Incident between ski-touring/freeriding group and heli-skiers in the Gudauri area

On behalf of Heliksir–Heliski Caucasus and its guides, I would like to clarify the events that led to the incident that occurred on Lomisi Mountain on February 13/2015 around 12h45, and was wrongly reported on social media by the Russian leader of the ski-touring/ freeriding group.

First of all, it is regrettable that the video content shows only a very little part of the incident, i.e. just two men having a heated conversation about an issue not defined in the video, instead of showing all the facts that led to this conversation. Secondly, the integrity of the group leader making these allegations of unprofessionalism against Heliksir is rather questionable, as he was the one who provoked the altercation. Furthermore, this person failed to reveal his name and state his professional mountain guiding qualifications while making such substantial allegations.

At our turn, we’d like to tell people our side of the story, in an honest way, and supported by a picture showing the scene of the incident as well as where the concerned groups were skiing at the time.

The line Heliksir’s guides and their groups were heli-skiing that day is a conservative and safe line that we have skied many times over the past years, and especially when the avalanche hazard is HIGH as it was on this particular day. The picture attached here shows: in GREEN the line our heli-skiing groups were skiing; in BLACK the area the ski-touring/ freeriding group was ascending when the incident happened; in RED the path of the remotely triggered avalanche.

Incident between ski-touring/freeriding group and heli-skiers

Two of our groups had already skied this line, when the guide of the 3rd group started to ski the upper pitch. At this time, a settlement occurred in the snowpack which remotely triggered a small size 2 avalanche in steeper terrain close by. The slide came down away from our groups, but in the direction of the route the ski-touring/ freeriding group had chosen to take. However, the avalanche stopped above the group and never hit anyone.

As the Heliksir guide stopped and regrouped his guests, away from the ski-touring/ freeriding group, the Russian group leader started to shout at our guide instead of trying to discuss the incident in a calm and polite manner. This group leader went on insulting Heliksir, its guides, and behaving in a very disrespectful manner towards our clients. At this point, the local guide helping us that day skied over to him in order to have a more private talk with him; unfortunately, the Russian group leader continued to make improper accusations against Heliksir and our heli-skiing activities, which led the discussion to go sour. Again, it is the very last part of this conversation that the group leader decided to put out on social media.

In the professional mountain guiding community throughout the world, guides follow a Code of Ethics which includes introducing yourself to the local guiding agencies when you decide to conduct your guiding activities in a foreign country, or in an area where local guides have been conducting business for years. This aspect of professionalism had been totally neglected by the Russian group leader accusing Heliskir of conflicting with his activities. Had he properly prepared his guiding trip, he would have known that helicopter-skiing activities have been conducted in the Gudauri area for many years and he should have expected to see heli-skiers on the slopes he choose for his group that day. Had this group leader tried to previously cooperate in a respectful and professional manner with the local mountain guides, the conflict would have certainly been avoided.

I would like to conclude by asserting that at Heliksir we do welcome professional guides from foreign countries who wish to run ski-touring/freeriding activities in the area. However, we strongly encourage them to communicate with us, find out where our heli-skiing programs take place and cooperate in an appropriate manner in order to prevent any conflict. It is worth noting that Heliksir has had excellent collaboration in the past with many other professional guides coming from foreign countries.

Daniel Bonzi

Lead Guide – Heliksir–Heliski Caucasus 
Internationally Certified Mountain Guide – UIAGM/IFMGA 
Member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides - ACMG 
Member of the Canadian Avalanche Association - CAA