How To: Plan a Ski or Snowboard Heli Trip

Photo Courtesy of Epicquest/H.Mayberry

Listen, there are few things more exhilarating than lifting off in a helicopter, never mind having said helicopter then drop you off in the mountains with nothing but untracked snow for miles. If you’re a dedicated rider/skier chances are someday you’ll have a heli day on your lifetime wishlist. But heli laps don’t come cheap, so if/when you decide to book a trip, take some things into consideration to maximize your time in and out of the ‘bird.

 

1. Book in advance. This goes without saying, but these operations only get to fly so many days a year, and seats are limited. If you have very specific travel dates, book well in advance, especially during Spring Break and the Christmas holidays. Also, when considering trip dates, look at historical weather information to see what time of year has the best combination of sun and good snow conditions.

 

2. Be prepared not to fly. High winds, snow, and cloud cover can all derail a heli trip. You want to give yourself as big a window as possible to wait out bad weather, and be ready to ride when (if) the weather breaks. Many heli operations also have snowcats, which they’ll use to shuttle riders on down days—look into that amenity, as it’s a pretty good insurance policy against cabin fever.

 

3. Don’t go undergunned. Whether you own one or not, be sure to bring a ski/snowboard setup that won’t torpedo in powder and be overpowered by backcountry terrain. You want to savor every turn, not fight to keep control and afloat. If you don’t want to add a new board(s) to your quiver, go ahead and rent one. You won’t regret it.

 

4. If your goal is to charge all day and bank as much vertical as possible, try and book an entire heli with a full group of like-minded riders, otherwise you’ll be limited by the abilities and skill level of the “weakest” rider.

 

5. Once you’re there, remember: Always, always obey the pilot and your guides. And know where the rotors are at all times. This is the real deal.

 

-MH

 

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