Kenai Heli Ski – New Operation, Based in Seldovia

| October 10, 2012 | 18 Comments

by Jenny Chissus
Skiing photos by Kenai Heli Ski, Local Seldovia photos by Jenny Chissus

I had the great opportunity to visit with Njord and Chad on one of their trips to Seldovia this past winter.  They were here to meet with the community and were checking out the slopes for this upcoming winter 2013 Heli ski season in the mountains surrounding our beautiful waterfront community of Seldovia!

Now, as the first snow has already fallen (Yes, in September!) we are looking ahead to an upcoming season of Heli Skiing in the Seldovia mountains!  Winter is on the way, and this is a great opportunity to introduce you to a new business coming to Seldovia this winter and Njord Rota, co-owner of Kenai Heli Ski!

First, a little info:  Kenai Heli Ski has 4 helicopters and one Snowcat available for inclement weather (when the ceiling is too low, or the weather too bad for helicopters) in order to promise their skiers over 100,000 vertical feet of skiing during a 6 “ski days” trip!

Their weeklong packages will include transportation from Anchorage to Seldovia, lodging, meals, guides and equipment.  They will provide skis (bring your own snowboard if that is your equipment of preference) and most importantly avalanche airbags for each skier.  They are the only company providing this very important safety equipment (through their partner Backcountry Access) to clients at no extra cost.  Check out all the important safety measures they are committed to, from equipment to experienced and trained guides who have medical training and mountain guide certifications as well as advanced avalanche training.  First priority is always safety – and the second is FUN!

This Heli ski operation is going to be an exciting aspect to the winter months in our quiet community off the road system.  I live here year round, and come September, it is just us “locals” who spend the entire winter in Seldovia.

I had the opportunity to talk with Njord on the phone the other day about the upcoming winter – and pick his brain a bit about the hopes and dreams for his first season in Seldovia.

Njord, where are you from and what is your experience with Heli-ski?  Currently I’m living in Glenwood Spring Colorado, but originally I’m from Kansas.  My father was a career military officer, so I’ve lived just about everywhere.  I’ve personnaly transitioned from being a guide in my youth to a career as a military officer and helicopter pilot to coming back to my roots as a guide.

With a new venture in Alaska, are you working with heli ski this winter in Colorado?  There is going to be very little happening this year for us in Aspen.  Chad and I are going to teach a couple of avalanche classes, but otherwise the focus is going to be on getting things ready for heli skiing in Alaska.

There are so many beautiful places to ski, why did you choose Seldovia?  How did you discover Seldovia?  I discovered Seldovia through Ted Stallings, with Aero Tech Inc., whom I’ve worked with as an aircraft provider for some of the defense work that I do.

What is special or unique about this ski package in Seldovia for your clients?  It’s special in that is mostly “undiscovered” for the helicopter skiing community.  There’s plenty of exploring left to be done.  Seldovia offers a quaint, “homestyle” community feel for the clients.

Your season is from February 23 to April 27, how long will you be in Seldovia (setting up) before and after those booking dates?  We’ll most likely be arriving at the end of January to start setting –up and training the guides.

What kind of support do you need from Seldovia to make this a great experience for your Heli ski clients?  Mostly looking to the community to be friendly and welcoming, making our clients feel “at home” will make the experience super positive for everyone!

How do your bookings look this far?  Do you expect to reach capacity and have to turn folks away?   We started booking our first guests in September, and our first customers to make a reservation are from Germany!   We’ve made very conservative financial estimates in how many guests we are going to bring in this year; our goal is 60 right now, but things are starting to indicate that we are going to exceed that number!  The same goes for “Private Trips”, we are seeing a lot more interest than we expected for our first year.



Seldovia is a small venue – and this experience is a unique and intimate adventure.  How many skiers do you expect to bring to Seldovia at a time on these Saturday to Saturday week-long trips?  
We are limiting ourselves to no more than 30 guests per week this year.  Future years will see more guests per week as we build our client base and are able to bring more guides on as employees.

I know you have a private heli ski package – how many skiers are included in a private package?   The private package is just that: It can be anywhere from 1 person to 9 people per group, it depends on what the clients want to do.  Like I mentioned before, we are seeing a lot more interest than we expected for our first year for our private packages.

What is your hope for the future of Kenai Heli ski?  We are looking to create a safe and sustainable operation that is able to offer a unique experience that will bring skiers from all over the globe to Seldovia, Alaska!

How will this experience differ in Seldovia from all other Heli ski offered in Alaska?  The primary difference will be that we won’t have to “compete” with other heli ski operations in Alaska; Valdez has 7 different companies operating in the area.  I think our venue will be more of an intimate experience, the guests will be able to make a connection with the area and community over the week they are in Seldovia.  Many of the Valdez or Girdwood  experiences are short, usually 1-3 days instead of 7 like we offer.

Are most of your clients return clients, or are you looking for new skiers?  We are looking for anyone that who appreciates skiing!  The goal is to create a positive experience that will have our clients returning year after year, allowing for the business to build!

I have seen your articles in UnofficialNetworks.com, FirstTracksOnline.com, PowderHounds.com and now you mentioned that the November issue of Powder Magazine will be featuring your new Heli ski operation in Seldovia – are you getting a great response to your new venture?  How big is the heli ski market?  We are conducting a planned marketing campaign, we are running full-page ads in national print magazines like Power Magazine and Skiing Magazine over the next couple of months.  Other regional magazines like Jackson Hole Skier and newspapers in ski towns will also run our ads (Aspen Times, Vail Daily News, etc…).   The goal is to create awareness of a new operation in an area that traditionally has seen very limited commercial skiing opportunities.  We are also starting to get more press coverage, the November issue of Powder Magazine is running a ½ page editorial story on the “Kenai Heli Ski Story” and how I’ve personnaly transitioned from being a guide in my youth to a career as a military officer and helicopter pilot to coming back to my roots as a guide.

Njord, is there anything else you would like to say?   The team is excited for the upcoming winter and look forward to being part of the Seldovia Community!

Please check out www.KenaiHeliSki.com to see more information, photos and details about the newest skiing opportunity in Alaska!

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Category: Business, Editor's Favorites, Sports

Comments (18)

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  1. Kim Karter says:

    I can’t believe people even want to open a business in this economy, much less one the brings in “rich” people, whatever that means. People with money spend money. Seldovia should be pretty happy that someone wants to start a business there, and one that brings in money and promotes the town and area.

  2. Carla Jones says:

    Hmmm. Hangar having been built, helicopters in Seldovia, pilots and mechanics, housing, food, restaurants all in Seldovia. That sounds like economic development to me. How many business have you heard of being started in Seldovia in years that actually bring in money? This is economic development. Are people looking for a plastics company to open in Seldovia? I bet that would go over really well. Let us be real. I guess if somene has a 1 year old the world should stop. All parents stop bringing your 1 year old to the market and on the plane, it really bothers me-that is noise. And no I don’t live in Seldovia, but I visit it every year to fish and stay. I don’t think that me and my “rich” friends offend the airline tickets we buy, the ferry, and the hotel and restaurants we stay and eat in Seldovia, and the fishing boat we rent, the guides we hire, the shipping service…

  3. D Burnett says:

    I can’t believe I’m coming back to this, BUT . . . there is a difference between air traffic for necessity (because we’re not on the road system) and helicopters for recreating rich folk. Also, I can’t help but question the whole “Fly Neighborly” thing when they chose to locate their hanger and pad in a residential subdivision, 200 feet from a home with year-round residents and a 1-year old. If you lived here, you’d know this fact, and it’d make you suspect, too. Let’s put our energy towards economic development that isn’t so dependent on tourism – that creates jobs for people that live here, so that the money can stay here.

  4. Billy Stevens says:

    I will give you a well said Jill Caper. I concur and then some. Not noisy, utilize the park, work with the park and park authorities, economic development…all good. When was the last someone wanted to start a business in Seldovia? About time someone wants to!

  5. Jill Caper says:

    My well said is misplaced, my apologies. I agree with Mr. Rota, not Mr. Nelson. Mr. Nelson’s math is incorrect, check their web site sir, max 25 people a week, and that is if they are sold out, more likely 5-15 people a week. I have spoken with Mr. Rota, as I am a skier, and he doesn’t want to ski where we walk to, and if he sees us he will always do is best to remove his guests from that location, hopefully very far removed. This are highly trained mountain professionals who want to bring business to Seldovia. They are not noisy! What a silly argument. Did everyone swim to Seldovia? How did we all get here? Our food? Our goods? Let’s be real. They will be stewards of the land and good for our area. And they have no intention of shuttling hikers in the summer, and if they did great. This would bring in more tourists to Seldovia to spend their money, utilize the park, and provide jobs.

  6. Jill Caper says:

    Well said.

  7. Matt Stevens says:

    96 people being shuttled a day? Where did that math come from? If they were doing 96 people a day this would be the biggest business outside of the oil, mining, and fishing industry, and Seldovia would have a multi-million dollar business. Wouldn’t that be nice. There web site says maximum 25 people a week, and that is if they are sold out. And yes, this should be a nice business for Seldovia, whether it is 25 people a week or 5 people a week. It is business. It is low impact and not noisy. I guess you didn’t fly or take a boat to Seldovia. You just sit around being quiet? These will be nice people and this will be good for Seldovia. They are not going to ski where you walk to, and if they do see you there I suspect they will be happy to go elsewhere. Reach and talk to this folks, I did. And they have no intentions of taking hikers in the summer, but if they did great, as more jobs would be provided and more tourists would come to Seldovia to spend their dollars in our community and see all we have to offer.

  8. Bill Nelson says:

    The typical heli-ski operation assigns 3 to 4 groups of 4-5 skiers plus a guide to each helicopter, The chopper takes the first group out to the mountains, then returns and picks up the next group and so on until the four groups are dispursed out over the mountains. Then, as each group skis down, the chopper shuttles over to that group and picks them up and takes them to the top for the next run. This creates a steady drone of helicopters all day long. Now imagine 4 helicopters doing this. They will have up to 16 groups of 4-5 skiers, plus guides, up to 96 people being shuttled all day long. The noise will echo all over the valleys and bays.

    The helicopters will destroy the peace and quiet forthose of us that enjoy quite sports and human powered backcountry skiing.

    Don’t doubt for a moment that they will eventually be doing it in the summer for hikers too.

  9. Njord Rota says:

    Jen,

    Thanks for the great article! I can understand that there is a concern with helicopter noise, this is something that the helicopter industry faces regularly. Here are somethings that we do to minimize our impact:

    1. Fly “Neighborly” – A program that HAI uses minimize helicopter noise impacts and we follow!
    2. We won’t be flying in town (the airport) much – the skiing is in the mountains, so we depart in the morning and return in the afternoon. You get a lot more noise from local airplane traffic than you’ll ever get from helicopters.
    3. Minimize flight time as much as possible; this is our biggest cost, so it’s in our interest to keep the flight time to a minimum.
    4. Develop flight corridors; fly routes that keep us from over flying houses and where people live.

    Also, I’m not sure where Mr. Burnett is getting his information from, but we are not planning on bringing in “services” – transportation, housing, meals, etc… is all something that Kenai Heli Ski is resourcing locally in Seldovia. We are bringing in ski guides and helicopter pilots; these are professionals that have unique skills sets that are not available in Seldovia. Everything else we are procuring locally – if anything, we are trying to use as much of the local economy as possible!

    If anyone in the community has questions or would like to know the “real deal”, feel free to contact me (Njord Rota – Owner) at 970 366 6600 or email me at njord@kenaiheliski.com. I’d be glad to discuss any concerns or answer any misconceptions/questions!

    I look forward to great winter season in Seldovia!

    Njord Rota

  10. lg says:

    Tourists from all over the world coming to Seldovia and spending dollars and providing tax revenue, great. In my experience helicopters and their skiing clientele have always been respectful. They will come for a few months of the year to enjoy our mountains and snow-great! Hopefully they will come back and go fishing or enjoy the other 8 to 10 months of the year.

  11. bill smith says:

    This will be good for Seldovia as it will bring visitors from all over the world to our community. This will provide tax revenue, income for locals, and potentially provide jobs. Contrary to belief helicopters fly in the mountains where the skiing is, not over houses all day long. They are also regulated by the FAA on flight paths and distance they can fly over residential areas. And pilots don’t enjoy flying over someone’s house as well.

  12. SeldoviaGal says:

    Thanks Vivian for your long-time Seldovian perspective on this opportunity!

  13. Vivian Rojas says:

    I think the opportunity to be open minded about the potential for a new industry in Seldovia is one to appreciate. I believe most of us know Seldovia needs to develop more economic base in order to support our city and community. This has the potential to open up Seldovia for a couple of extra months of the tourist season to people who enjoy what we enjoy the outdoors. I am optimistic that the venue will lend itself to people who are of like interests and want the feel of a small community where people wave and say hello because that is our custom to acknowledge one another with respect. I also want to believe Njord and Chad will be open to input from the community as the project becomes a reality. I have lived here going on 39 years and I still hold my ears when a 206 flies low and over my house. I also am someone who loves the solitude of the mountains in winter. Let’s see how it goes.

  14. James B says:

    I guess the planes coming in from Homer every hour don’t make any noise… I envy your selective hearing!

  15. Ian McGaughey says:

    Great article. This is a terrific opportunity for a positive economic boost in Seldovia during the winter months. Kenai Heli Ski has been very cooperative in seeking input from the community. They have proposed a project which would provide a unique outdoor recreational opportunity, while taking care to respect environmental concerns. Other small communities throughout North America with heli ski operations report not only revenue generation and job creation, but opportunities to meet interesting people from all over the world.

  16. D Burnett says:

    Check out their website. According to them, come spring “the town blooms into the Kenai Heli Ski Village.” Who are these people? And, beyond initial construction jobs, where’s the economic development when they are providing ALL the services – transportation, housing, food. We’re just suppose to be friendly? And listen to helicopters all day?

  17. brian slover says:

    and now we have lost our quiet winter exeperence to the noise polution that you cant get away from on the other side, and these slopes we discovered long ago buy those that live here year round, money over the quality of life is how I see it.

  18. Brian Watson says:

    Thought this might be of interest……Really great addition to Seldovia if it proves successful

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