24October 2017

Take the Quiz: Are you heli-ski ready?

Have you dreamed of going heli-skiing a hundred (or a thousand) times, but aren’t sure if it’s right for you?

You’re not alone – until you get out there, it can be hard to know what to expect. Many people are worried they’re not strong enough. Sometimes that concern is well founded, but often it’s based around the idea that heli-skiing is only for pro skiers and riders. Not so.

The impression ski movies can create is that heli-skiing is nothing but super steep lines in risky, you-fall-you-die environments. While that’s really fun to watch, it’s not representative of commercial heli-ski trips by and large. There’s plenty to be enjoyed by the hardcore and strong intermediate alike – pristine powder, vast, empty terrain, long runs of high alpine and deep trees.

Heli-ski guests and guides celebrate with excitement for the camera at the top of a heli-ski run in the winter backcountry

And because we can customize each group to best match pace and ability, that means not everyone who comes on board needs to be at exactly the same level. You just need to fall into the appropriate range.

What does that range look like? Answering these questions honestly will help you make sure you’re ready to have the best day on snow ever. And by ‘honestly’ we mean try not to overestimate where you’re at: the truth comes out on the mountain either way. This guideline is set to help you have THE MOST FUN, not to exclude. If it’s all a struggle, you won’t enjoy yourself, and it’s definitely no fun having to sit out.

Header image for heli-ski ability quiz; are you good enough to heli-ski?

How I feel about blue (intermediate) runs:

  • That’s my zone! Greens and blues all the way. I like my slopes mellow and groomed. No need to go fast. (Keep training, but not yet heli-ski level)
  • I enjoy the blue runs consistently and make parallel turns as I stay in control down the fall line. I spend most my time on the blues. (Not quite there.)
  • I get a lot of days in per season, and the blue runs are easy. Old news. No problema. (Yes. Minimum requirement.)

How I feel about black (advanced) runs:

  • I attempt black runs only when they’re groomed and in the best possible conditions. Even then, my style suffers. (Keep training, but not yet heli-ski level)
  • I enjoy the challenge of black runs in good conditions, but it’s occasional terrain for me, not consistent. (Yes. Minimum requirement.)
  • I enjoy black runs consistently and without hesitation unless the conditions are truly heinous – as in, nothing but icy bumps. (Yes. Do not pass go. Go directly to the chopper.) 

How I feel about double black (expert) runs:

  • Never been there. No thanks. (Keep training, but not yet heli-ski level)
  • Tried it. It wasn’t pretty. Got some work to do to manage that level. (Minimum requirement, as long as blacks can be done with success.)
  • I can get down double black runs in control when the conditions are right, but without a lot of style. (Yes. Get on board with ya!)
  • Game on! I often hit the double blacks and love every steep minute of it. (Yes. Directly to chopper.)

The following describes my off-piste powder experience:

  • I have zero experience with snow that’s deep enough to hide my skis or board. (You will be challenged, but it’ll be great as long as you’re solid on your blacks.)
  • I have had some experience with different snow conditions and deeper soft snow, and it went reasonably well. (Yes. Let’s get you in nothing but pow!)
  • I am a certifiable powder lover! I seek it out whenever possible and lay down turns without hesitation. (Yes. Do not pass go. Directly to chopper.)

The following describes my tree skiing or riding experience:

  • I have never ventured into the trees and have no intention of doing so! I only like open slopes. (Pause. Heli-skiing usually involves trees. Gotta be willing.)
  • I haven’t tried tree skiing before, but I’m up for the challenge! (Yes. Get your tree buddy and go!)
  • I have some or a lot of experience with tree skiing, and know how good the conditions can be in the glades. Can’t wait. (Yes. Directly to chopper.)

The following describes my skiing/riding fitness:

  • My fitness is not where I’d like it to be, and I’m pretty tired after a full day of skiing or riding. Falling in the powder would definitely make me sweat. (Compensate with either expert skill foundation or some training to up your level.)
  • I’m no marathoner, but I’m fit enough on my gear to ski/ride multiple days without breaking down. (Yes. Let’s go.)
  • I’m in fine skiing shape, but I have an old injury to watch out for that can shut me down if aggravated the wrong way. (Make sure you’re on the upper ability end so you’re not overly challenged by the conditions and likely to re-injure yourself.)

The following describes the time spent on my gear each winter:

  • I only get time for a handful of days each winter, and won’t have many days prior to my heli-ski trip. (Okay if you’re an expert; otherwise, pause and plan some training days.)
  • I get many days in each season, and will have had plenty of warm-up days before going heli-skiing. (Perfect-o. Load up!)

A snowboarder creates a rooster tail of powder snow behind as they speed down a mountainous slope

You may also answer YES to the following:

I am okay with:

  • ZERO lift lines
  • Untracked champagne powder
  • Flying around in a helicopter like a badass
  • Sharing 2,000 square kilometres with only a handful of other skiers and riders
  • Having a one-of-a-kind backcountry adventure in a stoked-on-life atmosphere


Heli-ski ready and ready to heli-ski?
Or just want to chat about the grey areas and get some honest advice? Get in touch (via phone, email or online chat) anytime – we’d love to help.



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