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Updated: May 16

For most skiers heli skiing is the pinnacle of skiing. Being dropped off at a top of a mountain with not knowing what's below you is not only thrilling but the ultimate way to test yourself. Heli skiing in Alaska? Now that's the the Everest is skiing for any skier.

We have all seen those segments in ski movies and those clips on social media. Pro skiers ripping their way down a face that is literally vertical. They make it look easy, but for those of us who are not pro and do not have the mentorships, sponsors, connections, oh the list goes on it seems like an experience that is hard to grasp for most of us.

Walk into any ski bar and the likelihood of someone having ever gone heli skiing is rather low. This is why when you hear someone has gone those ears perk up for any small amount of knowledge that may help piece together this puzzle. Is it worth it? What is the skier ability that you must have? Is it terrifying? The number of questions go on. Here at She-Shredz we went heli skiing in AK with Chugach Powder Guides to give you the real down low instead of those fancy social media clips of everyone having their best day ever.

Do you need to be a strong skier to go heli skiing?

This is the number one question we get asked so let's just get straight to the point. If you are not comfortable in the backcountry, heli skiing is really not for you. The reality of the situation is as follows, you're being dropped off in a helicopter with no one else around. There is no ski patrol you're a few hours away from medical help. The runs are ungroomed and at the mercy of the conditions. Snow is variable. And the terrain is complex with crevasses and avalanches happening around you at all times. The average pitch is rough 35 degrees plus ( your average black run in resort is 28-20 degrees). If you fall there's no one there to help ( everyone in our group had a fall if not a few ). Oh and by the way you can not see the run you're about to go down, nor do you really have a say once you're done with rotor watch. Your guide skis down first and you're left waiting to get a green light if the run is good to go or not.

 If anything that was mentioned in the above paragraph makes you feel uneasy then heli-skiing is not for you. The reward is high for those who are looking for that type of experience and who are ready for it not only physically but mentally. There is a brief avalanche safety briefing where you go over how to use a beacon, etc. however if you're not AIARE certified the reality is in an emergency are you really going to recall how to do a proper search and rescue from a 10 min brief? The answer is most likely not. Seeing the snow move below you as you're in unknown terrain can be extremely thrilling if you're confident and ready. You must ski down the entire run without stopping due to avalanche concerns.

The reality of heli-skiing is that it is truly expensive not only cost but also resources. This really isn't a check a bucket list for the gram experience. This activity does have a large carbon footprint depending on which company you use ( A good heli op will be carbon neutral in their output).

Short answer: Honestly expert skiers and very well trained advanced riders who ski mostly off-piste technical terrain will get a kick. Those of you who are not AIARE certified, consider venturing off in the backcountry with proper education prior to become comfortable with snow conditions and other dynamic factors.

Do you fly in bad weather?

The heli can only operate within a certain conditions. If we are being 100% honest here, helicopters have an interesting track record so it's probably for the best. Chugach Powder Guides and most operations offer cat skiing as a back up. Frankly the cat is really just as awesome for different reasons. You're able to ski pristine conditions in storm weather meaning the best snow.

If you're thinking of doing an a Heli-ski trip make sure to research the weather windows and allow for a few days of buffer. We were in AK for a week and in that week they only had one true heli ski day without weather impact.

Is It Worth It?

If you are an expert skier who has always wanted to experience that moment where you are dropped out of a heli with fresh tracks below where you are able to attack and just be free. Then YES!!!! I knew going into this, it was going to change my view point on skiing. I wasn't honestly prepared for just how much it would change my view point on almost everything I knew.

For those of you how are just those riders who love to get into that flow state there really isn't anything like. Not knowing what you're about to be dropped off and go for the ride of your life is so F****** awesome there are no words to describe it. You get locked in, and there's only one way down and there's no time to think and you just start to dance with the mountain. Having the luxury of not boot packing up these lines is really quite a treat for those of us who like to get a little rowdy in the bc. On average you're getting about 20,000 vert of gnarly big mountain lines.

Being able to look up at what you just came down and to see your lines is such a profound moment. After you Heli-ski what you do inbounds really makes you shrug and say, " Yea, I got that." It truly is as steeper than you can ever even comprehend. It's so much larger in person you can help but feel small. Which is a very humbly experience.

The reality of heli-skiing is that it is truly expensive not only cost but also resources. This really isn't a check a bucket list for the gram experience.

Was it powder? How as the snow?

Okay this one makes me laugh. The reality is no was honestly the worst snow we had in AK the entire trip. Our guide told us it was a solid C grade snow for them ( I would HATE to see what F would look like). One turn you would have sun crust that was grabby. The next it would be firm with ice. Then 20 feet below you would have fresh powder. The winds were high which took the 2 feet of new snow with it.

Mind you, you're doing this in your biggest, longest, fattest skis that you own. Skiing on ice and sun crust not sounding fun in a 115 cm waist? Then resort skiing is probably better match for you. Reading the snow and the conditions based on how your group before you skied was a great asset to have if you have that knowledge. However the reality is good now is never guaranteed, and more importantly you're heli skiing.

Are You Tested Out There?

Some of us enjoy a solid challenge. This is one of those. Not only are you physically pushing yourself to the brink by skiing AK runs in variable conditions but you are pushing yourself mentally. The runs average about 3500 vertical feet per run where we were. That's about 4 times longer than the average run in resort. Those quads are firing and you best be in the best ski shape of your life before coming.

You're also going to ski the scariest thing you've ever skied in your life. That's guaranteed to happen. If not, then why even come? You're there to push yourself to new heights (literally) that includes your skiing ability.

There's also a large mental component to this. Getting on a heli for the first time in your life and being dropped off into the unknown is thrilling but also just wow. You're starring down something with only one way down. You're skiing blind 100% of the time and here's a secret. Each run gets significantly more challenging and more technical.

The day from the time you leave to to the time you get back is roughly 10 hours long. It's a rather long day that you really need to come into a 100% prepared.

By the end of the day the entire group was gassed emotionally and physically. When we got back to our place we barley were able to get dinner in us before passing out. But the the feeling of elation and Holy S*** did I really just do that is so profound. There really isn't anything like it.


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