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Helicopter Skiing

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/19/2007 | Sports

Helicopter Skiing, commonly known as heli-skiing or heliskiing, is skiing that is done downhill on trails that are ungroomed. The trail heads are only accessible via helicopter. Gaining in popularity, heli-skiing is now offered at many popular resorts around the world. However, France does not allow heli-skiing, and the sport is strictly regulated in European countries.

Heli-skiing is not for beginners, and depending on the terrain that one will experience on the course, it may not be suitable for intermediate skiers either. Avalanche safety knowledge is extremely important as well. The conditions on the mountains will vary, so if you have problems skiing in tough snow conditions, heli-skiing may not be suitable for you.

Heli-skiing places a large physical demand on the body. Therefore, you obviously need to be in great physical shape before you set out to heli-ski. Also make sure that you have given yourself a couple of days to adjust to the altitude before you heli-ski. Again, heli-skiing is demanding and challenging. The trails covered with untracked snow, there will be numerous obstacles, and tricky turns and suchto make. Make sure that you are physically able to handle the terrain before you set out.

Aside from specific skill requirements, there are other requirements associated with heli-skiing. The company operating the heli-skiing wont allow you to heli-ski if you dont meet those requirements. For instance, most will require that you have a ski buddy with you. You should also be given an avalanche transceiver. You will need suitable sub-zero clothing as well. Most companies wont allow you to carry a backpack, but you can bring a small fanny pack to carry some essentials in.

If you dont have a ski buddy, you should seek out heli-skiing groups. These are groups of people who want to heli-ski, and they are led by a guide. The groups may be very small, but there usually arent more than fifteen people in a group.

Heli-skiing is a day long event. You dont just ride in the helicopter to one trail, ski down it, and thats it. Once youve finished one trail, you go up in the helicopter again, and you are brought to a trail with more fresh, untracked snow. You may ski anywhere from five to ten trails in one day.

The best time for heli-skiing is in the Spring. This is due to the fact that the days are longer, which means you get more ski time in, and it isnt quite as cold out, which offers you better protection from hypothermia. The texture of the snow is also different in the Spring time, being more powdery than icy or wet.

The biggest risk of heli-skiing is avalanche. You must know avalanche safety procedures before you attempt heli-skiing. Most heli-skiing companies employ pilots and guides who are well trained in avalanche safety as well. If the company does not provide you with the avalanche transceiver, you might want to look for a different company. This is an important piece of equipment to have. It will enable rescue workers to locate you in the event of an avalanche.