By: Brandon Darnton | via our partner @ blog.heli.life
If you are looking to do some heli skiing in Alaska, don’t be intimidated. In fact, thousands of people take a trip to the Chugach Range every spring to ride on some of the best and most intense terrain worldwide. Why is Alaska such a great spot for skiers and snowboarders? The perfect combination of weather, snow, mountains, and wilderness make it one of the best places in the world for freeride snowboarding and skiing. Due to the vast plains and remoteness of the terrain on the mountains, it makes for the perfect heli skiing area.
It sounds like this is a professional sport. I’m an average skier. Can I do this?
Yes! Absolutely. As long as you’re still craving a fun adrenaline rush. If being up high and traveling on planes and helicopters gives you severe anxiety, it might not be for you. Other than that, heli skiing in Alaska was not just made for professionals and it is something that the average skier can book a trip for and enjoy.
Generally, almost every heli skiing operation in Alaska caters to intermediate skiers/snowboarders. You’ll want to be physically fit enough to handle powder skiing. Heli skiing for pros includes some truly insane heli-drops as well as 50 degree spineruns. Everything else during a heli skiing adventure was literally built for people with an intermediate skill set. You might not be a pro, but you’ll definitely feel like one! Check out the top reasons why you do not need to be a pro to enjoy heli skiing!
THERE’S TERRAIN FOR EVERY SKIING/SNOWBOARDING STYLE
There is an insane amount of terrain styles in Alaska – I’m sure you can imagine. And of course, many of the pros do come to Alaska to deal with difficult terrain and show off their best skills. However, you do not need to be a pro to visit Alaska, there are tons of different areas to go heli skiing. If you are looking to navigate challenging terrain, check out heli skiing operators such as Valdez, Alaska Rendezvous, SEABA, and ASG.
For mellow skiers looking for something fun to say they’ve done, there are heli skiing operators that will provide you with a great experience without the fear of needing to be pro to accomplish it. For example, glaciers tend to provide lower gradients, making it the perfect area to be picked up by your heli and dropped off at what will look like a pretty normal resort-style run. Here’s one of the most amazing benefits – as soon as you hit the bottom of your run, your heli will be waiting to pick you and your group up and take you to another run. Thrilling, exciting, and full of adrenaline!
You can always push your limits. If what you start with is too easy and conditions are right, you can ask for tougher terrain. Your guides will match you in a group with skiers who have similar physical abilities. For the most part, you’ll be with a group of people who want the same style of skiing/snowboarding that you do.
Image: Black Ops Valdez Cat Skiing
INCREDIBLE SNOW AND GREAT GUIDES
Alaska is one of the best places in the world for constant snowfall and snowstorms. And according to research, Southeast Alaska ranked #5 for one of the snowiest places in the world. The Alaskan Gulf is a breeding ground for intense snowstorms that drop snow by the foot and pushes into the mountains, sometimes even exceeding 30 meters. After the storms have passed, the lush snowpack in the mountains is powdery and ready to be shredded.
The snow in Alaska generally has a pretty high moisture rate because of how close it is to the Pacific Ocean, and the high latitude plus the cold temps help to create a powdery snow that easily glues itself to the mountains. If you want to ride the steep slopes, the snow is perfect, but it’s also wonderful for cruising mild to moderate terrain.
Sounds great, what about a guide?
Having a guide will make your experience more awesome than it already is. Remember, these are highly trained professionals that have years on the slopes and understand the terrain 100%. You will have a tail guide as well as a lead in your group who will show you the ropes. They are there to ensure you have the best heli skiing time possible. Most importantly, they are there to make sure safety is the #1 priority which enables you to concentrate on having fun and enjoying the ride.
CAT SKI AS BACKUP – WHAT IS IT?
Many Alaskan heliski companies have a backup cat ski option during stormy days (when the helis can’t fly). Some operations even have a schedule suited for just cat skiing in general. So, what exactly is it? The Cat is the machine that will do all the work for you, and take you wherever you need to go. It doesn’t matter what type of weather you are in, in fact, the Cat operates best in tough terrain, and just like heli skiing, it’ll be waiting for you at the bottom of the run to take your group back up. Cat skiing is a bit more relaxed and slower-paced than heli skiing. During the Cat trip is an optimal time to eat some snacks, meet some friends, and prepare for the next slopes. Check for Cat skiing options in the package you book.
YOU CAN VISIT RESORTS WHEN YOU’RE NOT HELI SKIING
The town of Girdwood (a heli skiing hub) has some amazing resorts such as Eaglecrest and Alyeska. The town also lies within the perfect freeriding terrain. The Eaglecrest resort is a bit further south close to Cordova and only miles away from Points North Heli. This is also a great place to go if you want to get on some freeriding terrain, perfect to prepare for your heli skiing trip and have some down time both before and after. These are both great places to stay and make a day out of enjoying a resort-type atmosphere.
Alaska is simply amazing and beautiful- not many other places compare. The wilderness is absolutely breathtaking and it makes heli skiing that much more incredible – you get a view from above. Going on heli skiing in Alaska isn’t all about just skiing and snowboarding, you get the chance to see wild animals such as eagles and moose, and you can potentially even see the Aurora Borealis. When it comes to heli skiing, you don’t have to worry about meeting professional criteria to enjoy these rides and the trips down the slope. Always keep in mind that the tour guides will ensure your safety and you will be able to enjoy every aspect of your trip.
In short, it’s not just the skiing that’s incredible in Alaska, it’s simply a special place all round. An Alaskan heliski trip is most definitely not just for the professional and is something all skiers and snowboarders can aspire to.