Ever thought about going heliskiing?
Not sure where to start, what to do or where to go?
Welcome to your one-stop guide to everything heliskiing.
What is Heliskiing?
Heliskiing involves taking a helicopter to remote, back-country areas of the mountain.
It allows you to explore new areas of the mountain and to ski off-piste on slopes which are not maintained by snow cannons and piste bashers.
When heliskiing you will be accompanied by a guide who will help show the best routes down the mountain and ensure you are safe.
Why do people love it so much?
Heliskiing gives you much more freedom on the mountain than conventional resort skiing.
Not only do you have the benefit of the helicopter as your own private lift, you also have the slopes to yourself.
The massive stretches of fresh, untouched powder make for some exciting runs down.
Also, as you’re in the backcountry, the views are incredible.
Many get addicted to the freedom heliskiing provides as you can hop between mountains and take advantage of the best conditions in the area.
Is it just one long run?
Generally, no. Most heliskiing tours actually involve more skiing than a regular day on the mountain.
The helicopter will take you to the top of the mountain several times a day to different routes. As you are starting higher up, the routes are longer.
There’s also the added bonus of not having to wait in long lift queues so you’ll probably end up covering more ground than a standard ski holiday.
Do I have to jump out of a moving helicopter?
To the disappointment of some adrenaline junkies, no, you won’t be jumping out of a moving helicopter.
Most likely, the helicopter will still have its blades going but it will be firmly on the ground when you get in and out.
You’ll have an expert guiding you so no need to panic.
What if I’m not an expert skier?
Relax, another common misconception about heliskiing is that you to be able to ski like James Bond.
This is not true, a large amount of heliskiing is not overly difficult.
Having a good level of fitness will help if you don’t have the skills but think of heliskiing as an awesome, long, fresh red run with great views.
Do I need special skis?
Yes, but the good news is, the heliskiing company will likely provide these for you.
As heliskiing takes you to places with lots of deep, often untouched powder, having special skis will really help make the most of the experience.
Most companies will provide you with these, as well as poles other avalanche safety equipment so all you need are boots, and these can the standard one you rent for your holiday.
Speaking of avalanches, isn’t heliskiing super dangerous?
Of course, going anywhere in the mountains has a risk of avalanches but special guides will take care of you.
You’ll be given a safety briefing before you go out which will cover everything from the helicopter, the snow conditions, the weather and skiing certain routes.
You will also be given special gear to help locate you in the rare occasion of an avalanche.
Remember, your guide wants to be safe too so if there is a high chance of an avalanche, you won’t be allowed on the mountain at all.
But aren’t there other dangers like cliffs?
In 9 out of 10 circumstances, no, there won’t be.
Of course, if you do want to get some air then you can always ask you guide and there will almost certainly be areas of rock clusters or trees which you can use to jump.
But standard heliskiing does not involve skiing off any cliffs at all.
Okay, but it’s guaranteed awesome snow, right?
Well, not always. Yes, heliskiing has a high chance of good snow as you are generally in the highest, least-accessible areas. But not always.
The downside of heliskiing is also the upside of heliskiing. It’s off-piste.
While this means there aren’t people compacting the snow on a daily basis, and no snow cannons chucking out sticky sludge.
It also means that unless mother nature blesses the mountain with snow…There’s no snow.
Isn’t it super expensive and only for millionaires?
It’s true, heliskiing doesn’t come cheap. But it’s not as pricey as you might imagine.
Checking out different tour operators is a good way to stick to a budget as some only offer multi-day, luxury trips which includes 5-star hotels. But some tours offer a day tour with several drops on the mountain for less than £300.
Now it’s not super cheap, but the experience is worth saving up for.
I heard it’s illegal, is that true?
Only in France and Germany.
Both nations banned heliskiing due to the environmental impact of the helicopters.
However, both countries have lots of creative ways of getting the ban so if you are desperate, don’t despair, it may be possible.
But there are plenty of places around the world that allow heliskiing for sport so you won’t be short of options.
Sounds great, but where is the best place to go?
There are so many tour operators offering different heliskiing packages it’s definitely worth doing some research in your resort to choose the tour which suits you best.
But some areas are well-known for heliskiing so if you are planning your whole holiday around heliskiing, it’s good to pick the right resort.
Here’s our pick of five of the best heliskiing resorts in the world.
- Revelstoke, BC, Canada
Revelstoke boasts an average of 60 feet of snow a year and the skiable area is massive.
There are several tour operators to choose from and the terrain is an awesome combination of tree-lined slopes, wide open bowls and stee exposed slopes.
- Zermatt, Switzerland
Europe’s heliskiing is limited as resorts cover most of the skiable area, some countries have legal bans and the snow can be inconsistent.
But Zermatt is one of the few places which offers great heliskiing. With a stunning view of the Matterhorn, the Gorner Glacier is great, as is the Alphubel and the Aeschhorn.
- Hokkaido, Japan
Another place which gets huge amounts of snow. Hokkaido, the northern island, offering heliskiing on volcanoes, through birch tree and down to hot springs where you can relax after a long day.
It also offers night skiing. It’s another place which offers both one-day and multi-day tours to suit a flexible budget.
- Arlberg, Austria
Heliskiing in Austria is limited so the Arlberg region draws a lot of heliskiing fans.
It has awesome Austrian powder; some very technical sections and it isn’t too pricey.
It’s probably not best if you aren’t confident off-piste, but if you are, it’s got some of the best snow in the alps making it a mecca for heliskiing in Europe.
- Southern Alps, New Zealand
A big positive of heliskiing in New Zealand is that you can cover masses of terrain.
There are single-day options as well as multi-day tours across the 3,200 square miles. Most of the slopes are about 3,900 feet so you’re sure of some awesome views across 11 mountain ranges.