Heliskiing, or cat-skiing (its less expensive cousin) operations can be found in many different countries around the world and we explore some of the very best places to participate in what’s without doubt, one of the most adventurous sports available on the planet.
James Orr has been running a Heliski operation for over 20 years, so he knows a thing or two about where to search out the best spots and he gives us his pick of his favourite locations across the globe.
1. Revelstoke, Canada
Revelstoke is really the home of heli and cat skiing and rightly so. Located in the central interior mountain range in British Columbia, the area benefits from a combination of heavy, coastal influenced snowfall and the cold interior air that sweeps down from the north. The vast amounts of terrain surrounding the town of Revelstoke provide a home for a variety of cat and Heliski operations in the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains. With a characterful mountain town as a base and a lift serviced resort area that competes with the very best North America has to offer, Revelstoke really is up there with one of the worlds number one destinations for adventure skiing.
2. Niseko, Japan
Located on the far north island of Japan (Hokkaido) is the town of Niseko, home to famous powder snow that just keeps on coming. Here, the focus is more on lift serviced off-piste skiing and ski touring, although cat and heli skiing is available too. The main reason for visiting this area is to experience the virtually bottomless powder snow that rolls in courtesy of Siberian winds blowing across the Sea of Japan. Here, during the winter months, it hardly stops snowing – the area gets on average, 15 metres of snowfall every winter. If you’re into skiing powder snow then it has to be a place right on the top of your list.
3. Alagna, Italy
Tucked away in the far north of the Italian Alps, Alagna is a traditional town at the foot of Monte Rosa, a collection of peaks that make up Western Europe’s second highest mountain. The region is known to powder skiing aficionados as one of the best spots in the continent for off-piste adventures. It’s also one of the few places in Europe where commercial Heliskiing is possible – and the vast terrain of the Monte Rosa provides an epic backdrop, long descents and fantastic conditions from December right through to May.
4. Valdez, Alaska
OK, so things are getting serious now – skiing in Alaska isn’t for the faint hearted. You need to be on your game to get the most out of the terrain that Alaska throws in your face. Steep slopes, massive lines and huge spines that descend into what appears like a bottomless pit of vertical. Since the early 1990’s when pioneers set up the first operations here, Alaska has become the choice destination for extreme skiers, Heliski addicts and movie makers. The Chugach range of mountains behind Valdez offers endless amounts of possibilities for steep and deep adventures, just leave your nerves in the lodge.
Once considered to be on the very fringes of the winter sports enthusiasts map, in recent years it’s become a more ‘must do’ destination. Iceland is well-known for its volcanoes, but close to the northern coastline, it’s possible to ski right the way down to the sea surrounded by spectacular scenery. Both ski touring and heli-skiing have grown in popularity towards the end of winter and well into the spring – on the edge of the Arctic Circle, the snow lasts well into May – it might not be the powder capital of the world, but for sheer uniqueness, Iceland offers an exciting adventure for experienced skiers.
Find all of these Heli-ski trips on the James Orr Heli-ski website.