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Best Spots for Heliskiing in Russia

Andrew Lyle January 21, 2019

With a mind-boggling 17,098,246-square kilometers spanning two continents, including subtropical beaches and Arctic tundra, Russia is vast to say the least. This incredible country has such a wide geographic range that it accounts for more than an eighth of all inhabited land on Earth. It is so diverse that it has 11 different time zones and shares a border with 14 other countries. For mountain athletes and outdoor travelers, it offers a relentless landscape for every activity, recreation, and natural wonder under the sun. Specifically, for skiers, it offers a never-ending supply of untouched snow and rugged terrain.

Along with all of those incredible statistics about its sheer size, Russia is notably sparse in population. Despite being the ninth most populous country with roughly 146 million people, ranks 233rd in population density with nine people per square kilometer. More than three-fourths of the people live in Europe, the western-most part of the country.

What does all of this mean? Well, for intrepid skiers and snow savvy thrill-seekers, this rural landscape replete with mountains, lakes, rivers, meadows, and coastline is just waiting to be discovered and explored – and skied! With these idyllic and isolated locations, sometimes flying in is the best and only way to experience snow unlike anywhere else in the world.

 

A blanket of white on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Photo: Marco Gaiani.

Heliskiers have been coming to Russia for years. French heliskiers had been heading to Rosa Khutor and the Western Caucasus long before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Kamchatka – on the eastern side of the country – opened up to tourists in 1992 after a long stint as a military zone, and even earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wild and woolly backcountry. Between these two far out and well-known regions lies even more rugged wilderness that is ripe for an epic heliskiing adventure.

Want to experience the heavenly terrain and unparalleled landscape of Russia on an unforgettable heliskiing program? Check out these remarkable guided heliskiing trips in the Russian Federation that are sure to be among some of the best ski adventures in the world!

 

3 Reasons Why You Should Go Heliskiing in Russia

 

Unspoiled Terrain

 

Russia has kilometer after kilometer of untouched snow all across the country. Not only are the rarely-visited peaks and ridges filled with high-quality snow, they are accompanied by undisturbed nature that is just as beautiful. Dropping into the remote areas allows ideal conditions and provides a serene setting defined by its wild and undiscovered landscape.

 

High above the crater of a Sredinny volcano. Photo: Marco Gaiani.

The world’s largest forest reserves are located in Russia, accounting for the second-most absorbed carbon dioxide behind only the Amazon Rainforest. Contrasting the lush plateaus are the numerous mountains in the south and east, which include the Altai, Verkhoyhansk, and Baikal. The 4,750 meter Klyuchevskaya Sopka is the highest active volcano in Eurasia.

Rugged Adventure

 

Upping the ante for your expedition, heading into Siberia and the unforgiving elements of unknown Russia is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The snow is pure, dry and light, and just waiting to be discovered and skied. It is sitting on some incredible geological and extraordinary geographical wonders, making it an adrenaline-pumping challenge to take on.

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Skiing nearly 3,000 meters from a steaming volcano is a run that doesn’t happen every day, and couldn’t happen without a helicopter-assisted program. The hardest to reach spots often boast the best snow, and these pockets are more numerous here than anywhere else. Whether you are perusing the world’s deepest lake (Baikal), skiing smoke signals from indomitable volcanoes to the Bering Sea, or skiing Olympic-caliber runs in the western subtropics, this heliskiing experience will probably turn out to be the best one of your life.

 

Smoke rising from the crater of a volcano. Photo: Marco Gaiani.

Exclusive Experience

 

Leave the logistics to the professionals and focus on having a good time. In a world as wildly alluring and recklessly delicious as Russia, heliskiing programs give you the opportunity to follow some of the best guides in the world for a week or more of top quality ski conditions. Many guides consider Russia one of the top ten places to heliski in Europe, and even the world.

Every bit of your Russian heliskiing trip will feel like a dream, and that’s because there is no other place like it on Earth. While you may be able to compare Chamonix to Vail or Whistler, you will be hard-pressed to find a location like Kamchatka on this planet. This is where you become an adventurer – by conquering the Russian backcountry on vertical routes peering out on the rare aesthetic purity of the Russian countryside.

Where To Go

 

 

Kamchatka

 

The epitome of ski wilderness lies in the eastern reaches of Russia. The mountainous Kamchatka Peninsula has roughly 200 volcanoes, 29 of which are still active. Opening to tourists in 1992 for the first time, this wild environment is high on the list of many powder hounds across the globe who seek out the incredible landscape, long runs, and rewarding snow pack.

The biggest draw to Kamchatka and the Sredinny Range are the smoldering summits. Riding in a helicopter to the top and then cruising all the way down to the coast. There are runs that nearly reach 3,000 meters, complete with tree-lined runs, Alpine bowls, and steep ridges that all culminate in the time of your life.

 

Access is the least of your worries when you have a helicopter. Photo: Marco Gaiani.

If you get tired of volcanoes, there are also fjords, thermal springs, and geysers to hold your attention, with a relatively undisturbed ecosystem of unique flora and fauna. Common objectives in the region include Mutnovsky (2,322m) and Vilyuchinsk (2,173m).


In Brief


Caucasus (Elbrus and Kazbek)

 

The Caucasus Mountains are a snow-heavy region, thanks to the precipitation from the neighboring Black and Caspian Seas. The terrain is rugged, steep, and mixed, so you can traverse glaciers, ski between trees, and descend a long and open run, all in a day’s work.

No heliskiing program could leave the indomitable Elbrus off of the list. The tallest mountain in both Russia and Europe, Mt. Elbrus (5,642m) is a challenging and manageable peak to drop onto and cruise down. Lying in the border with Georgia, Mt. Kazbek (5,033m) is a towering sidekick to this certified Seven Summit peak, and both mountains combine for more than 2,000 square kilometers of snowscape to explore on your average six-day trip.

 

Great panoramas near the village of Arkhyz. Photo: Marco Gaiani.

Heliskiing in the Caucasus can also include heavy hitters like Domba, Krasnaya Polyana, and Arkhyz, which combine classic Russian ski culture with pristine powder and the rugged summits we know and love in Southwestern Russia. Access to the steepest parts of the range requires a chopper, so you can expect nothing short of the best snow on the mountains.


In Brief


There are also a ton of other options for those who want to leave the chopper in the garage. Check out some of the best ski touring and freeride skiing spots in Russia.

What Is the Best Season for Heliskiing in Russia

 

The weather in the widest reaches of Russia tends to be more accommodating than other locations. Heliskiing can be done from late October through May, depending on the location. In the Caucasus, programs from December through March are ideal, while in Kamchatka and the colder, more remote areas, ski expeditions through April and May are common. Chukotka can even feature heliskiing trips as early as October and November, when some of the biggest snowfall occurs.

How Much Does a Guided Heliskiing Trip Cost

 

A heliskiing program with a certified guide is vital for a safe, fun, and fulfilling experience, especially in the Russian mountainside. In many cases, a guide will include heliski drops and helicopter time in the price, as well as lodging, meals, and transportation during the trip. These programs allow you to enjoy the premium ski conditions for multiple days without getting bogged down in the logistics or worrying about what you might have missed.

 

The remote and beautiful Caucasus Mountains. Photo: Marco Gaiani.

For programs in the Caucasus, a seven-day trip starts as low as 4,800 euros. In Kamchatka, a seven-day expedition begins at 6,500 euros. The cost can be affected by a program’s designation as a private experience for you and your friends or a group adventure that you are joining. Duration and inclusions also affect the price.

 

So what are you waiting for? Grab your gear and fire up the helicopter for the heliskiing trip of a lifetime in the farthest reaches of Russia’s unbelievably beautiful backcountry! Check out these incredible guided trips and pick the program of your dreams!

 

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