The New Zealand winter is finally going off! If you’re making your way down south this summer one of the best ways to ensure maximum pow-time is to spend a day (or two) flying with Southern Lakes Heli Ski. Based out of Queenstown and Wanaka, Southern Lakes has dibs on some of the widest variety of terrain in the South Island. Whether you’re a beginner, or a pow snob, you’re guaranteed to access the best available snow on any given day when you fly with Southern Lakes.
There are quite a few heli-ski operations in New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand is kind of the heli capital of the world. You can go almost anywhere, and do almost anything you want in the country via heli. Mountain Biking, hot-springing, hunting, canyoneering, sight-seeing, bungee-jumping, the list of adventure activities is unmatched and endless.
While New Zealand boasts a truly Kiwi experience in skiing their unique club-fields, inbounds options, and backcountry touring options are also readily available. However, if you’ve saved up enough to head to New Zealand, one of the most user friendly and mind-blowingly beautiful destination in the world, throwing down for a little flight time with Southern Lakes Heli will undoubtedly be the cherry on top of your trip.
Check out their website linked above for current rates, but I can assure you of one thing. If you fly with Southern Lakes Heli you won’t be disappointed. Often, heli-skiing in North America is more expensive than frugal travelers, ski bums, and regular people can afford. Usually, you have to sign up for multiple days of skiing, and other accomodation/skiing packages that make access to heli-skiing cost-prohibitive. If you can do it, it’s 100% worth it, but usually it’s too much for many to spend on one experience. In New Zealand, Southern Lakes Heli allows you to go for the day. It’s not free, but that’s the access missing from many operations in North America. You can go for a whole day, of course, but you can also go for as little as two runs. This is a great option for the dirt-bag travelers out there that want to heli-ski, but won’t pull the trigger at the cost of traveling for several more days across the country, in exchange for a few hours of skiing bliss. This option will allow you to get a taste of using the most amazing tool ever built by humans to access the mountains, and get a few gorgeous runs of fresh in while you’re at it. You can even add more runs on to your day, on-the-fly, for only $99 bucks each (NZ).
Just like at most major heli-skiing operations, Southern Lakes will provide you with everything you need if you book a trip with them. Quality powder slaying equipment (they had Pontoons last year), a delicious lunch out in the middle of the zone, go pros, beacons, you name it, and they’ll have it for you. The other thing that sets Southern Lakes apart is their staff. I skied with and hung out with several of the guides down there during my visit, and every one of them was top-notch. If you shoot Southern Lakes an email or call, Elysia or some other friendly staffer will get you sorted out and fit whatever it is you are looking for into a perfect day out in the New Zealand backcountry. While advanced reservations are recommended, you can easily stop into either one of their shops in Queenstown or Wanaka, and if there’s availability, be sitting in the bird scoping your lines that next morning.
One last thing to note, if you’re new to heli-skiing, you should know you won’t be getting flown to the super spine face, or the wrinkled curtain flutes of dreams during your first visit. The goal is simple; to ski long, consistent pitches of dry New Zealand powder. As is the case with most people who haven’t popped their heli-skiing cherry, many people think heli-skiing is far too gnar for them to consider, especially when taking into account the ski porn they’ve watched in the movies over the past decade. Well folks, trust me, it’s all about safety, and it’s all about pow. Chances are you’ll be wanting to get on steeper and more difficult terrain than what you’ll be skiing, but the scenery in New Zealand, and the access to untracked snow is profound. It’s fully worth it to throw-down some cash for the experience.
That said, Southern Lakes also offers private charters. Show up with a solid group of rippers, a film crew, and some extra dough, and you can basically go ski/ride whatever you want. Not too many operations offer that experience, and it’s just one of the many reasons why if you’re planning to travel to New Zealand anytime soon, and love to ski pow, Southern Lakes Heli should be on your hit list.