Gear, Heli Skiing

Base Depth vs Ski Depth

Why Early Season Delivers the Goods for Deep Powder Heli Skiing

At Northern Escape, one of the questions we’re often asked is, “When is the snow the deepest?” And here’s where a bit of an explanation is in order. The snow ‘base’ is almost always deepest in late April, after it’s been piling on all season. However, the ‘ski depth’ is often deepest in December.

It sounds counterintuitive, so let’s explain further. At your local ski hill, you might have 2m (6’) of snow base, but it’s pure groomer, and nothing on top, so the ski depth is literally Nada.

How to Go Heli-Skiing and Not Be a Climate-Changing Jerk

Now, the excitement we all crave has to do with ‘ski depth’ NOT the ‘base’ or snow depth. How much you ‘sink in’ is the ski depth, so ‘chest deep’ means you’re sinking into your chest, and that’s the holy grail of backcountry skiing.

And here’s the thing: ski depth is usually way deeper in December than just about any other month, as the base slowly builds. The reason is, with our location in Northern BC, the big Pacific storms start rolling in by mid October and they really don’t let up until February or later. Those early season snow falls take time to ‘bond’ or settle, so we’re usually skiing waist deep powder and even deeper in December.

During this time we do about 75% of our skiing in the trees. Stability is better here and all the features, jumps, and pillows are a skier’s natural playground. Of course, we need enough snow to cover any obstacles but that usually occurs by mid November. You only need 2m (6’) on our ski terrain, and a meter (3’) at our pickup points, to be safe and have a ton of fun.

Technique and Gear for Deep Powder Skiing

When skiing or boarding in deep powder, it’s all about flotation. You want as fat a ski or snowboard as you can get your hands on. And when it comes to technique you want to make a nice platform with those big planks, and use some hops between turns. Finding terrain that’s a little steeper and getting some speed up and keeping your weight slightly back can help keep you on top.

If you’ve never skied in deep powder, it’s quite unlike anything you’ll ever have at a ski resort, and can take some getting used to. But after a few waist-deep runs, you’ll quickly discover why December may be the ultimate month for deep powder skiing.

A Premium Small Group Heli Skiing Experience

Since 2004 Northern Escape Heli Skiing has operated small group heli skiing in Northern BC’s Skeena Mountains, near Terrace, BC. Our boutique heli experience, new Mountain Lodge, snowcat skiing backup and big mountain, deep powder skiing attracts riders from around the world. Our lodges are easily accessed from Vancouver via Terrace Airport. For more information, contact us or see our booking page.