Wanna Fly & Ski? Just Heli Ski!
Heli Skiing Basics
Heli-skiing is off-trail, downhill skiing or snowboarding that is accessed by a helicopter, as opposed to a ski lift. It began in the late 50s or early 60s in Alaska: the skiers board the helicopter and are lifted off and carried to a landing zone on the mountain. The guide or helicopter crew members load the skis and poles into an exterior basket. Helicopters land at the top of runs; skiers do not jump from the helicopter. A safety concern of heli-skiing operators is the danger of avalanches hence they employ guides and pilots who are trained and experienced in evaluating snow conditions, snow stability, and risk management. Financial hazards include pre-paid ski days lost to un-flyable weather. However, this may be alleviated through the use of snowcat back-up thus guaranteeing skiing every day. Most of the tours and bookings are undertaken based on individual client requirements. Considered to be a Nirvana for skiers and snowboarders while they get intoxicated by the spectacular views during the ride up in the helicopter, and then reveling in complete euphoria of riding down the virgin powder, Heli skiing is absolutely the best high a powder hound can experience!
Why Europe ?
Europe is unquestionably the most delightful heliski destination; the only place which offers you the luxury to cross country borders of France, Switzerland and Italy on skis within just a week’s time. This makes it for a very unique travel experience for the ski lover. Although banned in France, Heli skiing in neighboring Switzerland and Italy have well established operative bases which are quick and easy to reach from most European cities. Europe provides diverse and magical cultural experiences to the modern day traveller and this gets further enhanced by the age old tradition and majesty of skiing in the Alps, and the festivity of many of the European alpine towns and villages. Distanced away from the sliced up runs at the Europe ski resorts and the elbowing that occurs in the lift lines during ski season when it seems like the whole of Europe descends on the Alps. But here you don’t have to pant for your powder, the views are breathtaking, and heli skiing guarantees line after line of virgin snow. It is a totally different experience to visit a ‘destination heli-ski lodge’ in the wilderness of the Alps. For a start, you will be based in or near a major ski resort – which obviously has its advantages such as access to good resort skiing or snowboarding – not an option if you are at a remote heli-ski lodge in some other part of the world. Plus, there is plenty of choice when it comes to bars, restaurants and getting to know more about the local culture and people.
General characteristics Heli Skiing in Europe
Considering the significant profile of skiing in Europe and high population density, there are surprisingly few European heliski operators; this could be attribuited to a highly controlled industry. As mentioned earlier, Heli Skiing is pretty much banned in France and also in Germany due to environmental and safety concerns. In many European countries the high degree of regulation includes the designation of specific helicopter landing sites. The limited number of these LZs contributes to the exclusivity of heli skiing in Europe. However, the charm of Europe is so captivating, that during these trips you might surprisingly find yourself knocking on the door of an inhabited monastery. You can heli-ski in Italy and Switzerland, where there are designated landing spots of which Switzerland has 48. If we look a little further north to Iceland and Sweden there are some thrilling experiences to be had such as heli skiing or heli boarding under the midnight sun with breathtaking ocean views. For those of us based in or close to Europe, the major advantages to heli-skiing here are the short journey times, the ability to experience heli-skiing as a short break and to combine it with skiing at a world class resort. In contrast to destination heli skiing with a weeklong trip where you stay in a remote backcountry lodge, most European heli skiing is based in a ski resort. The traditional European style heli skiing consists of just a single heli drop or perhaps two to three heli drops in one day. This provides the huge advantage of being able to combine heli skiing with resort skiing. You can stay with your family or friends, and also enjoy the famous European nightlife and excitement of the ski resort village.
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