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What is Heliskiing?

Only experienced skiers should try heliskiing.
Heliskiers are airlifted to remote locations by helicopter.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
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Helicopter skiing, abbreviated as heli skiing or heliskiing, is an exhilarating winter sport. Heliskiing is only recommended for advanced skiers, due to the greater technical and physical demands involved. Heliskiing involves taking a helicopter to a ski site, in order to reach trails which are not accessible by other means. Off trail skiing can be an exciting adventure, as skiers get to experience high quality snow in a pristine environment.

Heliskiing companies specialize in downhill skiing trips, providing skiers with transportation to the site and pickup at the other end, if necessary. Usually only small groups of skiers are taken up at a time for safety reasons, and skiers are also accompanied by a guide who is familiar with the terrain. Groups of four to 12 skiers are able to experience steep and sometimes dangerous ski routes on fresh powder snow. Slopes used for heliskiing are not groomed, with skiers undertaking the adventure at their own risk.

If you are considering a heliskiing trip, it is crucial that you honestly assess your skiing ability. If you are not an experienced skier, you should log some more time on the slopes before booking a heliskiing trip. At a minimum, you should be proficient at the most challenging routes, back country skiing, and following directions. You should also have some training in outdoor survival in case you become separated from the group.

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Heliskiing carries more risks than traditional skiing, particularly the risk of avalanche. The helicopter may disturb the snow pack and create a potential source of instability. In addition, although staff usually assess the snow on a regular basis, they may miss points of weakness in the snow which would be caught on normally groomed trails. Companies which offer heliskiing also have a staff to monitor weather conditions, and the staff dictates whether or not skiers are permitted to go out.

Because of the risk of avalanche, heliskiers must carry transceivers to use in case of emergency. A transceiver will broadcast the location of a lost skier to search and rescue crews. Some also include guiding lights to assist rescue crews at night. In most cases, a heliskiing company will provide transceivers along with other specialized equipment to ski clients in order to ensure their safety. In addition, some companies provide basic training in avalanche safety and rescue to their clients.

Heliskiing can be an exciting adventure for the experienced skier. By following basic safety precautions and the directions of tour leaders, heliskiers can return to the lodge at the end of the day with thrilling stories. Heliskiing is available all over the world, with many heliskiing trips offering an opportunity to see territory that would be otherwise inaccessible.

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