As off the beaten track as you can get, heli-skiing offers you some of the most spectacular skiing in nigh-untouched spots. Leave the crowds behind and lay fresh tracks in the powdered peaks beyond the reach of the lifts. Even while you’re still in the helicopter, the views from the skies are breathtaking. This thrilling experience isn’t just for the professionals – even intermediate skiers can find their feet off-piste. A day trip makes the perfect escape from crowded slopes, while a multi-day package takes you even further into the wilderness.
North America, with its steep drops, soaring mountains and inch upon inch of snow, is one of the world’s best destinations for heli-skiing. Here’s your guide to the top resorts for the sport.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
Heli-skiing has its origins in British Columbia. Revelstoke, one of the region’s most luxurious upscale resorts, is the world’s premier destination for backcountry skiing. It has millions of hectares of skiable terrain across three mountain ranges. A unique location between the Rockies and the ocean promises the resort up to 60 feet of powder per year. Heli-skiers can tackle it in the Selkirk and Monashee ranges – the tree skiing here is unrivalled too.
As well as world-class skiing, Revelstoke is home to some seriously impressive accommodation. Chalet Bighorn is a five-star retreat at the base of the mountain in the heart of heli-ski territory. You’ll get your own private helipad and an in-house chef, as well as over a million acres of cat-skiing and heli-skiing on your doorstep.
Telluride, in the south-west corner of Colorado, is famed for its light, dry powder. It has some of the highest skiable terrain in North America, from summits to high alpine basins. Scenic helicopter flights offer glorious birds’ eye views over the San Juan mountains. Expect to be dropped off for up to six runs, adding up to a total of 12,000 vertical feet. With small groups, expert guides and slopes equivalent to double-blue runs, this resort is a promising option for intermediate skiers and experts alike.
It’s a charming place too, with a stunning mountain backdrop and an abundance of fine dining options. While there’s no luxury hotel, there are several lavish lodges. You’ll find plenty of kit-related retail therapy in the town and the pedestrianised lanes are usually free of crowds.
Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler’s heli-skiing terrain includes 173 glaciers and 475 runs in an area 50 times the size of Whistler Blackcomb itself. It’s the ideal place to combine resort skiing with a gentle introduction to heli-skiing, as wide, open, low-angle terrain abounds. Heli-skiing here offers a slower pace, with plenty of opportunities for exploration and photography, as well as a full suite of equipment for hire. The snow is almost guaranteed, with an annual fall of around 12 metres.
The resort itself is dazzling too. Picturesque and upmarket, there’s a lively après scene and a huge number of off-piste activities, from dog sledding to ice skating. The skiing terrain suits everyone and there’s plenty of opportunity for snowboarding. At the end of a day among the peaks, you can unwind in one of the Village’s magnificent five-star hotels.
Craig Burton is Managing Director of Ski Solutions. Ski Solutions is the UK’s original ski travel agent with over 30 years’ experience in delivering high-end ski holidays to Europe and North America.