How To Dress For Heli-Skiing
Is it any different from dressing for a regular day of skiing or riding?
It can be. Yes.
Heli-skiing presents a few variables that are different from the standard frontcountry day.
Dressing smart can help you avoid overheating, getting chilled, bad visibility, and even transceiver interference.
Few Layers, Make ‘Em Count
The winning recipe for almost everyone is
TOP: a base layer, a mid layer, an optional puffy or light insulator and a shell.
BOTTOM: a base layer and shell pants (insulated or not, dealer’s choice).
Then add gloves, helmet, goggles, neck warmer if that’s your thing, and good quality non-bunching socks.
We recommend base and mid layers are merino wool or a synthetic, depending on your personal preference. You should know this already, but cotton is the WORST. Wool is warm when damp, synthetics wick moisture away from your body.
Bonus points for bib pants (great for deep conditions) full coverage pant cuffs, and shells with vents. Managing heat and moisture is the name of the game.
Other tips to keep in mind:
Keep Your Cool
Yep, you’ll be on mountain peaks in Canada in winter, so it’s no beach, but we see people getting too hot more often than we see them too cold.
You see, there’s no cold chair lift rides in the wind for 15 minutes, woohoo! Instead, it’s a few minutes in a warm helicopter and you’re back at it.
The adrenaline and the effort keep a lot of people pretty toasty. And if you get too warm too early, that turns into fogged-up goggles and sweat that will leave you chilled.
It’s not so much about dressing light, just having a plan for when you need to dump heat and manage moisture.
Vents are your friend. The all-powerful packable puffy layer. Don’t put all your layers under bib pants – dress to adjust. Few, high-quality layers. Count on being warmer than a day of the same temp on the lifts.
The only electronic device you truly need strapped to you in the backcountry is a beacon.
Your beacon doesn’t like competition. The more battery-powered technology you’ve got on you, the more likely it is you’ll create interference with that signal, a signal that needs to be clear and strong if it ever has to do its job.
The rule? Keep your chest area clear of gadgets, or turn them off if they’re nearby.
GoPros on top of head or in hand – not on chest.
Smartphones and cameras turned OFF when they’re in a pocket.
No Bluetooth. No electric vests. No headphones.
And for sure, take pictures, soak it up! But don’t forget where you are. Wild places deserve tons of respect. Beacon first.
Accessories make the outfit
Gloves should either have a gauntlet-style cuff or have a sleek opening that fits snugly inside your sleeve. The powder is really good at filling every opening otherwise. Mitts are great if you’re looking for extra warmth!
Good quality two-layer goggles will fight the fog, but it only works if you’re not overheating. See above.
Sunglasses work for late-winter sunny days, but we always want to prioritize clear vision for comfort and safety – choose accordingly.
But the most important thing about accessories when heli-skiing – hang on to them! Whenever you’re near the helicopter, everything needs to a tight package so it doesn’t blow away. Gloves on. Goggles on. Pockets zipped. Nothing loose, nothing to worry about.
Work the back-up stash
Can’t say it enough: a light, packable, insulating layer is a winner. It should be something you can take off once you’re warmed up, and stash in your pack. Then it’s ready to re-appear for a picnic lunch to keep that heat you’ve generated and be ready to get back at it.
Extra goggles are a light carry and can really save the day. If you happen to get closely acquainted with the snow (ahem, crash) and fill your goggles, having an extra pair is SO much better than struggling to see for the next lap. Swap ’em out and keep charging.
Are you the person who’s always got cold hands or feet? Pop warmer packs in your boots before take-off, and bring along extras for the hands.
Comfort makes for better style. Dress the part.
If you’re shopping, our guides love the pro gear from Helly Hansen.
Hopefully they still have some of those neon orange one-pieces Jeff has been wearing. You know you want one!
Or, wondering about the hard goods? Check out the right sticks or board for the backcountry with our Gear Guide for Deep Powder.
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