The Heli-Skiing Window in Your Life

Your Heli-Skiing Window

Is your heli-skiing window opening or closing?

Heli-skiing requires the combination of money, skill, adventure and health.  Few qualify.   Most of our clients are taking advantage of the heli-skiing window opened by disposable income, skill, and appetite for adventure, and closing by age.

Heli-skiing is an elite sport. Fewer than 1% of skiers ever heli-ski. For every day of untracked powder heliskiing, there are over 1,000 resort ski days.

Your heli-skiing window is Open when…..

heliski, heli-skiing   The kids are gone or going.

heliski, heli-skiing  The second wife has redecorated the house, etc.

heliski, heli-skiing  You have disposable income.

heliski, heli-skiing Your trust fund is liquid.

heliski, heli-skiing The business can survive a week without you.

heliski, heli-skiing Your bucket list becomes real.

heliski, heli-skiing You realize a part of how measure life is by ‘peak’ events.

heliski, heli-skiing It is time to treat yourself.

 

How to Jump Through Your Heli-Skiing Window

What next?

 

helicopter bullet shorter    Rally your best ski buddies.

helicopter bullet shorter   Get early ‘Tower Clearance’ – you know how by now.

helicopter bullet shorter   Make a deposit.

helicopter bullet shorter   GET IN SHAPE!

helicopter bullet shorter   Call or email HELISKI.com.   Tell us your budget for time and money, as  well as you wish list for powder, terrain, travel convenience, lodge atmosphere, group size, skiing speed, etc.  We will give you the best options – free.   Call 866-HELISKI

 

Thanks to CMH Heliskiing for the cool shot of the Bugaboos Lodge from the air.
And thanks to Dave Silver for the awesome shot of jumping heliskiers at Last Frontier Heli-Skiing.

 

HELISKI.com Operator Interviews

HELISKI.com has been conducting a series of interviews with heliskiing operators.
The interview heliskiing directory follows:

Skeena Heliskiing
Mica Heli Guides
H2O Guides, Valdez Alaska
Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding
Last Frontier Heli-Skiing Ripley Creek Lodge
Points North Heliskiing, Haines Alaska
Snowwater Heli-Skiing
Great Canadian Heli-Skiing
Last Frontier Heli-Skiing Bell 2 Lodge
Northern Escape Heli-Skiing
TLH Heliskiing
Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing
Helitrax, Telluride Colorado
Bella Coola Helisports Tweedsmuir Lodge
Powder Mountain Heli-Skiing and Catskiing
Selkirk-Tangiers Heli-Skiing Revelstoke
Whistler Heli-Skiing
Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, Blue River, BC, Canada
Coast Range Heliskiing, Whistler Blackcomb
Robson Heli-Magic Canadian Helicopter Skiing
Alaska Rendezvous Guides / Alaska Rendezvous Lodge
CMH Canadian Mountain Holidays Adamants Lodge
Purcell Heli-Skiing Canada

CMH Adamants goes SMALL GROUP ONLY

CMH has been doing the four groups of eleven routine for 40 years. No mas. For the 2012 Season every week is a small group week at Adamants. And to kick it off, prices stay the same! Starting at just $8,750 CAD for 7 days. Two Bell 405 helicopters, three groups of five each. A total of 30 guests in one of the coolest lodges in which I have ever had the pleasure of eating, drinking, recovering and sleeping.

CMH Adamants, Canadian Mountain Holidays Adamants Lodge
Amazing lodge, no roads in, note the hot tub on the far right

I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peek (or is it peak?) in February with my buddy Harry. We’re both still smiling. He declared it “the best heli trip I’ve ever taken”. And you can trust him, he is a CMH veteran and he has a real job.

Great terrain, snow, guides and lodge. You may have seen my photo album on Facebook.

CMH Adamants Heliskiing
High Alpine and Great Trees

On Tuesday morning I was so sore I could barely drag myself to the hot tub. Stretch class and copious amounts of great food at breakfast, and I was good to go. Here is the proof:

cmh adamants heliskiing canada
Looking and feeling my best at the top of the world..or the Selkirks

We did have one travel challenge (par for the course, it seems). We got to Golden and passes closed in front of us and behind us. CMH rallied to put us up in the no-tell-motel (liquor store on the ground floor). On the following morning they arranged to helicopter the entire group in. Very cool, and less time in the bus, I mean coach.

canadian mountain holidays, cmh
Alpine glow over Adamants and Selkirks

Early Season Heliski Deals at Northern Escape Heli-Skiing

Our good friend John Forrest at Northern Escape Heli-Skiing has some great early season deals. Make sure to tell him TJ sent you.

Early Season Heli-Skiing Deals from Northern Escape
Northern Escape Heli-Skiing Canada

This year NEH is adding catskiing backup, so they will have zero down-days. To inaugurate the new service they offer:

  • Jan 7th to 10th, Inaugural Snow Cat Event, 3-day Snowcat, Unlimited Vertical, $1,690 Can.

Northern Escape Heli-Skiing has some other great early season deals, too:

  • Jan 10th to 14th, 4 days Heliskiing, Unlimited Vertical, Early Season Rate – $4,890
  • Jan 14th to 21st, 7 days Heliskiing, Unlimited Vertical, Early Season Rate – $8,790
  • Jan 21st to 23rd, 2 day Heliskiing Special, Unlimited Vertical, Early Season Rate – $2,460

And, Steep Camp returns:

  • March 28th to April 1st, Steep Camp, $6,990

Northern Escape Heli-Skiing is a great operation with fantastic skiing, DEEP snow, catskiing backup and easy travel. Cool people, nice place, fast chopper (Koala).

 

Early Season Heli-Skiing Deals from Northern Escape

Early Season Heliski Deals at Northern Escape Heli-Skiing

Our good friend John Forrest at Northern Escape Heli-Skiing has some great early season deals.   Make sure to tell him TJ sent you.

Early Season Heli-Skiing Deals from Northern Escape
Northern Escape Heli-Skiing Canada

This year NEH is adding catskiing backup, so they will have zero down-days.  To inaugurate the new service they offer:

  • Jan 7th to 10th, Inaugural Snow Cat Event, 3-day Snowcat, Unlimited Vertical, $1,690 Can.

Northern Escape Heli-Skiing has some other great early season deals, too:

  • Jan 10th to 14th, 4 days Heliskiing, Unlimited Vertical, Early Season Rate – $4,890
  • Jan 14th to 21st, 7 days Heliskiing, Unlimited Vertical, Early Season Rate – $8,790
  • Jan 21st to 23rd, 2 day Heliskiing Special, Unlimited Vertical, Early Season Rate – $2,460

And, Steep Camp returns:

  • March 28th to April 1st, Steep Camp, $6,990

Northern Escape Heli-Skiing is a great operation with fantastic skiing, DEEP snow, catskiing backup and easy travel.  Cool people, nice place, fast chopper (Koala).

 

Heliskiing Canada

Top 10 Things to Consider in a Heliskiing Trip

Heliskiing Canada
How to choose among our 40+ Locations?

HELISKI.com Top 10 Things to Consider in a Heliskiing Trip

1.  Location

British Columbia Canada is the center of the heliskiing world.  It has the perfect combination of terrain, climate and precipitation.  It is home to the majority of heliskiing and heliboarding operations on earth.   Within British Columbia there are different regions with different advantages and disadvantages.

Snow quantity is directly affected by proximity to the Pacific. In general, more snow falls in the Coast Ranges.  Snow quality if based on a combination of factors, but most notably is the distance North (cooler temps) and the elevation (the higher the dryer).   A minimum amount of snow is required for both ground coverage and general stability and for this reason the vast majority of Heliskiing occurs in the Interior ranges and the Coast Ranges. The Rockies generally have less snowfall, but what falls is dry!  See a map of British Columbia Heliskiing and Heliboarding Locations.

Alaska is home of the steep and deep.  The season is later and there is not much tree skiing compared to BC.  Most operators are out of Valdez, but there are a couple of others.  Alaska can be more difficult to access.  For example, Anchorage to Valdez flights are cancelled over one third of the time in the season.  Alaska can have more down days than many BC operators.  There are some options better than others. The US offers heliskiing and heliboarding in the Lower 48 as well.  Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Washington, California and Idaho all have heliskiing.  Many of these are located at or near resort skiing and cater to one-day trips, although longer trips are also available.  Europe heliskiing is somewhat restricted, starting late and ending early.  France outlawed it.  South America and New Zealand also offer heli skiing trips.   India, Russia, Greenland and Iceland are also available for exotic adventures.

2.  Dates – When to go, not whether or not to take one…..

BC operates January to early April. Whistler may offer December days.  The Christmas to New Years week is also available from some operators.

Primetime is February, but January and March are usually very good.  January can offer better deals, including unlimited vertical.  Be aware that late season can include ‘corn snow’ in addition to or instead of powder.

See related posting on January vs. March Which is best?

Alaska has a much later season.  Some operators open in February.  Prime time is March and April.  Some will accommodate early May.  It may be corn snow, however.  There is twice as much sunlight at the end of the season than at the beginning.

3.  Groups

The size of the group and the number of groups per helicopter, or machine, is very important.  Some of the big operators like Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing use primarily big helicopters with 11 guests per lift.   Almost all of the boutique, smaller operators use A-stars, Bell407’s or the new Koalas.   These hold 4 to 6 guests.  It is a more intimate group.  In addition, smaller helicopters are more maneuverable.  Small groups can access tighter areas that could not handle 13 sets of tracks.  Smaller is better.   However, the bigger machines such as the Bell212 are less expensive.

Groups per helicopter is another important criterion.  A helicopter can easily service two or three groups without much waiting.   Operators will attempt to group guests of similar ability and speed.  But all groups can only go as fast as the slowest group, unless or until a group can be passed.  The amount of waiting depends on the ‘weakest link’ and on the willingness of the guides to ‘leap frog’ the slow group.  This is frequently a cause of tension and discontent.  This is especially true if the groups contain skiers with different ability and or speed.  Another issue can arise if some guests are interested in ‘extra vertical’ (for extra money) and some are not.  Unless the lodge is close or there are logical groups, some guests may be disappointed. One group per machine, aka Private, is best but expensive.  Two groups per machine, a Semi-Private, is very good and usually comes at a premium.  Three groups per machine, Classic or Regular, is the industry norm for smaller, more boutique operations.  Be aware that many of the newer companies are calling there packages Private or Semi-Private but do not offer the same service as the more reputable companies.

4.  Length of Trip

Packages are available for 1, 3, 4, 7 or more days.  Most ‘week’ trips are 7 nights with 6 full days of skiing.  Some will offer skiing on the morning of departure.  Some can get up on the afternoon of the arrival day.  Several companies now offer a full seven days as they are located with easier access and can have their guests ski a full day on the last day instead of using it as a change over time and lengthy transfer to an airport. But those are the exception.

Resort-based operators cater to shorter trips, especially one-day trips.  More remote operators justify longer trips.  A travel day on each end may be required, but as mentioned access is the key if you want to ski more and travel less. So, longer trips make the best use of time and money. Down days, unfortunately, do happen.  If the helicopter cannot fly, due to weather or mechanical issues, the bummer is magnified if it is shorter trip.  A handful of operators now offer catskiing backup.  It can save the day and is worth considering.

5.  Travel

Total travel time is an important criteria that is often overlooked.  Some of the oldest heliski operators require bus rides of eight hours on both ends of the trip.  This is an ironic contrast to the fast, convenient service offered during the heliskiing.  It may not sit well with clients who can afford heliskiing.

It is a good idea to get the travel itineraries for everyone in the group before you book.  Getting to and from a heliskiing destination can range from straight forward or very challenging.  Some places are easy to get to with frequent ‘commuter’ flights.  Book these ASAP.  The good flights often sell out, and the cheap seats sell out first.  Others’ charter flights, require lengthy bus rides and are susceptible to weather delays.  Most have vans or buses for the last leg of the journey. The primary airports for heliskiing access are Vancouver, Calgary, and Anchorage, in that order.  Many itineraries require a night stay before or after the trip, some both.  Some operators include this in the price, others do not.  Some operators that are easy to access allow West Coast heliskiers to fly up in the morning and ski that afternoon.  It may also be possible to ski the morning of the last day, and fly home that afternoon. This allows three days of heliskiing in a total of four days.

Several offer easy access with all the same feelings of remoteness without the additional travel time. Another benefit to easy access is that it may also increase the skiing time you have available during your package. This may actually add up to a full day more given the same package duration.

6.  Cost

Heliskiing is expensive.  The good news is that it is worth it.  Most packages run $800 to $1100 per day, Canadian.  This includes food, lodging, helicopter lifts and some après ski hors d’oeuvres.  Alcohol is always an additional cost.

Most packages include a guaranteed minimum vertical.  Additional vertical is typically $35-45 per thousand feet.  Resort-based operators are around $100/extra run.  Everyone in your helicopter group or ‘lift’ must agree to the extra vertical, or the day is over.  It is common to re-configure the groups late in the day to allow one or two groups to go for the extra vertical.

If weather or mechanical downtime prevents reaching the guaranteed minimum, most operators will issue a credit toward a future trip.  It is unusual to get a refund.  Operators vary widely on their willingness to accommodate clients for missed vertical.  In fact, some operators have been known to start late and quit early to minimize helicopter expenses.  Fortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule.  Refunds and vertical achieved are often the cause of friction on the last day, as type-A guests butt heads with cash-strapped operators.  There is ample room for disagreement about the cause of slow groups and missed vertical.  Negotiation can be successful, but it is best done in private and with a cool head and respect.

Some packages include unlimited vertical.  In fact, a couple of operators offer unlimited vertical on every package!   Others offer it during the early and late season.  It may be built into a higher price.  It is worth shopping around.  See this blog post about the pros and cons of unlimited vertical heliskiing.

7.  Accommodations

Most BC Operators offer very nice lodges in remote locations.  A few offer less expensive options, especially those that cater to day-trippers.  Most will offer excellent amenities including bar, hot tub, wireless internet, ski shop, massage, pool, TV/movies, etc.  Check them out online.  Most are great.

Some are fishing lodges in the summer months.  Lodging is in hotels in a handful of locations.

Alaska is considerably more rugged, with a couple of exceptions.   The center of gravity is Valdez.  Most operators shuttle clients back and forth from their motel in Valdez.  A few have their own accommodations. Another interesting option in Alaska is a motor home.  The operators make it easy to hook up and hang out when you are skiing, and go exploring when you are not.  You have the option of cooking for yourself, too.   In general, Alaska is a far less luxurious, so say the least.

Down days do happen.  Good down day (contradiction in terms) activities include ski touring, cat skiing, resort skiing, fishing, snowmobiling, sea kayaking and more.

The food is awesome! Destination heliski operators almost all offer great food and lots of it.  Hotel based operations may be a little less gourmet. Some of the bigger operators do buffet style, but the food is great.

8.  Helicopters

There are several helicopters common in the heliskiing industry.  Most popular with the boutique operators is the A-Star.  It typically carries four guests across a bench-like seat in the back; the pilot and guide sit in front.  It is also known as the A-Star B, for models B2 and the more powerful B3.

The Bell 407 typically seats five in the rear; the pilot and one more sit up front (usually the guide with the exception of the last ride home.) Bell 205, 206 and 212 carries up to eleven guests, a guide and a pilot.  Operators may run two to four groups of this size.   There are trade-offs.  Bigger helicopters have longer load and unload time and clients ski in lager groups.  Some terrain does not lend itself to 12-48 tracks……   Operators with smaller helicopters and groups have more flexibility in arranging groups, reaching terrain, etc.  However, most will run three small groups per helicopter.   The exception is Private or Semi Private packages that run one or two groups respectively.  The price is higher, but the experience is the best.  With 7 or more in a group, a private may be the best deal.

Requirements for skiing ability vary somewhat.  The resort-based and one-day oriented operators suggest ‘intermediate’ ability is required and/or ‘some powder experience.’  The more remote operators suggest ‘strong intermediate’ or ‘able to ski any run at a resort in control.  These are definitely minimum requirements.  Most clients will be expert with good powder ability.  Do not invite a buddy with marginal ability if you want to ski fast and make friends in the lodge.

The other requirement is ‘good physical condition.’  It is very important to be in good shape.  You do not want to be straining to keep up.  Worse, you do not want to be slowing down your friends (and former friends.)  Get yourself in very good shape!

9.  Safety and Guides

The first and most important factor in choosing a company to ski with is to ensure it is a member of the HeliCat Canada Association. This association set strict standards for its members and ensures that they meet them through standard audits of their operating procedures. Most companies are members, however a handful of companies did not meet the operational standards of the association and therefore are not members. This is critical as there are currently no government regulations for guides in Canada. To date they have been very successful at self-regulation and have a very good safety record.

One of the critical points to consider is Guides Qualifications. HeliCat Canada recognizes only ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) and the IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guide’s Associations) of which the ACMG is the Canadian member. There are many other training schools in Canada, but none, other than the ACMG are internationally recognized.

HeliCat Canada has a set of standard operating procedures and all members follow them so you’ll find that most companies operate, with regard to safety, in a standard manner.  Be sure to check the operator credentials and safety record. You may be surprised to find out that the company you are considering is not a member, regardless of its longstanding reputation, and is therefore not regulated in any way.

Trip insurance is a good idea.  It covers change of plans or travel problems.  We do strongly recommend trip cancellation/disruption insurance.  It is an add-on to the package price when guests make their final payment.  This ranges from $200-$300, depending on the date of the tour, and the age of the participant.

Evacuation insurance is usually a daily fee of $8-10 and it is a must.

10.  How to Choose?

Heliskiing Review and HELISKI.com offer free, objective advice and recommendations that is base on experience.  It’s free to the client.  Visit www.HeliskiingReview.com, HELISKI.com or Call 866-HELISKI (866-435-4754) Intl:  925-683-7676 or Email tj@HeliskiiingReview.com

Skeena Heliskiing SOLD OUT

Holy Economic Recovery. Bookings are good, but that is amazing.

Skeena IS a great heliskiing operator. I was lucky enough to ski with them for a week and it was great. Giacum (“Jake”), the owner and lead guide, is probably the best skier I have ever had the pleasure of joining on the slopes. He raced bumps in Europe for 15 years, then coached others in that fine art. He is generous with his advice, too, which everyone appreciated.

They ski in two groups of five. No waiting, and tons of vertical. Nearly a Private, for standard pricing.

The lodge is spectacular. It may be the best heliski lodge I have stayed in.

Helicopter Skiing lodge like you dream about
Best Helicopter Skiing Lodge??

As for Skeena Heliskiing, you will have to wait. They are now booking 2012.

But I digress. Bookings typically ramp up after Labor Day. And there are 40+ other locations with availability.

So, if you’re serious about going this season, drop me an email (tj@heliski.com) or call me at 866-HELISKI (866-435-4754) or visit HELISKI.com and Heli-skiing Review.com to check out the options.

Choices, Choices – A High Class Problem

I was working with some Aussies on a trip to BC next April. Three guys wanted to do a 4-day Private. We talked about the type of skiing and experience they wanted. I ended up recommending four places to consider.

One heli-skiing operator dropped out when the dates did not match up with their trip schedules.

The price tag for a private was too scary – ranging from $40K – $78K Canadian. The price does not vary for 3 vs. 4 heliskiers, making it $13K – $26K per person to heliski for four days. Ouch.

So we dialed back the fun-meter one notch to a semi-private heliski trip for three. All three heliski operators in this mix ski in three small groups per helicopter – so not much waiting. There are many aspects of the decision, including terrain, travel, snow, lodge, the other guests that week, price and more. But as for price, which pricing option looks best?

Heliskiing Operator A: $6667 per person, Unlimited Vertical Feet
Heliskiing Operator B: $6250 per person, including 62,500 feet. Extra vertical is $42/K feet.
Heliskiing Operator C: $4890 per person, including 57,500 feet. Extra vertical is $42/K feet

It’s obvious the A beats B. That time of year, the days are long. You could easily average 20K to 25K vertical feet/day helicopter skiing, and spend $700 to $1500 in extra vertical.

So, it’s unlimited heliskiing for $6667 vs. $4890 + $42 per thousand feet of vertical over 57,500.

Before we go there, you may want to read my post on the nuances of unlimited vertical heliskiing.

Strictly looking at price, the break-even is at about 100K feet, 25K/day. Above that, the Unlimited Vertical heliski outfit is best. 100K is a great 4-day trip, so Heliskiing Operator C. allows the group to control their heliskiing budget and avoid paying for vertical they may not get.

Splitting hairs? Maybe. But even a high class problem is worth solving, eh?

Heli-Skiing.net – Heliskiing by any other name..

Somehow I forgot I had this great domain name on ice – heli-skiing.net. So I decided to use it.

I’m hoping to pass some other sites in the search engine results like TLH Heli-Skiing, Heli-Skiing Wikipedia, Heli-Skiing Jackson, etc.

It’s not quite as strong as our site, Heliski.com, but it has potential, eh?

Also a chance to post this awesome picture from the good folks at Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing.

Heli-Skiing Canada
“Next”

Heliski Presidents’ Day Weekend – 4 Choices

We have a number of good options for 3-day trips over Presidents’ Day. Travel to each of these is reasonable for a short trip. Let me know if you want to hold seats. Or book directly and tell them Heliski.com referred you.

Wasatch Powderbird Guides out of Snowbird Utah has space over Presidents’ Day. I have skied with them a few times. I had a great time.

$3366 US. And if you book all three days within the week they’ll give you $35 per skier per day.

Let me know if you want to hold seats. Saturday is filling up.

Sun Valley Heliski Guides. They have space over Presidents’ Day for $1100/day.

 

Another cool option is Helitrax in Telluride, Colorado. They can take you over Presidents’ Day for $849/day (multi-day price).

Check them out at www.helitrax.com

Snowwater has 3-day Feb 12, 13 and 14 (Fri-Sun) for $4600 Canadian, unlimited vertical. Fly in/out of Spokane, WA.

Snowwater offers boutique heli skiing, a huge operating area, and cat backup. You ski every day. Fly to the lodge on the afternoon before your first day; then fly out on the afternoon of the last day. New for 2010, all packages are unlimited vertical and unlimited alcohol.

Snowwater is located in the southern interior region of BC known as the Kootenays. The area was chosen for its spectacular beauty and superb, light deep powder. Their tenure includes over 150,000 acres of pristine wilderness ensuring an exclusive adventure of a lifetime. They guarantee you ski or ride every day. If they can’t fly due to inclement weather then we jump in their luxurious snowcat (oxymoron?) with plush recliner seats and rocking with tunes. Fly to Spokane, WA and drive or take their shuttle 3.5 hours north.

You can also do a custom trip in Europe. Start with a Car Hire Switzerland and ski the Alps!

If you book with any of these, please let them and me know that we referred you.

Thanks,

tj

Heliski.com