In the past, heli skiing used to be a sport that only those adventurous few who could afford the exorbitant cost could enjoy. However, more recently, with the help of companies like Pure Powder, the sport has become more accessible than ever. Today more and more avid skiers are being introduced to and partaking in this exciting outdoor activity.
Due to the fact that heli skiing has seen such a rise in popularity, many new people are being introduced to the activity for the first time. This means that although they may now see heli skiing as a viable alternative to resort skiing for their next ski trip, they may still need some hand-holding when planning such a trip.
At Pure Powder, we believe the best way to get potential new heli skiers excited about participating is by explaining what it is all about and what to expect. This article focuses on educating potential new or even more experienced skiers on planning the perfect heli skiing trip. We will look to cover some of the essential factors you should consider before taking off, while at the same time dismissing any misinformation that may be holding you back from taking part.
A Quick Note: What Heli Skiing Entails
Before we look at how to plan your next great ski trip, let us first review what heli skiing entails. Heli skiing is a shortened colloquial term for helicopter skiing, and as the name suggests, instead of taking a ski lift to the beginning of your run, you are flown to your desired route by helicopter. But there are other ways heli skiing differs from other forms of skiing.
Another important differentiating factor is that whereas most other skiing happens within the confines of a ski resort with planned graded routes that are well curated, heli skiing happens in what is generally referred to as the backcountry. The backcountry is simply another term for the wild or wilderness.
Although this may seem dangerous, with an expert guide and skiing experience, heli skiing is an adventure like no other. With heli skiing, you have the chance to ski on fresh powdered snow, far from the restraints of resort grounds. Furthermore, when booking through a ski agency like Pure Powder, the trip will be planned with safety in mind, minimising the inherent risk that comes with any skiing adventure.
Choosing The Perfect Destination
Now that we better understand what heli skiing entails, we can move on to the primary focus of this article – how to plan the perfect ski trip. The first step after deciding that you would like to participate is choosing a destination that is right for you. Similarly to how you may look at a variety of ski resorts and consider what the resort offers in terms of amenities and ski activities, there are factors you will need to consider before choosing a heli skiing destination.
Finding an excellent heli ski agency is critical to choosing the correct destination. At Pure Powder, with our range of well-sourced destinations, attention to detail, and experience in the industry, we are here to help you pick the perfect place to begin your heli skiing adventure.
Which Destination To Choose
At Pure Powder, we have a great selection that can easily be found on our website, with information regarding the different destinations. Let us look at some of our favourite destinations here.
Canada: For many, the great white north is the home of heli skiing. But Canada offers a lot more than just heritage. Canada is a perfect choice, especially for those clients already residing in the USA, as this destination offers incredibly consistent powder snow routes and very few down days (days in which it is impossible to heli ski due to various conditions).
Alaska: If Canada is not north enough for you, we also offer routes in Alaska. This is the ultimate destination for thrill seekers, as Alaska provides the best steep slope experience. However, ensuring you are skilled and experienced enough to participate in an Alaskan tour is vital.
Continental Europe: Europe is one of our favourite places to ski, and because of that, we offer numerous tours in various countries all around Europe. These countries include Iceland, Turkey and Sweden. These destinations are perfect for those who want to join a tour on short notice as they allow quick access to heli ski adventures.
Chile: Many of our competitors focus much of their attention on routes and tours in the northern hemisphere around Europe and Northern America. Although we offer these choices as seen above, we like to go the extra mile, and our tours in Chile offer those who want to explore the southern hemisphere a perfect destination.
Experience And Fitness
Although the routes listed above all sound like excellent destinations, it is also essential to consider your safety when choosing a heli skiing spot. At Pure Powder, we take the security of our tour groups seriously and encourage all of our clients to consider their own experience and fitness levels before deciding on a destination.
Because we are touring in the backcountry, it is impossible to dictate what will happen out there, but some routes are safer than others, and some require more experience.
Experience: When it comes to heli skiing, unlike resort skiing, you will need to be at least an intermediate skier. At Pure Powder, we offer training for those not entirely there yet. This will also dictate your choice of destination, as Alaska and Chile may call for more experience than routes in continental Europe or Canada.
Fitness: Like with experience, you may want to consider your fitness levels when choosing a route. Being ski fit is essential to heli skiing as it helps to determine if you can handle some terrain better than others, whether you can handle the altitude of some routes, and will also help you keep up with the physical demands that some destinations impose. Understanding your fitness levels will help you pick a destination that is ultimately enjoyable for you.
How To Navigate Through The Backcountry Safely
Now that you have selected a destination, you will need to consider the safety of you and your tour party. As mentioned above, one primary differentiating factor from other skiing activities is that heli skiing occurs in the unregulated wilderness. Although careful planning can significantly improve your safety when you are out on the wild slopes, some things are impossible to plan for.
So how then, do you navigate through the backcountry safely enough to enjoy the trip? There are two things you can do before leaving on a heli skiing adventure that will help put your mind at ease. These include selecting the correct tour guide (or service) and educating yourself on danger signals to look out for while adventuring.
Choosing The Right Tour Guide
At Pure Powder, we believe that heli skiing tour operators should be held to a high standard to ensure customer safety. This is why we select and work with only the best-of-the-best heli ski operators and tour guides. Below, we have listed some of the essential requirements tour guides should have when taking you out into the backcountry – pointers that our partners check off perfectly.
Training And Certification: Depending on the destination and the country you decide to have your heli skiing tour in, your tour guide may need to possess specific qualifications. This may include training from organisations like the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA).
Local Knowledge: It is always better to work with a tour guide who is indigenous to the area, or has in-depth knowledge and understanding of the terrain you are heading out to. Nothing beats experience, and when heading out to the backcountry on your heli skiing adventure, having a tour guide who has grown up in the area or has skied that area frequently can put your mind at ease.
Good Touring Skills: The last two suggestions focused on the qualifications of your tour guide, but you should also look for a guide with the correct set of skills. Here we are not referring to skiing skills (although that should be a given) but instead focusing on the abilities necessary to guide a group of skiers that are new to an area. These skills may include but are not limited to:
- Communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Decision-making skills
- Good at customer relations
Dangers To Look Out For
While your Pure Powder-picked guide will always be highly trained and clued up on safety protocols, it is still a good idea to educate yourself on spotting trouble while out on the slopes. Some of the most prominent risk signals to look out for on the mountainside may include:
Avalanche Activity: One of the most significant unplanned risks you may face while heli skiing, avalanches are something to be wary of. Being able to spot signs of avalanche activity early can be a lifesaver.
Changing Weather Conditions: You must remember that, even with a tour guide, you are still in the untamed backcountry. If the weather begins to change for the worse, you may find yourself in a dangerous situation. Understanding how weather works, and noticing signs of upcoming bad weather can be essential.
Snow Quality: Spotting excellent or terrible snow conditions will make the trip more enjoyable and provide you with the skills to know where it is safe to ski.
What To Pack: Gearing Up For A Trip
Now that you know where you are going on your heli ski tour and who should be taking you, what to pack is the only thing left to arrange! Luckily for you, our consultants at Pure Powder will be able to provide you with a complete list of all the essentials to pack before joining us on tour. But understanding some of the basics will help you be better prepared.
The Correct Skiing Equipment: Making sure to have skiing equipment that is well-fitted for you and can handle the terrain you are skiing on is essential to enjoying your trip. Remember, you will be out in the wilderness and will have no place to change equipment while you are out there.
The Correct Clothes: What you wear is critical to having a good time and staying safe. You should purchase skiing clothes that can handle any terrain or weather conditions thrown at you. Vitally, they should always be waterproof, provide proper insulation and be easy fitting so that you can remove or add layers as required.
Safety Equipment: Another essential to having a good time is ensuring your mind is at ease regarding your safety. Above, we discussed how to educate ourselves better. Still, it would be best if you also packed the right equipment. Everything from an avalanche survival kit to a first aid kit and a good flashlight should be included.
Pure Powder: Your Best Choice
Heli skiing is an exhilarating experience and will be unlike any adventure you have had before. Planning your trip correctly and utilising some of the tips and tricks above are sure to improve the already exciting skiing experience.
If you still need clarification on some points, visit our website for more information, or contact one of our helpful Pure Powder consultants who will be happy to help you plan correctly. Don’t hesitate to do something exceptional – head over to Pure Powder and book your heli skiing tour today!