What is heliskiing? Equipment, Best Season, Top Spots

Megan TurnerJuly 20, 2018

As an avid skier, you are always chasing the perfect conditions: uncrowded runs and pristine snow. As any skier knows, there is nothing as exhilarating as the feeling of flying down a run filled with fresh powder in a breathtaking mountain landscape.

Heliskiing involves the use of a helicopter to access remote backcountry terrain, opening up an infinite amount of mountain so that skiers can explore the areas beyond the usual ski lifts.  During these backcountry or freeskiing adventures,  you will discover far-flung downhill runs that are tucked away within the heart of the mountains.  Because these areas are so rarely visited, the conditions are usually spectacular, with virgin snow and plenty of wide open space. Terrain can range from expansive bowls, to gladed tree runs, to steep couloirs – whichever is your favorite.

Heliskiing in Turkey
Enjoy incredible powder conditions during a heliskiing trip in Turkey. Photo: Raphael Richard

Depending on the exact terrain of the area, heliskiing is appropriate for strong intermediate to expert skiiers. A heliski adventure makes for some truly unforgettable powder days that many consider a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Best Season for Heliskiing

Heliskiing season typically lines up with the traditional ski season – winter.  In the Northern hemisphere, you can expect to find great heliskiing trips from December through April.  In areas that are further north such as Greenland or Sweden, you can ski into May. For some spectacular heliskiing in July, August, and September, head to the Southern Hemisphere.

What equipment do you need?

To cruise along the deep powder runs you will find during your heliski trip, it’s a great idea to bring along skis specially designed for powder conditions. These tend to be wider than other skis. You’ll also need ski boots, poles, goggles, and a helmet, just as you would for any other ski trip.

When skiing in the backcountry, it’s important to carry avalanche safety gear such as an avalanche tranceiver, probe, and shovel.

Why should you hire a guide for a heliskiing trip?

For safety reasons, it’s imperative to heliski with a guide who knows the area well. They will be able to steer you clear of dangerous areas where there might be an avalanche risk. Plus, in the event something goes wrong, they will have the appropriate safety training to deal with the situation immediately, including knowledge of evacuation processes and procedures.

Heliski trip in British Columbia
Excited to be heliskiing near Revelstoke in British Columbia. Photo: Trevor Gavura

It is also a great idea to hire a guide who knows the best spots based on your experience level and preferences. They will guide you to the most amazing runs based on current conditions, so that you can make the most out of your heliski experience.

Top 10 Spots for Heliskiing

10. Georgia: Tucked away in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains, enjoy some fantastic heliskiing in this small mountainous nation.

9. Chilean Andes: Head to the majestic peaks of the Andes in July and August for some incredible powder skiing on impressive mountains.

8. Verbier, Switzerland: Discover the some of the best deep powder runs in the heart of the Alps when you take a heliski trip starting from Verbier.

Heliskiing in Georgia
Heliskiing in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. Photo: Ivan Moshnikiv

7. Turkey: Known for its stable snowpack and quality snow conditions, Turkey is a fantastic place to heliski.

6. Val d’Aran, Spain: With 120 peaks over 3,000 meters, you are guaranteed to find some incredible conditions in the Pyrenees.

5. Lapland, Sweden: Situated in the far northern latitudes, visit the remote Lapland area of Sweden for some virgin powder late into the season.

4. Courmayeur, Italy: The famous Italian ski resort has many incredible off piste areas only accessible by helicopter, including some incredible runs near the legendary Mont Blanc.

3. British Columbia, Canada: This province in Western Canada is a classic destination for heliski enthusiasts. With hundreds of thousands of acres of terrain ready for skiing, there’s a perfect run for everyone.

Heliskiing in Russia
Ski all the way to the sea during a heliski trip to Siberia. Photo: Marco Gaiani

2. Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia: Ski from the top of the summit all the way to the sea during a heliski trip in this Siberian peninsula, located in the far Eastern reaches of Russia.

1. Greenland: This remote arctic island is filled with unexplored terrain that is the perfect place for your next adventure. Open bowls, steep couloirs, and glaciers make for an unforgettable heliski experience.

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