This guide is going to cover every detail of your heli-ski trip, so you get the most out of it.
It’s no surprise to say, heli-skiing has it all. It may feel like your first date, yeah it can excite the hell out of you.
Let’s start by breaking a myth… myth? You don’t need to be an elite skier for this to happen! Yes! You read it right. Contrary to what you might think, heli-skiing isn’t just for the world’s elite shredders. You don’t have to be an expert who leaps out of a moving chopper and falls straight into a powder bath to your knees. Yes, if you’re confident on an intermediate (or blue-square) ride on your local mountain in six inches of powder snow, you have all the skills you need to go for a heli-skiing blast.
So here we shut down all the drama of who can and who cannot, everyone and anyone CAN!
Now let’s battle another one. You might not expect this coming, but no!… you’re not jumping from the helicopter. This never happens! After the helicopter takes off, you can go out and safely put your skis or snowboard on the ground and start your adventure there.
Amazed? Fascinated? Ready to book yourself a trip? To learn more about heli-skiing, read on.
How Much Does Heli-Skiing Cost?
Heli-skiing is admittedly the dream for any powder junkie, however, once you cross-check the price, it usually becomes apparent why the ‘once of a lifetime’ tag is thus appropriate and is crucial to do it right.
If you are looking to heli ski from a superyacht off Greenland’s coast and ski glaciers, you are certain to be observing a six-figure jaunt. All the same, most heli-skiing journeys measure across-the-board and embrace five-star meals, amazing accommodations, all the rental gear you desire, and typically spa treatments, noting that you need to be ready to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 each day per person, once you’re starting out.
A lot of factors decide the cost of heli-skiing. Look for an operator who flies large groups of helicopters near established resorts or towns with cheap accommodation to keep costs down as much as possible. If you want to go all out without any spared cost, then British Columbia’s beautiful remote heli ski lodges can be as comfortable as you like.
What do You Wear to Heli-Skiing?
Heli-skiing is a great way to find some backcountry snow in the season at any time. The right clothes should never be overlooked. Before you plan a week of powder skiing at high altitude, make sure you have the right shoes. At Northern Escape, we know that quality clothing and preparation will help you get the most out of every downhill run, so here are a few tips to help you pick the best clothes for your heli-skiing trip. We’ve listed the “must-wears” below;
1. Solid Waterproof Shell (Outerwear: Jacket and Pants)
This seems like a no brainer for most, but I wanted to take a moment to stress the importance of a good outer layer. The emphasis should be on waterproofing. Breathability can be fantastic, but you do more in and out and mostly go downhill when you’re Heli skiing. This isn’t the time to wear the professional hoody that you love so much, or those cute corduroy snowboard pants, or any other jacket or pants that don’t have the level of protection you need. You’re getting the picture.
2. Layer up
Ok, so here’s the deal. Layers are an act of balancing. You just want to stick to the rule of three.
TOP: A single base layer under a down insulator and a shell up top.
Many ski jackets are waterproof, breathable and compact, allowing lots of layers underneath.
Bottom: On the bottom, underwear (not cotton) a base layer and shell pants. That’s all!
Applies the NO COTTON rule, too. Go for your base layer with something synthetic or wool. Whatever you wear, your body needs sweat to dry quickly and easily. There’s nothing worse than sweating, and then freezing. It is a quick way to be unhappy and to ruin the best turns of your life.
3. Face Protection
This is one of the essentials that most people forget to consider. You will need facial protection. For some, having a high neck on the jacket that you can tuck your chin in could cut it down. Yet we strongly recommend having something that keeps your neck warm and helps you survive the elements. It can help protect your skin from windburn or extreme cold.
4. Multiple Pairs of Goggles – Changeable Lenses or Having Options
Okay, so not every one of us has a pair of ski goggles unless you’re hard at work or employed. Cheap goggles without a pro deal can be pricey. But here’s the thing, nothing hurts more than skiing or blind running. You need to see clearly if you want to have a good time.
The first thing, for the snow conditions, is the right lens. Many goggle brands make goggles that come with lenses that can be modified. Many top of the line goggles actually come with this feature. Lighting may be influenced by daytime, year time, and temperature. Make sure you’re not only bringing your blackout lenses and expecting it to be crystal clear.
Although that mountain was once packed with pioneering badasses with flowing locks, now is not the time to rock a headband. A good ski helmet is an intelligent alternative, and it has many benefits. Next, a helmet with a built-in goggle system will help minimize fogging in your goggles. Where a hat can trap more moisture and heat, in the top of the lens and through the helmet, many helmets have airflow systems that draw moisture and heat away from the ventilation. Don’t trust us. That is science.
Also, nothing keeps your head warm like a helmet does. It won’t get hot or cold. The fibers are not even freezing. Not only that but also it’s comfortable padding works as a shield from the wind.
Your helmet is your safeguard, if you have a rough accident a helmet will make a difference. Even for something small, like hitting a branch in the trees, wearing a helmet means so much. Without one, you can get a gash, or just be shaken quicker.
6. A Few Pairs of Gloves
Frozen fingers are of no help. A good pair of gloves is essential. The leather gas station gloves you purchased last winter just won’t cut it. Choose something that will offer comfort and warmth.
We recommend bringing a minimum of 2 pairs. Although most lodges and hotels have locations from the day before where you can dry out your equipment, a decent pair of backup gloves is still a good idea to have.
7. Ski/Board Bag (Rolling)
This is huge! Having the right bag to get your equipment to and from your destination is worth its weight in gold. Though many of the operators have rental equipment at your disposal, you should bring your skis or board with you if you have a setup that you like and feel confident about.
So get a rolling bag that can fit all your gear. It will make your life so much easier for getting around.
8. Comfortable Ski/Board Boots
This particular item should be starred, underlined and highlighted. But for the sake of everyone reading this on a screen, I’ll just say this. COMFORTABLE BOOTS WILL MAKE OR BREAK YOUR TRIP. You’ve been saving up for this and have finally pulled the trigger. Just imagine being on the trip of a lifetime when all of a sudden, the arches of your feet hurt so bad you wanna break one of your fingers just to take your mind off the pain in your feet, Major Payne style.
Do yourself a huge favor. Make sure your ski boots are ready to rock. Have a solid footbed, and make sure you can go all day. Invest in a new pair, especially if that old pair of snowboard boots have just given up, becoming lifeless and packed out. Make sure they are fitted by a boot fitter.
Lights. Camera. Action. If it isn’t on Instagram, it didn’t happen. Seriously! Don’t you want to re-live this awesome memory over and over again? Plus, it’s time to make everyone jealous of your epic trip.
Is Heli-Skiing Dangerous?
People turn to Heli-skiing to put some of the adventure back in the skiing experience.
Every year, despite the high price and high risk, tens of thousands keep flocking to it, and if you’ve done it once, you’ll be back. For skiing by helicopter, it is you who mark the territory’s first claim, often laying down the first tracks.
There are a lot of unknowns in Canada’s wilderness and there are real dangers. That is why you don’t go alone. Safety is a priority. Without exception, everybody should follow the most stringent safety protocols and operating procedures to minimize the risk you are exposed to.
In general, heli-skiing is safe. However, there will always be an inherent degree of risk (just like when driving a car), which cannot be completely eliminated.
Guides, pilots, and helicopters are fundamental to your safety, and no compromises are made in these departments. Only use the best. Good guides are experienced practitioners accredited by the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) or affiliated IFMGA such as the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). This means they completed years of specialist training and were assessed to the highest standards. It usually takes at least five years and many years of previous experience to become a mountain guide to meet minimum entry requirements.
What Should I Bring to Heli-Skiing?
A good attitude! Every day in the mountains, adventure and unique experiences are available.
- Because there’s no Heli-skiing day without a dip in the tub, “Swimsuit for soaking after skiing.” Bring the type of clothing you’d wear at home …
- Often overlooked, but essential. Slippers are gonna be the first thing you want to throw on when you get to the lodge. And a good party T will be great for unwinding at night.
- Even if you come from Canada, bring your passport It’s a must in Stewart so you can walk across the border to Hyder, Alaska.
- Never travel without a credit card or travel insurance.
- Some other useful items are ibuprofen, sunscreen, many extra touches, and a harmonica.
How Old do You have to be to Heli-Ski?
All Heli-skiers and riders need to be a minimum age of 16 years. They also need to meet the minimum ability level just like everyone else – i.e. be confident on blue (intermediate) runs at a resort.
How Much Should You Tip a Heli-Ski Guide?
Your guide is the most integral part of your Heli-skiing experience, and they work very hard to ensure that you have the trip of your life. A respectable gratuity is greatly appreciated and is very important to your guide’s revenue stream. We suggest $150.00 a day per guest for your guide. Please don’t forget the chefs, lodge staff and ground crew, who also make the magic happen. We suggest $75.00 per day, which will be shared among the lodge staff and ground crew.
A cash tip is preferred but credit cards are accepted. Once at the lodge there is no ATM/cash machine, so please plan ahead. If you can tip your guide or staff member directly, they will appreciate it tremendously!
Where is the Best Heli-Skiing in the World?
If hurtling down a snow-covered mountain at breathtaking speed is what you need to get your adrenalin fix, it’s time to consider heliskiing. We consider British Columbia, Canada to be the best option for heli-skiing. If you’ve ever wondered why 95% of the world’s heli-skiing operators are based in Canada check out our 4 reasons why Heli-skiing in Canada is a must for everyone’s bucket lists.
They say size doesn’t matter, but in the case of Heli-skiing, Canada’s sheer scale makes it the perfect place to use a helicopter to access skiing, which otherwise would be impossible to get to. On top of this, the variety of terrain in Canada is unrivalled; you can expect endless pillow lines, giant Alpine bowls, massive glacial runs as well as amazing tree runs. So, it is safe to say, in terms of skiable terrain – Canada has it all.
If you’ve never been to British Columbia, now’s the time to go. Not only is the powder here incredible, the area is 90 times the size of France’s Val lees, and larger than the Swiss Alps, with some 2.64 million acres of snowy slopes nestled close to the Pacific coast, making it one of the world’s biggest skiing paradises.
The options on offer for Heli-skiers in Whistler are as extensive as they are inspiring, with hundreds of runs, glaciers, and guided tours ranging from formal introductory courses to just-jump-and-go operations.
2. Snow Quality
There’s an abundance of snow in Canada, which is why it attracts 2.5 million skiers per year – and by abundance we mean it has a world-famous reported annual snowfall of 12-15 meters.
However, the devil is in the detail; not all Canadian mountain ranges in western Canada have been created equal.
The Rocky Mountains, for example, are a little further east and as such much of the precipitation has already fallen by the time the systems reach, so they have a lower (relative) snowfall. In contrast, there’s the Coastal Mountains to the west (home to the famous Whistler) where there are big snowfalls from systems straight off the Pacific, however, these can often lead to quite wet snow. The magic really happens in the Northwest of BC and interior Columbia Mountain range of western BC, which sits right in-between the two and has the best of both worlds, namely heaps of light, dry, snow.
Central to these perfect snow conditions is the Columbia River, a natural snow river that runs through the Columbia Mountains and that recharges the clouds and leads to consistent precipitation throughout the season.
The tree skiing in the interior ranges of western Canada is unique. The trees are where the powder tends to be the deepest and stays perfect for longer as the snow is less affected by the wind and sun. The huge bonus of having skied in the forests is that when it’s not sunny and you can’t ski the big glaciers up in the Alpine you can still get out to ski these beautiful majestic forests. The trees provide some protection from inclement weather as well as also providing better visibility for pilots and skiers, massively reducing the risk of the dreaded ‘down-day’. This is, without doubt, the reason why the Northwest and Interior ranges of British Columbia have the most reliable Heli-skiing in the world.
You are spoiled with choices when Heli-skiing in Canada because 95% of all the Heli-ski operators in the world are based here. Not to mention that 80% of them operate in British Columbia. Each lodge offers something a little different in terms of Heli-ski terrain, lodging and group sizes so the scale of the operation means that whether you’re an expert looking for a faster program or a beginner looking for an introduction to powder there is something that suits – your choice is limitless!
We tried our best to cover up all the details you need to know about heli-skiing. Hope this piece helped you. Experience the thrills!
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, see our Guide to Heli Skiing in BC, contact us or visit our booking page.