Children of Winter – An Apt Descriptor for This Couple
New Warren Miller film features Tahoe locals and Alaska heli-ski operators Kevin and Jessica Quinn
By Pete Gauvin
The opening footage of Warren Miller’s 59th annual homage to the global ski lifestyle, “Children of Winter,” features two Tahoe locals who run an Alaska heli-ski operation, two race-bred Olympians and a converted fishing trawler with a heli pad cruising the Chugach Range of maritime Alaska. The floating foursome picks off virgin big mountain peaks like they’re shooting ducks at a carnival booth.
Cherished moments, for sure, but not out of the realm of work-a-day life for this experience-rich Nor Cal couple living a dream beyond the imagination of pedestrian fantasy, even many Warren Miller regulars.
The spectacular livelihood belongs to Kevin Quinn and Jessica Sobolowski-Quinn, owners of Points North Heli Adventures of Cordova, Alaska. When not chasing the snow globally, the couple – both sponsored skiers – split their time between Truckee and Alaska, where from mid-February until early May they guide clients in a powder-hound smorgasbord of 1,500 square miles of drool-dripping terrain.
Located two miles out of town, Points North is located in an old fish cannery complex of 15 buildings converted into a comfortable lodge, the Orca Adventure Lodge. The operation has three A-Star 350 series helicopters in its fleet. The latest addition is the 85-foot fishing vessel, the Maritime Maiden, that’s been converted to a state-of-the-art floating heli-ski lodge.
“We’re the largest heli-ski operation in the country. We started 11 years ago and this is our eighth year participating in the Warren Miller films,” said Kevin from their Truckee home, while prepping to leave for a trip to Antarctica.
Yep, if Alaska weren’t enough, the Quinns get around to the most exotic ski destinations this side of Mars.
Kevin, 39, and Jessica, 32, are traveling to Antarctica with a group of skiers and photographers – including, of course, a Warren Miller film crew – led by prolific expedition leader Doug Stoup of Truckee. (Editor’s note: Look for a first-hand report from the Antartica trip in ASJ’s Jan/Feb issue by Tahoe City-based photographer Jeff Lamppert, including links to video footage he’ll be shooting with a GoPro Digital Hero camera.)
While it’s been Kevin and Jessica’s company and its three whirlybirds which have provided the vertical lift for many a Warren Miller film crew and skier, you could argue that it’s Points North that has received the lift from Warren Miller – part of a mutually beneficial marriage.
“We’ve been fortunate to have Points North in marquis segments in Warren Miller films each year,” says Kevin. “It’s been great for our business. Warren Miller films reach 80 million people per year. It’s the largest action sports movie production in the world.”
In “Children of Winter,” the couple introduces Olympic skier and Tahoe native Marco Sullivan, and snowboarder Seth Wescott of Maine, a Cordova veteran who won a gold medal in snowboardcross at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, to the other-worldly peaks of the Chugach.
Here, where the peaks rise 10,000 from sea level and gather more than 50 feet of snow annually, the Quinns unleash these highly trained gate runners on the Chugach’s most remote and steepest lines, using the Maritime Maiden’s heli pad as a liaison between man and mountain.
“We ski a lot together at Squaw but Marco had never been to Alaska before,” says Kevin. “We turned these guys on to the Chugach. And Jessica narrated the opening portion of the segment.”
(Other athletes in “Children of Winter” with Tahoe ties include Jonny Moseley, Daron Rahlves and Jenn Berg.)
Up until they leave for Alaska in late winter, Kevin and Jessica spend most of their days on skis at Squaw Valley, where they are part of the Squaw Valley Freeride Team.
“The training that Squaw Valley offers us is unsurpassable. The terrain and the snowpack is very similar to maritime Alaska, other than the lack of glaciers,” says Kevin, who was born and raised in Alaska. “Alaska is like a thousand Squaw Valleys all wrapped into one.”
“If we didn’t have Squaw Valley obviously we’d have to be in some place like Whistler or Jackson,” he added. “Virtually our whole staff, 30 employees, live in and around Squaw and Tahoe.”
In summer, the Quinns endure much hardship. They lead float-fishing trips in Alaska and travel to South America to ski, while striving, as Kevin says, “to keep as much sand between our toes as we can.”
In an existence in which lifetime highlights constitute daily work, there are still standouts. “Sharing a segment with my wife and sharing the Chugach Mountains with two Olympians was special,” Kevin says. “To watch their talents out there is pretty cool.”
Children of winter admiring the talents of other children of winter. That’s what Warren Miller films have been about for 59 years.
Warren Miller’s “Children of Winter” is screening in numerous communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern California from early November into December. Check www.warrenmiller.com for tour information. This year’s soundtrack includes music from Radiohead, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Beck and others.