One of the most common questions our office answers is “when is the best time to come heli skiing?” Weather is a major factor on any ski trip, and we understand why guests want to hedge their bets when investing in a trip. While the weather is too variable to declare a “best” time to come, there are certain trends associated with early, middle and late season that may help influence your decision.
The CPG operating season runs from December through April. December and January are what we refer to as “early season.” We don’t offer our four day package until February, but we have day skiing for both heli and snowcat during the early season period. The days are short this time of year, so we don’t encourage anyone to come up just for helisking. However, the resort can be great in December and January, so if you are here for Alyeska and there are clear skies, definitely consider a day of heli skiing. Because the sun is low in the sky, the “magic hour” light that photographers love to chase at sunrise and sunset lasts for much of the day. The sun doesn’t produce much heat this time of year, so the snow stays nice and cold on all aspects. We take many local Alaskans heli skiing this time of year because it’s a great opportunity to get out before the busy season.
By February we are rapidly gaining light and heli season is in full swing. Cold snow and cold temperatures are still the norm, but we have more hours in the day to ski. This can be a great time to visit Girdwood because things are a little quieter than in March. Both our snowcat area and Alyeska Resort can have some great powder days in February. Coming in February can give you a better chance of the best snow, and we also tend to have more flexibility in booking.
March is our busiest month, and historically the most popular time to heli ski in Alaska. By mid March we have the same amount of daylight as the continental US. As the days grow longer, we have more flexibility to launch late if the weather is poor in the morning. It’s not uncommon to launch the heli at noon, or even 2 p.m. in March. Bookings fill up fast this time of year, so if you want to come during peak season it’s best to book well in advance.
By April the mountains are reaching their peak snowpack for the season. The days are now longer than anywhere else in North America with sunset occurring after 9PM. With more hours to work with, the heli can launch later than 2 PM in the event of weather holds. We can ski until 7PM this time of year, so a late launch still leaves plenty of time to get a full day in. The temps are slightly warmer on average, but there’s still plenty of cold snow on the north half of the compass. April often provides the best chances of getting on big runs due to the long days and slightly more stable weather. It’s also a great time to enjoy spring conditions at Alyeska, and powder out in the heli.
Keep in mind that these weather trends are tenuous. It’s not uncommon to have wet and warm conditions in February, and a cold snap in April. The weather is always going to be out of our control, and an element of luck will inevitably contribute to the success of your trip. Our fly rate doesn’t change much with the season, so the answer to when the best time to come will always be: whenever you and your crew can make it. Your schedule is always the most important variable.
Whenever you decide to come, we’ll make sure you ski or ride everyday. Thanks to our snowcat area and Alyeska Resort, we ski even when the weather doesn’t support flying the helicopter. This is one of the unique perks of CPG and one of the reasons our guests and guides return year after year.