The Best of the Trust Funder (2009)

The Best of the Trust Funder (2009)

This story originally ran in the October 2008 issue of Freeskier (V11.1).

Photo: Chris O’Connell

H2O Heli Guides offers up some of the most extreme skiing in Alaska, the home of extreme skiing. Founded, managed and guided by skiing superstar Dean Cummings, Dean and the rest of the guides here aren’t afraid to show you the goods — if you’re up to it. With a tenure that includes access to such infamous runs as Sphynx and Pyramid, the terrain at H2O is among the best in the world. There’s no doubt that if you haven’t been before, you have seen it countless times in all the biggest movies in the industry.

The op’s bizarre home town of Valdez is an important part of the experience. You’ll want to check out The Harbor Café (THC) for a burger and cap off an early night at the Club or the Pipeline to chat with locals. Then go to bed early ‘cause when the snow’s good, it’s go time.



The 7,000 acres that make up this cat operation offer up some of the best snow and terrain on the planet. There are old growth forests with amazing tree skiing, open spiny ridges and steep, empty bowls. Throw in a luxury lodge, world class spa and deep, dry snow, and it is easy to see why Island Lake has been featured in so many ski and snowboard films.

The Lizard Peaks of the BC Rocky Mountains get pounded with 30-40 feet of snow per winter from the storms of both the Pacific Ocean and the cooler, Arctic air from Northern Alberta, making for consistent snowfall and perfect for long days of cat skiing.

A good option for traveling to Island Lake from the states is flying into Kalispell, Montana, where the drive is an easy two hours over the boarder into interior Canada, and the beautiful Island Lake Lodge.


Photo: Alex O’Brien/Nimbus

When you fly into the small fishing town of Cordova, the Alaskan experience begins the moment you hit the ground. As you exit the tiny Merle K “Mudhole” Smith municipal airport, PNH vans wait ready in the dirt parking lot to take AK veterans and rookies alike 35 minutes north along Orca Inlet to “The Cannery,” the Points North camp and base of operations. There, three shiny blue A-stars sit parked on the cement pad, skis and boards leaning a few meters away on the front porch of the communal dining hall, where the Chugach hungry eat three meals a day together — either waiting or celebrating depending on the weather.

The recently married Kevin and Jessica Quinn have overseen the PNH operations for ten years, running both the front and back end. In addition to making sure everyone has a bed and three squares a day, both are accomplished guides and oft-filmed and photographed pros.

Kevin pioneered a 1,000-square-mile zone that includes everything from gnarly, spiny, 3,000-foot exposed steeps to wide open sustained fun runs that any skier would salivate over. Top notch guides, mind-blowing terrain and a unique setting and experience make Points North the first choice for anyone looking to make the pilgrimage to AK heli-skiing. Jessica and Kevin treat their guests like family while supplying the ultimate experience in skiing: picking untracked lines from an A-star.



As far as heli skiing goes, North Cascade has one of the chillest vibes of them all. It’s located in beautiful northern Washington, as apposed to most of the big dogs situated in the gnarly (and quite frankly, frightening) Alaskan mountains. And unlike those Alaskan peaks, your laps will include some trees along the way.

The terrain contains an eclectic mix of Pacific Northwest-style chutes, lines and tree skiing. When you make your first flight over the hills, you’ll see that it’s a downright fascinating site, worthy of a Planet Earth episode. Streams flow quickly down below, trees emerge from rocks, and a multitude of colors trail off into the distance. If you’re lucky, you might even see some wildlife wading in the water.

The weather can be dodgy at times, and of course, when the clouds come in, the heli stays in, too. But don’t fret; if you’re up for a little adventure, there are some hike-able pillow lines a mere couple hundred feet from the road.



Valle Nevado is the best destination in South America, hands down. The endless open terrain of the Andes complements the easy access from the international airport. The mountain is huge, and a joint ticket allows access to Valle’s sister resorts of El Colorado and La Parva. Throw in epic backcountry, killer Chilean food and wine and you have the skiing adventure of a lifetime. For the best deals, check out the resort’s low season packages and go in late August or early September for the best snow.


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