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    H2O Guides Seeks to Change Heliskiing Perception, Gender Ratio

    Dean Cummings H2O Guides, Alaska’s premier heliskiing operator, is testing the women’s market for remote wilderness ski adventure by giving outdoor, ski and adventure travel industry women a unique opportunity to ski on the record-breaking 900-inch snowpack in the Chugach Range surrounding Valdez.

    H2o Guides’ Wild Women’s Wilderness Heliski Adventure(AW-HA!) is a specially designed women’s-only 3-day/5-night package set to debut later this season. Included are skiing with some of the most extensively trained guides in the industry, lodging, and other activities designed to give guests a taste of the Alaska lifestyle. Breakfast and lunch are provided daily and a private, special reserve dinner is planned. Price is $4411 double; $4538 single. Dates for the trip are April 17 – 22. A similar 5 day/7 night option is also available April 14 – 21 at a higher price.

    Surprised to learn that only a tiny fraction of heliski clients are women, veteran industry public relations pro Lee Hart asked her clients, Dean and Karen Cummings, owners of H2o Guides, why more women don’t heliski. The Cummings’ explained that past outreach efforts have proven women skiers are an elusive guest but admit it could be time to try to reach them again. “More women are doing more adventurous trips than ever before,” said Karen Cummings. Hart added, “I could see Alaska heliskiing becoming the next hot theme in girlfriend getaways.”

    The media portrayal of helicopter skiing in Alaska is the inverse of the reality. Ski movies routinely showcase the 1 percent of young, male skiers who seek out Alaska’s steepest lines and biggest drops, explained Dean Cummings, himself a frequent movie subject as an icon and pioneer of such terrain. The reality of the heliski industry is completely different. “The vast majority of our clients are advanced intermediate to advanced skiers who come here to enjoy the truly remote wilderness experience we offer, improve their backcountry skills and ski technique, and enjoy endless expanses of untracked powder,” Dean Cummings said. “Fifty percent of the terrain is moderate and the snow here is so smooth it’s like skiing on velvet.”

    Another misconception is that it’s hard to travel to Alaska. Nothing could be further from the truth, said Karen Cummings. Travel to Valdez can take place in one day, especially thanks to non-stop flights to Anchorage from dozens of US cities. Heliski clients arrive and depart on the published H2o Guides trip dates thanks to regularly scheduled daily connecting commuter flights from Anchorage (ANC) to Valdez (VDZ) on Grant Aviation or Era Alaska.

    Hart said she has made it a personal mission to get at least a few industry friends to discover heliskiing this season. An avid skier, far from rock star caliber, Hart explained Valdez is for anyone who loves powder skiing especially this year which is on track to top the deepest snowfall on record. “The skiing is epic, the scenery absolutely spectacular and the experience is exhilarating and empowering. Plus, I really want to prove wrong all the local guys that have been telling me women simply won’t indulge themselves with a heliski vacation.”

    Hart is launching her campaign by getting word out to her friends and colleagues in the ski, outdoor, and adventure travel industry and these industries’ ripping women writers. Details of the trip can be found on Hart’s AK Ingenue thread on her blog, Brand Amp Wire. Call for details and reservations 907.835.8418.

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