Honoring a professional guide, be it fishing, hunting, hiking, rafting, packhorse, etc., who has best helped others experience the Western outdoors.
Lel ToneLel Tone knows about going the extra mile—her sport demands it. As a helicopter-skiing guide, Tone doesn’t take clients on a lift to access runs. No, she flies with them in a chopper to remote terrain. Sunset‘s Andrea Minarcek caught up with Tone, 43, at the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, in south-central Alaska, where she leads trips, to get the secrets of her slopeside success.
SUNSET: How did you end up as a heli-skiing guide?
TONE: I strapped on my first pair of skis at age 2, and I’ve been skiing ever since.
SUNSET: The secret to being a great guide?
TONE: Being able to take people out and work around constraints of fitness or ability. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy heliskiing. We have all kinds of terrain.
SUNSET: Best clients?
TONE: One of my favorite memories is skiing with this one retired couple from Jackson Hole. Heliskiing in Alaska was on their bucket list, and at 85 years old, they made it happen. They’re out skiing and trying new things, and that’s so inspiring.
SUNSET: How do you deal with the danger?
TONE: There are plenty of days when the avalanche hazard is high or the snowpack suspect, and those days are exhausting. That’s when this job feels like work. But most often, I have to stop myself and ask: “You’re paying me to fly around in a helicopter, get on top of these beautiful peaks, and ski powder all day long?!” Sometimes I do have to pinch myself.