Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua and his daughter heliski in their traditional territory. (Photo submitted)

Heli-skiing opportunity eyed for Tatlayoko area

“We’re the perfect location for heli-skiing. As the crow flies, Nemiah is right in the middle”

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua and his leadership team are considering allowing the elite sport of heli-skiing into their title area.

“They really want to put this area on their resume, so to speak,” said Lulua of the company, Bella Coola Heli Sports, who operate out of Whistler and Bella Coola.

“We’re the perfect location for heli-skiing. As the crow flies, Nemiah is right in the middle (between Whistler and Bella Coola).”

A skier himself, Lulua did spend six days with the company last winter heli-skiing for the first time in the Bella Coola area. Recently the company took Lulua and his daughter Kaitlyn heli-skiing on the Tsilhqot’in nation’s title lands, in the Tatlayoko area towards Homathko.

Read More: Docu-series on Xeni Gwet’in wild horses premieres tonight, Jan. 20

“It was a magical moment,” Lulua said of skiing on the mountaintops, which he describes as feeling “like you are floating on a cloud.

“But I did think my ancestors must be laughing at me coming down the mountain on a pair of skis.”

Lulua said he feels now is an exciting time for his community. It has been five years since the historic rights and title win in the area after years of being “economically deprived” due to the cost of taking the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Now the community can decide together what opportunities they would like to the see in the area and reap the benefits of those decisions.

So far, Lulua said they like how Bella Coola Heli Sports operates and the wildlife policies they have in place.

He feels the activity may be a good fit for the community, however, it will ultimately be up to the community to decide together.

“It’s pretty hard not to work with people who are fully transparent with you,” Lulua said of Bella Coola Heli Sports.

“I think it’s a great opportunity. Their clientele will bring awareness internationally. They will see the beauty of our area.”

Lulua estimates it will be another two years before, and if, a deal is reached.

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