A guide to the World's Best Heli Skiing
THE WORLD’S BEST HELI SKIING
It’s a common misconception that you have to be an expert skier to dare think about booking a Heli skiing trip. If you’re a strong piste skier who is capable of coping with a variety of snow conditions including deep powder, wind affected snow and confident with navigating trees, you’re likely to be ready. Most Heli skiing trips are not about cliff drops and steep gradients, but similar to what you might find on a red run in resort (ungroomed of course). So if that sounds like you and you’ve been dreaming of an unforgettable experience in the air, read on…
It’s no secret, Heli skiing is expensive. To make it worth every penny consider the following factors:
- Most resorts where Heli skiing is available have huge ski areas but some aren’t which limits their ability to find superior snow quality and fresh tracks to enjoy.
- Certain operators will offer a certain number of runs during the day. To clock up the maximum amount of riding, check the average amount of vertical metres covered on each run or for the duration of the tour.
- If it’s chest deep powder you’re after from Heli skiing, be aware of prime destinations where it dumps continuously each season. Snow quality can also vary significantly between regions.
- Investigate the quality of safety equipment which they use and experience of the guide. If the guide has been in resort all season, it’s likely that they’re well aware of the snow pact and therefore understand the risk of avalanche in certain areas.
Top 5 Locations for First Time Heli Skiers
You may imagine remote corners of the world such as Alaska to top the list for Heli Skiing locations but truth be told, although the terrain is incredible with increased snow stability due to its consistency, this region is for elite professionals. These five locations are suitable for first time confident Heli skiers.
VAL D’ISERE, FRANCE
Being dropped by helicopter on a mountain to go skiing or snowboarding in France is strictly not permitted. However, operations are able to work around this rule so ending the run in a French resort such as Val D’Isere is made possible by being dropped in Switzerland, Austria or Italy (depending on where you want to ski).
In France you will ski through incredible isolated valleys and powder filled off-piste locations which would be otherwise inaccessible – the sky’s the limit.
MT COOK, NEW ZEALAND
From July through to the end of September, you can ski in New Zealand. Mt Cook is not only the highest but the best big mountain Heli skiing in New Zealand. You’ll ride in spectacular glacier terrain across the Southern Alps and across 6 mountain ranges, there’s completely untracked lines to suit every Heli-ski ability.
Heli skiing is at the mercy of the weather on every continent but Mt Cook can be particularly changeable due to its position close to the west coast. Storms and clouds regularly roll in so it’s essential, if travelling half way across the world, keep a flexible itinerary.
Looking for tree skiing? Revelstoke is where it’s at. On top of this, you’ll find some of the most competitively priced heli-skiing on the market and epic powder every year due to the moist air flow from the Pacific coast colliding with the dry air of the Rocky’s to the east. Options are limitless inside the vast and varied Monashee and Selkirk Mountains.
Colorado has world class ski resorts with well renowned powder. With that comes immense popularity which can lead to crowds at the chair lifts. Being a former Victorian mining town, Telluride offers historic charm combined with facilities to suit all abilities. You’ll find the highest commercial airport in North America and the opportunity to get even higher is irresistible. Telluride is the perfect place to take the ultimate lift up the mountains.
The terrain is ideal for adventurous intermediate riders and the snowboarders out there will love the wide runs the San Juan Mountains has to offer. There’s also a lot of elevation in Telluride with the highest concentration of 13-14 thousand foot peaks in Colorado. Some say, it’s the most beautiful place in Colorado.
LA PARVA, CHILE
This place is known to be exclusive locally but in reality, the resort has similar bang for your buck as many European resorts. It’s part of the Three Valleys in Chile which combines two additional resorts, El Colorado and Valle Nevado. This made the area absolutely huge, dwarfing the Portes du Soleil area in France/Switzerland. The Andes mountains are another world but surprisingly accessible from Chile’s capital, Santiago. With button lifts capable of taking you high, this mountainous gem is incredible with or without a helicopter on hand.
With an average of 7 metres of snow each season, your chances of skiing powder in the backcountry is pretty high. They call it ‘Champagne powder’ on this side of the world and some even claim it’s the only place in the world where you’ll experience these conditions. So if you’re looking for a lot of the white stuff for your summer holiday, this could be one for the bucket list.
What You Need
Safety equipment comes first and foremost. ABS backpacks are essential in the backcountry and should be researched though rally to select the most suitable pack for individual requirements. Note that Carbon Cartridges are not allowed on flights so new technology battery powered airbag backpacks can provide a great alternative.