External and internal pressures on heli-ski guides and operators to sell the “steep” experience may play a significant factor in the increase of close calls, injuries and deaths. As Dave Hamre mentioned in the June 5 CVN article, there are inherent risks in heli-skiing, and it is a delicate dance between nature and client satisfaction during periods of high hazard. I know this dance well, and our approach to terrain is significantly different than the Alaska heli-ski experience. Make no mistake, we ski significant avalanche terrain at times, and even with experience, daily weather observations, and snow pack analysis, it still comes down to human factor decision-making. I applaud the guides in Alaska for their professional efforts. They, their clients, and the companies they work for can only benefit from audits in order to operate at the highest standard. How these audits will be carried out in the future is yet to be determined. In Canada, the industry has developed an internal audit system which seems to work quite well. Nonetheless, WorkSafe BC, the governing body for worker safety in the province, is still very active in overseeing safety standards in the mechanized skiing industry. There are current items on the table right now that will have impact on operators in the future. Helmets were just mandated as of last season for any professionals working in, around, or traveling through avalanche terrain. I believe ABS bags will be next in the not-too-distant future.

Bob Rankin

Chief Avalanche Forecaster/Lead Guide

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, Blue River, B.C.