8 questions to ask before booking a Heli-Ski trip
There are a lot of Heli-Skiing options out there, from Chile to Russia, Alaska to Nevada, but not all are created equal - so how do you know what’s the right Heli-Ski trip for you?
Since Canadian Mountain Holidays invented the sport of Heli-Skiing, we’ve pretty much answered every Heli-Ski question you can imagine. To get an idea of the most important questions that any skier or snowboarder should ask before booking a Heli-Ski trip, I spoke with Becky Champion at CMH Heli-Skiing Reservations.
Becky said, “At CMH Heli-Skiing we’re transparent about these kinds of things, but maybe not everyone else is...”
She then gave me this list of questions that you should ask any Heli-Ski operator before you book:
How do you charge for vertical?
- Some operators will have lower price tags, but then you'll usually ski less vertical or get less of some other part of the Heli-Ski package.
- Others offer “unlimited vertical”, but then limit their vertical in other ways, by "calling it a day" early, etc., or else by charging a high rate that covers a full day of helicotper time no matter how much you ski.
- Flying a helicopter is so expensive that "unlimited vertical" is not the fairest way to charge. At CMH Heli-Skiing we have a base charge for a set amount of vertical, and then charge extra above the guarantee. Many other reputable operators use this system, and it has proven to be the fairest way to charge for Heli-Skiing. When conditions are great, you can opt to ski more and pay more, but if you decide to take a day off, or if flying or skiing conditions are limiting the program, you’re not paying for “unlimited vertical” when you're not skiing.
How much vertical do you end up skiing on average? A lot can be learned here. One-day Heli-Skiing is often squeezed by the safety practice, equipment setup and other things, so the best value is often a multi-day trip.
What’s included and what’s not included? For comparison, CMH Heli-Skiing includes:
- Radio for each guest
- Avalanche rescue equipment (shovel, probe, transceiver)
- Excellent food
- Comfortable lodging
- Skis and poles
- Snowboards (limited availability and style - please call to reserve)
- Transportation to and from Calgary for most trips
Am I a good enough skier?
All Heli-Skiing requires a solid intermediate-level resort ability, but some areas are better suited for first timers. Just ask and be honest with your abilities. Typically, many women tend to underestimate their abilities while many men tend to overestimate their abilities.
What kind of terrain do you ski?
Some areas, like those in Alaska, only ski above treeline and are unable to ski during storms but are famous for steep skiing in the springtime. Other areas, like CMH Heli-Skiing and other areas in BC, are most famous for deep powder skiing in both the alpine and in the trees from December through April.
What kind of equipment and clothing is needed?
CMH Heli-Skiing has comprehensive Heli-Skiing equipment suggestions online. While our equipment suggestions are optimized for deep powder Heli-Skiing, these pages contain valuable information no matter what kind of skiing you’re planning to do.
What is the cancellation policy?
Hopefully, you’ll never have to cancel a Heli-Ski trip, but impossible weather or your own schedule complications do arise, so it’s good to know what will happen if you cancel as well as what happens if your operator cancels your trip.
Becky concluded with the biggest question: What will the weather be like? And then answered with a laugh, “If we could predict the weather, we’d be charging a heck of a lot more!”
While knowing for sure what the weather will be like is impossible, there are weather and conditions tendencies within each area and Heli-Ski region during a particular time or season. Your operator should be able to give you at least an approximate idea of what kind of skiing conditions are possible in their area during a particular time of the year.
The CMH Heli-Skiing Reservations agents are a wealth of information, and with the widest range of Heli-Ski options on the planet, our agents work magic when it comes to matching skiers and snowboarders with the right Heli-Ski trip for their tastes, abilities, time and budget. Give ‘em a call at 1-(800) 661-0252.
Photo of CMH Gothics by Topher Donahue.