Safety has been our steadfast focus at Bella Coola Heli Sports (BCHS) since we first started helping adventurers suit up, strap in and boldly venture into the untamed backcountry of BC’s Coast Chilcotin region in 2003.
From our training procedures and safety protocols to the gear and the guides, pilots and engineers we work with, it’s our mission to not simply meet but exceed the highest standards set forth by industry oversight association HeliCat Canada. To that end, we reinforce and reassess our operation processes with a top-to-bottom evaluation of every facet of our mountain operations every five years by the HeliCat Audit team.
Our team takes nothing for granted when it comes to assessing and mitigating potential avalanche hazards. We monitor the snowpack throughout the season and our guides take meticulous records of field conditions, weather details, and snowfall data daily and review their findings to draft hazard and stability forecasts that minimize exposure to any potential risks.
We are also a member of the Canadian Avalanche Association, which provides us with daily avalanche hazard and weather information from a network of operators and agencies involved in avalanche forecasting and control.
Guest + Guide Training
We also ensure our guests receive plenty of practical training and are comfortable with the fundamentals of backcountry skiing and ’boarding before heading out to explore. This starts with a comprehensive online safety briefing during the booking process and is followed by practical training on the ground once guests arrive at the property.
On arrival day, our guide team holds a comprehensive safety briefing and fully reviews all of our safety protocols, from how to properly use the safety equipment we’ll outfit you with — which includes a BCA Float 12 Avalanche Airbag backpack containing a Mammut Barryvox Transceiver that’s both easy to use and has pinpoint accuracy, and a lightweight but sturdy probe and collapsible shovel — to understanding how to safely approach and exit the helicopter.
We also have engineered a system of radio repeaters that covers the entire 14,370 sq. km of heli-sports terrain to ensure we always have reliable communications, and each group is equipped with a pair of VHF radios capable of contacting the helicopter and repeaters within the ski and snowboard area.
The key pillar in our safety plan, and the one on which we rely the most when it comes to inspiring confidence in and maintaining the safety and security of our guests is our people.
Each member of our team of guides is certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and/or the Canadian Ski Guides Association, has years of experience specific to heli-skiing and ’boarding under their parkas, and warm, outgoing and supportive personalities.
Our team of pilots and engineers from West Coast Helicopters and (Skyline) also helps set BCHS apart. Our pilots have logged hundreds of hours in the air — including special training in mountain flying and heli-sports operations — and participate in our annual training program alongside guides prior to the start of each season, which includes a mock rescue scenario.
We also are one of the few operations of our kind that employs a trained and qualified dispatcher to whom our pilots report while on every run, and who can monitor the movements of each helicopter via GPS tracking.
While we’re proud to have been named the Best Heli Ski Operation in the World for four consecutive years at the World Ski Awards, we didn’t earn those accolades by simply seeking out the best terrain. We got there by ensuring that the safety of our guests is our paramount concern.