Heli-ski operations were a blip on the radar about 40 years ago in Lake Tahoe, but none have tried since. Until now. Pacific Crest Heli-Guides inaugurates its first season this winter on 100,000 acres of private land on the Sierra Crest.
Dave Rintala, owner of Pacific Crest Snowcats in Tahoe and Alaska Backcountry Adventures near Valdez, founded the new heli-ski operation with affordability in mind. "We'd like to be as affordable as possible," he told OnTheSnow. "We're ski bums, and we'd like to make it possible for more people to heli-ski."
A day of heli-skiing at Tahoe costs $899, but while many heli-ski companies charge by the vertical, Rintala's company charges by flight time. "Each group has 1.2 hours of heli time," he explained. "They can use it efficiently to bang out the vertical or fly further to ski the biggest runs."
Flights depart from the Truckee Airport for the Sierra Crest, where early season skiers and riders may garner first descents on unnamed terrain that hasn't been skied or snowboarded before. Who knows-maybe you can get a run named after yourself.
The patchwork of private land available for heli-skiing runs through a collection of 8,000-foot peaks, some as close as a few miles from the airport. "It took us quite a while to put the acreage together. We worked with several landowners-some large and some small, but with prime terrain," said Rintala. "There's some really cool terrain, such as classic rock-line couloirs."
Rintala advises early booking to be able to take advantage of his other operation-Pacific Crest Snowcats--that can substitute on helicopter no fly days. Those who book early enough will be automatically booked if seats are available for snowcat skiing, too, as a backup.
Pacific Crest Heli-Guides plans to operate Dec. 15 through April 15. "We're adding one piece of the puzzle that Tahoe has lacked," summed up Rintala.
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