29July 2019

Q&A: Why is there so much tree skiing in BC?

The Interior of B.C. is famous for those dreamy, deep tree lines. It’s a big part of the backcountry ski culture here, and heli-skiers in B.C. will hit the glades more often than almost any other destination in the world. (Can’t forget Japan, hence ‘almost’)


heli ski guide charges through deep turns in bc glades



Compared to the coast ranges of B.C. or Alaska, or the Rockies in Colorado, or the Alps in Europe, our treeline (where the alpine naturally ends and the trees begin) sits at a higher elevation.

That means a greater proportion of our fall line is bands of trees – rather than, say, 50% alpine slopes before you hit trees.

In other places, the forest might grow super tight (much less skiable), or the trees are off-limits to the crowds of skiers (the Alps), or sometimes there’s no trees at all (ahem, Iceland).

Interior B.C. is mostly wilderness, where the few skiers and snowboarders are vastly outnumbered by one feature: you guessed it, TREES.


Heli ski guide charges through waist deep powder in the bc backcountry


It helps heli-skiing happen

No visibility = no heli-skiing.

That’s how 99% of weather days happen.

Trees = better visibility. For both the pilot and the skiers.

If you’ve only got alpine terrain to work with, a low-cloud or grey day means you’re looking at nothing but white on white. Your pilot needs visual reference to do their job safely, and skiing in the milk bowl is downright nauseating.

That’s why places like Alaska and Iceland have more down days.

Having tree lines to go hit means a day that might otherwise be cancelled is a GO. If you’ve got trees, you don’t need perfect weather – you just need workable weather.

The grey skies above will be an afterthought while you’re floating deep turns through the glades.


Skier jumps into steep turn in deep trees


It’s there

As in, that’s the only reason you should need. Tree skiing in pow is just So. Damn. Good.

For those not fully convinced, or yet to have the experience, the learning curve can feel sharp, but you can get the hang of it faster than you think if you remember this:

Don’t look at the trees.

Really. If you take that advice seriously, you’ll be set.

Most of us are used to dodging other people at the resort all day. And they’re always moving, pretty unpredictably at times!

Tree don’t move. You move. (Claire found this hilarious sign in Japan, getting right to the point.)


Keep your eyes on the openings and your body will follow.

You’ll get out there when they’d otherwise be playing cards in Alaska, and you’ll enjoy playful, varied, exciting terrain – where you can find some of the deepest turns of your life.


Just before the opening of last season we got some AMAZING shots of those deep tree turns. Check it out.





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Link to quiz Are You Heli-Ski Ready