Bella Coola Heli Sports

Canada: British Columbia

Bella Coola Heli Sports is your choice if you are looking for a special experience: small groups for skiing, all this within wild and breathtaking, heavily glaciated scenery!

About the Operator

Our mandate has always been, and still is, to create a product designed by skiers and snowboarders for fellow skiers and snowboarders. We offer you quality skiing and snowboarding in big mountains for small groups with small helicopters combined with a private wilderness Lodge atmosphere. We are not, and never will be, interested in flying large groups in 'tour bus size' helicopters and run 'cruise ship' style lodging with a line up to the buffet table.

On behalf of all our staff we would like to extend a warm welcome to come visit us in Bella Coola and a big thank you to all our returning friends. Please share our Shangri-La and experience true B.C. wilderness adventures. Leave your cell phones and busy life at home. Let us pamper you and show you a holiday experience that you will remember for a lifetime.

 

Six Reasons to Choose Bella Coola Heli Sports

There's no shortage of reasons why you should come heli skiing or heli boarding in Bella Coola this winter, and there's just as many reasons to choose us. Let's start with six…

 

1. Great Snow And Lots Of It

Bella Coola is blessed with plentiful and reliable snow. Most years there is a 4 to 5 metre base in the alpine with total snowfall averaging 20 to 30 metres (65 to 100 feet) over the course of the season (during the winter of 2011/2012, we had a 6 metre (20 foot) base at treeline and 10 metres (33 feet) in the alpine! Best of all, it is usually a stable snowpack which means we can heliski more challenging and interesting terrain than at most other heli skiing BC destinations. These conditions result from the fact that our playground straddles the Coast Range Mountains from a wetter western periphery to a drier eastern zone. This is ideal. On snowy days we stay in the east, close to the lodges and heliski in the trees, but then when it’s blue we can fly west into the Big Snow zone as well as into the high alpine.

 

2. Focus On Safety

We are a member of HeliCat Canada. This means we operate according to the most comprehensive safety guidelines in the world with regards helicopter skiing. The guidelines were developed over 45 years of operating experience. In addition, we are very proactive in furthering safety in all aspects of the heliskiing experience. For example, all our guests use Snowpulse Floatation backpacks. Our helicopter provider is equally diligent with their safety protocols and have flown heli skiing for many years. For more details on our safety program please contact us.

 

3. Private and Small Group Heli Skiing

Private and Small Group Heli Skiing is integral to our philosophy. This format allows for a more rewarding and intimate heliskiing experience. Smaller groups result in more cohesive ski groups in terms of ability level and means you won’t have to wait for stragglers. Small helicopters require less space to land which means more terrain choices. Private helicopters ensure there is never any waiting time between runs, as well as increasing flying range and therefore the possibility to fully explore the whole tenure. The result is that our guides and helicopter pilot have greater operational flexibility with which to find you and your group the best snow. We also subscribe to intimate and private lodge settings for your accommodation.

 

4. Less Travel equals more Skiing and Riding

Bella Coola is simply the easiest destination heliskiing operation to travel to in the world. Less travel time of course means more time to ski and less time away from home. Bella Coola is a short one hour fifteen minutes flight north of Vancouver, BC, which makes it possible for our clients to ski and ride both on the arrival and the departure day! Therefore, over the course of a one week stay there is the possibility to ski 6 full days and 2 half days. Talk about maximizing your holiday time! You arrive in Bella Coola before noon, eat lunch, gear up, do some safety training, then load the chopper. Does it get any better? We know what you're coming for, why make you wait until tomorrow? Nowhere else can you access this much pristine wilderness and terrain with such ease!

 

5. Huge Terrain

The size of our permit area is unrivaled. It is 2.64 million acres or 10,700 sq/km, which translates to 4,300 sq/miles of mind-blowing ski & snowboard terrain! This is 325 times the size of Whistler Blackcomb or 90 times larger than the whole Trois Vallées! In addition, the mountains and terrain in Bella Coola are unique. They are certainly the most dramatic in British Columbia and include the highest peak in British Columbia. Expect epic 3000-5000 ft descents, even up to 6000ft at their longest. Yes, that's almost twice the height of Vail, top to bottom, and it’s all untracked. Combine these facts with the fact that we host a very limited number of people per week and you have the lowest density skier ratio in the world. The maximum number of people skiing in our permit area at any one time is 34. This means we never have to ask our clients to "farm" the snow and there are always lots of places to go for new tracks.

 

6. Three Unique Lodges

In all, we offer a choice between three lodges, hosting anywhere from 8 to 16 people maximum. By focusing on small intimate lodging, we are able to better cater to the individual goals and desires of our clients. Tweedsmuir Park Lodge is our original base and the most luxurious. There is space for 16 people and accommodation is in private chalets. Pantheon is just east of the highest peak in British Columbia and offers the most dramatic terrain. It is ideal for groups of up to 8 people with accommodation at White Saddle Ranch. Our Big Mountain location receives the most snow and provides the most skiing for a given dollar amount. Maximum number of people is 10 with accommodation at a hotel close town.

 

Meet the team

Get to know the team members that you will likely meet first hand during your stay with us at Bella Coola Heli Sports. Learn a little about their heli skiing and related experiences.

 

Peter “Swede” Mattsson - Co-Owner, President and Operations Manager

Swede is a character of some renown in the skiing business, and is currently the driving force behind Bella Coola Heli Sports.

Swede started his professional career in the hospitality industry, and as your larger-than-life host, it shows. He emigrated from Sweden to Whistler, Canada in '81 and hasn't looked back. Swede is an expert skier and climber, and has participated in expeditions all over the world.

He began his profession as a Mountain Guide in the mid 1980’s. Courses and diplomas followed, including many years spent as a Heli-skiing/Climbing/Ski touring guide and owner of a guiding company. In 1995, Swede formed Mountain Sport Productions, specializing in coordination and mountain guiding for the film and television production industry. In 1996 he worked for Greenland Outdoors Inc., researching and developing adventure sport programs, including heli-skiing, for tourism in western Greenland.

This SBC Skier magazine article might lend you a bit of insight into the mind of this crazy character.

 

Beat Steiner - Co-Owner and Business Manager

"Its all about the skiing" says Beat Steiner. He has been actively involved in the ski industry since 1983. First as a ski model, then a ski cinematographer and now co-owner of Bella Coola Heli Sports.

In the early days it was all about first descents and skiing the extreme. To save money for skiing and travel, Beat spent the first five years in Whistler living rent free by squatting in various back woods cabins. The limited funds that did come in came from writing articles and publishing photographs of his exploits and adventures. Eventually the jump was made to shooting and producing documentary films about climbing and skiing. This was back in the day before VCR's and video cameras, so a much more quirky undertaking then in today's world of multiple ski and snowboard film titles. When in 1989 Beat hooked up with Craig Kelly, three time over all world snowboard champion, things really began to roll. Snowboarding was booming and home video technology created the market. Finally there was a shooting budget. This turned out to be a huge opportunity and Beat made the most of it.

Over the next nine years he traveled all over the world and used helicopters extensively in pursuit of the most dramatic mountain landscapes and best snow. It was also the genesis of the current Bella Coola Heli Sports team, with Swede providing guiding services and Beat and Christian running cameras. Switching to full time freelance cinematographer in 1997 opened yet more doors for Beat. Projects included work on Imax Extreme, The North Face expeditions for NBC, Warren Miller's feature films and Global Adventures series, as well as numerous action sequences for both TV commercials and feature films.

The drive to find new areas to film, eventually led to the first trip to Bella Coola in February 2000. With all the traveling and shooting under his belt, Beat immediately recognized the incredible potential of this area. This was truly an undiscovered Shangri-la. Today, Beat would rather not travel and simply wants to ski as many days as possible in Bella Coola. Heli skiing is definitely his passion, and he loves to share this with the guests.

 

Christian Begin - Co-Owner / Not So Silent Partner

A household name for anyone keen on ski & mountain bike films, Christian has been professionally involved in the ski industry for over 25 years. His passion for skiing and the mountain environment led him to undertake and graduate from a diploma course in Ski Area Management, Resort Operation and Marketing,

in 1988. Christian moved from Quebec to British Columbia in 1989, where he began a career as a filmmaker specializing in ski and snowboard films. His work has taken him to heli-skiing operations around the world, and he has created marketing products for Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, C.M.H., Selkirk Tangiers, Blackcomb Helicopters, Whistler Heli-skiing and Pemberton Helicopters. In his professional career, Christian has been involved as a producer, director and cinematographer in over fifty ski and snowboard films, and has built a solid reputation as a cutting edge action sports filmmaker. He started a successful production company “Radical Films”, and has earned numerous awards.

His most recent film work includes an exciting documentary about Whistler Blackcomb's Peak to Peak gondola. Christian has a boundless enthusiasm for life that he communicates freely. In fact, he is on a character level with Swede, and has also appeared in many articles and films. These include: the National Film Board’s documentary “Ski Bums”, magazines such as “Outside”, “Powder” and “Ski Press’, and numerous television shows and newspaper articles.

 

Paul Berntsen, Heli Skiing Guide Manager

Paul Berntsen grew up near Vancouver. His early hobbies were kayaking, climbing and skiing in the Coast Mountains. To support his habit, he worked in logging camps on the BC coast and also various projects including ski patrolling, raft guiding, and smoke jumping.

In 1987 Paul became a certified guide, and has since worked both as a heliskiing guide in many mountain ranges around the world, and also on projects such as Feature Films, mining camps, as a mountain safety consultant.

In 2001, Paul joined the Bella Coola Heliports team for their first year of operation. For Paul, this new operation, with its huge remote unexplored mountain terrain was a natural progression. With a perspective earned in start-up heliskiing operations in exotic places such as Greenland, Chile, and the Indian Himalaya, Paul feels that Bella Coola is the highlight of his mountain guiding career. “I am fortunate that Beat and Swede invited me to join them in exploring the tenure. I have the opportunity to work in one of the last remote and wild mountain ranges in the world. Here, surrounded by the highest peaks in British Columbia are wild unnamed glacier fed river valleys and untouched mountains. It offers the possibility to explore and discover new terrain for years to come"

 

Richard Lapointe - Chief Heli Ski Pilot

Richard was born in Quebec and learned to fly helicopters during his education in the military in the 80’s. His first mission after completing school was to fly helicopters in Labrador for a military search-and-rescue team.

Since then, he has flown Tudor Jets, been a flight instructor both for Tudor jets and helicopters, a flight coordinator for the Snowbirds (the Canadian Forces aerobatic team); he has been a pilot for he UN in Somalia and Rwanda and for skiing films.

He is recognized by the industry as one of the best film pilots in the world. He has worked with Warren Miller, Seth Morrison and the late Shane McConkey. It is on his first shoot that he met Swede, owner of Bella Coola Heli Sports. Together they went on to develop this great adventure in heli skiing in the Coast Mountains. He currently is the base manager and a pilot for West Coast Heli in Hagensborg in the Bella Coola Valley.

Richards hobbies include mountain biking, water-skiing, down hill skiing and fine cabinet making. “As a general rule, Richard says, I enjoy anything that goes over 30 knots!”

 

Jia Condon, Head guide, Tweedsmuir Lodge Heli Skiing

His motto is “Play Hard and Safe”. From a very young age, Jia has enjoyed exploring the wilderness with his family, later making a natural progression to becoming a career mountain guide and adventurer.

He started guiding in 1990 and has since worked as a guide; in many movies and commercials as safety and rigging expert as well as talent and featured athlete. He met Swede on a movie shoot in Bella Coola and was immediately taken with the opportunities the terrain offered. He immediately joined our team as soon as we started operating. Jia is well versed in climbing, skiing, touring, mountain rescue and safety rigging.

He is a talented photographer and has sailed to Greenland and Antarctica in a few climbing expeditions. The list of his mountaineering achievements is impressive and includes many first ascents and ski descents.

 

Jan Neuspiel, Pantheon Heli Skiing Head Guide

Jan's guiding career has spanned 25 years and just about that many mountain ranges. Most of this time has been spent working and living in the Himalaya; guiding, climbing and trekking in Nepal (he speaks fluent Nepali) and running a helicopter skiing operation in India.

Jan has climbed and skied in BC's Coast Range, the Rockies, the Interior Ranges, all over the mountainous west of the USA, Europe, Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, the Himalayas and the mountains near his home on Vancouver Island. Because of his experience with exploratory helicopter skiing operations, Bella Coola Heli Sports brought Jan on board five years ago to manage the Pantheon heli skiing base.

Jan is very excited about the vast mountain wilderness that is the Pantheon terrain and loves sharing the exploration of this world class area with BCHS guests.

When he's not working at Pantheon for Bella Coola Heli Sports, Jan is a Director and Guide for Island Alpine Guides.

 

Wade Bashaw - Head Guide, Big Mountain Heli Skiing

Wade is a laid back ski fanatic who started his guiding career heliskiing in Whistler in 1994. He then worked as a cat skiing guide

in the Monashees for about 7 years. He also guided as a sub-contractor for many other heli ski companies around Whistler and throughout BC. Mountains, snow and elated skiers are his reality: just another day at the office !      

In 2004, Wade became the recipient of the ACMG Centennial Scholarship, a prize awarded to promising young members. He became the Head Guide for our Big Mountain Heliskiing operation in 2009.

This year he and his family have made the decision to move to Australia to experience a new lifestyle and be close to relatives. Wade will be back to work for Bella Coola Heli Sports during the heli skiing season. Let’s say this is quite the commute to work!

 

Team Package 1: Tweedsmuir Lodge Heliskiing

  • Peter “Swede” Mattsson - Co-Owner, President and Operations Manager
  • Beat Steiner - Co-Owner and Business Manager
  • Christian Begin - Co-Owner / Not So Silent Partner
  • Paul Berntsen, Heli Skiing Guide Manager
  • Richard Lapointe - Chief Heli Ski Pilot
  • Jia Condon, Head guide, Tweedsmuir Lodge Heli Skiing

 

Team Package 3: Pantheon

  • Peter “Swede” Mattsson - Co-Owner, President and Operations Manager
  • Beat Steiner - Co-Owner and Business Manager
  • Christian Begin - Co-Owner / Not So Silent Partner
  • Paul Berntsen, Heli Skiing Guide Manager
  • Dave & Lori King
  • Jan Neuspiel, Pantheon Heli Skiing Head Guide