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

JERRY HANCE

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 31 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!

 

Andy Brooks

Andy has been heli ski guiding in Valdez Alaska since 2010, and at Black ops since 2012.  He started his ski guiding career working for Rendezvous Backcountry Tours on the westside of the Tetons where he has called home for the past 20 years.  Known as the Soul Powder Guide he spent nearly a decade splitting winters guiding between Hokkaido, Japan and Valdez, Alaska two of the snowiest places on the planet. Andy currently guides for High Mountain Heli Skiiing Jackson Hole before heading to Valdez in March.  Andy holds Wilderness First Responder, Winter Weather Forecasting and a Level III AAI Avalanche Certificate.  He resides in Driggs, Idaho on the western slope of the Tetons with his two children and works as a building contractor in the off season.

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.

NIco demetrio

Born and raised in Chile, Nico is a Chilean snowboard champion and pioneer who started riding the slopes of the Andes mountains back in ’92.  He immigrated to the US in 2000, went to business school and since then lives in Washington State and rides Mt. Baker with his wife and son. He spends his summers in Cajon de Maipo, Chile guiding for Dos Tiempos.  If you can get him to a campfire, he will grill a steak worthy of a Chilean steakhouse.  A ride with Nico is one you will always remember. He brings his passion and charisma into guiding in a contagious way. His love for extreme riding brought him to Thompson-pass where he competed at the return of The King of the Hill in 2010.  He has a deep appreciation and love for Alaska, its people, and its Mountains. He is a former PSIA/AASI certified instructor who holds WFR, AIARE 1 certifications and is proficient in crevasse rescue techniques and snowmobile driving. He speaks fluent English and Spanish.

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.

ALEX GRAVES

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.

AJ PUCCIA

A native of Lake Placid, New York, AJ grew up ski racing and training across the east coast before a successful career as the Captain of the NCAA Div. I Alpine Ski Team at St. Lawrence University. Persuaded by his teammates to forgo a corporate career and move to the mountains, where AJ quickly made the transition from ski racing to free-ride, and has spent the past eight seasons exploring the Teton Range, California, and the Canadian Rockies. AJ holds a Level II AAI Avalanche Certification, is a NOLS certified Wilderness Outdoor First Responder, WMI CPR and AED certified, and is currently pursuing AMGA accreditation in Alpine Guiding. Off the hill, Aj is the Wine Director and Sommelier of the Four Seasons Resort in Jackson Hole, a member of the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as an associate winemaker in the Napa Valley. Aj lives in Teton Village, WY and is an avid cyclist, climber, fisherman, triathlete, kayaker.
Partners: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Volkl Skis, POC Armor, Exodus Reps