Heli skiing has been on my bucket list for years now. I caught the heli bug at age 12 as I enviously flipped through photos of my Dad’s “boy’s trip” to Panorama, which included a day of heli skiing. In those days, I was ski racing four days a week on a small, icy hill in my New Jersey hometown, so the thought of skiing untracked runs on huge mountains, with the help of a helicopter no less, completely blew my mind. I told myself when I was all grown up, I, too, would go heli skiing.
Last February, I finally had the chance to check heli skiing off my list. After talking with some of our heli-focused Mountain Travel Experts, I decided to tack a day in the bird with Selkirk Tangiers on to a week-long ski trip at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, and it turned out to be everything I had dreamed of. The proof is in the photos below.
If you’re a first-timer to heli skiing or snowboarding, like I was, read on to learn about what you can expect. Most people are surprised to discover that heli skiing isn’t just for experts. These days, heli operators offer trips tailored to less-experienced skiers and snowboarders. As long as you can manage ungroomed terrain, you can make your dream of heli skiing or snowboarding a reality this winter.
Boasting an impressive 500,000-plus-acre tenure and a 40-year reputation, Selkirk Tangiers‘ founder was the first to bring heli skiing to Revelstoke. Conveniently, Selkirk Tangiers is affiliated with Revelstoke Mountain Resort and the resort-owned lodging, Sutton Place, which is where I was staying, so the whole process was truly seamless. Between the heli-ops, the ski resort, the resort-based cat-skiing and base village lodging, you can imagine there are plenty of powder vacation package options at Revelstoke.
Prior to my departure, I signed up for a day trip with Selkirk and powder-ski rentals. For the trip type, I was given a choice between the Powder Excursion, for first-time heli skiers and less-seasoned skiers and snowboarders, the Powder Adventure, for stronger skiers and snowboarders, the No Frills Package, which excludes on-mountain lunch to provide savings, and the Day Star Private, which includes a heli pick-up at Sutton Place. As an expert skier, I chose the Powder Adventure, which turned out to be a great option for me.
Along with several other guests, I was picked up at my accommodations at 7 a.m. and transported to Hillcrest Hotel, A Coast Resort. We were greeted with a welcome smile from the staff and given directions to head downstairs to find our assigned guide and group, which was conveniently listed on a board. Then, we were instructed to get powder skis or board rentals situated and sign our waivers. After business was taken care of, it was time to head upstairs to the dining room, where an impressive and delicious buffet breakfast was waiting for us. After chatting with some international strangers over coffee and croissants, it was time to round everyone up, make introductions and head off into separate groups for backcountry safety training.
As we waited in a snowy field for the Bell 205 helicopter to arrive, the guides went over proper backcountry etiquette, which can be extensive, but the important takeaways were to follow their instructions to a T. Additionally, they went over how to load and unload the helicopter to ensure everyone’s safety. In case of an avalanche, everyone in the group was given a transceiver (or beacon), which emits a signal so it’s possible to find a person who’s been buried by snow. After familiarizing everyone with how to turn the transceiver on to search mode, we were given a practice run at finding buried transceivers. Once everyone was debriefed and confident in using the transceivers, it was time to hop in the heli.
Heli skiing at last
As a first timer to riding in a helicopter through the snowy mountains, I was in awe. The heli-powered views of the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains are worth the trip alone. After being in the air for less than 10 minutes we arrived at our first run, which was a nice, low-angle powder field—perfect for warming up.
At the bottom of the run, the helicopter was waiting and quickly whisked us to our next run, which was a longer and more playful powder field. After another run in a similar zone, it was time for lunch. We joined forces with another Selkirk group, and enjoyed a high-alpine lunch of hot soup and sandwiches, while we swapped stories of the morning’s adventure.
In the afternoon, the guides stepped up the level of steepness and treated us to several ski-movie quality lines. Some were short, steep shots through filled-in chutes, while others were powdery leg-burners that made me wish I had hit the gym a little harder before the trip.
On average, Selkirk Tangier’s runs are about 2,500 vertical feet (750 meters), but warmer temps the weeks prior to my arrival made conditions lower down less reliable. Despite the unseasonable weather, our guides used their insider knowledge of Selkirk’s tenure to find the goods. At every single zone the guides took us to, we enjoyed shin-high powder. One boon of the warmer temps and sunny skies, was that it allowed the helicopters to access higher terrain that they normally can’t get to. This provided us with incredible above treeline views and wide-open powder runs. To make up for the reduced vertical, our guides offered to add on another run for free.
Moral of the story? Even if it hasn’t snowed in a couple weeks, you can enjoy plenty of powder on a heli-skiing trip. In fact, heli-accessed skiing is probably best way to enjoy optimal conditions when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with your vacation time.
For an extra $55, we added one more run onto our day bringing the total runs to eight. By that time, I was quite ready for the apres-ski portion of the day. Selkirk Tangiers hosts snacks for all their heli guests in the Hillcrest Lodge lounge area. I saddled up to the bar to enjoyed a well-deserved Mt. Begbie Brewery beer and chatted with the friends I had made.
What I learned as a first-time heli-skier
- Don’t be intimated by your budget or ability level. There’s a heli-skiing package out there for you!
- Opt for slightly smaller, lighter-weight skis. The bigger skis that you might normally use on the resort can tire your legs out prematurely.
- Hit the gym before you go and get your legs in heli-ski shape so you can take advantage of those extra $55 runs.
- Don’t listen the weather report. We had great conditions, despite a lull in Revelstoke’s typically abundant snowfall.
- Bring a GoPro! You’re going to want to remember every aspect of this bucket-list experience.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned heli skier, we can help you plan every phase of your heli-skiing trip, from deciding where you want to go and which package is right for you to booking flights and ground transportation. Start the process by filling out a form for a free custom quote.