our guides

top professionals
in their field

Our guides are the top

Some are local Alaskans who reside here much of the year, and others have returned for over a decade to guide each year and witness the formation of the snowpack, and how the changing seasons affect our playground.

All hold US Avalanche II or III certifications or Canadian Level II certifications, have WFR, OEC, WEMT, EMT or other medical certifications, have been trained in rope skills and crevasse rescue, and are familiar with safely traveling in mountainous and glaciated terrain. All our guides are “lead” or senior guides who will have you skiing fresh tracks and untouched runs throughout the day.

With all our guides, we can safely say they have the skills, training, and experience to provide you with the best day of skiing or riding in your life!

the team


The original heliski guide in Alaska, Jerry has more descents and first descents in the Chugach Range than anyone on the planet. Not to mention his 38 years of skiing experience in the US, Canada, and South America. Jerry’s quiet nature and relaxed style allows you to be comfortable and relaxed as he takes you to the most exciting terrain imaginable. A professional heli-ski guide in every right! Jerry has been forecasting and guiding in Alaska for 33 years now! Along with heli-ski guiding Jerry has over 20 years of Avalanche Hazard Reduction experience in Montana and instructing public and professionals alike in a number of different Ski/Mountaineering and Forecasting classes. Jerry is also a Certified American Avalanche Association Instructor, and holds Wilderness First Responder and Outdoor Emergency Care medical certifications.

Steve Schumm

Steve grew up in the mountains of Montana and has been a backcountry and heli guide since the mid 80’s. He has been heli guiding on skis or snowboard in Alaska since 91′ and most years to date. He has also guided in the western US, Canada and Japan. Skiing from a young age his mountain knowledge is built from a lifetime of experience investigating weather, snow, terrain, avalanches and searching out the POW! He enjoys sharing his love of the mountains, helping others feel comfortable and finding the best lines possible for every standard level of the group. Steve has been accepted by the American Avalanche Association as a professional member and a Wilderness First Responder.

Peter Biskind

Peter loves snow, skiing, and sharing the wilderness. Peter guides and forecasts on snow year round in Antarctica, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and here at home in Alaska. Peter has been teaching avalanche education since 2011 and guiding in the Chugach since 2015. Peter is a certified AMGA Ski Guide, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), holds a US level three avalanche certification (Pro Level 2), and is a professional member and published writer for the American Avalanche Association.

Keree Smith

Growing up in the small town of Government Camp on Mt. Hood, Keree initially discovered her love for the mountains through ski racing. Her strong alpine background led to 10+ years guiding and coaching jobs from Utah to Iceland. Keree also collaborates as an athlete with brands such as 4FRNT skis and has worked on various projects in Iceland, Georgia, Canada, Alaska and the Western USA. Her first season heli-guiding with Black-Ops in 2021 came as a last-minute surprise opportunity! Needless to say, she loved every moment and can’t wait for more. Keree holds a Wilderness First Responder and AIARE 2. When she’s not skiing, Keree runs her own commercial fishing boat out of Bristol Bay, AK and is working towards her commercial pilots license.

Eli Harik

Born in the mountains of Lebanon, groomed in Utah, and brought to life in the Chugach for 18 years. Eli has done almost every run in the Chugach at one point or another in his 18 years shredding the best mountains on the planet.  He also developed and guided the lower 48's first backcountry heli-bike mountain just outside his home town of Eden Utah at the base of Powder Mountain.  Deep down inside he understands that powder is more valuable than dirt.  Either way: he is always ready to shred another!


Ryan Thomford

Ryan grew up in small town Minnesota and has been snowmobiling and snowboarding from an early age.  Welch Village, MN is his home ski area and the Covered Bridge Riders is his home Snwomobile Club. Home base for Ryan is now South Fork, Colorado. When Ryan’s not guiding in Alaska, you’ll find him enduro dirt bike racing the RMEC and working construction. Ryan’s been exploring the Chugach on snowmobile and splitboard since 2015.

Brenden Cronin

Born and raised in Saugus Massachusetts, attending college at the University of Maine and now calling Jackson Wyoming home, Brenden is closing in on two decades in the avalanche world. Every day in the mountains Brenden is still fascinated and humbled by the beauty and power of snow and avalanches. During his career he has worked as a ski patroller, snowcat skiing guide, professional and recreational avalanche instructor and currently is the Lead Avalanche Forecaster for the Wyoming Department of Transportation. As he says he's "incredibly blessed" to be able to make the pilgrimage back to Valdez Alaska to work as a heli ski guide for Black Ops Valdez. Brenden is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association, and a certified Wilderness First Responder. 


Alex comes from the mountains of Western Maine. Alex operates  our snowcats and builds our snowcat roads, alongside guiding both our cat terrain and our snow machine skiing and tours.  He has been snowboarding for over 30 years, and his local knowledge and experience in Alaska is obvious if you are lucky enough to spend the day out with him.  He has been working in the ski industry as a snowcat operator for the past 20 years.  During this time, he has created some amazing terrain park features and innovative event set ups.  Over the past decade, Alex has explored the mountains of Valdez via split board and snowmobile, and spends part of his year in his cabin at 46 mile.  He loves to share his knowledge of the mountains and help people find the best powder runs of their lives.

PAyton gage

Since he came into this world, Payton’s loved living and playing in the outdoors. He has family ties in Valdez dating back to the late 1950’s, before statehood. Born and raised in Alaska, as were his parents, he grew up learning how to hunt and fish at a young age. He’s ridden snowmachines his whole life and has been shredding the Valdez backcountry since 2019. Other hobbies of his include basketball, wakeboarding, cooking, and listening to great music.

Josh & Tabatha Swierk

Josh and his wife Tabatha are also partner owners/founders of Black Ops Valdez and the Robe Lake Lodge. Josh and Tabatha came to Alaska from Maine in 2004, and have been here since.  Josh worked for VHSG out of the Tsaina Lodge for 7 seasons, where he also started snowmobile guided trips and snowmobile accessed skiing and snowboarding during the early winter months and on “down days” when the helis could not fly. In 2008 they built the Robe Lake Lodge and in 2010 they added snowcat skiing to their snowmobile operation.  Finally in 2012, BOV added helicopters to their operation and worked with TGR on “The Dream Factory” film about Alaska.  Tabatha and Josh live full time in Valdez with their two daughters, Rachel Lee and Alana May.

Jordana Gonzalez

Growing up in Northern California Jordana had the pleasure of enjoying the beaches of Santa Cruz one weekend to shredding the Sierras the next. When she isnt in pursuit of her next adrenaline rush; she really enjoys cooking, live music and expressing herself through art. Following her passion for snowboarding and heart for adventure, she found herself in Valdez for the Spring of 2023.  Jordana plays an intergral part of our operation as dispatcher and guest support logistics, along with numerous other roles.  Jordana says, "I am grateful everyday for this opportunity to share a dance with these mountains & experience what they have to teach us!"






mary Harrington 

Mary was hired as Robe Lake lodge manager in 2024. Mary is from the town of Albany Maine.  She grew up skiing and snowboarding at Sunday River, and in the Whites/Mashoosucs of Maine/New Hampshire.  She has taught snowboarding lessons at Sunday River, has spent time snowboarding in Sierras of California and Nevada, and eventually making to Valdez in 2012.  Her husband Alex who also works with us, and their two daughters Alison and Aemelia have a cabin here in the Chugach just outside Valdez.

Mary has a BFA from Maine College Art and Design.  Off season is spent in Maine operating a home studio+garden where she makes cold process soap and logos, along with growing herbs and flowers. Any time away from work is spent riding horses with Alison, down hill mountain biking with Alex or making art projects with Aemelia.  She is also a Volunteer touring guide for Inclusive Skiing in Maine/New Hampshire, is assistant manager for the Bethel farmers market in Maine where she vends, and manages the restaurant and bar service for the Gracenote Inn and Spa in Bethel Maine. Mary holds a AIARE level 1&2 +crevasse rescue certs, Wilderness First responder cert, Iwls ski/snowboard mountaineering cert




ron short
noelle ford