Skiing has been an ancient practice among Scandinavians, and in China, more than a hundred thousand years old painting was found that hinted towards skiing. It is, by all means, an ancient human activity that was later incorporated as a sport in the mid-nineteenth century. Skiing debuted in the 1936 Summer Olympics at Garmisch.
There are many ways to access high-altitude mountain tops for skiing, including helicopters, snowcats, hiking, and snowmobile. After becoming an international sport, skiing is now popular in almost all countries that have some form of snow. Even though ski lifts are more popular, many people choose to go uphill or access backcountry areas by helicopter.
Hans Gmoser was an Austrian responsible for forming the Canadian Mountain Holidays Company, or CMH for short. This business helped a lot of skiers and hikers on mountain tours. The idea of skiing from a helicopter was presented by one of the skiers, and in 1965 for the first time, a helicopter was used to access a remote area for skiing.
This idea led CMH to build lodges in those areas for guests seeking a new mountaineering experience. Time passed, and now CMH is the world’s largest heli-skiing company.
Who Can Do Heli-Skiing?
Like all sports, skiing also requires experience and practice. Heli-skiing is not meant for first-time skiers, but that doesn’t mean one needs a medal in the Olympics to jump out of the helicopter and slide down the terrain.
Before getting adequate experience in heli-skiing, one must be ski fit. With a helicopter pushing the skier up and a ski pushing them down the mountain, they must have the required stamina to get the best out of the activity. A flexible body by which one can easily roam around the snow and control their ski against the immense wind pressure.
The basic knowledge a skier needs is to be familiar with their equipment and controlling their posture. Practicing balancing the ski on snow and learning to move around on a slope is a great start. Moving on a slope and learning to take turns while using the poles is good for beginner practice.
Managing their posture is important for skiers to adjust their body weight on the slope and avoid tripping. The ski automatically slides downhill, so knowing how to stop without falling plays an important part in skiing.
Coaching for Heli-Skiing
There is always an option of learning heli-skiing from an expert. It is not all that different from normal skiing except for the fall or the hazard of skiing in a remote area. If you are paying for a helicopter, you will most likely pick someplace with powder snow that is out of reach of common snowmobiles.
When deciding a location for skiing, you will most likely go on group skiing; almost all companies that provide helicopters for skiing have an associated coaching class for novice skiers. The coach will help you get over your weak points and also suggest tips for picking a location. Generally, a supervisor with you on the helicopter will guide you on how to jump properly from the helicopter on the snow without getting a haircut.
How Is It Done?
One of the worst things you can do on heli-skiing is to come unprepared, whether it’s mentally or physically. If it is your first ski of the season, make sure you warm up first on smaller slopes. In heli-skiing, you generally rent a room near the helicopter service providers for skiing if you want to ski for multiple days. They provide you with the basic residential necessities.
When skiing day finally comes, you should get your equipment ready and prepare to fly. It can be a solo mission or with a group. However, it is always safer to be in large numbers if you avoid crashing into each other. There will be a supervisor with you who will tell you how to jump from the helicopter safely. Keep in mind your skiing direction and try to land as close to the helipad as you can for the second round to avoid exhaustion while walking.
Equipment for Heli-Skiing
Heli-skiing is not a new or modern sport; it has existed for decades, so all kinds of equipment are available to help ski downhill easily. Skiers need to glide down properly while adjusting their direction; to stop, they need strong equipment that will not break upon contacting snow at high speeds.
Skiers use various types of skis, such as racing skis, snowblades, freestyle skis, mountain skis, or powder skis. To handle the powder snow on their ride, they might grab wider skis like powder skis which will save them from sinking into the fresh deep snow.
Ski poles are used for balance, accuracy, rhythm, and timing of movements while skiing. A skier generally can decide various poles of different materials and shapes depending on their taste. Skiing in the backcountry doesn’t require any deluxe racing skis.
Like all sports, skiing has its special clothing. A skier needs thick layered clothes for the cold, including gloves, jacket, pants and, neck heater. For safety, they wear goggles and a helmet; even though the snow is soft, it can cause bruises at high speeds. Faulty equipment is not a good choice for such a risky sport.
Best Locations for Heli-Skiing
Alaska is a world-renowned place for skiing as many skiing movies are based in the Alaska Chugach range and Tordrillo. Other countries like Bella Coola in British Columbia, Mica in Revelstoke, Zermatt in Switzerland, Hokkaido in Japan, the Southern Alps in New Zealand, Himachal Pradesh in India, and Kamchatka in Russia are well-known spots for heli-skiing.
In these spots, there are built lodges for the residence of skiers and other services, including ski shops, helicopters, ski lifts, etc.
Is Heli-Skiing Dangerous?
After being banned in Germany and France, one might consider the hazards of this thrilling sport. In France, it was banned due to noise pollution and received very few tourists relatively. In Europe, various groups are trying to restrict heli-skiing, like in Switzerland Worldwide Fund for Nature handed a petition of 15,000 signatures to the Swiss government to ban heli-skiing. But despite these efforts, heli-skiing is allowed in most of Europe.
Heli-skiers have always held positive views about the sport despite the risks. CMH gave the statistics that only 32 skiers died among the 106,000 skiers they enrolled. Overall, 40 people die per year by extreme skiing, which is lesser than the 49 people that lightning kills per year in the USA; this fact is not to undermine the risk of this sport but to lower the unnecessary criticism.
Heli-Skiing is a Fun Sport
The excitement and thrill hidden in this sport are undeniable. The thin air, high altitude flight in a remote area is, without a doubt, adventurous. Skiers enjoy this sport as a recreational activity as well as a touring sport. Tourists from all over the world come to these snowy mountains just to enjoy sliding down the mountain.
For a sportsman, heli-skiing is a convenient method to hone his skills as a competitive ski racer or snowboarder. Everyone else who does this activity casually enjoys going up the hill by helicopter and skiing their way to the bottom. It is undoubtedly one of the best winter sports in the world.