Untouched powder over millions of hectares of backcountry terrain offer skiing nirvana for travellers with a passion for adventure.
By Mark Sissons
In 1965, Canadian Mountain Holidays founder Hans Gmoser started using helicopters to transport skiers high into British Columbia’s mountains. Half a century later, the adventure sport that Gmoser practically invented remains the ultimate downhill dream for many avid skiers and riders. Here’s what to expect if you go heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies—where it all began.
1) Into the wild: Imagine vast stretches of untracked powder, epic glacier descents and endless gladed forest runs. At operations such as Mike Wiegele Heliskiing, you have access to over 486,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of untracked terrain.
2) Location, location: Over 90% of the world’s heli-skiing operations call the Canadian Rockies home. While some are located in remote areas, others, such as Purcell Heli-skiing and TLH Heli-skiing, are only a few hours’ drive from Calgary, AB, and Vancouver, BC, respectively.
4) No lift lines or lifts: You can access untouched terrain with a helicopter that resort-bound skiers can only dream of. Operators such as TLH offer even more access via single group per helicopter packages.
5) You can do it: Contrary to popular belief, heli-skiing is no longer the exclusive domain of downhill daredevils. If you’re a strong intermediate skier, there’s nothing stopping you. Today, most top operators, including Canadian Mountain Holidays, cater to a wide range of abilities.
7) Flexible packages: Canadian heli-skiing trips range from half-day to multi-day adventures. For instance, Whistler Heliskiing and Coast Range Heliskiing mostly cater to day trippers from nearby Whistler Blackcomb.
8) Safety first: Due to the inherent risks involved in heli-skiing, Canada’s operators take safety extremely seriously. Many, such as Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing and Canadian Mountain Holidays, also have decades of experience and employ the world’s most knowledgeable mountain guides.
9) Après-ski pampering: Just because many of Canada’s top heli-ski lodges are located in remote wilderness doesn’t mean heli-skiers will be roughing it in the bush. Operators like Mica Heliskiing, Mike Wiegele, Canadian Mountain Holidays and TLH offer deluxe accommodations, gourmet cuisine, spa treatments and even yoga classes.
10) No crowds: Having thousands of square kilometres of spectacular, snow-drenched wilderness all to yourself and your companions will change your concept of personal space forever.
Photo and story courtesy Canadian Tourism Commission.