What Killed Resort Powder Skiing? Post Mortem: Helicopter Skiing Canada
Sad, but true. Even if you are lucky enough to be at a resort for a powder day, by 11AM it’s over. Waiting in line for first chair is every local – townies of all ages. Usually they are looking up at tracks made by instructors, patrollers, employees and their friends. When the mountain opens, the mob laps without stopping until the hill is completely tracked. And it’s not even lunch time yet. Vail gets over 20,000 skiers and boarders on a ‘good’ day.
Sure that is why so many are relying on heli-skiing Canada for untracked. But it wasn’t always that way.
Remember finding untracked in the last afternoon? And I’m not talking about 4-5 turns.
And is this the reason you turned to helicopter skiing Canada?
So what has changed? Fat Skis, Snowboards and High Speed Chairs.
The ability to ski powder used to be the domain of the ski bum, and those who had invested so many days skiing that they had hit enough powder days to develop some prowess in the deep stuff. But fat, shaped skis have changed that. Not just the huge, powder-specific boards. All-mountain skis have the surface area and shape to navigate powder and crud MUCH better than traditional skis. Intermediate skiers can, and do, criss-cross the mountain with aplomb after a run or two. These skis offer more “float”, making it easier and less tiring, so skiers can last longer, doing more laps. The result is that most runs are tracked faster than you can say ‘hit the trees.’
The fastest growing segment of the equipment market is backcountry/ski touring set ups, increasing the number of powder hounds at resorts on powder days.
I’m not hating, I ski and snowboard. But consider how quickly a snowboarder can advance to shredding powder. Within one season, easily. 30% of resort visits are snowboarders (falling from 1/3 two season ago according to NYTimes) at Thanks to equipment resort powder skiing is definitely endangered.
High Speed Chairs
Lap times have been cut in half to two thirds. A detachable or high-speed chairlift moves at 14 mph vs. 6 mph of fixed chair lifts. 233% faster. Even without the advances in skis, this has taken a huge toll on untracked. And, most high-speed chairs are quads (or even 6’s), replacing slower doubles and triples. It could very well be that twice as many skiers are moving 2.33 times faster to ski….the same ‘stash.’ Resort powder is being tracked up 7 times faster from the new chair technology. If new and/or longer chairs have been added, it’s even harder to find untracked powder.
Considering that you had to get lucky to hit a powder day, these precious few untracked powder runs are very expensive.
What to do?
Call in sick on powder days.
Move to Montana or Wolf Creek.
Try Helicopter Skiing Canada