Heli Skiing

Winter 2023 Heli Skiing

The Lowdown on Trip Planning, Predictions and Travel Advice for the Upcoming Heli Ski Season

For first time bucket listers and seasoned shredders alike, heli skiing continues to be a much sought after luxury adventure activity. Few things can compare to the thrill of riding almost weightless over deep, untouched powder slopes in the backcountry of BC. As we look ahead to this coming winter, let’s see what’s in store. If you haven’t booked a heli trip yet and are still deciding if this winter is the time to give it a try, or go again, read on.

The Past Ski Seasons

Winter 2021 was the winter that wasn’t, with the border shut tight and almost all heli ski lodges closed (despite near perfect conditions). Winter 2022 was much better, but still a challenge, as the season started soon after the emergence of the omicron variant. While borders were open this past season, and most heli ski lodges were running trips, winter 2022 was anything but easy.

Various levels of entry testing and quarantines were required, and most lodges had at least partial shutdowns due to covid. Airlines, flights and staffing for much of the travel and ski industry were a mess. Despite this, bookings were strong and many people made their way to backcountry lodges for heli ski vacations and had fantastic trips.

Travel Updates for 2023

At time of writing (mid-july 2022) we are continuing to see major disruptions to air travel caused by massive pent up travel demand. People are traveling in record numbers this summer! But as capacity increases, and the summer travel boom wanes, we expect air travel for winter to be much better, and for those coming to BC to have far less problems with flights than last winter.

The border is now fully open to vaccinated travelers, and no mandatory testing or quarantines are required. Although this could change, it seems like the Canadian government has no plans to go back to border closings and quarantines. However, being vaccinated will likely continue to be a requirement for entry for some time to come.

Although most masking requirements have been lifted, covid is still widespread and can ruin your ski vacation. Most heli lodges will continue to make use of rapid testing, advanced cleaning procedures, and protocols for removing anyone with covid from the group. As such, it is highly advisable to have travel insurance, and to avoid a lot of social interactions or wear a mask in the days before your trip.

Bookings for Next Winter

Demand for heli ski bookings continues to be very strong for the winter ahead and many operators are even taking bookings for the following season, winter 2024. As such, many prime season dates, like mid-February, have been sold out for months.

But if the past two winters are any indication, booking mid-winter is not always the sure thing it once was. In fact, with climate change, we’re seeing different things. It’s too early to tell if this is a trend or not, but the past two winters had some of the best snow conditions in December and April, and February 2022 had less than stellar conditions. The point is, if you can’’t get your preferred mid-winter dates, don’t worry. You may be pleasantly surprised by booking an early or late season trip and these are almost always cheaper because of lower demand, not quality of skiing.

Heli Skiing Helicopters

Strong La Niña Forecasted

Scientists are forecasting a strong La Niña event for the upcoming winter. Meaning ‘Little Girl’ in Spanish, during a La Niña the sea surface temperature across the eastern equatorial part of the central Pacific Ocean will be 3–5 °C lower than normal. This ‘cold event’ has extensive effects on weather patterns across the globe.

These cold waters push the jet stream northward leading to drought in the southern U.S. and heavy precipitation and colder temperatures in the Pacific Northwest throughout the winter months. For skiers, this means lots of deep dry snow on the mountains in BC and optimal backcountry skiing conditions. The different regions of BC experience slightly different ski conditions but with a La Niña forecasted, it’s a safe bet that winter 2023 will see excellent heli skiing throughout.

Trip Planning

There are a lot of things to consider when planning a heli ski vacation. You should be a fairly strong intermediate to advanced resort skier at the minimum. Some lodges cater to the lower end of this range while others are advanced and expert only.

If skiing every day of your trip is important, look for a lodge that has snowcat skiing backup, since down days do happen when it’s snowing too hard for the helicopters to fly in the mountains. Snowcats can be a great option for storm days.

Your First Heli-Ski Trip

Getting to and from the lodges themselves is also something to consider. Some heli ski lodges require long trips by shuttle bus on wintry roads to access, and when combined with flights to small airports, can add another full day of travel to your trip.

Finally, there has been a big push within the industry to lessen the impact on the environment, so if that’s important to you, look for operators that are certified carbon-neutral and have environmental plans in place.

Northern Escape: 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 premium heli experience, three boutique lodges, 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 and availability page.