August 22, 2014

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Helicopter Skiing

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American Mountain Holidays offers a variety of heli-skiing experiences from Telluride in Colorado, to Utah, Sun Valley and up to Valemont in British Columbia. Heli-skiing is the pinnacle of the ski and snowboard experience. The ecstasy of skiing untracked powder on remote peaks and snowfields along with flying among the high mountains between runs is an intoxicating experience.

Morning Drop Off

Morning Drop Off

There is simply nothing like it. You are dropped on a peak and with a roar and a blast of swirling snow you are left in silence as the helicopter disappears below you. You take in the sea of mountains around you as you get your skis or snowboard on. The guide gathers the group for instructions. Over his shoulder you see thousands of feet pristine powder waiting for you. Your heart is hammering in your chest and you take deep breaths in anticipation. Welcome to the sport of heli-skiing!

AMH has heli-ski operators that offer single day excursions, the best for those first time heli-skiers, to the weeklong trips where your accommodation is in luxury lodges and you are served gourmet meals. Miles from the nearest road and cutoff from cell phones, internet, radio and television you find yourself enjoying life on a yet to be experienced level. See more thoughts on this in:  What You Should Know. (below)

The daily trip is the best way to start. You will get the full experience; from the morning avalanche transceiver orientation and the training of operating around a helicopter. Next the guide will load up your powder skis (we very strongly recommend using the skis provided by the heli ski company. This is a different arena with vastly different conditions and your ski area skis are not the tools for variable backcountry snow conditions.)

One more bathroom stop and you are off! Lunch is usually picnic style in a scenic spot and sandwiches, soups and plenty of liquids are served. Then you are in for more skiing and riding in the afternoon. At the end of the day in some cases you will return to the departure point for après ski beverages and snacks and recounting the day with your guides and friends you have just made after spending a day skiing and riding in the high mountains.

Multi Day and Traditional Weeklong Heli-Ski Trips

Mike Wiegele, Blue River BC

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, Blue River BC

The first commercial helicopter assisted skiing was started by an avid alpine touring guide in 1965. A ”Doff of The Lid” to legendary guide Hans Gmoser, who put together the first week of helicopter skiing in the Bugaboo Mountains of western Canada. Operating with a two-seat helicopter and plywood sawmill shacks for lodging the sport of heli-skiing was born.

The weeklong heli-ski trip as was started by Hans Gmoser sits at the pinnacle of ski experiences. WHY? Extending the daily experience and skiing untracked snow for multiple days is as close to heaven as you’ll get while you’re alive. The lodges you stay in are a “mountain luxury” style, some of them miles from the nearest road. You are provided with gourmet meals and beverages and in the case of Mr. Gmoser’s company, served to you by the guides you skied with that day.

The truly unique part of the experience is the camaraderie and friendships that are formed and shared by the group after a day of untracked powder skiing in remote mountains with no other humans for miles. Most lodges do not have television or radio. Few have Internet. You are left to share your time and tales in a warm lodge by a dancing fire with other snow riders from all over the planet who have come to the same place, to enjoy the same incredible experience and the bond this creates is like no other we have ever experienced.

What You Should Know:

Powder Shot Heli-skiing is all about untracked powder skiing to most people. The headlong rush to rack up as many vertical feet as possible is the goal of today’s powder pig. If you sign up for this activity there are a few things to remember. First, you are lifted to a remote peak with no work on your part. As the helicopter departs with a roar you are left standing on this peak surrounded by other mountains in absolute quiet and solitude. Take it in, for a long few moments.
Pay respect to where you are and how you got there. Respect will be the name of the game as you turn to put on your skis or snowboard. Your mind is racing and says ”Let Me At It!”

Respect the guide who will safely get you down and show you the best line while trying to keep you out of harm’s way. Be quiet and listen to everything he has to say. If you miss something ask him to repeat it. A mis-communication can have deadly consequences.

Respect the snow. It can turn against you quickly with a change in conditions, depth and stability. This isn’t the ski area amusement park. Be alert and on edge and with the respect you should always carry for the mountain. This will be the best measure towards providing you with a unforgettable mountain experience. Roger Atkins, a guide with Canadian Mountain Holidays, summed it up best: “The thing about heli-skiing is that things can go from really, really good to really, really bad really, really quickly.”

Take chances to hydrate while waiting for the helicopter or before skiing to replenish your energy reserves. Heli skiing is a fast paced, high adrenaline sport. You should be of strong intermediate skier who can navigate blue/intermediate runs in a variety of conditions. You should also be in good physical condition. You should have some backcountry experience with snowcat skiing or alpine touring. These above factors, no matter the age, will make the difference in having a great day.

Each heli-ski operator has their own rules and operating procedures.
These will be provided to you at time of booking.

Powder Shot Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. If you are limited on funds look for the early and late season time periods as these are priced less and still offer a great experience.

Heli-skiing is one of our passions, please call us with any questions you might have and we look forward to providing you with a day you will always remember!