With access to over 80,000 acres of untouched terrain, Stellar Heliskiing takes you deep into the big, powdery heart of the Kootenays.
Stellar’s CSGA/ACMG certified guides lead guests into the legendary peaks and majestic glaciers of the Selkirk and Purcell mountains surrounding Kootenay Lake, BC. With no more than four guests in every group, your stoke will never feel cramped.
Mountain Life: How did you start up the operation?
Jason Remple: I worked at Selkirk Wilderness for 22 years. The owner Alan Drury and I would always look up into the tenure beyond Selkirk and I would say, “We should do something out there.” And Alan always said, “You should do something out there.” Around 2003-4 I started the application process. In 2005 we got accepted by the government to use the terrain, and we started exploring.
During the first year, we explored each of the six zones. And the next year we started bringing in groups, always with the idea that small-group heli was the way to go.
ML: With such a huge tenure, how did you narrow it down to six zones?
JR: I love the Kootenays and I’ve lived in the Meadow Creek area my whole life. I wanted to do something that was close to here. So I chose zones that were close enough to the lake to be really accessible. We’ve got a series of parks around us – Purcell Wilderness Conservancy on the east side, and the Goat Range Park on the west side – so our tenure is “squeezed” into what’s left. We also used a map and compass, and went out touring.
In the Glacier/Howser Zone, I did a bunch of mountaineering and explored it in the summer.
The Purcells and the Selkirks are distinctly different. If you ski the Purcells one day and the Selkirks the next, you really see a difference in the terrain.
ML: Is much of your terrain expert-only?
JR: No. Each of the zones has enough varied terrain that you can do anything. We have more alpine runs established in the Purcells. We do a lot of media work so when you’re with the pros you do stuff that’s well beyond what the normal skier or boarder can do. Check out the video of [a first descent by] Henrik Windstedt – obviously that’s a face most people can’t ski. This gives you an idea of how the pros ski or ride when they’re with us.
ML: Could you describe a favourite run?
JR: Mount Brennan is an amazing ski. At around 10,000 feet, the top part down to the lake is beautiful rolling alpine, old-glacier ripping. And we pioneered another last year – I think the guys called it Omaha – over in the Purcells. We cruised into a pocket bowl with a steep rock wall behind it but it had this beautiful little perch you could land the heli on. And below that it had a series of three chutes. So you’d ski this open, rolling bowl terrain and it would funnel you into a long chute for another 3000 feet.
ML: How do you locate new lines?
JR: If conditions are safe enough to go exploring, we’ll go into a zone and look at our normal runs and you can always find something that’s off the beaten path. This is something really exciting to give to the guests, when you can say: “Let’s go try this over here!” and you put in a new run – and then they get to name it. But to explore new lines, the stars have to align and things have to come together, whether it’s weather or skier/boarder ability.
ML: How’s the snowpack?
JR: Most of the time we have such consistent temperatures that we don’t get influenced that much by warming. But the mountains are evolving at all times. So one face might get hit by wind and the other is perfect powder. And that’s the element of guiding – knowing the terrain and knowing how the wind and weather work. And being able to scope it out and find the best for clients every day of the season.
We have lots of terrain, and we haven’t explored it all.