20 Questions For Points North Heli 20th Anniversary

Since 1998, Kevin and Jessica Quinn have been building an empire in some of world's finest skiing terrain. The Orca Adventure Lodge is a state of the art multi-seasonal adventure facility that was formerly known as the Orca Cannery and is located in the natural treasure of Prince William Sound. In the midst of all the madness they have managed to start a family of their own. They are truly outstanding and inspiring people. Read through below to get insight from the Quinn's journey over the years. 

1. Where is Points North Heli located? 

In gorgeous Cordova, Alaska! Located at the head of Orca Inlet with jaw-dropping views of Prince William Sound all around. 


2. What is the annual snowfall for the region? 

600-800 inches.

3. How much terrain can Points North Heli access? 

There are over two million acres in the Chugach Mountain Range but the operation has a permit with exclusive access to 250 square miles in the southeastern side of the Chugach Mountain Range.

4. How far do your have to fly to start skiing? 

Within only ten minutes of flying you can drop into the runs of your life. The Chugach Mountain Range is the second largest National Forest in the United States. 

5. What are the seasonal dates for heli-skiing in the Chugach Mountain Range?

The choppers are ready to take flight from February 15th and will fly through the end of April.  

6. Considering that this is PNH’s 20th Anniversary, what are your words of wisdom for aspiring helicopter pilots or heli-skiers?

For pilots, it’s the most challenging flying that you will do in your career. No question. For skiers and riders, do it before you can’t. As Warren says, “if you don’t do it this year, you will only be one year older when you do”. There is nothing like riding on a magic carpet to a mountain top!

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

7. Knowing that Alaska has an abundant amount of daylight, what is the longest day you have skied? How many runs?

Without trying to set or break any records, our average days start around 9am in the field returning home around 9pm at night with the long day light hours. Most guest generally come home with 10-12 run days in the spring. I think our PNH record is 23 runs in one day. Those were big runs. We could easily blow that mark out of the water if we were trying to set records.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

8. What special requests do you get from your customers? Do they have any lines in mind when they arrive?

“Do you think we will get to ski Pontoon this week?” “How does the weather look?” “I really don’t want to be put in a group that has to jump off cliffs”.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

9. Can you describe the weather patterns of the Chugach Mountain Range?

The weather patterns in the Chugach are unpredictable and harsh. The winds can blow like most have never seen, the snow can pile up in feet in a matter of hours and the temps can bring a harsh reality to why layering is so important.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

10. What role does the Bering Sea play?

It doesn’t. If the storms arrive from the Bering they are dried out. The storms we count on and look for come up out of the Gulf of Alaska as a SW flow and into the Chugach. The warm moist air collides with the colder climate producing hero like snow that sticks to everything you want to ski. The Maritime snowpack along with the Chugach Mountain topography allows skiers and riders opportunities to ride big lines unlike anywhere on the planet. The Chugach is Disney Land on steroids!

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

11. What kind of slopes (North, South, East, West Facing) do your customers ski/ride the most? Why?

We follow the compass in order to ride in the sun as much as possible. We ride all four sides of the mountain. Early season offers cold snow on most aspects with the longer days generating a corn harvest on the sunny sides and cold snow on the shaded aspects. Our tenure is over 1500 square miles and offers more terrain than one person could ski in a lifetime. Even after 20 years we still have first descents waiting.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

12. Besides safety measures, what does it take to become Heli Ski Guide and Tour Camp Guide?

A good ski guide is made up of a number of different skill sets. Personality and good people skills are huge. A guide can have all the skills in the world but without the skills to make people feel good and confident, they are not going to get far in this business. A good ski guide needs to be genuine. This is a lost art. I see so many ski guides looking for jobs with great resumes, but they lack the skill of genuine communication.  Work ethic is another.  So many think they have it but in reality there not even close. Being a ski guide at a heli ski operation means you do everything. And, you do everything with a smile because you realize that your living the dream. Even if it means plunging toilets or piles and piles of dishes. It’s all part of it.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

13. On a fly day, walk me through how you decide to take guests based on ability level?

Honestly, a good operator is like a good shoe sales person. You should know the second the guest walks through the door as to what they are looking for. Nikes, Penny loafers, maybe boots. You can just tell if that skier or rider is one that rides 50-100 plus days a year or if there schedule only allows them to be the weekender. You have to make certain you put people in like-minded groups. Nobody wants to feel pressured or feel like, “how did I get stuck with these folks”.

14. How do you divide the guests into groups? 

Everyone’s trip and experience is equally important and group dynamics are paramount. It’s not uncommon that we have mistaken our own perception on that particular guest and that’s when the question game starts. Where do you ski, how often, every heli skied before, what experience are you looking for in this trip? How often do you ski? Are you comfortable in all conditions? It’s really pretty simple and a good conversation really solidifies your gut instincts as to what group a person should be in. In the field group changes happen but not often.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

15. How often do you get to fly with your children?

Both Jess and I try to get our kids out as much as we can throughout the season. It’s a special treat and we try our best to make sure both appreciate it and don’t take it for granted.

16. What kind of precautions do you take when you're with your children? 

Jess and I also have a rule as to not fly in the same aircraft together in order to mitigate our risks however, riding with your little ones is really what it is all about. Both Kinley (7 turning 8 soon) and Kash (3 turning 4 soon) love the helicopter and love skiing. They grew up taking naps to the sound of helicopters landing and taking off, it. Hopefully one day they will both realize just how lucky they are.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

17. Do you think that drones will have a future in dropping off heli-skiers/boarders?

NO, but I do think that drones have changed the game for film makers. They offer incredible opportunities for film allowing you to get up and close to a rider without the huge expense of the aircraft.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

18. Describe the craziest sight you have seen from the helicopter in your 20 years?

There have been many crazy sights but the ones that stand out, stand out for certain. How about the time Micah Black and I were hanging on a 150’ long line under the helicopter getting dropped off on peaks? That one certainly stands out. Watching athletes out run huge sluff avalanches while filming only then to send it off a big cliff mid slope and then straight line down the huge face is another. Crazy though? How about when Jeff Holden jumped off the 150 plus foot cliff that made the cover of Powder Mag after our first year? That one was crazy…and incredible. So many more…

19. What do you like to do in the helicopter after you drop off your passengers?

I love coming around the corner of a really big line or feature and out of nowhere you spot a tiny little ant or group of ants on the top. The visual is something only that of a heli skier can relate to.  

Photo Courtesy of Richard Hallman

20. What is your favorite Warren Miller Film and segment?

This answer is easy. All of the ones we have been a part of. Journey is a stand out for certain. I’m also on the cover so that’s a bonus. Krietler, Micah and I doing laps on the mighty Sphinx and all of its lines. That one certainly stands out.   So many others. How about flying and riding around the Chugach with Monte Meier and Kevin Brambell in Off the Grid. Monte a one-legged skier that rips and Brambell who is in a sit ski. That segment was and is one of the most inspirational segments of all time. We should do a repeat of it.