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Mike Wiegele Heli Sking

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
A couple of my friends and I are thinking about taking the big financial plunge and booking a heli trip in February 2004. I would love to hear from anyone who has skied with Mike Wiegele Heli Sking. It is a ton of money, but if it is a powder trip that every avid powder skier should take in his/her life, then I want to make it happen. Previously, I have snowcat skied in Idaho, Oregon and BC. I would also love to have people share their comparisons of snowcat and heli trips. [img]null[/img]
post #2 of 9
Go. Go now! Have you gone yet? What's the hold up? GOOO!
post #3 of 9
snowcat I've also done a snowcat skiing day,but sadly only once.I never have heli skied But my Sister just did her first Heli Ski trip and she has already booked a Trip for next season.Heck it's only money book the Trip have fun and then report back to us on your adventure.
post #4 of 9
I've been on two trips with Mike , all I can say is he's got a classy operation , you'll never ever see so much snow , you'll be worn out at the end of the day , the food is great and the beer taste better.....oh one more thing get in shape and be realistic and honest about your skiing ability when they set up the groups.
post #5 of 9
Never skied with Weigle but I've been skiing with CMH for 30 years. And never done a snowcat trip although I have considered doing day trips and and several friends who have.

So, being totally bigoted and unqualified to advise you, GO FOR IT!

I saved all my coins a few years out of college and went for a "once-in-a-lifetime" trip to the Bugaboos in '72. The addiction caught on and I've never been able to (or had any interest in) stop it.

Other advice here is excellent. Make the most of the trip. Get in the best shape of your life. And be sure of your abilities.

Snowcat/heli comparison based on input from others and personal observations (my regular heli-ski partner has also done several snowcat trips):

1. The heli may be grounded for bad weather. I have sat an entire week in a blizzard and never gotten on the heli. And that was my vacation. And had another week where we only skied a couple of days. It is actually rather rare to get to ski all day every day without some down time due to weather.

The snowcat, on the otherhand, ALWAYS goes. I have heard of daily destinations being changed because of whiteout conditions but the cat is probably never really "grounded".

2. The cat is always "grounded". The number of runs either the cat or the heli can do in a day is limited by the speed of the slowest skier in the group and the speed of the "lift". Obviously the heli is faster than the cat. I don't know wht the vertical record for snowcat skiing in a day is but I would be surprised if it is much more than 15000 vertical feet. I've done 45000+ in a day on the heli and that is nowhere near a record. My biggest (and best snow) week ever was 240,000+ feet in 6 days (weathered out for one day).

3. How well your group "comes together" (third hand quote from nolo) will have a tremendous affect on your week. I've arrived at the beginning of weeks not knowing anyone else and left with lifelong friends. Compatibility of your group is crucial. If everyone is at the bottom watching the "head roll brothers" fall, get up, dig for skiis, fall, get up, dig for skiis, (repeat ad nauseam) down the last 500 vertical feet while other groups take "your" lifts it can really cut into your fun. And they aren't really having much fun either. Organize your group well. Compatible skiing ability can offset personality differences. If you can put together a heli sized group of compatable skiers you are less likely to pick up strays who are in compatable. As noted by Leroy, be honest about your ability when groups are formed.

4. Take the time to enjoy the skiing. Many people, especially on their first couple of trips, feel "pushed" by the helicopter. It moves so fast they feel they have to push to keep up. Remember, your there for the skiing, not the heli ride. But I guaranty you will never hear the "whup, whup, whup" of rotors again without it bringing incredible memories and the urge to crouch down...

Open up your checkbook and start writing...

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 12, 2002 09:53 AM: Message edited 2 times, by PowderJunkie ]</font>
post #6 of 9

Nice post.
My brother and I flew with Weigle back in 1980 when it was a one ship show out of a loggers motel where we sat playing cards for half of the 6 possible ski days. This can really suck when you only do one ski vacation a year. They were so intense about group safety that we spent most time on veeeery mellow pitches unless we were in the trees. Most of the groups were doctors, brokers, or professionals from San Francisco or Europe which means they could afford the skiing but couldn't ski very well. This was in the pre-fat era so my brother and I spent most of our ski time following up our group, picking up their equipment and helping them back on their feet so we didn't spend all day waiting for them. With 11 people to a group, it's a sure bet that some will introduce the "drag effect".

I find Snowcat skiing much more relaxed (partially I expect because the expense is far less noticeable) and everyone is less "Go-go-go 'vert' crazy". All everyone seems to talk about at BC heli operations is how much vert they got - most miss the point... completely. (i'm not referring to powjunkie)

Personally, I would never fly with any heli outfit in British Columbia again. Way too many "A" type personalities to deal with... on vacation no less.

Alaska, however, is very different. To everyone out there for whom "skiing" is an important part of your life, you absolutely HAVE to try heliskiing in ALASKA at least once. It's worth 5 Jackson Hole vacations or 20 trips to Colorado.

It does have the non-operatible days like BC (probably even more, so you need a longer visit), and it's possible to fly with someone less compatible in ability - but with group sizes of only 4, and the nature of the steep pitch terrain, it's more probable you'll be skiing with mainly competent skiers.

Contrary to what you would think, Chugach powder can be as light and deep as the Columbias, but it becomes stable (or falls off) very fast. They aren't as worried about avalanches as much as people falling off cliffs, cornices or dropping into crevasses. The severity of some of the terrain tends to humble most (even the type "A"s) and everyone bonds quickly to help buffer the intimidating wildness of the topography.

As much as I love European destinations, there's NOTHING that's equals heli-skiing in Alaska.
post #7 of 9

I relate to all the points in your post.

I easily got caught up in the vertical race in my early heli trips but on the flight home after the second or third trip I realized I had just spent a week chasing a rabbit in a yellow suit (CMH guide) up and down mountains. The next trip I made a point of stepping over a line or two (Monashees are tree lines and glades) and doing my own thing. From my earlier post you could probably infer that I'm still chasing the vertical (reference to 240k in a week). But we've gotten away from the type "A"s by organizing our own group of combatable types. We occasionally have an empty seat or two and pick up a "stray" to fill out the group. The usual comment is disbelief at how laidback the group is. But with a compatable, consistent group we just keep cranking.

I personnally would never ski with Wiegle. I have several friends who have and those that return to Blue River are the REAL A TYPES. From the descriptions that I have heard I think Mike is too commercial. Wants to supply the powder experience to the masses. I would not enjoy the mass experience.

Alaska? Well...I've considered it and might some day. But I know where my addicitions are satisfied trip after trip and that's in the glades, chutes and bowls above Mica Creek. We've taken our group to other operations and, although we've had great skiing and excellent trips, longed for the return to the Monashees.

(Damn...now I'm started and cannot stop typing).

One of the unique features of a week in a lodge stuck back in the wilderness with 43 other guests plus staff is the fealing of a ski lodge from the '50s or '60s. My only old time "ski lodge" experience was at the Rustler in the early (pre Bird) '70s with some friends. A group of people pushed together for a week sharing an experience in the mountains, family style dinning, remote from shopping, movies. A problem with your skiing? Reserve a day with Moe (name totally escapes me), the Rustler resident instructor. A week heliskiing in the wilderness provides a similar experience as you get to know the other guests and the staff. Chuck the cell phone and lap top in a crevasse.

I would be interested in trying the snowcat some time. Maybe I can get a group together next year.

And the European experience? I lived in Switzerland for three years. Now I know why I know so many Europeans from helisking in BC. One year the group we pulled together consisted of one American (moi), two Canadians, two Aussies, two Germans, a Brit, a Finn, a Norwegian and a Swede. They don't go to BC just because they have some extra money to spend...

Done rambling. I've got to get to work to pay for my addictions...

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 16, 2002 09:53 AM: Message edited 2 times, by PowderJunkie ]</font>
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
I appreciate everyone's insights and input. I'm into this not for the total vertical but for the experience of pristine deep snow in a backcountry experience. It would ruin my trip if the type A powder hound is pushing to get his/her 10 extra feet of vertical so that he/she can be top dog around the dinner table. The chance to view the scenery from the top of a ridge with a group of fellow avid powder junkies warms my heart. Then after taking in the view, to pushoff and start to float down an expanse of white, stop after 30-50 or 100 turns and look around to view the poetry that has just been written in the snow. This image in my mind keeps me searching for that elusive deep, cold dust, blue bird snow day. The snowcat trips that I have been on have been fun, but I have yet to really hit it. It seems that there is always some missing facet of the trip. The temperature rises dramatically, no snow for a couple of days or sun crust. I'm hoping that the helicopter can adjust to the conditions better than the snowcat can. Most snowcat operations that I have been to can minimally adjust their terrain to wind and sun. If you are there for the first day of sun, you're in great shape, 2nd day you are on crust half of the time and the 3rd day you had better sharpen your edges. On these types of days, with a ton of terrain and wings you can go to a north facing bowl and ski cold dust powder all day long. The problem with the snowcat operations is that they have limited access. It is definitely better than a ski area, but still limited. The best snowcat operation that I have been to is Monashee Powder Adventures out of Vernon BC. Great hosts, lodging, food and terrain will greet you at this operation. I was there with my wife and 3 other friends during the end of December this past year. They ran a special for $250 canadian per day, normally $450/day. You take a snowmobile for 23 kilometers back into their remote lodge and then ski out of the lodge. The lodge is very comfortable. Their terrain is very good, but the sun degraded the snow conditions while we were there. I was hoping/praying for fresh snow with broken overcast skies that keeps the snow perfect for days and allows you to see what's ahead of you. Eventually, I hope to hit it perfect-I will keep searching for that elusive combination. I plan on taking advantage of the their special in late December/early January should they offer it again. But I still think I need to do the heli-sking thing once to get it out of my system and to hopefully hit it. I can only imagine what it must be like to be heli-sking for a week with 8-12 inches of new snow every other day, broken overcast, 19 degrees, my Volkl Explosives and me! These types of thoughts keep me young. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #9 of 9
I made the heliskiing investment this year (figured I'm not getting better) and have some thoughts:
1. we went with Great Canadian heliskiing (http://www.greatcanadianheliski.com) which flies 4 skiers with one guide. This was great - its hard to get 4 people of same ability and endurance together, much less 11. This also allows them to be be responsive to tastes - we preferred trees to glaciers. Also great food at heather mountain lodge.
2. still a slave to the weather, altho its true heli allows you more flexibility to find snow.
3. need to be in shape - I had to forgo my usual 12-oz. weights and actually train - still beat myself up. No point in going if you can't keep up.
4. its expensive - especially when the clock starts running after you reach your guaranteed vertical. Gotta do it tho.
5. see 4.
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