"There are three important factors!"
Hans Solmssen is a mountain guide who has been operating in Maniitsoq/Kangaamiut over the past 13 years. Read his thoughts on how to create a healthy environment for heli-skiing in Greenland:
"There are a variety of factors creating a healthy environment for heli-skiing. Among these are, I believe, three important resources."
Know the clientele
The most important is certainly the clientele, able to afford spending DKK80'000 for a week's heli-skiing. These clients are very demanding, are well aware of the industry standard of Heli-skiing with internationally certified mountain guides, and will have heli-skied extensively in other locations worldwide before coming to Greenland.
They are a very small, niche group of people, who share information with each other to learn which operators are safe and reliable. Most clients are by word of mouth, booking with an operator referred to by another heli-skier.
"The most important is certainly the clientele, able to afford spending DKK80'000 for a week's heli-skiing."
"Marc and Candice and I have agreed on separate terrain so our clients continue to safely experience the same feeling of solitude other successful heli-skiing operations offer."
Choose the heli-skiing area carefully
Another important resource is an area with mountains in relative close proximity to the infrastructure required to operate a helicopter, backed up with access to emergency medical facilities. There are many places worldwide that meet these requirements. And Greenland adds an outstanding cultural experience to this mix.
Exclusive access to each heli-ski operator for a defined area ensures not only a safe operation, but also the unique experience these clients are searching for. The present situation in the area around my operation in Kangaamiut assures my clients vast terrain of untouched snow that a reputable heli-skiing operation requires.
Marc and Candice and I have agreed on separate terrain so our clients continue to safely experience the same feeling of solitude other successful heli-skiing operations offer. Because our two products are quite different, we have, over the years, been able to cooperate together and grow our separate businesses to their present size. Attracting affluent clientele to come skiing in Greenland is the biggest challenge we face today. Help and cooperation from the villages of Kangaamiut and Maniitsoq is vital to the continued growth in our businesses.
Skilled mountain guides are a must
The third important ingredient is an experienced mountain guide to lead these clients down the very intricate terrain surround Maniitsoq and Kangaamiut. The skiing is so satisfying in this area because of these complicated descents. I have heli-skied for over 30 years in Alaska, all over Europe, the Himalaya, India, Russia, skied on the Antarctic peninsula, and I believe the Qeqqata Kommunea is one of the most difficult regions to safely guide.
There is significant danger of avalanches here in Greenland because of the steep terrain we ski. And the fact that 100% of our skiing is on glaciers, means the risk of falling into a crevasse is always present.
"The fact that 100% of our skiing is on glaciers, means the risk of falling into a crevasse is always present."
The International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA) was founded in 1965 by Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria. New countries are accepted when they have shown they have put in place a training regime to form new guides. Canada and New Zealand now both offer a heli-skiing license for people only wishing to complete the winter part of the mount guide's program.
Many years of experience are required to "read" these glaciers and find the safe "line" from the summit to the water's edge. Modern techniques in avalanche risk assessment must be practiced daily in the field and at the Heli-skiing base. This includes snow pit analysis of slopes to be skied and record taking of these observations at the base.
A modern heli-skiing operator must have the skills to successfully attract an affluent clientele, choose an appropriate area, skilfully lead this clientele with confidence over risky terrain, and manage all the intricacies of running a viable business in today's depressed economic climate.
Developing relationships with local contractors is one of the great joys in running my business here in Greenland. Regine Filemonsen, Arne Hardenberg and Søren Lyberth have been key to my success in Kangaamiut.
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