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Tipping for Heli-skiing

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
How much do you tip your guides? For example, 15% for one day with Wasatch Powderbird Guides (~$700) is $105. Seems like a lot, though still cheaper than an avy rescue. What are your thoughts?
post #2 of 20
Typically when we heli-ski in Canada, we tip about $50 per day.
post #3 of 20
Holy poop! $700 to ski this crappy snow?: Sooner or later WPG is gonna run out of places to ski. Cardiac Ridge has moguls on it.
post #4 of 20
Ruby Mountain Heliski here has had a permit in the Independence Range for years, and have only had to ski there for one day prior to this year. The Rubies have always had enough to go around.

They've been up in the Independents looking for snow for a week now, I hear. Good skiing up there that nobody uses but a long, long way from home base for them.


$50/day is about what we've done in the past, too.
post #5 of 20
well, since heli-skiing costs an arm and a leg
why not tip with your first born?
post #6 of 20
Day heli-skiing is a different deal, for which we have always tipped about $50/person. At places like CMH for weekly heli-skiing I believe the tips are divided between the guides and lodge staff, so if you really like your guide and give him/her a big tip I don't think they personally get it. As for $50/day tip for a week, I have never given that much. My wife and I have always given about $150, but we have not gone for the last 6 years during which time the price has really escalated and gotten way beyond what we can pay.

I have a friend that just got back from a week with CMH at the Bobbie Burns lodge. They had great snow and weather and his group got 200,000 vertical for the week, which means they had to pay extra for everything over 100,000. The total trip cost inlcuding airfare, hotel coming and going, bar tab, extra vert, and tip for the week was right at $10,000. It is the best skiing in the world, and you pay accordingly.
post #7 of 20
I'd suggest asking this question over at They'll be sure and have the definitive answer for you, David Witherspoon is a wealth of information on heli-skiing etiquette.

post #8 of 20
I thought this thread was going to be about Tippster riding in a whirly bird.
post #9 of 20

In order to prove that I tried the search function, I am resurrecting a 5 year old thread to see if the $50/day is still in the ballpark for tipping.  For example, both the Eagle Pass and Valdez Heli Ski Camps websites suggest at least 10% of the trip price for tipping.  At todays prices, that is over $100/day for the tip on day heliskiing and $35 to $50 a day for daily snowcats.  Seems like the effort is similar for both heli and snowcat guides. 


Any current thinking on the subject? 

post #10 of 20

Timely thread as I just booked a day of Heli for when I am in Whistler this Feb.  I was wondering this as well.  My day of Heli is costing about $1100.+ tax  Does that mean I should be tipping him $150?  That seems excessive as they also ding you for powder skis and like I said I am already paying over a grand for one day of skiing.  Shouldn't they be tipping me?   But I was thinking of $50 maybe $75 if I have a really awesome day.


You know this tipping thing is really getting out of control with hands out everywhere you go.  I have to assume that the Heli guides are already fairly well paid.  Tipping traditionally was for food service workers who worked at below minimum wage and relied on tips to make a decent wage.  Is this the case with Heli guides?  Or is the tip icing on the cake for an already decent paying job?  Just wondering....


i would appreciate some feedback here.


Rick G

post #11 of 20

Rickg - I think it's somewhat dependent on your personal situation on the trip but here's a couple of thoughts:


If your day is in a larger group (11 skiers), $50 each goes a long ways. - $550 for the guide and whoever else they split it with.


If you fly in an A-Star or something similar (4-5 skiers), you might double the tip. - $400 - $500 for the guide and whoever else they split with since they have roughly the same amount of work to do but with a much smaller tip pool to draw from.


If you look on the websites of the operations, you see recommendations of 10-20%, 18-20%, 5-7%, or statements like this:


                " The industry standard is 10-20% of your total trip cost, or about $35-$100 per day."   (Not sure how 10-20% equates to $35-!00 but, whatever)


                 "...and a good chauffeur driver's best friend is a Benjamin"  (So, $50 in this case)


Keep in mind that it's to the operator's favor to promote high tipping in their literature; better for guide morale and the more tips, the lower the wages they have to pay.  Having said that though, most of the guides I've been with are exceptional and great people to be around.  And depending on the group you're with, they work their butts off.  A lot of the time, they're cat-herders and can be fairly stressed but generally handle even the most stressful of situations with confidence and a sense of professional ease.


I would suggest that you plan on your $50 - $75 for a tip for the day and you should be fine.  Whatever you do, make sure to have fun and post a trip report!

post #12 of 20

Not to be the cheap guy, but aren't heli-trips run by professional pilots/guides/owners that make decent money? Why the need to tip on top of a four-figure package price? I'm just curious as it seems like a different ball game from the 22-year-old making 8 bucks an hour to teach your kid a lesson.

post #13 of 20

The guides are for-hire employees of the operations, not typically the owners.  Additionally, the tips are divvied up among the other staff people (cooks, wait staff, room service, etc.) so that they all can share.  Therefore, it's kind of a good thing as most of these guides and staff really don't get paid an extraordinary wage.  There aren't many people who choose skiing as their livelihood that get rich, even with the tips. 

post #14 of 20

I agree with Goldmember. These folks don't make a ton of money.


"What's the difference between a ski guide and a large pizza?"


"A pizza can feed a family of four"



But I would add that most guides love what they do and would rather have you come and not tip, than not come at all.

post #15 of 20

Thanks for the insight. I've never done heli, so really had no firsthand experience to go on. I just know one of the operations I was looking at was owner-guided, so tipping seemed kind of excessive. But makes sense that paid guides don't make that much - the kind of job that pays in perks more than cash.

post #16 of 20

I've tipped $50 for a day of catskiing several times, and never gotten the snooty look.  I hope they divvy it up, since I'm only tipping one of the guides.


So should you tip the leader, the tail gunner, or the cat/heli driver?


One thing I've noticed - even in a large group, I'm the only one tipping.  Whatever......maybe everyone else feels they've paid enough already.

post #17 of 20

SpikeDog - Tip the lead guide, he'll distribute it.  Even if you're the only one tipping, you may run into the same guide at some other op (they move around) and it's quite likely he will remember you, which may play in your favor next time around. These guys work pretty hard and deserve the consideration.

post #18 of 20

Thanks for the insights.  I hate to have to wonder what the expectation or common practice is for these types of things.  It also helps in factoring in to the trip budget.

post #19 of 20


There is no "set fee" or set scale for heli guides. All heli guides offer specialized/individual  attention services. Several factors do help consider amount.


The first amount,,,,,,, that is $50 per day I have never accepted or had offered. Typically $75-$125 is the amounts given. 


When a guide does "above expected" services special tips are accepted. Often they tips are not money but "freebies" that ski resorts, companies have. Often they are more interesting than just money.


I will not list "goodies" here since too many skiers will post for job next year.


The best reward you can give a guide is listen to his/her instructions, enjoy your stay and think "safety" at all times.



One of those lucky ones.

post #20 of 20

Thanks--would you mind telling us where you guide?


Is yours a Bell (12 person) or A Star (4 person) operation? 

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