Interview with Ripley Creek Operations Manager Andre Ike
As one of Last Frontier Heliskiing’s longest serving heliski guides, Andre Ike knows the Ripley Creek tenure like the back of his own hand. Ripley Creek is one of the two heliski lodges operated by Last Frontier Heliskiing in Northern BC, Canada. First joining the company in 2000 at Bell 2 Lodge, Ike was offered an assistant manager position at Ripley Creek in its first year of operation in 2005. When George Feitzinger [the previous operations manager] left in 2010, Ike was promoted to his current position. Andre has been overseeing the Ripley Creek lodge and ski operations ever since.
On a recent visit to Stewart, B.C., I sat down with Andre to hear about what makes his operation tick.
Vince Shuley: What was the biggest reason for opening a secondary base for Last Frontier Heliskiing in Stewart?
Andre Ike: Last Frontier Heliskiing had a lot of guests who came back to Bell 2 Lodge year after year. Part of the motivation for opening Ripley Creek was to show these clients a new area and keep them coming back to ski something different. We also wanted to explore a promising, huge area that hadn’t been skied yet in the southern part of our tenure that now hosts some of our most popular runs.
VS: What’s the biggest draw for you to work here at Ripley Creek as opposed to Bell 2 Lodge?
AI: I’d say the terrain. The terrain is bigger and the mountains are more rugged. We are located right at the border of Hyder, Alaska. There are big ice fields, big glaciers, and long tree runs here. Some of our glacier runs overlook the Portland Canal, the four biggest Fjord in the world. What’s nice about Bell 2 Lodge is that you start and finish your ski day right at the lodge, whereas here we have to shuttle people out further to the staging areas. They also have accessible terrain 360 degrees around the lodge at Bell 2, which makes it easier to guide with local options when the weather comes in.
Aside of the mountains, it is the small, family-like atmosphere that draws me to Ripley. Bell 2 has that feel as well, but with a smaller capacity here (24 guests max), it feels even more intimate.
VS: Do you see a lot of guests returning to Ripley specifically? What’s the feedback you get?
AI: We do have some return guests that specifically come here, just like we have guests that would not heliski anywhere else than at Bell 2 Lodge. I think that if guests are really into skiing a lot of vertical, they are strong skiers and have experienced Bell 2 Lodge, it can come down to a choice between the accommodations. Bell 2 Lodge is a little higher end, and completely off the grid. If the complete remoteness and luxury experience prevail, then guests generally lean towards staying at Bell 2 lodge. Stewart is a small mining town, just as remote, but not quite as isolated of an atmosphere. If the deciding factor is the terrain first and foremost, then Ripley has something to make any skier/boarder dream.