For those of us who fantasize that heli-skiing has something to do with the kind of skiing that Roger Moore made famous in The Spy Who Loved Me, its time to think again. Skiing is a sport for a wide range of abilities. For every expert, there is a terrain to match. Extreme skiers will find the deep and steep they seek. But what is important for beginners or intermediate skiers, is that there are heli-skiing options which are geared to accommodate less ability without sacrificing a chance for that amazing experience.
The first thing to do is to plan far in advance. Lodges fill very quickly and bookings for the 2020 ski season are already underway. It’s not likely to find many options for the 2019 season. Looking ahead by three months isn’t enough time for planning this kind of trip.
The next thing is to plan to ski in small groups of three to four and make up the group with skiers of similar ability. It’s much more fun when everyone in the group can enjoy skiing together. Heli-skiing tour companies offer options for specific levels. This helps everyone to participate within their athletic comfort zones. It’s also helpful to know when singletons or couples want to join a group.
Be prepared for prices that match the extravagance expected. The good news is that there is much to enjoy regardless of price point. Prices for most heli-skiing trips range between $1,000 to $2,000 per person for each day of the trip. For this entry-level pricing, it’s common to have luxurious accommodations, five-star meals, rental equipment, and an occasional trip to the spa completely included, as most of these trips have all-inclusive pricing.
On the upper end, it’s possible to customize jaunts to places on the globe which are so remote that the only way to gain access is by helicopter. The most expensive, at $1,000,000 a week, include dream trips to ski where nobody has been skiing before. It’s also possible to reserve an expedition yacht to serve as floating base camp for accessing heli-skiing locations near the coastline of the Arctic regions.
It’s important to consider where to ski. Heli-skiing opens options like no others. In North America, British Columbia is a favorite for skiing through deep, ultra-dry powder, steeper terrain, and extensive terrain choices. Several lodges to explore there might include Revelstoke, Whistler Heliskiing, Tyax Lodge, Pantheon, Ripley Creek, Bella Coola, or Bell 2 Lodge. In Alaska, the skiing ranges from steep lines to less vertically-challenging terrain. Places to consider there include Valdez Heliskiing or Tordrillo; which offers excellent lodge-based heli-skiing 75 miles west of Anchorage in the most unexplored part of the Alaska Range.
Options outside of North America include the Kamchatka Peninsula and Krasnaya Polyana in Russia. Experienced skiers know Russia’s reputation for not being as efficient or luxurious an experience as those offered in the West. But, the lure of phenomenal scenery and varied terrain promises some of the world’s best heli-skiing. In Switzerland and France, heli-skiing is limited to single trips and one or two runs per person. Spain, Turkey, and Greece offer more explorations and runs daily.
Japan and India are the best destinations for heli-skiing in Asia. Japan is famous for tree skiing through Silver Birch forests and relaxing in hot springs après-ski. India offers the extraordinary chance of landing high in the Himalayas and skiing down through striking alpine region scenery.
Skiing the Andes in Chile is wonderful for those who want to ski from July to September. The dry powder, exceedingly long descents, and vivid blue skies draw skiers from the northern hemisphere who can’t wait for the next ski season to arrive. Heli-ski tours fly from Santiago to reach the Andes and its 6,000-meters-above sea-level terrain.
Arctic heli-skiing is in a category all its own. Trips to Greenland and Iceland could include staying in an Inuit village or a renovated sheep farm. Sweden has Niehku Mountain Villa- a new lodge in Sweden’s artic close to the Norwegian border. It’s one of the furthest north locations for the world’s heli-ski lodges.
Heli-skiing operations are considered as safe as skiing at resorts. Guests participate in training courses which cover safety and rescue measures for avalanches, guidelines for skiing safely in backcountry areas, how to ride safely, enter and exit the helicopter, and how to obey heli-skiing guides in all circumstances.
While it’s important to be in good physical shape for skiing, the helicopter ride takes all the hiking out of the picture. Efficient skiers can truly enjoy the experience even if they’re not skiing months out of the year. The best advice is to eat well and avoid excessive alcohol in order to do well once the helicopter arrives at the drop-off point. Pack light in terms of gear, too. The tour operators provide all the ski and safety gear for the guests.
A heli-skiing trip is focused on gleaning maximum enjoyment based in the helicopter’s ability to take skiers to places which are out of the ordinary. The helicopter lands in places that are difficult to reach, and this opens up the most incredible ski runs possible on Earth. That’s where the adventure begins.