Hey! What is heliskiing?
Chances are that you already know exactly what heli-skiing is, but, just in case, we have written a few lines for anyone who is only now finding out about this extreme form of skiing.
First and foremost, heli-skiing is a type of freeriding, i.e. skiing or snowboarding along untouched snow-covered mountainsides far away from the pre-prepared runs. The main difference between heli-skiing and other types of freeriding (classic freeriding, backcountry, snowcat skiing) is that a helicopter transports you to the top of the slope. Using a helicopter the freerider can reach such far-off and dizzying heights as would be impossible by any other means and which have, until now, seemed inaccessible. The chance to have a bird’s eye view of the world around you and to leave your footprints in a place where nobody has ever skied before: these are the main reasons why heli-skiing is becoming more and more popular with professionals and amateurs with every passing year.
The concepts of "heli-skiing" and "heli-boarding" stem from a combination of the words "helicopter" and "skiing/snowboarding". Heli-skiing emerged as a separate type of active holiday in Canada in the middle of the 1950s, a period of prosperity and glory for mountaineering, during which all the major European and Asian peaks were conquered. Thousands of skiers and climbers would set off to tackle the majestic Canadian Rockies every year, explaining why the experienced émigré Hans Gmoser’s idea to use a helicopter to take fans of freeriding to hard to reach peaks was instantly popular and successful. Several assembly hangars far away from civilization and a couple of helicopters: this is what the Canadian Mountain Holidays business started with. Today it is considered to be the world’s largest heliski package company.
In addition to Canada, which is considered the world’s skiing capital, this extreme type of freeriding is also popular in places as varied as Italy and Alaska, New Zealand and Switzerland, Chile and Argentina. The famous French guide and traveler Sylvan Sudan even tested the suitability of the Himalayan peaks for helicopter skiing. In some European countries such as Germany, Switzerland and France there are restrictions or prohibitions imposed on heli-skiing and advocated by conservationists, who believe that the helicopters harm nature and violate the peace of the Alpine peaks. However, skiing safety experts say the opposite and believe that heli-skiing makes a useful contribution to the development of mountain rescue services and increases the professionalism of the pilots. Extreme sports lovers from those countries with restrictions and prohibitions in place are frequent visitors to the Caucasus, where the most attractive areas for helicopter landings are the mountains in the Kazbegi region.
Thanks to the continuous development of heli-skiing as a separate branch of skiing, this type of active holiday is becoming increasingly popular among beginners and professional athletes. Improved infrastructure at those ski resorts which are directly adjacent to the off-piste skiing areas, improvements in ski safety through the use of modern search and rescue equipment, exploration of new descents and slopes, and an increasing number of specialized travel agents all combine with a host of other factors to attract extreme sports fans year in year out. Heli-skiing’s standout characteristics are the incredible freedom in movement and a free choice of route, because every time the helicopter takes you to a new and unexplored snow slope, the descent will be completely unlike the one before it. Last but not least, another important factor is that, provided you are accompanied by an experienced instructor, you do not need considerable snowboarding or skiing skills to enjoy the complete freedom and boundless joy of heli-skiing.