Over the last twenty years, helicopter skiing has gone from a fringe market in a tiny corner of the adventure travel sector, to a popular destination sport for skiers and riders. What was once thought an extreme endeavor for adrenaline junkies, is now accurately seen as an accessible way to ski fresh powder. Skiers and riders have discovered that heli-skiing can be catered to different ability levels, and its popularity has exploded. But with the relatively high cost of heli skiing, is it the right fit for you?
By far the most common question we receive is “how good of a skier/rider do you have to be?” It’s a simple question, but the answer requires some elaboration. To understand how ability levels are addressed, you need to understand both how groupings work, and what different products are available. In Alaska, nearly all heli-skiing is done in 5 passenger “AStar” helicopters (as opposed to the larger 12-passenger ships often found in Canada). In each group there are 4 guests and 1 guide, and the helicopter 2-4 groups at a time. While your group is skiing, the helicopter is bringing another group to the top. Ideally we want to find 4 people of similar ability to ski together in each group, but different abilities or desires from group to group is normal and can keep everyone at the right level for their group
When we are taking reservations we get inquiries from single guests, couples, groups of 4, and even larger groups. The group size you are coming with has an influence on the ability-level customization we are able to deliver. Let’s say you are an expert skier, and you want to come for a day by yourself. It’s generally not too difficult to find three other expert skiers to share a group with because many people that choose to go heli-skiing are experts. The same applies for advanced skiers and riders. There are plenty of other people like yourself, and our office is very good at creating those groups based on the forms you fill out and the conversations we’ve had with you on the phone.
If you are not quite in that advanced or above level, or if you haven’t skied much deep powder, we can still take you heli-skiing, but we need to make sure we have a full group of similar ability. Once we have those groupings dialed, we can head out into the field and each group can ski its preferred level of terrain. While Alaska is known for its steeps, there is no shortage of awesome moderate-angle skiing. It’s not uncommon to have these different level groups in the same helicopter. In any zone we may ski in, there’s always options for different runs and variations to keep everyone happy.
For even higher levels of customization, we offer private charter heli-skiing. This means you essentially own the helicopter for the day, and you don’t share it with other groups. This obviously comes at a higher price point, but offers advantages for both expert or lower level skiers. While the majority of private charters are seasoned heli-skiers looking to take their experience to the next level, it also serves as a great option for guests to test the waters. If you have never ever skied powder but want to give it a try, you can do a private charter and not have to worry about the fast pace that inherently comes with multiple group heli-skiing. You are also less confined on terrain with a private charter. This is helpful for beginner powder skiers because you can go at your own pace and be very selective with what you ski.
Over the years, we’ve taken almost every ability level out in the heli. When planning your trip, it’s helpful to come as a group of four, or to consider a private charter if you’re concerned that you might not keep up. For any level, the most important thing is that you communicate your ability and desires as accurately as you can to our office. If you do that, there’s a good chance we can give you the rewarding experience you are looking for.