Oxford Ski Company’s heli ski specialist Charlie Brooksbank answers some of the most common questions about one of the most adrenalin-fuelled winter sports:
What exactly does heli skiing entail?
For starters, it’s important to note that heli skiing doesn’t have to be extreme. Think of a helicopter simply as the world’s best cable car. Safe and comfortable, it is capable of taking you to the best peaks with miles of untracked snow which are far beyond the reach of resort crowds.
When we arrive at the top of a peak, what happens next?
Skilled pilots will land the helicopter (usually at a tried and tested landing spot) before the door is opened for you and you’re helped out. Skis are carried in a panier on the side of the helicopter and once they’ve been unloaded the helicopter will depart, leaving you along with your guide and the rest of the group at the top of a pristine run.
How steep are the runs? Are we talking about leaping off cliffs here?
No, not a cliff in sight. You’ll be skiing under the expert wing of a mountain guide who is there to find a safe (but incredible) skiable line down the mountain. You still have the flexibility to pick your own way down, and you can certainly find the odd tree trunk to jump if you want to get some air but cliff jumping is off the menu. The gradient is likely to be similar to that which you’d find in a red run in a resort with the primary difference being you’ll be enjoying the run on fresh powder snow.
Powder snow? Isn’t that for experts only?
Not at all. If you are a good intermediate level skier, then you’ll be able to learn to powder ski very quickly.
So, with the above in mind, just what level skier do you need to be to heli ski?
Typically, heli skiing clients will be comfortable tackling red runs and will be reasonably fit. Some off piste skiing experience is a bonus but not essential. Quite simply if you are a strong piste skier and want to ski powder snow then you are ready for heli skiing. And if you are a powder skiing novice then we can accommodate you on a coaching programme which operates at a more relaxed pace and with an extra guide to ensure you have a safe and thoroughly enjoyable trip. In summary, heli skiing will probably be the best skiing you’ll ever experience so don’t let unfounded nerves put you off.