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Flights over the ridge

Ridge Rotors has been flying in the Peace since 2003, with no plans to land.

Recreational enthusiasts looking for something different can look to their own backyard this fall with local helicopter company Ridge Rotors.

Co-owner Jan Nogel says the Tumbler Ridge base started in 2004 when she and her husband Hans, both fell in love with the natural beauty of the area after coming to help forestry fight mountain pine beetle.

“We fell in love and stayed. The mountain pine beetle came and went on to Alberta, but we stayed,” says Nogel.

“We kept a base here and kept working.”

The couple started with a single Bell 206 Jetranger at their base in Blue Ridge, Alberta in 2003, eventually growing their fleet to six choppers, with another base in Whitecourt, and one at the Chetwynd Airport as of last year.

Their service has traditionally focused on clients in resource extraction industries – forestry, oil and gas, and mining, with the addition of pitching in during fire-fighting season where needed.

“Whatever’s necessary, we do a lot of tree-planting and fire fighting in both provinces. When there’s no roads, that’s when you need a helicopter.”

Only recently has the company started to dip their toes into tourism, and hopes to offer regular flights for those seeking recreational opportunities.

“But now people are starting to recognize Tumbler Ridge for its beauty. With the Geopark and the Wolverine Nordic Mountain Society, they have done wonders on developing their trails and marking their trails."

Tumbler Ridge is a designated UNESCO Global Geopark, one of only 44 in 169 countries, due to its remote mountains and wilderness.

“They’re recognizing what’s out here, and that’s incredible. There’s no through traffic, you come to Tumbler Ridge, you’re not going past,” Nogel says.

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca