Photo: Whistler Heli-Skiing
A heli trip is considered the pinnacle ski or snowboard experience. It’s a big deal! Think about it. You get to ride in a helicopter—which is awesome on its own—to hundreds of thousands of untouched acres of powder in awe-inspiring mountain settings. Since it’s the Big Kahuna of ski vacations, we understand there’s some uncertainty and, in some cases, misinformation around the whole experience.
To help you know what you can truly expect on a heli-skiing trip, we debunked some of the most common myths.
1. I’m not good enough for heli skiing
You would be surprised! Strong intermediate skiers can go heli skiing, too. If you’re worried that you’re not a strong enough skier or rider for heli skiing, fret not. If you can say “yes” to the questions listed below, you are ready to book your heli trip!
- Are you a strong intermediate to advanced skier or rider?
- Are you are able to ski or ride in control on any terrain?
- Are you comfortable in a variety of snow conditions?
- Are you fit enough to ski or ride for consecutive days?
If you’re a first-time heli skier or snowboarder, here are some recommended packages/programs:
- Intro to Powder, Canadian Mountain Holidays
- Powder Excursion 1-Day Package, Selkirk Tangiers
- 3-Run Package, Whistler Heli-Skiing
Watch to see what you can expect in CMH’s Intro to Powder program.
2. I could get grounded the whole time due to weather
This only really happens in Alaska; it’s a rare thing in British Columbia or in the lower 48. As skiers, we know Mother Nature can be a fickle thing. If you’re set on an Alaska heli-skiing trip and worried about heavy snowfall, winds or visibility affecting your plans, we recommend booking an Alyeska resort-based heli trip with Chugach Powder Guides. That way, if the bird isn’t flying, you can still enjoy turns at the resort.
Majestic Heli Ski is also a great option for an Alaska heli-skiing trip, as they also offer cat-skiing, which will operate in just about any weather condition.
3. I need to have backcountry or powder skiing experience
False. Powder skiing or riding can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but the truth is that once you’ve nailed down the fundamentals, it’s not much different than skiing in any other snow condition. With programs like Canadian Mountain Holidays’ Intro to Powder you can kill two birds with one stone: learn to ski or ride in powder and go heli skiing.
As for prior backcountry knowledge, don’t sweat it. That’s what the highly trained, professional guides are there for. Listen to the safety and backcountry protocol talk, but don’t worry too much. Follow the guides’ instructions and you’ll be doing just what you’re supposed to.
4. I don’t have the right equipment—so I can’t go
Not true. The heli operators will have all the safety and backcountry equipment you’ll need. Before you leave the ground, the guides provide a hands-on tutorial on how to operate the equipment and will make sure you’re heli-skiing ready. If you don’t have powder skis or a board, that’s OK—the heli-skiing operators have powder rentals. Just be sure to reserve them ahead of time, as some operators have limited availability. If you’re based in a ski-resort town, you can always grab some powder rentals at the local ski or board shop, too.
5. It’s dangerous
It’s possible but unlikely that something will go wrong. It’s the guides’ job to keep you safe and know the tenure and recent and long-term snow conditions like the backs of their hands. They will avoid any areas that have the potential to slide and are constantly testing the snowpack before taking any clients down even the mildest of slopes.
Before hopping into the helicopter, every guest goes through a training exercise covering the use of radios, avalanche transceivers, avalanche rescue techniques and helicopter safety. The vast majority of heli skiers, including the addicts who go multiple times a year, will never have to use the avalanche equipment. However, learning these just-in-case skills will ensure peace of mind when it’s time to go.
Additionally, if you’ve ever been sidecountry, backcountry or cat skiing or riding, you know what to expect.
6. It’s too expensive
Sure, a lodge-based, week-long heli-skiing package may look pricey, but keep in mind that the cost includes just about everything, aside from flights. Most heli packages include ground transportation, lodging, all your meals and snacks, powder equipment rentals, guiding services (which is comparable to a ski lesson of sorts) and the use of safety equipment. If you were to break down a one-person, five-day luxury ski trip during peak season to a Signature heli-skiing trip with Canadian Mountain Holidays, the pricing is almost exactly the same. Plus, this year, U.S. skiers and snowboarders save an extra 25% on heli skiing with Canadian operators thanks to favorable exchange rates.
Remember, you can have a seriously awesome heli-skiing experience without dropping serious coin. Opt for a couple runs or a couple days in the bird during your next ski vacation to these resorts:
And most importantly, remember, bragging rights are priceless.
7. I’ll have to sacrifice resort and hotel amenities
A remote, lodge-based heli-skiing experience may feel a world apart, but you can still expect standard lodging amenities and services. For example, when staying in one of Canadian Mountain Holidays’ 11 lodges, guests can enjoy bellying up at the lodge’s bar to swap the day’s stories and relaxing in the saunas or hot tubs. Family-style dining, albeit casual, features culinary treats like Spanish paella, flank steak and even South Carolina barbeque. There may not be anything considered particularly ritzy about a backcountry lodge, but waking up, having breakfast and walking just a couple yards to your helicopter is a luxury in our book.
If your preferences sway towards a more traditional luxury hotel experience, you can have your cake and eat it, too, at these resorts:
Now that you’re armed with some insight on what you can truly expect on a heli-skiing vacation, book your trip! Our 65+ Mountain Travel Experts are standing by at 800-610-8911. Whether you’re looking for a one-day experience or a multi-day, lodge-based trip, they can customize your complete heli-skiing vacation. Get started by filling out a form for a free custom quote.
Director of SEO + Content
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now living in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com as Director of SEO + Content, I've been able to combine a litany of skills, passions and interests. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.