A heli-skiing trip is a staple feature on any keen skier or snowboarder’s bucket list. As one of the most adrenaline-fuelled and adventurous activities in the mountains the thrill of accessing untapped terrain in the wilderness is legendary, but what’s it actually like stepping out under those propellers for the first time?
Here are five of the most frequently asked questions and answers about heli-skiing.
1. Does it involve jumping out of helicopters?
This is almost invariably the first question that the uninitiated ask, even quite experienced skiers, and the answer is no. In most instances, the rotor blades will still be going round when you get in and out of the helicopter. But the machine will be on the ground, and entering and exiting (overseen by your guide) will be practised, slow and safe.
2. How good a skier do you need to be?
It should go without saying that heliskiing and/or heliboarding is not an enterprise for novices. You need to be a strong piste skier in a conventional resort setting, on all sorts of terrain and in all sorts of conditions, and you should be equally strong off piste. And unless you are technically brilliant, you also need to be fit.
3. Do you need your own equipment?
The only thing you need to bring are your own ski boots, which you should take as hand luggage to avoid them getting lost in transit. You can bring your own skis, but some operators provide fat, ride-enhancing powder skis (and poles), while avalanche transceivers and ABS airbags are also often included. Your skis are adjusted and maintained by the tech staff.
4. Can you be guaranteed great snow?
Not necessarily. The weather is slightly different every year and dreamlike conditions cannot be guaranteed. But northern British Columbia is almost certain to have a deep, reliable snowpack in a season that runs from December through to April. Then it’s just down to Mother Nature as to whether you get to ski powder or wind-pressed crust. Check out 10 of the best places to go heli-skiing.
5. Is it worth the money?
If your funds are limitless, then definitely. If not, it’s a case of saving up for a special treat. The cost for a week is roughly the equivalent of three quite pricey hotel or chalet weeks in resort. But if you pick a great destination and the conditions are above average, nothing can beat the adrenaline rush of getting out of a helicopter to ski big untouched slopes.