Tyax Lodge & Heliskiing
Tyax Lodge & Heliskiing in British Columbia’s Southern Chilcotin Mountains, operates “semi” private deluxe tours of only two groups of 11 skiers, allowing you to exploit this awesome terrain to the max, with virtually no waiting.
In 1991 Georges Rosset realized his dream of combining a passion for heliskiing and pleasure in doing business, by operating his first heliskiing season at Tyax Mountain Lake Resort on the shores of remote Tyaughton Lake, British Columbia. Blessed with heavy coastal snowfalls and terrain ranging from high Alpine glaciers to endless snowfields through forest glades, helicopters allow seasoned skiers and boarders to ride endlessly through perfect powder.
Tyax Ski Area
One hundred times bigger than Whistler or Vail, Tyax massive ski terrain is mostly made up of glaciers and gladed woods. The area typically gets 50-60 feet (15-20 m) of snow in the winter, which gives an average base of 10-12 feet.
With over 830,000 acres (336,150 ha) of terrain and 300 “controlled” runs at their disposal, Tyax heliski guides have immense scope to deliver an unforgettable experience. The terrain varies from huge, glaciated descents to long runs through gladed woods, and it is usual to ski many different but exciting conditions every day.
A good day offers up to 12 runs and around 25,000 vertical feet with it not uncommon to ski over 35,000 feet on a long, spring day. The record for a Deluxe party is just over 39,000 vertical feet. Average days rack up between 20,000 to 25,000 feet, but you should remember that notching up vertical isn’t a competition, honest. That said, the average vertical skied on a Deluxe package is 130,000 feet and that extra vertical makes for extremely cost-effective heliskiing.
In good weather it’s usual to ski the glaciers, keeping the lower and treelined runs for poorer weather days. Glacier skiing is immensely dramatic-huge runs sweeping down open bowls-and typically the runs are longer than those into the trees. For safety reasons, however, you will ski less extreme gradients.
In snowy or cloudy conditions skiing will normally be through the trees, bounding down through gladed areas with plenty of natural obstacles to avoid. Bark munching, as it’s known, is made a lot easier by Tyax managing the trees to open up areas where the forest density would otherwise make skiing tricky. You can often ski steeper slopes through the trees, as they tend to hold snowpack better. Perhaps surprisingly, many veteran heliskiers consider tree skiing to be the best you can get.
The skiing and snowboarding at Tyax
Tyax Heli Skiing offers endless exhilarating powder opportunities for skiers and boarders of most competence levels. The beat of the rotors fades and the whipped-up spindrift settles in your collar. You’re crouching at the top of a range of outstanding beauty with a gang of like-minded skiers, as everything turns wonderfully quiet. A few clicks of bindings and you’re whooshing through feather-light powder, punctuated only by the whoops and whistles of your companions. A thousand feet later and you’re running a natural slalom through pine glades, bouncing down small cliffs – and having the experience of a lifetime.
If it were not so perfect it could get tedious. Skiing in any “normal” resort you might be lucky to get one powder day and two or three runs through fresh snow, while heliskiing can easily get you an entire week of skiing fresh tracks in perfect snow – which may well change your perception of the economics involved.
A surprise might be that you will ski in “runs,” descents well known to the guides and marked as “open” or “closed” depending on conditions or whether anyone has skied them since the last fall of snow. “No, someone’s skied that run, we’ll find another mountain!” is what you’re likely to hear.
Whether skier or boarder, you need to be competent and comfortable riding on the average blue trail, in powder, and in more difficult conditions. You should consider yourself a competent skier or boarder and happy to attempt any off-piste conditions-including challenging, unpisted snow.
Boarders need to bring their own equipment, but for skiers Tyax maintain a range of powder skis from the popular mid-fat Volant Chubbs and Machetes through full-fat Volkl Explorers and Guides, which make off-piste nearly as easy as skiing groomed corduroy. Most skiers now use mid-fats, but if a guest is struggling the guides will tactfully advise moving to fatter and easier skis. If the guides consider, however, that a guest’s lack of ability poses a risk to the group’s safety or enjoyment, then they reserve the right to change groups or refuse to allow them to ski. Because there are no boots available, you are advised to bring them in carry-on luggage, having made sure that they are comfortable and robust enough for the task!
Most guests are good advanced skiers, and many are skilled and experienced heliskiers and boarders. It is worth noting that you will be expected to ski in courteous, tight lines-neither hogging a whole slope nor poaching first tracks every time!
With such a large area Tyax can tailor skiing to fit almost any weather conditions or, indeed, level of skier ability. In adverse conditions, the Taylor ski zone nearest the lodge is mostly below the treeline and has lower landing sites, making it possible to ski in weather that would ground other operators
Forget chairlifts. It is an exceptional experience to have a hugely expensive aircraft waiting for you at the end of every run. For deluxe guests Tyax operate a pair of specially adapted Bell 212s (maybe familiar as the direct descendant of the Vietnam “Huey”) in which they cunningly fit 11 guests. Unusually in a standard package, Tyax fly only two groups per helicopter, which hugely increases your skiing and almost entirely removes any waiting.
Private packages fly Bell A-Stars with only four skiers plus guide, giving more flexibility in terms of terrain that you can ski and areas you can visit. It makes a big difference to have your own helicopter at your beck and call.
This does allow optimization of parties. The guides try to keep groups together but will adjust groups for major differences in ability. Arriving with a full helicopter of like-minded friends of similar ability allows you to get close to the advantages of a private group at rather less cost.
With such a large area to exploit, Tyax strategically locate radio repeaters, fuel dumps, and emergency caches throughout the terrain, allowing you to stay out all day, even in the more distant ski zones. This also means that you are rarely aware of any other helicopters in your area.
Guiding and Safety at Tyax
All guides at Tyax Lodge & Heli-skiing are fully qualified and extremely experienced in backcountry mountain safety. The guides will assign you to groups based on whether you arrived together and how well you are skiing upon arrival; groups may include mixed disciplines of skiers, boarders, and occasionally telemarkers. The guides will endeavor to keep traveling groups together where possible.
As usual, safety is the top priority. Guests are comprehensively briefed before setting out and the pilots are incredibly skilled and experienced. Amazingly, they seem to be able to land these rather large flying machines on exactly the same spot they landed on previously – truly precision flying.
Part of heliskiing’s total exhilaration is skiing fresh tracks in untouched wilderness, but it’s very reassuring to watch the guides at work. Fully qualified to C.S.G.A. (Canadian Ski Guide Association) or U.I.A.G.M. (Union International de l’Asscociation de Guide de Montagne) standards, they are all extremely experienced in backcountry mountain safety-especially assessing snowpack stability and ensuring that you only ski safe terrain.
To make sure you ski in both the safest and most enjoyable conditions, guides spend considerable time sharing information about what they see as you ski and fly through the ranges. A constant radio chat relays information from thermal transitions seen in snow pit data through to the best aspects to ski at any given time-each guide hears what the other groups are seeing. In addition, there is a Snow Safety Guide nominated each day, dedicated to testing snow conditions, assessing the snowpack, and ensuring that all groups are aware of where best to ski.
It’s normal to ski a huge variety of terrain unified only by an abundance of fantastically light, fluffy powder. Every foot of snow on every run isn’t always perfect, but the guides are preternaturally gifted at finding great stuff to ski, even on “bad” days. The terrain may not be as steep as you might expect but it’s rare for it not to be totally absorbing.
Adequate insurance is essential and you are advised to opt for the additional helivac insurance offered by Tyax, which not only ensures that you are covered for emergency transfer out, but also covers you if you develop a less serious skiing injury which causes you to return to the lodge and stop skiing-but which doesn’t require medical attention.
Safety is not limited to the guides: each group skis with two emergency backpacks-one with the guide and one with the “packman” who also carries a radio. The backpacks contain spare kit such as gloves, hats, an avalanche probe, and a snow shovel. You’ll spend the first hour of every trip being trained in avalanche rescue using transceivers, probes, and shovels, and in the safety protocol for helicopters and the rules you must follow when skiing with a guide. The helicopters carry additional equipment, spare skis, and sticks, but be warned: there are no spare boots-so if you have boot failure you are likely to be grounded for the remainder of your week.
Accommodation at Tyax
Most people stay in the main Tyax Lodge, which houses facilities such as the restaurant, bar, sauna, and ski store, but there are also exclusive lakeside chalets
Tyax Lodge, originally designed as a summer fishing resort, is the largest traditionally built log structure in Canada. The impressive main lodge, Tyax Lodge, houses the restaurant, bar, lounge, sports center, mini gym, massage rooms, sauna, hot tub, meeting rooms, and ski store. It can accommodate up to 44 guests in 22 comfortable rooms-all with en-suite showers and two large beds. Single occupancy is possible, subject to availability and a nightly supplement. Package prices for a Deluxe seven-day tour include a 100,000 vertical feet guarantee, and, as a clear indication of the quality of the usual conditions, high season (and high-end prices) runs from mid-January until early April. Adjacent to the main lodge on the lakeshore are chalets for the private Platinum parties. These take skiing to epicurean levels with dedicated physiotherapists, massage therapists, and chefs, and offer unsurpassed privacy and discretion-to the extent that European royalty are frequent guests.
Overlooking the head of Tyaughton Lake in the southern Chilcotins, the local area is stunningly beautiful and popular with wealthy Vancouverites in summer. With the nearest neighbor the gold mining ghost town of Bralorne, it’s rich in prospecting history while offering little to do in winter when you aren’t skiing.
It has to snow sometime and it doesn’t always dump overnight between blue-sky days. Tyax reckon on average that you will have one “down” day a week. Most weeks, that’s no big issue as you are likely to have exceeded your vertical anyway, and 100,000 feet is a lot of fresh tracks, so you’ll be glad of the rest. No one likes “down” days though: typically, they mean sitting out the morning in the lodge, with hourly updates on conditions before the day is officially declared “down.” The guides also want to ski and will not declare the day “down” until they’re really sure that you won’t get skiing safely.
If all else fails they’ll organize ice hockey on the lake, or tower climbing in the lodge. In winter, Tyax is really intended for serious skiing only, but it is pretty fine at achieving that. There are also snowmobiles, cross-country skis, ice-fishing gear, and snowshoes available for hire-although it’ s sensible to bring a good book.
Getting to Tyax
Tyax Lodge & Heliskiing can be reached in six hours by bus from Vancouver (via Whistler), but the way to go, naturally, is by heli-transfer. Tyax Heliskiing is 215 miles (345 km) north of Vancouver and 127 miles (205 km) from Whistler-Blackcomb. A six-hour bus transfer from Vancouver via Whistler is included in the Deluxe package but more attractive options include direct heli-transfers from Vancouver and Whistler heliports, or, in very good weather, flying in and out by floatplane. Or take a limo to Whistler-Blackcomb where you can warm up, lose any jetlag and then travel onward by helicopter. Tyax retains a concierge in Whistler to help with arrangements and accommodations.
Heli-transfers add Cdn$450 from Vancouver, and Cdn$215 from Whistler, each way, for a minimum of five guests. The floatplane charter costs Cdn$1,500 one-way from Vancouver, seating up to six people with a 1,100 lb (498 kg) maximum weight limit for each passenger plus luggage.
Tyax packages begin on arrival in Vancouver and end with your departure, and you are definitely recommended to arrive a day before you are due at the lodge in case of air delays. Individual helicopter transfers are extremely expensive, if not impossible, as a late-running guest may arrive when all the helicopters are occupied with the heliskiing. Tyax can arrange all transfers and transfer hotels.
Tyax Lodge & Heliskiing
PO Box 1118
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +1 250-558-5379 / 800-667-4854