There are few opportunities in life to feel like a daredevil action man or woman, but here’s one suggestion – try heli skiing Canada.
Imagine the finest run you’ve ever done in a regular ski resort and then imagine doing something at least that good and probably a hundred times better – all day long. There are no crowds, no lines, no ice, no lifts. Just you, your friends and thousands of square miles of untracked powder. That’s why heliskiers go back year after year!
What’s more, the ski experience of a lifetime is open to any decent intermediate skier or above. Heli skiing is no longer the preserve of the experts with modern fat skis (which you’ll be provided with).
So how do you choose a fabulous heli skiing holiday? If you’re booking for the first time – or even if you’re a seasoned heli skier or boarder – here are some insider questions to ask:
How many groups share a helicopter?
This can make a big difference to how much skiing you get in, how ‘wild’ the mountains feel and how much potential other skiers/boarders have to disrupt what you want to do. You’ll get the best experience – and better value for money – by going with an operator that has fewer groups using the helicopter.
How many skiers/boarders per group?
This varies between three and eleven. Smaller groups probably give you more flexibility, but if you have a large group of friends it can be fun to all ski or ride together. You’ll also want to ensure the group you’ll be skiing with is at the same level as you.
What is the refund policy when you can’t ski?
Most operations guarantee 30,500 vertical metres (100,000 vertical feet) of heli skiing as part of a week-long package. If you choose to ski more than this you’ll be charged for it – usually about £40 (US $75) per 1,000 metres.
However, if bad weather prevents flying you’re refunded at the same rate for unskied vertical. The amount can vary from one operation to another though, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re committing yourself to before booking a trip.
And watch out – some operations will include one amount of skiing in the price whilst only actually guaranteeing a lesser amount.
Wilderness lodge or hotel accommodation?
In either case you’ll be spoiled rotten, but the wilderness lodge does give you more of a – well, a wilderness feel.
What’s the terrain like?
It’s vital you check this and ensure you’re going to ski with an operation that can provide the kind of terrain you like. Most operations cover such big territories that there’s plenty of variety.
However, many will not take you on steeper terrain, some emphasise tree skiing and some have no tree skiing at all (such as in Alaska). Look into this before you go and make sure you end up somewhere that definitely has what you want – something that can be hard to get from a company that does not want to lose your business to a competitor.
When’s the best time to go?
It really depends on where you go. As a general rule, the season in Canada is very reliable from January through until mid April, often with some of the best conditions late in March and early April. As you get closer to the equator, the window for optimal conditions tends to narrow somewhat.
On certain weeks of the year demand is slightly less, so prices are lower, but conditions are still excellent. Choosing one of these – they’re usually outside the main school holiday periods and at the start and end of the season – can give you excellent value for money.
But how do you get the best value for money?
With competition on the Internet becoming quite intense many companies are advertising deceptively low prices (this is particularly true for Russian heli ski outfits) in order to attract business.
Whilst these operations may appear less expensive than others you could find on closer inspection (or maybe only once you arrive) that significantly less vertical is guaranteed as part of the overall package, and you’ll actually end up paying more to ski once you go over that guaranteed amount. It can often be the case that the heli ski companies which initially appear most expensive work out to be the best value for money… so check them out carefully.
On a pure cost basis, heliskiing is not cheap, but in return for your hard won cash, you get the ski experience of a lifetime. How else could you ever ski 15 runs (or more) in a day on pristine powder with only a few friends for company? And when you add it all up, a few days skiing costs the equivalent of a couple of pints a night over the course of a year – so cut down on the beer and go heliskiing instead!
In conclusion, you can see that when you go heliskiing there are range of factors to consider that don’t necessarily come into play when you’re booking a resort holiday. So it’s worth doing it through a specialist heliski tour operator, who can show you a range of options and answer your questions.
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