New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

American Heli Skiing - Page 2

post #31 of 56
I have skied a total of 9 heli days with 6 different operators and 19 cat days with 7 different operators. The best experience was the 2 days with TLH in 1998. They have 830,000 acres about 3 hours north of Whistler and max 2 groups per helicopter. They include pick up from Whistler or Vancouver, so I believe that is by far the best resort/heli combo week. I signed up for another 2 days with TLH this year but weather shut down one day and somewhat constrained the other.

I am doing Wiegele next year (FYI CMH does charge for extra vertical) and probably Alaska (leaning towards Points North) in 2007.
post #32 of 56
wasn't sure about CMH, MW is all the vert you can ski. 80,000 or less for 7 days = part refund.

I have done 40,000 ft days

I'd do heli over cat if the funds allowed.
post #33 of 56
Thread Starter 
Thanks to everyone for their ideas a few weeks ago.
I looked at Points North but they said they had 3-4 down days for every 3-4 flying days, which was much too chancy!

In the end I've gone for a compromise: more fly days than Alaska, but more steeps and adventure than most Canadian skiing. It is Last Frontier ( http://www.lastfrontierheli.com/ ) which I think is linked to CMH (Edit: that should be TLH see Tony Crocker below). They have a new lodge for only 10 people (2 ski groups) in a previously unskied area - so every group this year and probably next have been skiing previously unskied routes (and sometimes been invited to name them).
2 weeks were already booked out so I just put down my deposit for 10th - 17th Feb.
Before that (going out on the 3rd) we plan to do a week in Whistler, which will be my first skiing in Canada.
I'll report back in 9 months!!!!!!!!
post #34 of 56

Colorado Heli Skiing

I have skied a couple of times for a week with CHM, and a couple 3-day trips with Kootenay before CMH bought them out. Have also cat skied in Cananda and Alaska, so I have a pretty good frame of reference. This year my wife suprised me with a day at Telluride Helitrax, the only heli-ski operation in Colorado.

Hellitrax is a little more expensive than some others because they have small choppers that only take 4 guests at a time. They also bomb their terrain, which I believe is unique. Almost everything is above treeline at 13,000 to 10,000 feet, and their terrain is as spectacular as anything you will ever find.

Unlike the glacier or tree skiing in Cananda, the Helitrax terrain is high, wide open, and can get very steep if conditions permit. You fly right from the T-ride mountain village, so if the weather is bad you get to ski Telluride, which is not a bad deal for a "down day."

I really liked skiing in small groups as opposed to fighting a dozen people for first tracks at CMH. It also lets you ski for just one or two days if you want, as opposed to a week commitment with CHM. It is pretty easy to book on short notice, so you can pick your conditions to some extent.

The guides were good and a lot friendlier than most of the CMH Euro authoritarians. I don't think that you could get a better intro to heli-skiing.

http://www.helitrax.net/video.html
post #35 of 56
Last Frontier is owned by/affiliated with TLH. An excellent choice IMHO. It's way far north, so I would lean toward March/April or be prepared for very cold weather and possibly short daylight hours if much earlier in the season.
post #36 of 56
Dear Snowball,

I have recently signed up with Epic and have a surprising alternative to heliskiing which you may wish to consider.

Are you aware that on 28 May a gondola with 1,330 vertical metres of lift is opening in the Himalayas?

It is in Kashmir which has had ongoing political problems, but I am very confident that its "opening winter" in 2005-2006 will effectively, if temporarily, make heli-skiing redundant - and of course it is a much much cheaper option. There is simply no material local rider population capable of skiing the challenging slopes on offer from the top station, so the first visitors next winter will very much have this vast winter playground to ourselves!

I am in the final days of finishing my website (six years in planning) in wait for completion of the much delayed gondola. I would be delighted to send a link to the completed website once it is finished if you are interested. I am sure you will be stunned by what is on offer in the Himalayas next winter - I am personally very confident that "Gulmarg" will be the "next big thing" in the ski world within its first two or three years of operation! Massive terrain including potential off-piste runs to the valley floor offering a potential maximum vertical of over 1,700 metres. Our own "SkiHimalaya" operations will cover both the best hotels (one is ski-to-door, ski-out to the gondola) and local guiding services.

As to "real heli-skiing", you may want to read of my own experience. No doubt it is not typical, but I feel it may outline some of the potential pitfalls of the (commercialised?) world of mainstream heli-ski ops.

Some years ago I decided to spend a week with CHM ,for similar but different reasons to you - in my case it was the fear that once I had a morgage and/or a wife, I'd never be able to justify the huge cost of heli!

As you probably know, CMH is the world's biggest heli operation with a choice of several different heli areas. I signed up for a week at CMH's Galena lodge. I chose Galena out of all of the CMH options because at that time it was touted as having terrain for better skiers (my preferred option would have been CMH's Monashees lodge, but CMH's marketing material advised - incorrectly as I later discovered - that only persons who had heli-skied with them before could go there).

Overall the experience was a massive disappointment. I put this down not merely to relative bad luck with weather conditions -mostly overcast or snowy. Although we were on the razor's edge with the weather each morning, as to whether we would enjoy good, medicore or wet snow conditions, as it turned out we had some truly brilliant snow, including one in particular unforgettable picture blue powder day on great terrain.

My "beef" was more that having expected "lifelong ski dreamers" like yourself to be my heli-companions at CMH, the overwhelming majority of the 40 skiers appeared to be there because the holiday was in their "price bracket" - and not because of their skill level or a real passion for skiing - and this was in a lodge CMH touted as being for skiers of advanced ability!

To compound matters, there was not a single "local" Canadian guest...

Apart from myself and my Australian ski-buddy, the only native English speaking guests were four Americans, two fathers each with an adult son. One of these American sons did not arrive until about the 3rd day in the week, as he had a more important social function at the start of the week! This was even though his Dad was paying for the trip . As you can imagine, a little bit deflating to spend one's evenings on the "trip of a lifetime" with such a keen fellow skier!!!

Of the other guests, there were two large French speaking groups (one from France and the other from Switzerland) who stuck to their own friends and barely said a word to anyone else the whole week. Apart from one French fellow who was not part of either of the main groups, they were not exactly welcoming anyone to break into their sphere, or participating with the wider group.

Apart from two Austrians who were fluent in English and who very happy/relieved to mix with us (and quite competent skiers to boot), the only other guests were two Italian brothers, each with a late-teenage son in tow.

Where were (???) all the retiring ski instructors from the US doing their trip of a lifetime, where were (???) the super-hot North American skiers going for the big adventure with their ski-buddies etc etc???

Maybe the locals know better than people from offshore...

The Italians were typically boisterous and I must say very nice people. Unfortunately while mostly great skiers, one of the Italian sons was less confident on the snow. He had NEVER before skied in powder snow, and as a gangling 14 year old towering over six feet, was more ok than technically adept as a skier. He was at that stage in his life not physically co-ordinated and definitely not a natural athlete. I would say myself and my Aussie companion are very-high level skiers, and this young 14 year old almost came across as embarassed to be sharing our heli-ski group, given the disparity in his skill level. Of course, you can imagine how this poor kid was unintentionally hampered the fluidity of the group's ski experience...

And this was in the "No 2" ranked skill level group! I may sound like a bitch, but CMH's skier groups at Galena that week appeared to be determined too much by "friends who pay together can ski together", and not enough by a real priority of teaming together similarly skilled riders.

The story gets worse. CMH's brochure advised of slopes of between (from memory) 3,500 and 1,200 metres altitude. When I arrived I noticed that the map inside the lodge, marking all the area's heli-runs, had very few that commenced over 2,800 metres, and with LESS THAN a handful commencing around say around 3,100 (cannot recall exactly, a while back now). When I asked the manager about why the discrepancy from the brochure, he advised me that runs did exist at Galena that commenced at 3,500 metres, but they were not marked on the lodge map as they were rarely ever skied during a season, and that we would not be doing any in our week!!!

As I had chosen to take advantage of late season prices in part because of the expected option to fall back on high altitude terrain in the event of warm conditions, you can imagine I was not impressed by this reply. As you can imagine, it's not the sort of thing you bother to start debating with the manager/head guide on the first night of your week's stay in a CMH lodge in the wilderness.

Finally, on the last day we had one of the best days, although weather was bleak and visibility average. Each run we skied was better than the run before, with the snow falling and snow quality improving with each run. A number of our "keen" companions progressively dropped out over the course of the day. As these were the weaker and less fit skiers, and the remnants of the group were able to move faster, our enjoyment increased exponentially as the day went on.

We got to a point (at least an hour before normal finishing time) when the guide asked "well the three of you left, have you had enough?" Despite the lengthy rests between runs, one guy advised he was tired and felt like going home. The other two of us were ecstatic - a helicopter just for two - we would have skied into the night if that was possible!

The guide then said (with no room for us to argue - maybe in our shock?): "Well two people left does not really justify us keeping going, we'll go home". And turned his back to us and gave instructions to the pilot, who appeared to be as equally as the guide looking forward to an early "knock-off"... this occurred at least an hour earlier than our finishing time on most other days (ie well before the day was over, in easily the best conditions we had enjoyed all week) - and when the guide should have known we were finally truly getting what we had come so far to experience (me all the way from Oz!)

Given that we had paid for our week, and had no say in why/whether the others dropped out to go home early to the lodge, and the fact that they had dropped out in no way materially increased CMH's costs of continuing to guide us for another hour, can you believe that?

So flabbergasted, I just decided not to stain our departure from Galena by making an issue of it back at the lodge, just look forward to going home to Sydney's beaches, having sworn to myself never to use CMH again.

This is the first time I can remember repeated this story on the web - it actually occurred in pre-internet days. Not intended to frighten you off heli, I am sure you could have the best time of you life if you go,

But could not help posting to you, when I read your email. I could only think of my "by-line"!!! (albeit I'm plagiarising a Warren Miller ski movie quote regarding his favourite resort in the USA!):

"If you're thinking about skiing anywhere next winter, make sure you ski GULMARG. That way, the first time you ski there, you'll only be another year older."

Good luck and have a great trip wherever you go.

You can contact me re Gulmarg on peter@skihimalaya.com

Cheers
Powdercat
post #37 of 56
Although it makes perfect sense, it is still dissappointing to finally get to live your heli-ski dream only to find out that most of the people on the trip with you have more money than ski legs. I skied with a group that had come all the way from France to ski with CMH in Cananda, the skiing was totally epic and they all went in after lunch every day. CMH gets a lot of very good skiers, but they also get a huge number of people that are there because it is expensive and not because they are good powder skiers.
post #38 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdercat

Are you aware that on 28 May a gondola with 1,330 vertical metres of lift is opening in the Himalayas?

It is in Kashmir which has had ongoing political problems, but I am very confident that its "opening winter" in 2005-2006 will effectively, if temporarily, make heli-skiing redundant - and of course it is a much much cheaper option. There is simply no material local rider population capable of skiing the challenging slopes on offer from the top station, so the first visitors next winter will very much have this vast winter playground to ourselves!

I am in the final days of finishing my website (six years in planning) in wait for completion of the much delayed gondola. I would be delighted to send a link to the completed website once it is finished if you are interested. I am sure you will be stunned by what is on offer in the Himalayas next winter - I am personally very confident that "Gulmarg" will be the "next big thing" in the ski world within its first two or three years of operation! Massive terrain including potential off-piste runs to the valley floor offering a potential maximum vertical of over 1,700 metres. Our own "SkiHimalaya" operations will cover both the best hotels (one is ski-to-door, ski-out to the gondola) and local guiding services.
Thanks, I would certainly be interested, but not for next season as I and my friend have already put our names down for Last Frontier. I chose it because I was told that the terrain was more challenging than the other TLH skiing.

Given what you and Mudfoot have said about skier ability and fitness I am now worrying if I might have made the wrong choice going to a place that only takes 10 guests with one helicopter (2 ski groups, each 5 with one guide). There seems a strong chance of not enough really good skiers when I was hoping to ski steep slopes (if perhaps not as steep as the steepest in Alaska and the things that I often ski in Europe). My normal skiing is the harder off-piste slopes and couloirs at La Grave, Chamonix etc. For about 15 years I have skied almost entirely off-piste with guides. The problem is always finding good enough skiers to ski with and guides who are keen to do exciting things.

Again, unfortunately, I am even more regretting not having booked for March when I wanted to go. But my friend is already committed to skiing with his family in March and so it has to be February. (This new lodge only does February and March so far). We shall just have to wrap up warm. Perhaps the cold will keep away the less keen skiers.
post #39 of 56
Snowball,

My gut-guess is you are better off with the smaller operator - and if the Honourable Tony Crocker is postive on Frontier (a more informed view than mine I'm sure - see above) I think you would be onto a very good thing.

Sorry - I did not read down to your previous post until after I'd posted to you.

I trust your trip will be much much more memorable than ours.

Kind regards,
Powdercat
post #40 of 56
Snowball, all things considered I think that you made a good choice. Seeing that the operation is new, small, and out of the way, it is unlikely that they will be getting novice heli-skiers.

People think that heli-skiing is physically easy because you only ski untracked snow. It is true that you regroup often and do not usually get to ski extended vertical without a break, but taking your equipment on and off every run in deep snow and climbing in and out of the chopper every run is more tiring than you think. Especially when you do it 6 days in a row. I have seen many technically good skiers fade by mid-day, or take a day off after 3 days. People that can afford heli-skiing usually aren't skiing 4-5 days a week, they are working.

When people get tired they start to fall, which makes them more tired. If you want a solid week of hard skiing you need a fit group of skiers. Obviously, the group speed is reduced to that of slowest skier. There is often not an opportunity for someone to go back to the lodge until a mid-day refueling run. If you have a strong group the guide will take you to harder terrain, but not at the expense of one weak skier.

The best way to go heli-skiing is with a group of your friends that are all strong skiers, but that is usually not a real option. It is not uncommon to find a group of repeat heliskiers that met on previous trips. If you can find strong ski companions, book with them next year. Going by yourself or with a couple of friends you are gambling on weather and snow conditions, but also on who will end up in your group. I think your choice of the new TLH operation gives you the best odds possible. Carpe Skiem!
post #41 of 56
Thread Starter 
Thanks both.
Yes, I'd make up a party if I could but I'm afraid only a couple of my friends who are "expert" skiers can afford to do this (and really I can't either, but just this once what the hell - or rather, heaven, I hope).

We are probably preceding the heli week with 6 days at Whistler. We are thinking of going with Extremely Canadian and doing a couple of days with their All mountain Clinic (though we really just want a guide to show us some challenging skiing).
Anyone know anything about them?
post #42 of 56
Thread Starter 
Actually, I think I'll make that last question a new thread.
post #43 of 56
I found Powdercat's report very interesting. I have had a couple of snowcat groups that were held back by a slow skier, though in a cat it's easy to sit out runs if you get tired. Logically when there are multiple groups the operator should do ability splits to minimize this problem.

My only CMH experience was 3 days at Kootenay, one of which was lost to weather. One of the regulars did comment to me that I was easily capable of the Monashees, despite its reputation. This same person said Galena was his favorite. I was slightly above average in my Kootenay group. There were 5 groups (served by 2 helicopters) and I'm sure we were not the fastest group.

Powdercat's Galena experience sounds unlucky in terms of the ability split. If I were clearly a much faster skier than the group average, after a day or two of a one week trip I would request to the guide that I be moved up.

Another approach to this issue is to choose an operation that offers the smaller A-Stars. If you're in a group with 4-5 other skiers instead of 10-11, it should be easier to get a tighter ability grouping. Last Frontier does ski in groups of 5, and given it's off-the-beaten-track location I think the chances of a successful trip for stronger skiers are quite good.
post #44 of 56
Thread Starter 
It isn't just speed that can be the problem: I've been with groups that were simply kept off the steeps. For example in La Grave one time, when the guide only took us down 3 of the famous steep couloirs I'd wanted to experience again (and only one before the last (sixth) day), because he thought some of us weren't up to it. And the couloirs are a large part of the point of La Grave. Though it must be admitted that people die in some of those couloirs.
post #45 of 56
With heliskiing the most likely reason they would stay off the steeps is snow stability. Even at cat operations they do not bomb the slopes as in resorts. They simply wait until they their snow stability tests indicate that conditions are safe.

This is an argument for choosing an operator with a good amount of tree skiing.
post #46 of 56
if you ski a lot and are a good skier you dont have the money to spend over $1000 a day for heli

if you have the income to spend $1000/day you have worked a bunch and dont have the abillty, or fitness to keep up to the ski bumb who saved.

reaility sucks.


solution, if you have the abillity save more (twice the amount) and get a privite heli from MW or another operator and ski the vert you can
stability etc is the guide choise still, if you dont like the decisions just rent the heli and fend for your self.
post #47 of 56
Thread Starter 
Yes, Mntlion, this is very much a one-off for me, using inherited money. Just something I always said I would try one day.
The alternative, that I spread the money over several extra weeks would not go down well with my much loved but non-skiing wife. She accepts I go off 3 "weeks" a year to ski in the Alps (my "weeks" expanded to 8 days skiing plus travel each end, which means leaving on friday and returning on sunday - so really 4 weeks in other people's terms). And she has accepted this heli event as a one-off.

With Last Frontier (my package http://www.lastfrontierheli.com/packages/index.htmgo )
you have 100,000 vertical feet fully guaranteed (that's over 6.5 days) with a cash refunded of CAD $95.05 per 1,000 vertical metres not skied.


Yes, Tony, I was told that, though I gather many heli companies used to ski steeper slopes than they generally do now, so it can't be quite that simple.

As you may know the off-piste slopes at European resorts are not generally bombed, unless they threaten a piste. Where would you stop, the areas involved are huge, hundreds of square miles at many resorts: you just practically couldn't do it (and then the resort would have to take responsibility for what happened to everyone off-piste and areas would become forbidden and the compensation culture would get hold here: all devoutly to be avoideed in my view).
post #48 of 56
refunds: I know that MW does refund under 80,000/week and has unlimited vert too. CMH I think so, not sure.
post #49 of 56
Snowball,

If you want to ski gnarly terrain, go to Alaska. I was told by the folks at Chugach Powder Guides (out of Alyeska) that a couple of the Valdez outfits will do steep terrain regardless of the safety concerns (either snow or group ability). The implication was that things would stay that way until people started dying, but that that would only be a matter of time.

I did 11 days at CPG. We only hit one steep run in 6 heli days primarily due to wickedly unsafe snow (e.g. on our first day out 6 snowmachiners died nearby in a huge slide - 50 foot debris pile). We had groups of 4-5, but the chopper served 3-4 groups. So we did a lot of waiting even though we had good groups. Once they saw me ski, they put me in the fast group after the first day. They did shuffle people between groups when they needed to and they were polite about it. On long days, they did let us go for a couple of one group runs one day, but pretty much shut things down once they were down to 1 - 1 1/2 groups. On no fly days I had the cat backup option. Groups were 10-12+ with guides front and back. Group ability was not a problem. They bombed their cat terrain.

AK weather can suck though, crap comes in off the coast with no warning and cuts off flying with no predictability. CPG folks were VERY professional. The safety was top notch. I'd rather be safe thank you. At night, you're in Girdwood, so it does not matter who's flying. If you don't fly or cat, there's always the Alyeska resort. It was my trip of a lifetime and I was most satisfied.
post #50 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
Valdez outfits will do steep terrain regardless of the safety concerns (either snow or group ability).
so why hire a guide AND a heli at all then? just get a ride up and roll the dice and ski what you want.
post #51 of 56
Well,

My guess is that it would have something to do with the roll the dice part. Logistically, it might be a bit hard to have the heli find you for pick up if you don't know where you're going. It's often worth having a guide just for the directions to good snow/runs.
post #52 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
It's often worth having a guide just for the directions to good snow/runs.
Yea, and what about those pesky avalanches???

Halsted
post #53 of 56
Really, with all your experiance hacksaw. you should know,


just give er and point em.
post #54 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mntlion
you should know, just give er and point em.
D'OH!!!

"See you at the pick-up. Don't get lost... Good luck!"
post #55 of 56
Thread Starter 
Really we are talking small variations in the degree of acceptable risk or margin of safety. But then again, what is a larger risk for someone with less understanding of the snow may be a small risk for someone with more experience and awareness.
The guides I most enjoy skiing with tend to take me on rides others might not. But they are often also those best able to assess the risk. For example Zeb Roche who climbed Everest when he was 16. After all, if he has gone through a life in the mountains doing amazing things and guiding people and never been in an avalanche, is it meaningful to say he does things regardless of risk?
post #56 of 56
Speaking of "Everest." Check out the story about the recent helicopter landing on the summit of Everest.

http://www.eurocopter.com/

or in the news section of May 27th on the Mount Everest website:

http://www.mounteverest.net/

Its interesting today is the 52 anniversary of the first complete ascent of Mount Everest.

Cheers,
Halsted
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Skiing Discussion