helisnowboarding, heliboarding track

Heli-Snowboarding vs. Heli-Skiing, Heliboarding / Helisnowboarding v Heliskiing

Heli-Boarding vs. Heli-Skiing

helisnowboarding, heliboarding trackheliskiing track, heliskier

Heliboarding vs. Heliskiing

The great debate:  heli skiing or helisnowboarding.   I do both, so I think I can be unbiased comparing and contrasting heliboarding and heliskiing.  So here are my advantages and disadvantages, helicopter skiing or helicopter snowboarding?  In order to help settle the debate (or perhaps ignite the fire, I’ll let you be the judge), here is a list of advantages and disadvantages to both heli-boarding and heli-skiing.

heliboarding air, helisnowboarding Bearpaw Heli Skiing air, helisnowboaringheli boarding big air, helisnowboarding jump

Advantages to Heli-Skiing over Heli-boarding

In a word: powder. Yes, it is the same for heliboarding and heliskiing, but it is the reason both are awesome.
Feel the rush of falling into deep powder, as you cut new tracks across the mountain. Skiers tend to sink, offering a unique experience that most helisnowboarders do not achieve.  Heliskiing deep powder can me losing your vision on the ‘down stroke.’

heli-skiing deep powder, heliskiing deep
Photo Credit:  Bella Coola Heli Sports

But it can happen on every other turn when heliboarding….

heliboarding spray, heel side heli boarding spray

Stepping into your bindings is much easier than sitting down to strap on a snowboard, and having to stand back up.  No benches in the backcountry for heliboarders.
Skis are arguably easier to handle and maneuver in voluminous amounts of powder.  Stopping and starting is easier than snowboarding, and a pair of poles is a big advantage.  I know, helisnowboarders, you can carry poles, too.  Picking a safe place to stop out of any obvious avalanche danger, is most important. Helisnowboarders must be able to get started again on your own, which is a bigger challenge.

helisnowboarding powder, heli boarding powder

Advantages of Helicopter Snowboarding / Heliboarding vs. Helicopter Skiing

Powder (yes, again). The smooth, untracked snow surface offers the sensation of surfing that most heliskiers do not achieve.

Speed. Let’s face it, helisnowboarding is faster, especially on big wide-open terrain.

heli-boarding speed, fast heliboardingheliboarding sunburst, heli boarding back lit heli-boarding cruiser, helisnowboarding cruiser

If anything, the biggest challenge for heliboarding may be finding a way to stop.  Speaking of stopping, be sure that you are up for the task of stopping when helisnowboarding.
Helicopter snowboarding can be the ultimate thrill for expert snowboarders.
When helisnowboarding you never cross your skies, catch an edge or lose a ski, issues to be handled when heliskiing. Those are huge advantages over heliskiing.
Helisnowboarding in variable conditions can be easier than heliskiing.  As the group descends, the snow can change consistency. A snowboard handles light and heavy snow better than skis.

Advantages to Both Helisnowboarding and Heli Skiing

Heli skiing and helisnowboarding both offer a chance to become one with the mountain.
You don’t have to stand in lift lines or ride chairlifts or snow machines….or hike!
Fresh powder doesn’t disappear by 9:30 – 10:00 AM when heli-skiing or heli-boarding, like it does at resorts.
The speed of the helicopter allows for many more runs and much more vertical than resort or backcountry skiing.
Accredited guides reduce the risks associated with backcountry or off piste skiing and riding.

And riding a chopper, moving in 3-day is very cool!

One more thing, apologies to Tom Petty, but neither are good to meet girls…..

Check out my interview with Ramp Snowboards and Skis about the best snowboards for helisnowboarding

helisnowboarding, helisnowboarding canada girl
girl heliboarding, heliboarding girl powder


Alaska Snowboard Guides Interview – Heliboarding Innovators

Alaska Snowboard Guides Interview – Heliboarding Pioneers


  1. How do you differentiate Alaska Snowboard Guides from the other Alaska heli-skiing / heliboarding operators?


  • We founded Alaska Snowboard Guides on the idea we could operate on a better model. One that has our clients best interest in mind. That is why our packages offer the longest time to complete the amount of heliboarding / heli-skiing we sell of any operator in Valdez. You can always buy more heliboarding at a discounted rate after you complete your package.


  • We operate through out the range from 3 separate bases, which allows us to use the entire range with unmatched efficiency.


  • We treat our public ship like a private. That means we use the whole range not just a small circuit near our base like most operations.


  • We use a fuel truck in addition to our 3 bases for maximize efficiency. That allows us to take our public groups to terrain previously only skied by private helicopter groups. It also allows us to travel to the best weather. Beyond the “blue hole”…


  • We provided Free Demo gear for our inclusive packages.


  • We were the First operator in Valdez to provide airbags to All of our clients at no charge during their week.


  • We are the only operator to offer a Helicopter-Only package to keep prices affordable for anyone. If you don’t want to pay for high-end lodging and food – DON’T. We want to keep Valdez accessible.


  • We have been Pro Athletes, Clients, Guides and now Owners. Unlike any other operator we know what its like to spend our own money to go Heli-Skiing. “Here’s my money – please make my dreams come true.” This gives us a perspective that only a client can understand.


  • We are the only operator that truly caters to snowboarders – Why would you ride with anyone else? That said we offer amazing ski guides too. Honestly we don’t care what you ride….

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  1. Let’s do the numbers. Why do you say your heliboarding pricing is the best value?

We offer 4 Personal Hobbs Flight hours per Week long package. The Classic is $6,495 US, and is the least expensive package for this amount of Flight time. It also allows our heli skiers / heliboarders 7 days to complete their package. When they do they are welcome to buy more skiing. Why buy runs or hours you may not get to use in the event of weather?

Lets say you choose our inclusive package… You can ski Heli Ski with us for 2 weeks for about the price of one week at our competitor’s lodges.


  1. So the Classic Package is heli-only and Inclusive has lodging, breakfast, transportation, and demo gear, right?


The Classic is designed for people who would like to Rent an RV or have other lodging arrangements in Valdez. Many of our clients love RV’s. The adventure and flexibility are unmatched. The Inclusive has Heli Lunches, too. We can add custom menu catered meals for groups of 4 or larger. Prices depend on menu selections.


  1. Why does Alaska Snowboard Guides only offer 7-day heliboarding packages?


Due to the nature of weather in Alaska we believe that this offers the best opportunity for clients to complete their package. We prefer for our heliboarding clients to go home happy and satisfied, not upset that they were sold too much skiing for ant given week. Sitting inside for 3 days in a row is not what you come to Alaska for but the reality is that is can happen. We feel that selling 3 and even 5 day packages can be a recipe for disappointment.

We know what the weather is really like in Alaska. Some operators claim 90% Fly rates but in our experience Flying a low quality run in Flat light is not what people come to Alaska to experience. If someone wants to book a shorter package we can create a custom package but we want to talk to them at length and discuss the reality of weather so they understand the risk. Over time this forthright approach will benefit both ASG and its clients.

heliboading alaska

  1. What do you offer for ski and heli snowboard demos?

We offer Lib Tech Powder skis. For those who are not familiar with them their patented Magna Traction technology provides amazing control on all snow surfaces. Our Ski Guides love them and they have quickly become the favorite for most of our clients including many former ski racers. Simply put – They are Incredible.

We offer Lib Tech Snowboards and Union Bindings

– Birdman 160,165,170,180
– T- Rice
– Jamie Lynn Rat Tail

– Gnu Barret Christy


  1. Which board(s) do you like for heliboarding deep snow?


All of the guides ride the Lib Tech “Birdman.” That said as a rule of thumb we tell people to bring a board that is at least 10Cm longer than their normal resort board. We offer a wide range of suitable demo boards from LIBTECH and GNU


  1. Tell us about your Custom Heliboarding Packages?


We are willing to create custom packages of any length for our public helicopter or private helicopter. We offer Helicopter Boat trips. Heli assisted ski touring, Snowmobile assisted skiing and touring. Remote Base camp trips. Fully catered Heli Glamping. Inclusive packages with custom catered private dining. Remote exploration heli-skiing and snowboard from any location in Alaska. Anything you can dream up we can do it!


  1. What is your mix of heliboarders and heliskiers?


It’s 50/50 on most weeks. Our Guide ratio is about the same, half boarders, half skiers.


  1. Is the Blue Hole on the leeward side of Thompson Pass real?


The light grey hole? Well they do “window shop” in grey light across the street from their base quite often. The run is less than desirable, that said its not just their terrain we are permitted to operate there too. We tend to go further north than that for better light and more terrain diversity. Remember our fuel truck?


  1. What are the dates of your heliboarding season?


March – April


  1. Where do your heli snowboarding / heli skiing guests stay?


The Chugach Suites. The Finest lodging available in Valdez

These 500 square foot suites that feature:
– Bed rooms and Bath rooms separated from main living area – Full kitchens
– Living area
– Couch/Coffee table
– Washer dryer
– Work Station


  1. How many lifts do you run?

It depends on group Fitness but when it blue we shoot for 8 or more.


  1. Got trees?


No one in Valdez has Heli skiable / heli snowboard-able trees.


  1. How does a strong El Nino affect Valdez heliskiing/heliboarding?


This El Nino is unlike any before, due to the warm water mass that is so far North. That said, we are expecting another great season per our long term forecasters.


  1. How long have you been operating / guiding?


We have been operating for 5 years. Our Lead Guides Experience in Heliboarding varies from 5 to nearly 20 seasons.


Cool. Thanks, Dave.