Industry Profile: Northern Escape Heli-Skiing GM & President John Forrest
28 Jul, 2011
Job Title: General Manager & President
Employer: Northern Escape Heli-Skiing
Years on snow: 40 years
Days on snow: 120 days/year
Currently Riding: Prior Overlords (sorry, I’m a skier…)
Currently I am: Getting ready for winter once again
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
John: I started skiing and climbing when I was quite young and became one of the younger ACMG certified guides in Canada. My love for the mountains was and still is very strong and I knew I needed to find someway to make a living doing what I loved. Now, being able to take people that would never be able to experience places like what I call my back yard, is a wonderful treat and part of what makes what I do so special.
Shay: How has snowboarding/Skiing changed your life?
John: Owning and running a Heliskiing company has always been a dream for me and something I worked very hard to achieve. It provides a great life style for me and my family.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
John: I started at the bottom and worked very hard at everything I did.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
John: Becoming a certified Ski Guide was simply a must to be able to pursue this career. The rest of the “business” acumen was learned though the school of hard knocks.
Shay: Tell us about your role at Northern Escape Heli-Skiing and a description of the work you do?
John: I’m the “Man with all the Hat’s” according to our marketing people. I’m the General Manager as well as one of the Lead Guides.
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
John: Well, in the summer things are a little more relaxed and my main focus is on marketing and sales. As the fall approaches we begin to get ready operationally with the hiring of staff (we generally have approx 50 staff for the winter) and the work turns to getting the snowcat back-up area ready to go. That usually entails cutting new roads to access more skiing. With the arrival of winter, I get pretty busy. My days are generally 16 hrs of work with a mandatory 8 hrs of rest. I generally guide everyday and still manage the business end of the operation. Of course I have help in the office year round and I rely on them even more in the winter.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
John: My favorite memory is renewed every time I take a new guest up for the first time. The expression of shear amazement and joy on their faces is incredible and really makes what I do great.
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
John: I think everyone wants to hear “Climate Change” but to be honest I don’t think that’s the biggest challenge. The climate and our impact as human’s upon it will continue to evolve. Hopefully, as we learn more we will adapt our ways so as to advert the prophesized end of the world as we know it. But what I do see as a big change and current challenge to the way we do things is the evolution of our approach to sport in the Mountains. I’ve noticed a real change over the last 25 years of guiding and it seems we are loosing some of the love and respect for nature and replacing it with achievements. To each his own I guess.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
John: I think the end result is similar and it’s just the method of how you go about gaining knowledge.
Shay:What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
John: Start with doing what you love and then work really hard at it. With a little luck and a lot of hard work you may be rewarded with an amazing career doing what you love, but it doesn’t come easy.
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