For skiers who take the sport—and the precious time they spend doing it—seriously, heli-skiing can be the ultimate worthwhile indulgence. You can forget about endless lift lines, “death cookies” and crowded slopes, focusing instead on the blissful task at hand: barreling down a vertical-drop Shangri-La of untouched snow.
While heli-skiing is not just reserved for the Bode Millers among us, the alpine backcountry is a long way from the bunny hill. So we checked in with a few experts at Helitrax, a reputable heli-skiing operation in Telluride, Colorado. Here are some of the things a first-timer—who, no matter what, must be an experienced skier—can expect when choppering up to powder paradise.
No surprise here, but it’s essential to be in excellent physical condition. “The best advice we can give to skiers before their first heli-skiing experience is to generally be in shape,” says Joe Shults, director of Helitrax. “If you’re active and in good shape when you finally go heli-skiing, you will enjoy the experience to its upmost.”
Each guest who flies with Helitrax receives a safety orientation and helicopter briefing the morning of their ski day. And all skiers are required to do a hands-on beacon search before they take off, should an avalanche occur. Finally, all skiers are equipped with avalanche airbag packs, transceiver beacons and plenty of food and water. But it’s the competency of the guides that matters most. “Our operation and staff have earned the reputation as one of the safest and most experienced helicopter skiing services in North America,” says Shults.
This winter has been one for the books—a perfect season for heli-skiing. Thanks to El Niño, the area around Telluride has been blessed with over 17 feet of snow thus far, with a lot more on the way. “If you love skiing, there’s one thing you have to treat yourself to and that’s a day of heli-skiing because it will be, I guarantee you, the best ski day you ever have in your life,” says Helifax guide Brian “Speed” Miller.
Ready to go? You’re in luck, thanks to the Hotel Telluride’s new “Master of the Mountain” package, which includes, among other perks, a day of guided heli-skiing and bespoke skis designed by Pete Wagner, the maestro of custom sticks. Guests of this four-day weekend stay in the luxury boutique hotel’s Mount Ajax Suite, receive a 90-minute custom spa treatment and tuck into a private five-course dinner with wine pairings.
“Helicopter skiing is exceptional on many different levels,” Shults explains. “What really wows guests is the pure beauty of the mountains. Being able to not only ski above tree line, but to fly over summits really lets you experience the mountains in an entirely exciting way.”
The bottom line? Don’t get pissed off—get off-piste.