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Heli Skiing

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

I am looking to set up a "once in a lifetime" heli trip.  Wiegele is the first outfit that comes to mind.  I am looking for any recent experience and feedback/advice reagarding any and all Heli Ski Companies.  Thx

 

Mike

post #2 of 28

Hey Mike,

There are lots to choose from.  We do this for a living.....well, for fun anyway.

 

What's most important to you? 

Steep/trees/glacier - high alpine?

Group size? 

Number of groups per helicopter?

Unlimited vertical?

Catski backup?

How important is fancy lodge and gourmet food/wine?

Where are you originating travel?

How important is minimizing travel time?

How many days/dollars do you want to spend?

When can you go?

How many in your party?

 

Answer as many of these as you like, and we will send the best options.

Best

tj

HELISKI.com

866-HELISKI

 

post #3 of 28

Personally,  I'd pick a smaller operation that flies smaller ships.

post #4 of 28

As above, I can recommend my one experience with Great Canadian. Small groups, amazing terrain, extremely professional (Greg the head guide has been guiding 21 years), beautiful lodge.

 

It ain't cheap.

 

http://canadianheli-skiing.com/index.html

post #5 of 28

Thanks for mentioning us DRB! Glad you've had fun with us smile.gif

 

Mike - We often get people making a "once in a lifetime" trip.... a lot actually come back more than once!!

 

We strongly believe small groups are the way to go. We are family owned and run an intimate operation.

 

There are lots of great operations out there...no matter who you choose you should have a good time! Our guests believe that only the best heli-skiing trips are comprised of the following;

  • Only small groups.... 4 people plus super highly experienced guide (almost all of our guides have +15yrs experience..and most of that is in our terrain!)
  • Unlimited Vertical - yup, no extra vertical charges...and yes, we ski alot (only 2 down days a year!). An average group can do 141,000ft in 6 days!
  • Location - Located in the birthplace of heli-skiing, we are SUPER easy to get to. Fly from anywhere in the US, arrive at Calgary around lunch time then be eating dinner in our lodge the day you leave and heliski the very next day :) No overnight hotel stays!
  • Flexible Itineraries - Guests tell us what day they want to start! With us, you don't have to fit into our start dates, it's up to you...and for ANY duration...2 days, 3 days, 4 days, 5 days etc (subject to availability of course).

 

If you have any questions Mike, let us know!

 

 

post #6 of 28

Good points, Tim!

tj

post #7 of 28

Check out Mica Heli Guides as well www.micaheli.com 1-877-837-6191

 

Mica Heli Guides the leader in boutique, small group heliskiing. Rated “best heliskiing” by SKIING Magazine in their 2011 Resort Guide.  Maximum 16 guests, four groups of four skiers or boarders with two A-Star helicopters, or one group of four in a Private Bell 407. Ski or board terrain custom tailored to your desires. Spectacular backcountry lodge one hour north of Revelstoke BC accessible only by helicopter. A quarter million acres of huge alpine, world class steep tree skiing and endless pillow runs. Forget down days! No-fly days are rare and complimentary catskiing for backup. Mica Heliskiing is renowned for having an excellent safety record, the most diverse ski terrain with the deepest driest powder on the planet.

post #8 of 28

Check out Mica Heli Guides as well www.micaheli.com 1-877-837-6191

 

Sorry for the multiple posts - I kept getting an error saying cant post - then it posted 5 times?

post #9 of 28

Check out Mica Heli Guides as well www.micaheli.com 1-877-837-6191

post #10 of 28

"Chief Powder Officer"

 

I want that job.

post #11 of 28

I hate to be the downer guy here, but if you are looking at doing a heli trip as a "once in a lifetime" trip, you should consider not doing it.  There are just so many ways for a heli trip to go sideways that placing one big lifetime vacation bet on a single trip is just not a good idea IMO.

 

The industry paints a picture of never ending laps of high alpine fresh tracks under bluebird skies with panoramas of virgin snow all around. And yes, that can be the case. But you can also end up sitting out much or all of your trip in a cabin or lodge due to weather. Or doing repeat laps in low angle trees. Or doing surprisingly low angle bowls farming tracks like crazy vs having the freedom of the mountains as portrayed in the videos. Or being herded like cows because of load management issues (unless you book a private helicopter, you are likely to share your machine with several other groups --  no small logistical issue). Or ending up with group compatibility issues. Or skiing mediocre snow because, well mother nature did not cooperate. And the fallout from the hard fact that everything is driven around the cost and burn rate of jet fuel (and related clock issues) is just an economic reality.

 

When it hits, it is amazing. But any single trip is a bet. Pure and simple. Odds are, if you can place two or three bets - you will be blown away by at least one. But just placing one and only one - I'm not so sure. I know a number of people whose first trips have not been "as expected". All - including me on my first trip -  have been taken aback by how structured things are (again - unless you have a private charter). Some have been skunked. Some have been put on crappy snow because - well, the operator has to fly to stay in business. Some have been angry enough they are not sure they will ever try again. Some have gone again and hit pay dirt. I know one guy who just a week or so ago spent almost his whole very expensive trip locked in a lodge run by one of the previously up-thread mentioned operators ( I think he flew one day ). Some hit pay dirt the first time --- and think the whole thing equals nirvana, and then discover reality on trip two or three.

 

Don't get me wrong. You can have an amazing experience. In fact the odds are decent. But they are far from certain. At least among many people I have talked with - if you get under the hood a bit, their first time out was usually not the perfect snow nirvana that they thought it would be. Even if the snow itself was perfect.  'cause like I said, there are lots of dimensions to one of these trips.

 

And as long as I'm being controversial - per my posts last year, I'd look for an operator whose guides use fat rockered skis. And who, ideally,  provide same to their clients. Any operator who even begins to dance around this topic is off my list instantly. I have no hesitation asking about this and being crystal clear about my expectations.The time for debate is well past on this one. In my experience, operators/guides who use or encourage narrower skis have a stilted view of modern powder skiing.

post #12 of 28
Sorry, for possible thread hijacking, but whhich Canadian heli-ski op has the best alpine terrain?
post #13 of 28

Spindrift's cautions are well-taken. My own experience (N=1) was a mix of weather, carefully managed (farmed) above tree-line turns (described as "glorious intermediate skiing" by a trip mate), some great steeps in the trees, some unexpected charges (for vert skied above the guarantee - looks like that has changed according to their post above). Fat skis were provided. We did not have the herd issues because GCHS flies small helicopters - I think this is a huge factor. Get 3 buddies to go and it effectively is a charter. And, yes, one could probably have as good skiing on a cat trip for significantly less $ (or even at Alta on a deep powder day), there is something about getting off a helicopter to ski with no one around except your buddies and your guides that I am very glad I was able to experience.

post #14 of 28

Spindrift - you have some points, however what you describe is a HUGE generalisation, especially with weather. Yes, down days are a concern in AK and the West Coast, however here in the interior they are quite rare. Speaking for us specifically, we average only 2 in a whole season (actually, it's 1.7!!). If you find that hard to believe, ask any guides who receive the InfoEx.

 

Yes, you are right, the stereotype of Canadian heli-skiing is bluebird glacier shots, but that is not the image WE portray....as an example, i just posted 17 photos on our Facebook wall and only 3 of them were with blue skies!! At the moment it is DEEP and DRY :) And the snowpack is quite stable so we can ski steep pillows. Check this photo from 2 days ago;

 

Heliskiing is not always glaciers.........we have terrain for those that like pillows, and for those that like mellower terrain. Great Canadian Heli-Skiing.

 

The other points you make can be easily eliminated or at least reduced by going with an operation that flies in SMALL GROUPS. It's the way of the future (which we recognised 23 years ago!).  I guess your point was 'don't put all your hopes on 1 trip", but if you are careful with your planning and chose the right operator, you have an extremely good chance of having the best time of your life.

 

DRB - You must have skied with us before 2006! That's when we became the 1st heli operation to permanently include Unlimited Vertical on all programs (us and Wiegele had trialed it previously). It's time you came back! We are skiing, as an average, 141,000ft in 6 days....that's a lot of $$ saved in extra vertical charges!

 

APERYOS - I'd say most heli operations have great high alpine. If that is your preference, I'd suggest coming in March to April as the days are longer and snowfall is less frequent during the day. We ski even more vert in spring!

 

Here's a shot of the aptly named "Perfect Glacier". Count the skiers.....SMALL GROUPS rule!

 

Glacier skiing at Great Canadian Heli-Skiing. We only ski in small groups...count the skiers!

post #15 of 28

Thanks for reply, GCHS! The photo looks fabulous but also shows how mellow the terrain is - looks like an easy blue in terms of pitch. Do you ski something as wide open but steeper on  a regular basis?

post #16 of 28

In my experience nothing even comes close in comparison to heli skiing.  I would never again go on trip to heli ski to an op without cat backup though.  just my $.02

post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by apeyros View Post

Thanks for reply, GCHS! The photo looks fabulous but also shows how mellow the terrain is - looks like an easy blue in terms of pitch. Do you ski something as wide open but steeper on  a regular basis?



Hmmmm tricky question... we definitely ski steeper than that, though not usually as long or as wide...you are then starting to get into more dangerous terrain. Having said that, we can get onto glacier that have steep shorter pitches.....

 

Also worth noting is that we have an amazing amount of Burnt Forest terrain...... it's kinda of like gladed terrain and we can get some nice steep pitches. If you aren't a fan of tree skiing, you might like these as the tree spacing is nice.  Check out this sick video that shows it: 

post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by UGASkiDawg View Post

In my experience nothing even comes close in comparison to heli skiing.  I would never again go on trip to heli ski to an op without cat backup though.  just my $.02



Several operations are now offering cat back-up, mainly because they NEED it, as they get a lot of snow. We do NOT offer it for 1 very simple reason WE DON'T NEED IT. Honestly. We average 2 down days (actually the average works out to 1.7!!) in a whole winter, so for us, it's not worth it. And yes, we still get tons of snow. The reason we lack down days are numerous (eg lodge is IN our terrain, short flight to 1st run, plethora of burnt forests to give viz, small groups so easy to get mobile when theres a sucker hole etc).

 

 

post #19 of 28

Not fair posting ski porn....

post #20 of 28

When comparing costs you need to be aware that all heli companies do not use the same formula.  Most operations give you a minimum vertical (i.e. 100,000/week), after which you have to pay per foot.  A good week can be 180,000 vert, so the base price should not be used as the likely cost of the trip.  In addition, they all do not measure vert the same. I believe Wiegele counts  heli "lifted" vertical, while CMH counts "skied" vertical.  Many places give you free ski and pole rental, while others charge you for skis and all kinds of other "extras." If you go back to the lodge early some places will also count runs you don't take against your "free" vert. If they are flying and you aren't skiing it is not thier fault. Just make sure you understand how each place works when comparing.

 

Heli outfits in Alaska, by their own admission, only fly 50% of the time because of weather. Canadian operations have a better percentage, but you can still spend days running up a bar tap at the lodge waiting to fly.  When it is good it is undoubtedly the best skiing in the world, but it is also the biggest gamble you will ever make.  Everyone should do it at least once in a lifetime, but be aware that it may not be 6 days of skiing like you see in the videos and pictures.

post #21 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks to all who have taken the time to give me feedback!  Appreciated.

 

 

But wow, not only am I a bit more confused...some citing actual experience, while other trying to sell their product..I am not sure that its all it might be cracked up to be. 

 

Thx again to all who have responded.

 

Mike

post #22 of 28


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by GoWestSkier View Post

But wow, not only am I a bit more confused...some citing actual experience, while other trying to sell their product..I am not sure that its all it might be cracked up to be. 

 


Hey Mike, yes, it can all be confusing with the different options but I can tell you if it wasn't "cracked up to be" we would be out of business! There's a reason people come back year after year.....

 

post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post

When comparing costs you need to be aware that all heli companies do not use the same formula.  Most operations give you a minimum vertical (i.e. 100,000/week), after which you have to pay per foot.  A good week can be 180,000 vert, so the base price should not be used as the likely cost of the trip.  In addition, they all do not measure vert the same. I believe Wiegele counts  heli "lifted" vertical, while CMH counts "skied" vertical.  Many places give you free ski and pole rental, while others charge you for skis and all kinds of other "extras." If you go back to the lodge early some places will also count runs you don't take against your "free" vert. If they are flying and you aren't skiing it is not thier fault. Just make sure you understand how each place works when comparing.

 

Heli outfits in Alaska, by their own admission, only fly 50% of the time because of weather. Canadian operations have a better percentage, but you can still spend days running up a bar tap at the lodge waiting to fly.  When it is good it is undoubtedly the best skiing in the world, but it is also the biggest gamble you will ever make.  Everyone should do it at least once in a lifetime, but be aware that it may not be 6 days of skiing like you see in the videos and pictures.



excellent summary, mirrors my experience.  Crossed the Atlantic and ended up with 2.5 days flying out of 6.  OTOH did get to know most of the bars in valdez.  And when we did fly some superb steeps

post #24 of 28
if you to bc, id say better than 80% chance you get the trip you are looking for. Just go for it.
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatCanadianHS View Post


 


Hey Mike, yes, it can all be confusing with the different options but I can tell you if it wasn't "cracked up to be" we would be out of business! There's a reason people come back year after year.....

 



And spend their kid's college tuition.......

post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by drb View Post



And spend their kid's college tuition.......

College tuition for some 75-80% of kids is wasted money......

 

If you don't major in Engineering, a hard science or applied math...it's just 4 years of spending mom's and dad's money on a big party scene
 

 

 

post #27 of 28

OK, I feel better now.

post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by drb View Post



And spend their kid's college tuition.......



Hahahhaahha, not too much denying that! Did you hear what SKI stands for? Spending the Kid's Inheritance! 

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