19May 2019

Q&A: Does Helicopter Size Matter?

Around the world, many different kinds of helicopters are used for heli-skiing. In BC, the most common aircraft used are the Bell 212, the Bell 205, the Bell 407, or the A-Star.

The 212 and 205 are classified as ‘mediums’, which means they can seat up to 11 people (in addition to the pilot and guide up front).

The 407 and A-Star are ‘small’ choppers, with room for 5 or 4 in the back, respectively.

As you might guess, mediums are typically used for programs where the group of heli-skiers is 10 or 11 people. Small-group heli-skiing is typically done via 407 or A-Star.

So, seems like we have a clear answer then, right?

Heli size matters because the smaller choppers mean smaller groups = better heli-skiing experience.

Well… maybe not.

It might be a pattern, but one that doesn’t always hold up.

Helicopter lifts off above heli-ski guide in BC

The revolution? You don’t have to max out capacity.

We fly with a 205 (a medium, capable of carrying 11) but we max out groups at SIX.

In our case, flying a small group in a larger machine allows for

  • High quality small-group experience with a guaranteed tail guide
  • More leg room (no ski boot Tetris or holding your breath to get seated, easier loading and unloading)
  • More fuel, more lifting power, which equals more skiing in more remote terrain
View from the front seat of a heli-skiing chopper
Because of the long-held association of mediums with large-group heli-skiing, sometimes people think the heli itself will limit the experience.

But that’s only representative of an industry habit, not the potential. What really matters is how many people are in flight and on the slope.


The bottom line

Group size matters most. The size of the helicopter doesn’t always tell you what kind or quality of heli-skiing package you’re looking at. Mediums, when not maxed out on weight, have all the same potential, speed and badass access as a small chopper.

For more on the small-group difference, this strange story really helps.





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Link to The Heli-Ski Pricing Guide