Freedom is exactly what you feel; there is truly nothing on this earth quite like heli-skiing.
What can we say about heli-skiing that hasn’t already been said. It’s something poetic, enchanting, captivating. It takes going up on a chair lift and skiing down a nice groomer to a totally new dimension, leveling up your ride. Heli-skiing is regular riding, supercharged. Okay, so yes, it’s expensive, yes the equipment is complicated, yes you have to be of a certain skill level to be able to ride, but if the criteria is matched, then you are free.
All that’s left to consider is where are you going to book? Do you want to mix classic alpine charm and the thrill in Italy or powder snow snorkeling in Japan with ramen for dinner? That’s why we have put together the ultimate guide to the best resorts for helisking, helping you make these tough life choices.
Heli-skiing is on everyone’s bucket list. It is, after all, the most adrenaline-fuelled and adventurous activity, showing you the mountains the thrill of untapped terrain in the wilderness. It’s not only the downhill route that gets your heart beating faster but the flight itself. Make like you were in the original “that’s it that’s all” movie and see the most amazing landscape. You also have the benefit of riding with an expert guide which takes an element of worry about riding backcountry out of the equation. You’re not concerning yourself with aspects of the planning and navigating; instead, you have a professional expert riding with you, facilitating everything.
When it comes to what to pack when heli-skiing, some of the prep is taken care for you. If you are a real beginner, don’t worry, most heli-ski providers will have packed backpacks and safety equipment ready to go. Otherwise, the packing list is generally the same as any freeriding adventure. We have written about this in much more detail here:
When it comes to what to wear when heli-skiing, we can look to our outwear packing list for freeriding. Of course, as always, the most vital aspects of the outwear to consider is quality. It’s important to make sure you wear one of those ski jackets and ski pants that are stylish and revolutionary and that hit all the most important points. You should be considering a few things when it comes to your outer layer.
But it’s not just about the outwear; it’s also about being super cosy underneath. If you are heli-skiing in deep mid-winter, I.e. Jan/Feb, make sure you have a mid-layer jacket and thermals below that. If you are riding in the spring, you may just need a base layer and a hoody or long sleeve t-shirt. Ensure your thermals are sweat-wicking, high tech thermals that allow you to focus on riding.
Japan is a powder haven and a backcountry skiing enthusiasts dream, with what seems like endless fresh snow. Accessing areas off the beaten track, via helicopter, will guarantee the very best and truest Japanese riding experience. Although, there are alot of safety regulations in Japan for heli-skiing, which means there are only a few companies who offer the service and it is regulated about where you can go.
Where: The Hokkaido region, Japan
Airport: New Chitose Aiport in Sapporo
Heli ski operator: Hokkaido Backcountry Club
Many of the heli-skiing companies stick to the same backcountry spot, which can mean that you may be following the tracks of others before you, but the heliskiing zone of Shiribetsu-Dake is ideal to get away from the crowds. You will be spending the day riding deep fresh powder on a dormant volcano, which is truly a once in a lifetime experience. There is an exciting mixture of terrain, including powder fields, tree lines, cliff drops and bowls. Due to the nature and intensity of the steep and deep powder, the crew should be at an advanced level to enjoy it, as it’s a long and very exhausting day with the 6 runs.
Be careful what company you choose, as many of them do the same tracked out areas.
Where: Kitaazumi District, Nagano, Japan
Airport: Osaka Airport
Heli ski operator: Evergreen
Hakuba is made up of 10 different resorts, but unfortunately, not all of them offer heli-skiing, but one that does is Tsugaike Kogen. Although, the heli-skiing on offer is on available between March and April, but with that being late in the season, it’s best to book last minute if there is still plentiful powder. Above the Tsugaike Kogen resort, there is some good backcountry terrain, so if you get some fresh snow, it will be bliss. As we have gathered, heliskiing is not massively encouraged in Japan, so the regulations here dictate that the drop off point is the same, so it will often be tracked out. But, don’t be put off, it is still a mesmerising experience and the views will blow you away, even if the riding doesn’t.
Try a backcountry tour with Evergreen too, as they will take you to some serious and secret locations to get the best-untouched powder lines.
India is not the first place you would think of for an epic heli-skiing, big mountain powder experience, but this is exactly what makes it the ideal location. India is a secret deep powder heaven. You will spend your day high up in the Himalayas, away from the rest of the world. This famous mountain range is of course well above the treeline, so you will ride perfection on their long snowfields.
Where: Himalayas, Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh,
Airport: Kullu Manali Airport (arrive here via a domestic flight Delhi)
Heli ski operator: Himalaya Heliski
The mountain village of Manali is already based at 2000m, so when heliskiing in this area you already know you are about to reach dizzying heights far greater than in the Alps. The helicopter takes you to high valley floors at around 2700m and ridges at a whopping 4000m- so it is advised that ensure you are fully acclimatised as these heights can knock you out! The snow here is known to be particularly fluffy, because of the dry air which means the snow remains a light consistently, ideal for gliding.
Make sure to book a trip that utilises the epic heli-skiing terrains of Deo Tibba, Chanderkhani Pass, Hanuman Tibba and Rohtang Pass, which are said to be the best areas for big mountain riding.
March is a good time to book as there has been plenty of snow all season, but it is slightly warmer and the days are longer (so more ride time).
Canada is said to be the heli-skiing capital of the world, which makes sense as its found that 95% of heli-skiing is done in British Columbia. Firstly the snow is powdery, deep and there is lots of it, but also Canada has some awesome mountains with endless backcountry. Canada has now created the best infrastructure for heli-skiers, with many mountain lodges built in obscure places, to cater for those after a big day on the big mountain.
Where: Shuswap, British Columbia, Canada
Airport: Calgary International Airport
Heliski operator: CMHeliskiing
Heli-skiing in Revelstoke will be one of the best experiences you will have as a skier or boarder, the resort is known famously for its epic heli-skiing potential. It has some of the best tree runs in the world, that you can only access by air, so expect to be the first group to make your fresh tracks. There are over 3 million acres of terrain, which is an absolutely crazy amount, so you will be sure to never do the same line twice or even bump into another rider for that matter. The beauty and versatility of this terrain in Revelstoke is that it can accommodate all abilities, so if you are new to the backcountry, then you can still take part.
Many of the companies have multi-day packages, with food and beautiful mountain-top accommodation all sorted. This would be a once in a lifetime adventure.
Where: Skeen Mountains, northern British Columbia, Canada
Airport: Smithers & Terrace
Heli ski operator: Last Frontier Heli
Nestled into a very remote corner of Northern British Columbia on the border of Alaska, you will find some of the best heli-skiing in the world. It doesn’t get much better than this, as the Last Frontier is a purely heli-skiing resort, there are no 5-star hotels or big lift network, but instead just casually the largest single heli-skiing area on the planet. There are over 9500 square kilometres of terrain, with an average of 25 metres each year of fresh, powdery snow, untouched and pristine. You purchase packages which include remote lodges and a small group of like-minded heli-skiing enthusiasts. The expert guides will find fresh tracks on glaciers, powder fields and through enchanted forests. A trip to the Last Frontier is one for the bucket list!
Stay at Bell 2 lodge for a deluxe retreat and to access the largest amount of terrain in the area.
The US is well known for its heli skiing, with many resorts in most states offering our favourite extreme snow adventure. Alaska, in particular, is famous for its remote, steep and deep riding, with some of the best heli skiing in the world. Although in Alaska, there few opportunities to ski tree runs, as the tree line is pretty low, whilst most other ski areas in the US give you a blissful mixture of high altitude glacier terrain and forest runs. Heli- skiing in the US is pretty expensive, like in Canada, but it’s safe to say it’s worth the extra dollar.
Where: Extreme Northwest, USA
Airport: Anchorage International Airport
Heli ski operator: Majestic Heli Skiing
In the remote depths of Alaska is some of the most intense riding you will come across, with famously steep runs with a hard snowpack. If you are a newbie to the backcountry riding, then perhaps you need some extra training before heading to Alaska, as even the experts will be exhausted after a day in the Alaskan wilderness. There are a lot of heli skiing companies to choose from, most of them offering multi day packages, with accommodation included- with around 6 to 10 runs a day, you will be dying to put your feet up. Although, a word of warning is that the Alaskan weather is temperamental, so prepare for the helicopter to be grounded and have Cat Ski instead.
Before heading to Alaska, make sure to intensify your fitness regime to ensure you can keep up with the intense riding.
Where: Rocky Mountains, Colorado, USA
Airport: Anchorage International Airport
Heli ski operator: Helitrax
If you are staying in either Vail or Aspen (or one of the smaller Colorado resorts), then you will have speedy access to Telluride in the Rocky Mountains, used as the base for some awesome heli- skiing adventures. You can book single-day trips to be back in resort before happy hour, having smashed 10 000 to 14 000 vertical metres on around 200 square miles of terrain. Some of the operators have around 100 different drop offs, catering to all different abilities, but you will be sure to get deep and most importantly, untracked powder. The area is known for its high peaks and in fact being some of the highest peaks you can ride in the US.
You can ride to Telluride from Vail or Aspen in style on one of their fixed wing charters, but be prepared pay extra for this service.
There are alot of laws in the Alps about heli-skiing and it’s not as readily available as it used to be, but Switzerland is lucky enough to still allow your high altitude adventures (although, the topic is always up for debate). There designated drop off spots all across the Swiss Alps, with some reaching the dizzying heights of 4200m and expect an average of 2500m vertical descent. It is typically high altitude riding, above the treeline, with steep couloirs and wide-open powder fields.
Where: Valais, Switzerland
Airport: Sion or Geneva
Heli ski operator: Air Zermatt
Zermatt is famously spectacular for its skiing and high altitude adventure, but there is so much more to explore in the area that can’t be accessed by a lift. There are many different operators offering single-day trips, where you can explore the untouched powdery bliss of the Valais region, the epic Monte Rosa and surrounding mountains. From that height, you can come face to face with the Matterhorn and see the never-ending vista of the Swiss and Italian Alps. There is also the opportunity to beat the crowds and be the first people on the mountain by taking the fastest ski lift (a helicopter) to Plateau Rosa and ride from 3100m to the town before anyone else.
From Zermatt, you can ski over the border into the Italian resort of Cervinia, which opens up even more backcountry and powder potential.
Where: Canton of Valais, Switzerland
Airport: Sion or Geneva
Heli ski operator: Adrenaline- Verbier
The heli-skiing scene in Verbier is one of the best in Switzerland because it has 4 awesome areas to hit, the massif of Trient, Petit Combin, Rosablanche and Pigne d’Arolla. The terrain is exciting and so varied, so you can experience a new challenge every time! There is an abundance of snow every year, making for the perfect deep, fluffy powder to glide through. A Lot of the trips are multi day but you can stay in resort each evening, meaning you also have access to incredible restaurants and a lively apres scene, to wind down after a long day at altitude. There is also the chance to explore nearby resorts (as the crow flies), such as Chamonix in France, if you fancy a change of scenery.
For non-skiers, they can book a scenic helicopter tour. So you still get the adrenaline of the flight, without the intense skiing or boarding.
If you are wanting to heli ski whilst in the Alps, Italy is going to be your best option, with it being one only countries in the Alps not bound by heavy regulations. Many resorts in the Aosta Valley and around Sestriere and Livigno have many heli skiing operators to choose from, so you can be sure to get good value. Of course, the backcountry potential is extensive so you guarantee a deep snow adventure.
Where: Aosta Valley, Italy
Airport: Turin Caselle Airport
Heli ski operator: Heliski Cervinia
Cervinia is an awesome resort and has some of the highest altitude skiing in Europe, with its skiable summit reaching 3480m. It shares the epic Matterhorn with its sister resort Zermatt over the border in Switzerland, making it a world-class skiing destination. Beyond the extensive pistes, there is even more extensive backcountry, which is graced with regular dumps of fresh fluffy powder. The heli skiing can either be a single day drop to a 6 day extreme experience, but no matter what you will get your value for money on epic vertical descents. On the multi drop days, you can pay a little more to drop onto the Monte Rosa, where you will hit the highest heli skiing in Europe at a whopping 4300m and ride down the glacier for 16km straight.
Head to Plateau Rosa for some high altitude dining and refuelling, at 3500m!
Where: Aosta Valley, Italy
Airport: Turin Caselle Airport
Heli ski operator: Heliski Courmayeur
Courmayeur is another awesome option for heli-skiing in Italy and allows you to make the most of the relaxed regulations. Courmaurier is based at the foot of the famous Mont Blanc and is said to one of the snowiest areas in the Alps, so you can guarantee deep snow and high altitudes. You can take single or multi-day packages, but either way, the drops will give you the chance to ride glaciers and immense snowfields, with vertical drops of up to 1600m. As Courmayeur is neighbour to the French resort of Chamonix, if you are staying in Chamonix, the heli operators can be arranged to pick you up from France and take you over the Italian border, but of course, this costs a little more.
As you can’t heli-ski in France, but fancying exploring the powder over the border, then do the popular Vallee Blanche that is an un-pisted route taking you from Courmayeur into Chamonix.
As we have already established, heli-skiing in France is banned, however, there is a loophole; you can either get a helicopter to pick you up from your resort, or get a transfer (sometimes arranged by the helicopter operators) that will drive you to Italy. Resorts like La Rosiere in France border Italian resorts where you can fill your heart with all the heli-skiing you need. It’s not as much effort as it may seem and it is a very common practice for those staying in France. Of course, just be aware of the price surge if you are booking transport through the operator.
Where: Montvalezan, Savoie, France
Airport: Chambery Airport or Geneva Airport for more international options.
Heli ski operator: ESF Ski School
La Rosiere is one of the very lucky resorts connected to an Italian resort where heli skiing is more than accepted. La Rosière borders La Thuile and to ski from one to the other is easy and relatively quick. There are a few ski schools in La Rosiere that you can book your heli skiing day with and they will arrange the helicopter over in Italy and guide you for the day, including all the usual package, such as avalanche equipment. Over in La Thuile, you can reach around 3300 metres and do multiple drops in a day, so expect your legs to ache as you ski back down into France at the end of the day. You have to remember to get La Thuile included in your lift pass, so you can meet the helicopter at the Italian side. Its safe to say we love this loophole!
For more epic off-piste powder riding, head a little further down the valley to St Foy, which is a small resort with more freeride than pistes.
Austria is known for its world-class freeride terrain and its extra generous snow each season, but whilst you can explore the backcountry in other ways, unfortunately, heli-skiing is massively restricted. The only area that it is legally allowed to is the Arlberg region, and in particular, Lech am Arlberg. But this area is still worth a trip high in the sky, as it will, of course, be incredible regardless.
Where: Arlberg, Bludenz District, Vorarlberg, Austria
Heli ski operator: Skischule Lech
There is two areas to heli ski or board when in Lech, the Schneetal valley and Mehlsack. The Schneetal valley trips will take you up to 2450m and is said to be more accessible to the intermediate off-piste rider. This is an incredible open powder field that’s conditions are best suited in spring, guiding you all the way down the valley to Zug. Whilst Mehlsack is more suited to the expert freeriders and thrill seekers. The best way to book these epic trips is through the local ski schools, as they will book the helicopter and provide the guide service, ensuring you get the best lines for the conditions, crowds and your ability.
To congratulate yourself after a big day on the mountain, head over to St Anton and experience the best apres ski in the world.
Heli-skiing in Spain is limited in the areas/ mountains and valleys you can drop into but the one place where it is permitted is the Val d’Aran and in particular the resort of Vielha. Once you are actually high in the ski, exploring the never-ending backcountry, there are no limitations when you can drop into, so it is ensured you get fresh tracks and new line every time. There are 400 sq km of exclusive heli-skiing terrain, which ranges between high altitude and tree runs.
Where: Val d’ Aran, Pyrenees, Catalan, Spain
Heli ski operator: Pyrenees Heliski
The very popular ski resort and village Baqueira –Beret is usually the base for people who are heli-skiing in the Val d’ Aran. Whilst the main access point to the 400m sq km of heli-skiing terrain is the small mountain village of Vielha, 8km away from Baquiea. Vielha has a heliport, so the trips run out of there. If you are exclusively heli-skiing, then you can do a multi-way package with accommodation and food included and stay in Vielha. The base is 1000m but the helicopter brings you up to 3000m peaks. There are 200 potential descents to play around on and pick your fresh lines.
Take a half-day or single day trip and stay in the popular resort of Baqueira –Beret for good quality but inexpensive dining and a vibrant atmosphere.
Georgia is a surprising destination for epic skiing, but that’s what makes this country the ideal for your next heli skiing adventure. The snow is deep and the peaks are high. The Svaneti region has peaks reaching 5000m, with the highest drops hitting 4100m. The prices are generally cheaper than in the Alps and you can be sure to get no crowds and fresh tracks.
Where: Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Caucasus Mountains, Stepantsminda District, Georgia
Airport: Tbilisi International Airport
Heli ski operator: Heliksir
The resort of Gudauri is one of the most popular in Georgia, but don’t think that means crowds or expensive heli skiing packages, but in fact, get more for your money. There are 2000 sq km of terrain that heli-skiing can operate, which has a perfect balance of bowls, powder fields and deep valleys, ideal for a mix of abilities. It is recommended to go between January and February as the cold temperatures and ample snow ensures you can ride waist-deep with each line. The runs average 800 vertical metres and the peaks are some of the highest in Europe, so we think it won’t be long before the word gets out about this heli skiing secret.
Book a package to get accommodation included but pay less for luxury hotels, with spa facilities and amazing food.
Heli-skiing in Russia won’t be like any other experience you can get elsewhere. As you can imagine the winters are harsh and dark, but then makes for incredible amounts of snow, which is famously dry and light. As the winters get little daylight, the actual ski season and the best time to heli-ski is from April to June. The terrain and views will be one of kind, with rare geographical features.
Where: Kamchatka Peninsula, Russian Far East
Airport: Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky Airport via Vladivostok and or Khabarovsk Novy international airports.
Heli ski operator: Heliski Russia
Head to the resort of Kamchatka in the Sredinny mountain range, which is relatively small with little way of the actual designated ski area. The best way to explore this area is by a helicopter because then you can access some of the rarest geographical wonders of the world, and discover the reason the area is known as the ‘Ring of Fire’. The operators mainly do 6 day packages with food and accommodation included, and fly around 8 hours and covering 15 000 sq km. The different packages will explore a different wonder, such as the fire and ice tour which has you riding down active volcanoes, descending around 3000m. You will drop into extreme conditions, untouched powder and endless wilderness.
This is a thermally active region, so there are lots of hot springs to bathe and rest your sore muscles.
Where: Caucasus Nature Reserve, Sochi, South-West Russia
Airport: Mineralnye Vod international airport
Heli ski operator: Heliski Russia
The Caucasus Mountains run through Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan and are known for being some of the snowiest mountains in Europe due to the heavy precipitation from the nearby seas. The Mountain range is also home to Europe’s highest peak, Mt Elbrus at a nosebleed inducing 5,642m, and surprisingly is manageable to drop onto from a helicopter and ride down. There are vast glaciers and very long descents that will test any strong-legged rider. The lines are often steep and deep, so even the experts and advanced free-riders will be tested, whilst the intermediates may struggle in such extreme conditions and terrains.
Stay in one one of the surrounding mountain villages for a couple of days before your trip, as it is recommended to get acclimatised to the altitude.
There are a handful of heli-ski operators in Chile, but they operate all across the famous Andes mountains. Chase the winter in the southern hemisphere and ride the fresh powdery snow in during the months of June through to September. The helicopters can drop you at heights of 4300m, so expect high altitude riding, big mountain faces and steep descents. There is the opportunity to book single day trips or multi-day packages, with prices similar to the US.
Where: Rio Los Cipreses National Reserve, Sierra Nevada, Andes Mountains
Heli ski operator: Heliski Guides
There are multiple famous areas to heli-ski in the Sierra Nevada and in particular from Santiago, there are exclusive mountain lodges that cater only to heli-skiing packages. The Puma Lodge is a famous lodge and multi-day trip, that combines extreme backcountry riding and 5-star luxury. From the lodge, there is access to 100 of hectares of crisp, fresh terrain, where you can often reach vertical descents of 1300m at a time. This high altitude riding is mainly glaciers, so of course, the snow is of the best condition, with on average more snow than other areas of the Andres. There are steep valleys which meet the Cipreses River, that creates unique and natural beauty.
After a long day, you head back to the remote luxury lodge where you can relax in their spa facilities and have an exquisite meal accompanied by beautiful wines to fuel you up for another day in the wilderness.
To keep the cost down, stay in Santiago or one of the actual Andes resorts like Portillo and do day trips.
Just like in Chile, you can chase the winter to the southern hemisphere and more specifically, the Southern Andes. The heli-skiing is slightly rarer than in Chile, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an endless opportunity for the fresh, untouched backcountry. There are not as many operators in Argentina and few do day trips, so although you can book epic multiday adventure packages, this does generally mean the cost is high.
Where: Mendoza, Uco Valley, Andes Mountains, Argentina
Heli ski operator: Heliski Guides
There may be limited places to heli ski in Argentina, but once you head to the Uco Valley, you will experience some of the best terrain in the world. The heli ski operator has established an abundance of peaks and drops that will blow your mind, with guaranteed untouched lines for you to pick out. They typically offer 3 to 7-day trips with lots of flying time for you take in the views, whilst their expert guides take you to the best, remote spots. Although the package is fairly expensive, you do get the chance to stay in one of the most luxurious mountain lodges. The lodge is surrounded by vineyards, so you can be sure to get the best wine after a big day on the mountain.
The snow is famously dry and powdery and due to the high altitude and the location, there is lots of it. Expect glaciers, bowls and powder fields to play around in each day.
If your family or friends aren’t big Heli enthusiasts, they can still enjoy the luxury lodge and surroundings and pay a little less for the package.
There is an abundance of heli-skiing in New Zealand, so if you find yourself exploring their epic mountains from July though to September, then make sure to get yourself in a helicopter. It is generally cheaper than in the US and Canada and you can book from half-day trips to multiday packages, which can suit anyone’s pocket. The snow isn’t as reliable, but when a good dump does come, there is so much big mountain terrain that it is still possible to get fresh, untouched tracks for weeks after.
Where: Otago, South- West of South Island.
Airport: Queenstown Airport
Heli ski operator: Heliski Queenstown and Wanaka
Queenstown is one of the most popular ski resorts in New Zealand, located in the Southern Alps mountain range. Due to its popularity, you may find it hard to locate fresh tracks and untouched powder, so if you’re looking for something more remote, then head high. Even if you are not an expert skier or boarder and not had much experience riding backcountry, then New Zealand and Queenstown is ideal. They offer day packages, where they take you on awesome drops but have a more gentle approach, which is the perfect introduction to the thrill of heli-skiing. The altitude is quite high, so you stay above the treeline and ride glaciers, bowls and ability permitting, some very steep chutes.
Queenstown is a vibrant resort, so make sure to save some energy for a few beers.
Wow, what an adventure already right? Learning about all these striking, uber cool places where heliskiing is possible. Whether you want to head away from the crowds in Georgia or brush shoulders with the rich in Russia, there is a destination to suit you. Be sure to tag us, we would love to see your heliskiing expedition!
Hey Riders, note from your gal Angelica here. All information was correct at the time of writing through research and extensive knowledge and experience. However, things change during different periods in the season and some websites offer out of date information and links may change.
Maybe you have some better information to offer or any addendum or changes to make, in which case, feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can consider adding them in! Let me know. . .