Temsco hopes to expand heli-skiing in Skagway

A TEMSCO helicopter sits on the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau in 2009.
A TEMSCO helicopter sits on the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau in 2009. (Creative Commons photo by Robert Raines)

Skagway is surrounded by steep mountain peaks. They may be about to get more accessible to backcountry skiers and snowboarders, with an aerial assist.

“The highest peak out in that range is the highest point in the Skagway borough, at just over 8,200 feet in elevation,” Kelly Healy said. “The ski runs can vary from you know, 1,000 feet long to 4,000 feet long, depending on where they’re skiing and what they’re doing.”

Healy is the Skagway base manager for Temsco Helicopters, the only heli-ski tour operator in town. Recently, Temsco secured federal permits to take heli-skiers and boarders to BLM-managed land in the mountains to the west of town.

“We’re working towards kind of boosting Skagway up a little bit as a destination for heli-skiing in the future,” Healy said.

Healy also said there are some runs in those mountains that haven’t been ridden in years.

“There were skiers, you know, over 20 years ago out there, but since then there hasn’t really been any activity on that land,” he said.

The heli-ski season usually runs from February through April, Healy said, but with warmer weather this April, operations have already shut down.

Healy hopes heli-skiing can become an effective driver for Skagway’s sluggish winter economy.

“The Haines heli-ski industry has really caught on and is doing well and is seen just like a successful kind of industry for that town,” he said. “And it would be nice to kind of boost Skagway’s shoulder seasons and capitalize on a little different type of visitor.”

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