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Heli Skiing: Everything You Need To Know


Heli skiing is an invigorating outdoor sport involving breathtaking views from remote backcountry slopes. Whether you are an excited first-time/beginner skier or a seasoned skier looking for a new challenge, heli skiing has something to offer. In this quick read, we will be covering everything you need to know about heli skiing.


If you are interested in booking a heli ski trip at some of the best locations and lodges around the world, then Pure Powder is the way to go. Operating for over four decades, the Pure Powder family business has toured the globe in search of some of the greatest heli skiing and off-piste skiing experiences.


We put our passion and knowledge towards matching our clients with the perfect skiing trip according to their requirements. When you book your heli skiing trip through Pure Powder, you can be sure that we will do our best to organise a heli ski trip that surpasses your expectations.




What Is Heli Skiing And Where Can You Do It?


Heli skiing, or helicopter skiing, is a type of off-piste sport that involves helicopter access to remote areas and skiing down untouched, pure powder slopes. This is an exhilarating and ultimately unique skiing activity that allows access to backcountry ski runs that would otherwise be difficult to reach.


What Is A Heli Skier?


Heli skiing involves taking a helicopter ride to remote slopes void of human presence. From there, heli skiers are guided through ungroomed, natural terrain.


Is Heli Skiing An Extreme Sport?


While some may consider heli skiing to be an extreme sport, it can be both safe and accessible when you have a skilled guide and reliable tour operator to accompany you. Don’t expect to be jumping out of any helicopters.


There are a variety of levels at which you can ski at, from looking for long alpine runs to steep shots and pillow drops to make it more extreme.


Why Is Heli Skiing Banned In France?


Heli skiing was banned in France largely due to environmental reasons and noise complaints from locals. However, the 1985 Mountain Law that banned heli skiing only specified that helicopter operators could not drop passengers in the mountains for leisure purposes – barring certain authorised locations. Pure Powder doesn’t currently operate any heli skiing trips in France although we do have heli ski options in Iceland and Sweden.


How Should I Dress For Heli Skiing?


Here is a list of general equipment you will need for your trip:


Layers: It is recommended to dress in layers for our heli skiing adventures. Layering up will provide better protection against the cold than a single large, heavier layer would. Wearing multiple layers will also allow you to adjust your clothing according to the temperature as needed. When layering, opt for a moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating mid-layer, and a waterproof outer layer to complete your fit.


Helmet: A good helmet goes a long way in protecting your head whilst heli skiing. Taking a tumble is almost always inevitable, and a certified skiing helmet could mean the difference between a protected bump or a serious head injury. Most insurers also insist on clients wearing a helmet, so we recommend checking with your insurance provider.


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Safety Gear: When navigating the backcountry, safety should always be a top priority. Our operators will always provide you with essential safety gear including an avalanche beacon, snow shovel, and a probe, and will train you on exactly how to use each item.


Suitable Skis: Wide powder skis are the ideal choice for heli skiing. Depending on the trip you book, your guide may provide powder skis and poles to help you make the most of your adventure over the snow.


Boots: You will need to provide your own ski or snowboard boots and it is essential that they fit well and are comfortable. We recommend travelling with your ski boots in your hand luggage to ensure that there are no issues en route to your heli skiing destination.


Goggles: Ski goggles will protect your eyes from the wind as well as shield you from harsh sunlight. Sunlight bounces off the snowy surroundings and can produce a harsh glare, doubling your exposure to UV rays. Reflective goggles will help to prevent snow blindness when navigating off-piste territory. We highly recommend good quality goggles which don’t steam up as you will be going from a warm helicopter to cold surroundings on a regular basis.


Gloves: Your ski gloves should be waterproof and offer good grip. Most gloves and mittens for snowsports are designed with comfort in mind, with enough variety to allow you to browse your options and find the best fit for you. Our top tip for heli ski gloves is to have gloves with long sleeves to keep the powder snow out.


Extra Essentials: It can never hurt to bring along a few extra items to prepare for just about any situation. A few miscellaneous items to add to your backpack can include an extra layer of clothing, sunscreen and lipbalm, beanie


Do You Have To Be An Expert To Heli Ski?


You do not have to be an expert skier to go heli skiing. However, at the very least it is recommended to have intermediate skiing skills with some powder experience before taking part in a heli skiing trip. Heli skiers should be capable of handling the challenges that come with skiing in deep snow, helicopter transportation, and navigating backcountry descents. We run special programmes for first time heli skiers – more info here.


How Do You Prepare For Heli Skiing?


Preparing for heli skiing involves some prior practice and training. If you are a powder skiing novice, there is no need to worry. Pure Powder can accommodate you with our speciality coaching programmes. These programs include a guide and video analysis. It is also very important that you are fit, and you work on your overall fitness before your trip.


What Age Do You Have To Be To Go Heli Skiing?


The minimum age requirement for most heli skiing companies is 12 years old and we run special Family Trips where guests aged between 12 and 18 are half price (with half of the included vertical metres).


What Is The History Of Heli Skiing?


While the exact origins of heli skiing are murky, Hans Gmoser is dubbed the father of heli skiing and credited for revitalising the sport in 1965 in British Columbia. Gmoser worked as a mountain guide and was approached by one of his clients, who frequently used helicopters for geological work, with an idea. Hans would begin using helicopters to allow avid skiers to reach untracked powder – an activity that would come to be known as heli skiing. The original heli skiing lodge was the Bugaboos Lodge and when heli skiing grew in popularity, Hans built a collection of backcountry lodges, which make up CMH’s modern-day heli skiing offering.




Where Did Heli Skiing Originate?


There are a few theories on where heli skiing originated, with the strongest evidence suggesting that heli skiing took off in the late 1950s or early 60s. Heli skiing made it into the public consciousness starting in either Alaska, Wyoming, or Utah – depending on which source you believe.


Is Heli Skiing Dangerous?


Heli skiing is much safer than the movies may have you think. Pure Powder and our operators are experienced professionals, and any heli skiing company booked through us will employ a myriad of safety measures to keep you cared for throughout your trip. Your safety is our top concern, which is why we strive to pair you up with esteemed resorts, lodges, and helicopter operators that are the best in the business.


One could think of the helicopter as a comfortable cable car, capable of reaching peaks beyond the crowded resort slopes. Rather than skiing the designated, groomed routes, heli skiing offers ski enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy run after run of fresh powder snow.


To some, heli skiers are daredevils with a taste for adventure. However, most heli skiing trips that we organise here at Pure Powder are not extreme skiing endeavours. Those looking to try out heli skiing will be able to take a helicopter ride to remote slopes void of human presence. From there, heli skiers are guided through ungroomed, natural terrain. These trails are rarely visited and offer a significantly different experience compared to standard ski resort routes.


Heli Skiing guides are trained experts with a keen understanding of the weather and landscape. They will be able to guide you to safe areas to begin your descent and will avoid high-risk terrain. Before liftoff, skiers will also be orientated on helicopter safety, rescue protocol, and equipment use, to name a few.


That being said, no outdoor sport comes without certain dangers and risks. While heli skiing is not incredibly dangerous, nor is it always considered an extreme sport, there are still a few risks to be aware of when taking part in a heli ski trip. Heli skiing requires an advanced level of safety measures, and anybody taking part in heli skiing should ensure that they know their skills, capabilities, and limitations beforehand.


You are also skiing in the backcountry of mountains, which also have natural risks associated with them.


Heli Skiing Europe


If you are interested in heli skiing adventures in Europe, Pure Powder has your back. We work to source only the very best heli skiing trips across the globe, and we will happily pair you up with the ideal Euro ski trip to suit your requirements.


While heli skiing in France is banned, there are plenty of other locations around Europe packed with untouched powder for you to enjoy. As mentioned earlier, the 1985 Mountain Law banned heli skiing in France and specified that helicopter operators could not drop passengers in the mountains for leisure purposes.


Originally, French operators took note of the obvious loophole; the law specified that they could not drop passengers off, but mentioned nothing about picking them up. A new system was organised where heli skiers would be dropped over the border in Italy and fetched by French operators once they reached the bottom of the slopes. Unfortunately for French heli skiers, new, stricter laws on heli ski activities mean that this loophole can no longer be exploited.


Pure Powder: Heli Skiing Near Me


If you are eager to book your next heli ski trip, let Pure Powder lead the way. We aim to offer our clients the ultimate powder skiing experience, where you can enjoy that gravity-defying feeling of hurtling over bottomless powder snow. As the largest heli ski specialist in the UK, you can trust Pure Powder to provide the perfect ski experience and customer service that leaves you satisfied.


Use our Trip Finder feature to browse your options, and find the perfect powder skiing adventure that suits your skill level and preference. Alternatively, you can get in contact with our team and we will offer advice, assistance, and reliable recommendations. Don’t forget to join our mailing list and keep up with the Pure Powder skiing news. Adventure is out there and the mountains are calling, so book your heli ski trip today!


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