If you’ve always dreamed of skiing off the beaten track, through mountain landscapes in fresh white powder, then heliskiing could definitely be for you. |
While many people imagine that you need to be born on a ski slope to take part in heliskiing, or at least enjoy the kind of crazy, death-defying runs you see on YouTube, this is actually far from the truth. As long as you are a fairly good skier (we’re talking advanced intermediate), then you’re good enough to enjoy last minute ski holidays involving this most thrilling of ski adventures.
What Exactly is Heliskiing?
In case you’re not entirely sure what we mean when we say ‘heliskiing’ and think that you may have to jump, James Bond-style, from a hovering helicopter, let me assure you that is not the case.
Heliskiing simply describes skiing off piste runs that are inaccessible by lifts. The helicopter will fly you to a landing spot somewhere in the mountains. Once it lands you will disembark, put on your skis and enjoy a blissful, unspoilt powder run down.
A heliskiing tour will involve a guide accompanying you. It is your responsibility to tell the guide what your experience level is so that they can select runs appropriate for you. Obviously you wouldn’t want to exaggerate your skill level or you might find yourself at the top of a run that is technically too difficult for you. Believe me - that could seriously ruin your day.
It’s also worth mentioning how much powder skiing you’ve done, as the technique is slightly different. It’s nothing you can’t pick up relatively quickly if you’re a good skier, but it will take some time and that might mean your guide will want to pick a slightly easier first run until you get your powder legs.
Get in Shape
You may have booked heliskiing as part of one of those last minute ski holidays, but that’s no reason to leave getting in shape until the last minute. Powder skiing can be hard on the thighs so it’s worth making sure your quads are in optimum condition before you set off. It’s also a good idea to do a bit of regular skiing before you take off for your day or days in the powder, just to make sure you’re in prime condition.
Heliskiing in Europe is highly regulated, but it is still worth doing your research to ensure that you trust the company/guides who will be taking you out. It’s worth looking for references and recommendations. Most heliskiing companies now provide avalanche detection equipment, but it is definitely a question you should ask before setting off.
If it’s your first time heliskiing, then ask how many guides will be going out with you. It’s a good idea to insist on two, so that one can ski at the front of the group and one at the rear. This way, if you get tired and fall back, you won’t be left alone.
While safety precautions are necessary when skiing in an area which is unmanaged by the resort, don’t let safety concerns put you off. Good guides know the local areas well. They know where the best, safest powder runs are and will take you only to areas within your ability range.
So, if it appeals, why not start checking out those last minute ski holidays and see if you can’t bag yourself a bargain on the ultimate off-piste skiing adventure?
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid skiers craft their perfect winter holiday for over a quarter of a century. If you're looking for last minute ski holidays in the Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy or Chamonix Valley, Ski Amis is the go-to company for winter sports fans searching for the holiday of a lifetime.
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