great, but don't expect Cat Backup

Tom M
14/02/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Rider Ability
    Expert
  • Country
    USA
  • Month:
    February
A group of 10 of us signed on for a four day Elite package in early February, 2018. Our experience was mixed. On one hand the powder, terrain, guides, staff, accommodations were for the most part exceptional. Based on the first three days we would have easily chosen to make this an annual trip. Our final day was much different. We were socked in and the Heli was grounded. Had this been a regular Heli operation we would have expected that to be the end of skiing. We chose to book with NEH based on their cat skiing “backup plan”. To paraphrase them, the “cat backup eliminates the dreaded down day”, “we got your back”, etc. . Given the time, money and effort going into this trip, we chose NEH for this backup plan as weather plays such a big role in flying time. So when we learned the Heli was down, we expected to shift to the cat. To our disappointment we were told the cat is only accessed via the heli and the cloud ceiling was too low for the heli to fly to the cat .

Based on NEH’s website and informational material circa 2017 when we booked, we would not have expected the cat operation to be dependent on heli access. This is counterintuitive if the cat is actually backing up the heli. The “backup” claim is inherently contradictory given this operational structure. We did not cat or heli on our last day, but skied Shames Mountain instead (nice, but not heli or cat) and tried to be good sports about the situation and enjoy our final day. In hindsight, we all felt chaffed and burnt. This occurred with the group prior to us who likewise seemed very disappointed about the situation.

End of day we logged about 36,000’ of the guaranteed 46,000’ vertical for the trip, took a small refund on the un-skied portion and have since received apologies that we were unlucky with the weather and their inability to access the cat area. NEH told us our situation was rare but has been occurring more frequently and that they are working on a new lodge near the cat area to solve the problem. While I completely understand NEH has no control over the weather, the claim that “they got your back” with the cat was neither accurate in our situation, nor is it clear in their marketing or policies. NEH updated their website this year and has added some disclaimers in the cat section, though it is still does not explain the cat - heli setup and the fact that the cat backup does not work all of the time.

Had our last day been spent cat skiing this would be a glowing review. Unfortunately that is not the case and I have much less confidence in NEH now. Proceed at your own risk. I recommend contacting NEH management before booking to make sure you understand all the potential issues involved.

My ratings reflect the fact that we received a three-quarters of the skiing we were lead to expect. I would recommend and revisit if I had more faith and confidence in NEH.

Response from John Forrest, General Manager

"Tom, we have spoken extensively about this issue, both in person and through our customer feedback process. I’d like to thank you again for taking the time to express your disappointment and we do understand. It is through listening to our customer feedback that we are provided the opportunity to continually improve our product. We also appreciate your kind words for all the other attributes of our operation. Our staff put in 110% all season and I have passed your kind words on to them to show your appreciation.

Heliskiing is a big ticket item and expectations are very high. Setting appropriate expectations is very important to us and our goal is to then work hard to exceed those expectations. Unfortunately in this unique instance we were unable to do so. Unfortunately, the weather is far beyond our control, especially extreme weather. As you noted in your review, the powder was exceptional, as it often is, and this is due to our location where we receive copious amounts of snow. Some poor weather is then to be expected as all that snow doesn’t fall out of clear blue skies.

Our Snow cat backup, while very reliable, is not a silver bullet for extreme poor weather. There is no such thing. It will, however, minimize your chances of missing a day of skiing with us. In extreme weather, such as that which your group experienced, there is a small chance that we cannot fly to our cat back up staging area, as was the case on your last day. The flight path to our cat staging area is valley bottom at very low elevations and our success rate over the last 8 years of operation is better than 98%. The weather on your last day with us was freezing rain from valley bottom to over 3000 ft. The Terrace airport cancelled all the flights that morning and it’s illegal for a VFR pilot to fly when there is known icing in the area. This was an unfortunate extreme weather event, and we must always put safety first.

In times of poor weather, when a helicopter cannot fly safely to heli skiing elevations, other heli skiing operations will organize alternate activities to make the best out of the day. These include snowshoeing, cross country skiing and card games at the lodge. At Northern Escape Heli Skiing we have created what we believe is the best down day activity ever – Snowcat Backup. It will keep you skiing in all but the worst of weather. It’s not that Silver Bullet, but our guests sure prefer to cat ski over card games.

Lastly, you let our big secret slip out… We are building a new lodge located not only in our best skiing zone, but also with direct cat access to our snowcat back up zone. More to come on this soon when we make the official announcement. Opening is scheduled for December 2019."

Fabulous Heli Operation

POWDERHOUNDS.COM
25/03/2017
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Rider Ability
    Expert
  • Country
    Canada
  • Month:
    February
Fun times! Pic by Aaron Whitfield I think we've trashed that slope! Yep trashed that slope too! Pretty nice snow considering it hadn't snowed in 2 weeks
We thoroughly enjoyed our time out with Northern Escape Heli Skiing. The elite package has only 2 small groups per heli, so it was a great opportunity to get in plenty of skiing. And with only 8 guests at the lodge, it was sociable whilst also being delightfully intimate.

It hadn’t snowed for a couple of weeks and the temps across all of British Columbia had risen a few days prior to our trip, yet considering the vast terrain, the guides were able to find some very good snow up in the alpine and provide plenty of run variation.

Some others pros:
- Mother Nature usually drops the snow bomb big time on NEH (unfortunately not for us).
- The food at the lodge and out in the field was exceptional.
- The levels of service provided by the lodge staff were incredibly high and the communication between the staff and to the guests was excellent. It was a well polished operation.
- Excellent value for money with either a limited or unlimited package.
- High emphasis on safety.
- The snowpack was very stable.

Potential con:
- Whilst the communal log building at Pioneer Lodge was absolutely delightful, the accommodations were very nice without being luxurious, which is to be expected considering the low price point relative to other Canadian heli ski outfits. We stayed in a very large room with 2 double beds that were uncomfortable & squeaky; not that it mattered too much thanks to a heli belly coma! The occasional rumble of the trucks on the highway reminded us that whilst were in a reasonably remote location, that we weren’t out in the wilderness.

For a more in-depth critique of NEH you can also look at our review tab on the Northern Escape Heli Skiing overview.

Trip of a lifetime!

Tom Flynn
06/03/2017
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Rider Ability
    Advanced
  • Country
    USA
  • Month:
    February
I may be biased, as this was my first heli-skiing experience, but this was an amazing trip. The skiing was great, the food and service were amazing, and the location was stunning. If I had to find a criticism, while the Pioneer Lodge itself was beautiful, the cabins were a bit rustic, lacking a tv, and having squeaky, lumpen beds. Not that I was complaining much, as I was so tired out most nights I fell asleep quickly.
The food was top notch; they fed us four excellent meals a day, and the chefs and lodge staff were attentive and willing to cater to our whims.
As for the skiing, it was great terrain- even though there was no fresh snow for the last week, the guides worked to find pockets of fresh powder for every run. The guides were always fun, safe, and knowledgeable.
Overall, I couldn't recommend the experience more. If you can do it, it is well worth it. Your soul will thank you.