Patagonia Heliski (PHS) has taken flight. “Patagonia is not just puffy coats...it is a place”, exhorts Justin Lozier, the owner and co-founder. He and his wife Catalina Lalor have created “more than a ski vacation and ski trip. It is so much more than going skiing, it is a chance, an opportunity to be part of something new, exploring a region for the first time in history. It is a unique opportunity to be a modern day explorer.” Patagonia defies ordinary and so does this crew and heli operation. PHS has been running for four years in Argentina and now they have opened this space in Chile at the The Mitico Puelo Lodge in the Puelo Valley. It is small. The potential is vast.
“I AM A SEEKER”
Olivia Daane (OD): Why Patagonia?
Justin Lozier (JL): I met my wife in 2005, who is now the General Manager of Patagonia Heli Ski. I was ski-bumming in Vail and she was on a work travel program. Her work visa expired and I followed her to Argentina. I wanted to find a place I could carve out my own life and style of living. I have never gravitated to the commercial lifestyle. Nice things are nice but I am a seeker. I am after a deeper meaning. I believe there is something more to life than what it seems. So, I went to Patagonia. I spent a ski season in Bariloche. I have been guiding since I was 19. I fell in love with the place, the culture and with Catalina as well! I was 4 when I started skiing in Michigan. My father was a National Ski Patroller and taught the whole family how to ski. I was a seeker with an affinity for nature. The mountains called me.
OD: I have seen in the past few days, terrain unlike any I have ever seen. The climates from ocean to temperate rain forest to massive glaciated terrain…
JL: It is extraordinarily diverse, particularly from the Chilean side where we go from our new base at Mitico Puelo Lodge. From a temperate rainforest, to an alpine glacial environment within a 10-minute flight, there is a lot going on. Massive fluctuations in humidity, temperature, wind and storm systems, from a hanging wet and warm event, you can go up into a meter of snow, things then get cold, starry skies and you are skiing powder!
OD: This can pose strategic issues. You have surrounded yourself with some incredible people on and off the snow to help make the best, sound decisions and create a rich experience: GM Catalina guides like Harrison Brickman (lead guide and director of Snow Safety), guide Mark Rikkers of Global Powder Stoke, pilots like Erich Hermann and Patricio Letelier of Eco Copter, hostesses (and Mitico Puelo lodge manager) like Valeria Kurguzkina and her staff serving up incredible meals and wines from her nearby vineyard. They help create a rarified elegance, comfort and expert ski exploration in a place so far, far away it feels like Khubla Khan. Your crew is unparalleled. You said you would rather be called founder than owner and leader than boss?
JL: I oversee every aspect of PHS. I am not foolish enough to think I am the best ski guide in the world. If you intend to do something great and want to be the best at what you do, it is imperative that you surround yourself with the best people possible to accomplish the task. It is not my intention to dictate orders...I have found a team. I believe in them and their abilities. I lead following the vision of this business and its future. I put the pieces in place to follow that path. Anyone can be an owner if you have the money, but to truly create something from zero is much more special.
OD: How do you fuel yourself for the intense physical and mental work each day holds?
JL: It is pure passion! It is just passion. I do not do anything special. This is just what I love and care about deeply.
OD: You are putting a lot of high stakes energy out there! How do you wind down?
JL: Honestly, when I am out in the field doing my thing, it is a lot of work and taxing on the body but it is not taxing on the soul. I do not feel like I need rest after that. I feel enriched. I feel good you know! PHS is a compounded challenge: to run a competent and safe heli ski operation, to do it in a part of the world where it has never existed before, to do it with the very small team we have. I am the leader of this effort but it is the people in our organization that help me rise to the occasion and achieve the goal.
Catalina Lalor: The dream was to adventure as a family. Our two daughters live with us at the lodge. I wanted to help people. It is exciting because the pieces are falling in place.
JL: This is all I have ever wanted. This is everything to me. Oh the glaciers, it is tremendous. You can never forget the power that they ultimately have and just to respect them.
Some people have taken on the role of mentors in this quest to join forces with, and champion this magical world of omnipotent nature. Justin Lozier, Founder Patagonia Heliski, and his wife Catalina Lalor, General Manager, have birthed and are trail-blazing with PHS, taking lucky snow seekers into raw terrain, not to besmirch and tamper with nature by touristic overuse and exploitation, but to educate us, to make us earn our adventure, to give people a taste of these WILD PLACES we need so badly for our existence, both body and soul. Global Powder Stoke owner and guide Mark Rikkers recently kept all engaged and alert on this previously unexplored terrain in Patagonia. He extols “traveling the world and skiing remote, wild and untapped terrain.”
He is another leader, his own curiosity sparking ours. Mark brings together people, curating groups that will jive like the Shilling family and Bill Oliver, travelers on this journey in September. Mark curates groups who will handle the terrain and each other in global, exotic destinations to exceed their personal goals of doing things in ways few get to experience “places a bit more experimental,” Mark says with a gleam in his eye.
Wonder is not a big enough word for the juxtapositions moving participants from emerald lodge, lawn grasses and chewy temperate rainforest to the most massive glaciated terrain imaginable. Rikkers calls it “guiding game on!” Justin loves the challenge, the puzzle. That’s the exciting part. That is the reason he does it. That is the reason why, if you are ready for an adventure that pushes boundaries, this is the trip for you. Justin and his team will keep you safe and you will come back forever changed by the honesty of the landscape and the truths it opens within you. The physical and mental treasures we all hold inside are just waiting to be ignited and polished by the pure fierce beauty of Patagonia. The energy of creation is tangible here, like a life force at and under one's fingertips. As Justin says, “It feels good!” Only the lucky few will hear and answer the inner call to Patagonia, a place that stuns the eye and stirs the spirit.
JL: Patagonia is so much more. It is so beyond me. My interest truly lies in sharing that experience with other people. It is just real. I love powder skiing and the mountains; bringing people into that environment, to feel something inside themselves, to experience a sense of freedom, wonder, to be overwhelmed by earth and its natural beauty while being kept safe. That is where I find my joy.
On his bedside: The Avalanche Hunters - Montgomery Meigs Atwater, Bugaboo Dreams: A Story of Skiers, Helicopters and Mountains - Topher Donahue
On his playlist: Ray LaMontagne, The Disco Biscuits