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Helli-skiing in The Andes

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

In the beginning of May, I was invited to be part of a film crew about skiing and snowboarding in Chile.

I was totally stoked with the professional and personal opportunity, specially when I was told that it would eventually involve a day of heli-skiing in the Andes.


So, since May I started checking the weather and snow forecasts for central Andes on a daily basis.


The season started pretty well, with lots of snow in June, allowing Resorts like Portillo, Valle Nevado and Las Lenas to open some good terrain right away.

But then came July, which is supposed to be one of the snowiest months in the region, but this season July was a complete drought.


The trip was almost canceled due to the lean snow pack, but then came August and things started to improve.


We arrived in Valle Nevado on August 16th, and Friday 17th it was snowing hard, Saturday was probably one of the best days of the 2012 season.



Arriving in Valle Nevado - 9,842 feet




Sunday 19th it was cloudy and snowing lightly. We kept checking the forecast and Monday 20th was probably our best bet for the heli trip.



Monday started as a bluebird day, but then some clouds rolled in and we almost canceled our heli adventure...



Around 11am, we decided to go for it.


We were flying an Eurocopter AS350 B3, I was told this Helicopter was the first model ever to land on Mount Everest.



The pilot was extremely skilled, and we flew above 16.000 feet, close to 17.000 feet peaks... sometimes very close to the rocks...




Our warm up run and tracks on the left:




This pic was taken from the middle of the descent, the heli was still far away to the left



This ridge was our second stop.


Although this is the 3rd season in a row that this part of the Andes gets below average snow, the conditions were absolutely amazing.

Maybe because of the extreme altitude (runs started near 14.000ft) and the very low humidity, the snow was just perfect for my taste.



Our guide enjoying some great conditions.



The scenery



I did 4 runs, then on the 5th one I stayed inside the heli, shooting some aerial footage.

Differently from my previous experience in Canada, in Chile they usually have only one guide (a head one), which means that in many opportunities you start your descent without seeing the guide or the helicopter...


The runs usually started at around 45 degrees, then they would get a bit more mellow.


Our tracks on the top right



Starting the descent of some steep terrain.



A little closer.


I was a bit nervous about this adventure, not only because of the skiing, but actually because of the responsibility of shooting everything perfectly.

But everything went very well, I borrowed a pair of Rossi S7 for this journey, and they performed absolutely amazing on these conditions! 


I've got to admit that I'm still stoked with this experience.

I've always loved the Andes range, but this time I could realize the magnitude of these outstanding mountains in a totally different way.


I guess it's not a cheap adventure, but it's absolutely worth it!



post #2 of 7

Hi Thiago,

Nice trip report. I have thought about skiing in the Andes but have never considered heli skiing there. How long are most of the runs?. What are prices like and do heli operators include lodging like most of the Canadian heli operators?


Do you have any plans to ski in North America this winter? If so, I suggest trying to make it to the Epic Gathering at Big Sky in late March. Lets ski a few runs together.

post #3 of 7

Nice. Thanks for posting!

post #4 of 7

That looks...  well,  Epic!


I would also be interested in knowing the vertical of the runs you skied?  Hopefully you will be able to post some of your video footage at some point.




post #5 of 7

Excellent and then some.


Thanks for putting up this report, Thiago.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

In Valle Nevado website they claim that some of the runs of their heli-skiing operation are more than 6000ft vertical.

To be honest, the runs we did were probably around 3000ft - 4000ft. They usually started pretty steep, and in the last 1/3 of it, you would still have a nice "blue" powder run all the way to the heli, that was hidden from the exposed terrain.


At this latitude, the good snow is above 8000ft, but on the other hand you can start many runs above 13.000ft.

So I guess 5000ft is a reliable number for many of the runs in the area.


There are a few operators that include lodging, like most of the Canadian operators, prices are probably very similar as well... check it out:




Many of the major resorts like Valle Nevado, Portillo and Las Lenas also provide heli-skiing during the high season.


The guys I was working with were friends with our Chilean guide, so pretty much was the guide who organized everything, he picked his favorite pilot, helicopter and terrain.


Hey DanoT, I'm considering a visit to BC, in Feb. If I make it I'll certainly stop by Sun Peaks. Will you be there next winter? It would be a pleasure to ski a some runs together again.

Big Sky in definitely on my bucket list, just not sure if I can be abroad by March...

 Isn't there any Epic Gathering in BC next Feb?



post #7 of 7


At last year's Tahoe Gathering a Schwietzer ID, Red Mt. BC , Whitewater BC Epic Gathering was proposed but defeated by Big Sky for the 2013 Epic Gathering.                                          

I am planning a trip to the "defeated resorts" in my truck camper in January but will mostly be around Sun Peaks in Feb. with some short 2-3 day trips to Revelstoke. BTW from the top of the Stoke Chair at Revelstoke, if you look west on a very clear day you can just make out a faint dark line in the distance. It is the Burfield Chair at Sun Peaks.


PM me when you are in BC and maybe we can ski Sun Peaks and a few other B.C. gems.

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