Editor: Thanks for chatting with us and sharing your experiences with us.
Craig, you are the chief of operations and head guide of Himalayan Heliski Guides, which is the first and only heliski company in Nepal. 2015 marks your company’s 14th year in operation. Congratulations! Your company must be very proud of your achievements.
What kind of journey has it been for your company?
Craig Calonica: It's been a long road, I first began going to Nepal in 1981, we put up a new route on Pumori in the winter, it was the first successful winter ascent via a new route in Nepal's Himalaya. We then went over three 20,000 ft. high passes from Ama Dablam to Makalu after the climb on Pumori, this was also the first time anyone ever did this route in the winter... It was a good start to my career in the Himalaya.
From there, I did many other climbs in the Himalaya including 3 attempts to ski Everest from the summit. It was on the last attempt that heliskiing came to my mind. After many years of planning and scouting the areas, we finally began heliskiing there, 2015 will mark our 14th year running heliski trips in Nepal and as you might imagine, it's been great.
Editor: You take many clients heliskiing in some pretty amazing destinations. What’s that like for your clients: getting to spend time in some of the most amazing spots on the globe?
What feedback are you getting?
Craig Calonica: We take people helisking in Nepal, the Tierra del Fuego region in Chile and in Greece... all of them are unique to themselves, yet compliment each other. We're not trying to copy the Canadian companies format, which is living in a lodge and only going out skiing and that's about it... there's not much going on other than that.
On our trips we're not stuck in some lodge out in the middle of nowhere, we're in villages that are lively and have many things going on and endless activities to participate in when after were done skiing for the day.
While our trips focus on heliskiing, they also include a lot of culture, trips to the jungle, historic sites, sea crises, etc. each area has something special to do along with the skiing side of the trip which makes all our trips a great experience in parts of the world that are unique and special.
Editor: In which particular spots in Nepal has your company heliskied? You’ve got some big mountains on your list! Would you please share which areas those are?
How do these Himalayan spots differ from each other?
Each must have its own magic and allure.
Craig Calonica: We have heliskied in the Everest, Annapurna, Dhauligiri and Humla regions of Nepal, each area is special and different from each other. We have finally settled in on the Annapurna region, as it fits our clients needs the best and also we have established good areas to heliski out of which is of key importance.
In Greece we heliski on Mt. Olympus and in the Pindus mountains... Olympus
has one of the biggest vertical gains in Europe, it raises 2,917 meters straight up from the Aegean sea and has 52 summits, the thing is massive.
The Pindus mountains begin 50 km north of Athens and continue into Albania... it's the biggest mountain range in Greece, the area is massive, you could ski there for 10 lifetimes and never ski in the same place twice.
Most people do not realize this, but Greece gets a lot of snow in the winter, many times more then the Alps and the season is as long if not longer. It begins in early December and you can still ski to the end of May. Last year in the middle of April, it was -23 c in the morning, in the Alps during the same time, it was +13 which is
No one realizes this, I think in time, we will change the way people think about Greece because for now most associate it with sunshine and beaches, but that's not true in the winter... the place get a lot of snow, like a lot of snow...
In Chile, we operate in the Tierra del Fuego region, our lodge is in Puerto Williams, which sits along the Beagle Channel and is the last stop before Antarctica. The
area is extremely beautiful, wild and remote... it's very much like Southeast Alaska where you have glaciers falling into the sea.
We heliski all over this region including the Darwin Cordillera which is a very beautiful and special area. I suggest anyone reading this google the Darwin Cordillera and the Tierra del Fuego region for a bit more history on the region it as it really is a special and wild area.
Editor: That is absolutely fascinating! You’re also a legend when it comes to the great Himalayas. What initially drew you to the greatest and highest mountains in the world? We hear they area spiritual and quite sacred.
Craig Calonica: My first 20 years in the Himalaya were on expeditions and the last 14 have been taking people heliskiing there. My first trip to Nepal I mentioned above, we did a new route on Pumori in the winter and then went over three 20,000 ft. passes just after the climb.
We had no Sherpa assistance on the climb, or crossing of the passes, which made it a very unique and special trip... it was pure adventure, and self powered, which was
great... and the way it should be. This is the true essence of climbing in the Himalaya or climbing in general... you definitely come back changed after one of these trips, and in most cases for the better.
Unfortunately not many expeditions are done in this style anymore, I won't go into it now... but what is happening in the Himalayan climbing scene is a bit disheartening to say the least. It's all about people with money and very little climbing experience.
Editor: You take people heliskiing to some of the most exquisite destinations on the globe: Nepal, Greece and Chile. Your customers must enjoy that a great
deal…getting to ski in such pristine locales! Do you offer discounts?
Craig Calonica: Yes, we do offer discounts... for anyone who is interested, they can contact us and we'll tell them what discounts are possible at the time.
Editor: Thanks for making these adventures so accessible to your clients: I’m sure
they will find each adventure with Himalayan Heliski Guides unforgettable.
Check out the official Himalayan Heliski Guides websites:
Contact the good folks at Himalayan Heliski Guides directly:
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On the Cover: Craig Calonica
Cover Date: December 18th, 2014