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Helicopter Skiing vs Resort Skiing: A Comparison Of Skiing Experiences


Over the past few years, there has been a rapid rise in the popularity of helicopter skiing. Spurred ever onwards by this increased interest in the sport, Pure Powder strives to make heli skiing an accessible activity for skiing novices and veterans alike. With helicopter skiing now more accessible than ever, avid adventurers have the option to choose between this exciting new activity and more traditional resort skiing.


If you are unsure whether or not you are ready to take the leap and sign up for a heli skiing adventure, we’re here to help you out. Keep reading for an in-depth comparison between the two skiing activities, with attention given to both the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as more information on the terrain, snow conditions and logistical insights.




Helicopter Skiing: The Thrill Of Uncharted Terrain


In this first section, we look at the exciting world of helicopter skiing. Also known as heli skiing, the sport has been around for a surprisingly long time, over seventy years in fact. However, it is only in recent years, with efforts like those made by our Pure Powder team, that the sport has become more accessible to the broader consumer market.


An Introduction To Helicopter Skiing


As already mentioned, helicopter skiing has been around since the 1950s. Helicopter skiing was initially conceived by a Canadian geologist, Art Pattison, and his later business partner, the grandfather of helicopter skiing – Hans Gmoser.


The most prominent differentiating feature from resort skiing is the use of helicopters to reach the starting point of your ski run. However, because helicopters are used to take clients to their ski run, unlike resort skiing, people participating in helicopter skiing are not limited to only a few routes. Instead, each run can explore a new mountain or slope with new experiences and challenges.


Unlike resort skiing, helicopter skiing tours are also generally done in the backcountry. When you book your tour through Pure Powder, your heli skiing trip will be spearheaded by professionally trained guides. Because helicopter skiing is undertaken away from ski resorts, it is essential to remember that the routes you take will not be groomed and do not have regular maintenance, meaning that you may encounter unexpected obstacles. Because of this, helicopter skiing is reserved for intermediate to advanced skiers.


Advantages Of Helicopter Skiing


Now that we better understand what differentiates helicopter skiing from resort skiing, why would you choose the helicopter option? Let us answer that question by looking at three of the most popular reasons given by those who have experienced the thrill of a helicopter skiing tour.


Access To Untouched Powder Stashes: Powdered snow refers to the top layer of freshly fallen snow. It is attractive to skiers because it enhances the ski experience, making your runs smoother, with softer landings and easier manoeuvrability. With heli skiing, you will have constant access to these natural conditions.


Limitless Skiing Routes: For those with adventurous spirits, heli skiing also offers the benefit of being able to experience new routes, new views and new challenges with every run. With heli skiing, you are not limited to standard, groomed routes. Depending on the trip you book, you can enjoy all manners of tree skiing, big mountain skiing, and more – in simple terms, heli skiing offers ultimate skiing freedom.


Sense Of Adventure And Exclusivity: Because helicopters are the main form of transport, heli skiing can only accommodate a limited number of skiers on any given tour. This gives our Pure Powder guests a sense of exclusivity, and because of the beautiful landscapes we tour, there is a greater sense of adventure.


Safety Considerations And Precautions


Although Pure Powder enlists a fully trained team of guides that will lead you through your helicopter tour, it is essential to remember that there are some safety risks when it comes to heli skiing. Our team is trained to minimise and avoid these risks, but the reality is that it is impossible to account for every scenario. Although skiing in the wilderness invokes a sense of adventure like no other, our team at Pure Powder encourage our guests to be aware of the unpredictable nature of – well, nature.


Some of the significant safety risks Pure Powder aims to inform and prepare our clientele for include the following:


  • Avalanche hazards
  • Unpredictable weather conditions
  • Dangerous terrain
  • Helicopter safety


These are a few of the hazards our guests need to be aware of when taking up heli skiing.




Resort Skiing: Convenience And Familiarity


Resort skiing is the more traditional of the two skiing options. Although helicopter skiing has been around for over fifty years, resort skiing, especially as we understand it in the modern era, can be traced back over 150 years, with some of the most famous ski resorts starting in the 1850s, like St. Mortiz in Switzerland.


What Is Resort Skiing?


Defining resort skiing is a little more complicated than other skiing forms due to its all-encompassing nature. At its basis, resort skiing, also referred to as alpine skiing, happens within the confines of a ski resort. But several defining features lend themselves to what people consider a part of traditional resort skiing. Here let us list a few of the most essential characteristics:


Ski Slopes And Trails: Unlike helicopter skiing with limitless possibilities, skiing at a resort is primarily characterised by the well-defined and marked-off routes available to skiers. It is generally part of ski resort regulations that skiers do not deviate from the routes marked out.


Furthermore, ski trails at a resort indicate whether they are meant for beginners, intermediates or experts. These trails are also groomed and maintained to meet the skill requirements of the skier for each suggested route. This gives the skiers foreknowledge of what to expect on the course, a luxury not afforded to helicopter skiers.


Ski Lifts: As the helicopter is the primary form of transport for heli skiing and is used to ferry skiers to the beginning of the route, ski resorts use ski lifts. A ski lift is a mechanical transport system with seats attached to a rotational belt which carries skiers from a predetermined collection point to the start point of the ski route.


Ski Schools: Another popular feature of a ski resort is ski schools which will teach the basics of skiing to those who may have never skied before. This allows new customers to participate in skiing.


Terrain Parks: Many ski resorts will have cordoned-off areas filled with manufactured obstacles like ramps, boxes and rails. More experienced skiers can perform tricks and participate in freestyle skiing activities.


As you can see, resort skiing involves numerous activities within a resort setup. Ski resorts also cater to hospitality needs and offer many après-ski activities like restaurants, social clubs and the likes to allow customers to socialise after skiing.


Advantages Of Resort Skiing


Whereas the advantages of helicopter skiing revolve around the sense of adventure and the limitless skiing options, the benefits of resort skiing are more in tune with an experience related to a holiday or getaway. Although skiing is still exciting for those attending a ski resort, the benefits are more focused on the entire experience rather than just the act of skiing itself.


Easy Access To Ski Lifts And Groomed Runs: One of the most significant benefits is that unlike with heli skiing, you do not necessarily need to go with a guide. Furthermore, all the routes are accessible by ski lift, making getting onto a ski resort route significantly easier than helicopter skiing.


Diverse Amenities: Ski resorts are characterised, as we saw above, by the fact that they house several different amenities for guests to choose from. Apart from alpine skiing, newer students can attend ski school to gain confidence, and more experienced skiers can use terrain parks to showcase their skills. Additionally, ski resorts also have facilities like restaurants, shops and spas to relax after a day of skiing.


Suitable For All Skill Levels: Ski resorts are designed to welcome all. While helicopter skiing is generally reserved for those with some skiing experience, with resort skiing, you can attend even if you have never skied in your life. This also makes ski resorts more accessible for family holidays, as everyone can join in on the activities. Resort ski runs are highly recommended for those interested in heli skiing, but lacking in experience. Perfecting your skiing at a ski resort is the best way to prepare for a real heli skiing adventure.


Limitations Of Resort Skiing


The most significant limitation when it comes to resort skiing is that popular ski resorts are generally overcrowded, which means your ability to ski is hampered by waiting to access routes and ski lifts.


For advanced skiers, ski resorts also offer few terrain options as they groom their ski slopes in specific ways. There is also little chance for skiers to experience powdered snow due to the many people using the routes daily.


Therefore, at this point, it is clear that helicopter skiing has more to offer for adventurous, well-trained skiers than actual skiing and skiing quality. On the other hand, resorts provide a more all-encompassing experience for everyone.


Accessibility And Logistics


Finally, now that we understand what helicopter skiing and resort skiing entails, including both the advantages and disadvantages, the last area we should focus on is how accessible the two options are.


Resort Skiing


It is clear from what you have already read that of the two options; resort skiing is the more accessible. Not only are they easier to travel to as you can choose your mode of transportation from private car, to train or even private planes (for some of the more upmarket resorts). But they can also cater to larger crowds, meaning you can bring the whole family.


Furthermore, the infrastructure available at ski resorts makes this option more attractive to newer skiers for various reasons. From the public ski schools to the ability to rent ski gear at the ski shop at the resorts, it is clear that resort skiing is much more accessible to newer skiers.


Helicopter Skiing


Historically, helicopter skiing was reserved for those with a deep passion for skiing and willing to pay large sums to experience this unique skiing activity. However, as stated at the beginning of this article, Pure Powder is enthusiastic about making helicopter skiing a more accessible choice for more skiers.


However, as one of the biggest heli ski operators in the UK, Pure Powder has been able to close the gap in accessibility – pairing people up with the perfect tour every time. We have sourced guided heli skiing tours, along with professional mountain guides for our clients that not only make these adventures more accessible to a larger market of skiers, but also make them safer.


We even offer a comprehensive training program for novice skiers who are interested in heli skiing. We believe that this is a sport for just about everyone, so get in contact, let us know what you’re looking for, and let Pure Powder help you plan the perfect heli ski trip on your behalf.




Pure Powder: The Leader In Ski Adventures


This article has aimed to provide a compelling comparison between helicopter skiing and resort skiing. As we have seen, both offer advantages and disadvantages depending on what you seek from your skiing trip. For those who are more adventurous and want to take on a new challenge, helicopter skiing is a good candidate. However, resort skiing also offers its own charm, as it can be a relaxing getaway for the whole family.


Whichever option appeals more to you, Pure Powder has you covered – we source some of the best heli skiing adventures worldwide and have partnered with plenty of high-class ski resorts. If you’re ready to embark on a heli skiing adventure, contact the Pure Powder team and let us help enhance your skiing experience!


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