Heliskiing: Frequently Asked Questions
Going heliskiing is unbelievably good fun. It’s also something you’re likely to do as a real treat, so naturally you’ll have lots of questions. Please feel free to get in touch with us via our contact page, or on Facebook or Twitter if your query isn’t answered in our Heliskiing FAQ section below. We’d love to hear from you!
1. Isn’t heliskiing banned in France? Yes it is. But our heliski take-off zone is positioned on the French-Italian boarder as heliskiing is perfectly legal in Italy. It’s a mere 10-minutes helicopter ride from your French resort or a 40-minute journey in our chauffeur driven action van where we get you in the mood by playing heliski videos along the way!
2. What if the weather isn’t good enough? If our helicopter is unable to fly due to adverse weather conditions we’ll offer you an alternative or give you a full refund. You never pay for what you don’t do.
3. What if the snow isn’t good. Do I really want to invest the money if the conditions are not perfect? It is exactly at these times heliskiing is best value. Just like you book your ski holiday in advance and make the best of resort conditions, when heliskiing we are guaranteed to find the best possible snow conditions available to you. Our guides are often able to find untouched powder up to a month after the last snowfall, as we have the benefit of being able to choose from miles of untouched routes across an enormous area, with differing weather patterns throughout.
4. Do I have to be an expert skier or snowboarder? Not at all. We cater for all skier and snowboarder abilities and offer all types of terrain, from off-piste blue run heliskiing to extreme freeriding and cliff jumps. And our guides are great at listening to what you want, so please talk to them about what runs you love and they’ll be able to find your dream spot.
5. Is heliskiing dangerous? There are of course calculated risks when going off-piste, whether that is in a helicopter or not. However our experienced mountain guides, coupled with the best safety equipment and prior training, mean you can rest assured you are in the safest of hands.
6. How many people are in each helicopter? Val Heliski operates at a maximum ratio of four guests + one guide + one pilot in each heli.
7. I am an expert and one to come as a single, will I be put in a group with intermediates? We do our best to put skiers and snowboarders into groups of similar ability. There may be some occasions when the number of skiers requires that some intermediates to be grouped with skiers of advanced ability. Sometimes very early or late in the season we will have a group of varying stated ability levels. Should this occur, there are normally two guides with the group so the better skiers can go at a faster pace, or access different terrain with the same pick up point.
8. How long on average does each descent last? Between one and a half and two hours. Unlike many North American heliski operations our vertical descents are huge. Just imagine: two kilometres of vertical in perfect powder?
9. What areas do you ski? Valgrisenche, Col de Petit St Bernard, Mont Miravidi and the Courmayeur Valley. On many descents we ski back over the border and into France.
10. How many descents can I do in one day? We’ve never managed to do more than three descents in one day. The runs are just too long and good.
11. Do I have to jump out of the helicopter? Absolutely not. The helicopter will land on a safe and flat patch of snow so you can disembark easily. During your safety training we will review proper helicopter entry and exit procedures, and your guide will be responsible for loading and unloading all of the ski gear for each lift. It’s just like getting out of a car, you open the door, step out and that’s it: you’re at the top of the mountain.
12. What kind of terrain will I encounter, and will it be very steep? We guarantee fresh tracks and the guides try to select terrain suitable for each group’s abilities. Because our vertical drop is so large, we encounter most mountain environments, from perfect, high-alpine conditions, down through the weather and temperature bands to the tree runs. Depending on the weather and the snow conditions, and your own personal preference, our guides will find the perfect run for you. You won’t be taken down anything you’re not comfortable with. And of course, if you want steep terrain, our guides will be happy to take you there.
13. What about the risk of avalanche? There is always some level of avalanche danger in the mountains in winter. This danger level changes constantly with changing snow and weather conditions. The guides monitor snow and weather conditions on a daily basis. The current risk of avalanche is always considered by the guides when choosing the runs to ski.
14. What is the minimum age to do heliskiing? We take skiers and snowboarders from 14 years old. However, in some circumstances we allow for younger riders and skiers if agreed by the guides. We are more concerned with younger mountain users to be able to stay in the group and to take instruction from the guides, as well as their skiing or snowboarding ability. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.
15. What level of fitness do I need? Just like any active mountain holiday, you will enjoy the experience more if you are fitter. We recommend using our pre-holiday fitness instructor with courses designed to get you in the best possible shape for skiing.
16. How do I make a reservation? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or call us: +44 1329 339 621. To confirm booking you need to pay a deposit which is cost of the guide for every day booked. You pay for the heliskiing at the end of your day at one of our Val Heliski desks in resort.
17. Can I use my own gear? You are welcome to bring your own skis, snowboard, helipack, transceiver, shovel etc. And if there’s anything you don’t have, we’d be happy to supply you with all the necessary equipment to make your powder day as perfect as possible.
18. Can I bring a snowboard and ski and switch through the day? Unfortunately, there is not enough room in the helicopter ski basket to carry any extra skis or snowboards, so we have to insist that each skier or snowboarder has one set per person.
19. What should I wear? Is there any special gear I should take?
– Technical outerwear with room for several layers underneath is best for powder skiing and variable weather. We suggest you take a backpack, with a suitable layering top (fleece, or insulating mid layer) to change in or out of.
– Most guests wear helmets, and we encourage you to do so, but they are not mandatory. Helmets and ski wear are available in the Sport Shop where are Val Heliski desks are located.
– We supply shovel packs with a shovel, rope and probe but you may use your own small backpack to hold personal items.
– Please note that personal items cannot be left in the helicopter while skiing.
– Ski Republic Sport Shops are stocked with great ski gear – everything you would need for your trip, including skiing-specific socks, merino wool breathable base layers, down-filled outer layers, GoreTex shells, hats, mitts, goggles and more.
20. Do I need to my own specialist powder equipment? A selection of backcountry Salomon and Liberty skis are included in your package price. The knowledgeable and experienced Sport Shop staff will advise you when it comes time to making your selection and the equipment will be adjusted to accommodate your body size and ability. Equipment is tuned and waxed each day so you can get the most out of your days heliskiing. The Ski Republic shop also offers a selection of ski boots and snowboard boots; however, most guests prefer to bring their own.
21. Shall I bring food, drink and snacks? You are of course welcome to bring some snacks. Please note that we provide a Savoyarde-style picnic with gourmet, locally-s0urced cheeses and an assortment of cured meats (and a bottle of wine!) which our guides fashion in a suitable spot somewhere in your remote valley. In addition we recommend bringing lots of water, with a camelbak or similar water insertion into your backpack being a strong recommendation.
22. Why should I book with Val Heliski? We are a specialist off piste & heliski operator with years of experience dedicated to providing our clients with the most memorable experience of their life.
23. How do I find other people to share my helicopter? We organise weekly drinks parties every Monday evening (4.30pm-7.30pm) in Val d’Isere, Tignes, Meribel and Courchevel. This gives you the opportunity to meet other enthusiastic heliskiers and find suitable people to fill your helicopter. The Val Heliski staff members will also be present and will be delighted to answer any questions that you may have.
24. Can I hire the helicopter for myself? Absolutely! Hiring the full heli simply means you have to pay for the four seats.
25. What is reverse heliskiing? Reverse heliskiing – or the reverse heli – means getting “picked up” somewhere remote, instead of getting “dropped off” in a remote location (the ‘normal’ way of heliskiing). Typically, we use ski lifts to get to the top of some incredible terrain (we’re surrounded by six of the best resorts in the world, so there’s plenty of high-altitude lifts to choose from), then we ski or snowboard off away from the resort, and have the heli pick us up in a remote location, that otherwise would require some serious hiking or skinning to get back to civilization.
26. What is the max number of people you can take heliskiing? There is no limit. If you let us know your required amount of people in advance we can organsise it.
27. Can I get a heli transfer from my chalet? Yes. If you want to have the ultimate door to door experience, we’re happy to pick you up at the airport and take you to your chalet, or vice versa. Here’s a recent article in the Telegraph about our heli transfer services.
28. I am concerned that I will hold up the group. What should I do? Many people have this concern. Don’t worry, just come see a Val heliski staff member at our weekly drinks on a Monday evening and we will do our very best to put you with others of a similar ability. Our guides will examine your ability before you fly and will take you to terrain where you will not feel out of your depth.
29. What happens if I am ill? Our guides are trained in first aid and are equipped with a wide range of medical treatments. If you are so ill you can’t ski on we will call for a rescue helicopter to pick you up and take you to the nearest hospital.
30. Do I need insurance? Yes. This is necessary and you will need to show us on arrival of resort at our Val Heliski desks before being allowed to heliski.
31. Will the guides offer instruction on off piste technique? Our guides are trained instructors and are expert in off piste and powder technique so can give you incredibly useful one-to-one instruction.
32. Do women go heliskiing? Yes. We host women of all ages throughout our ski season – some in large groups, some with their partners, some single women looking for fresh powder, and many families. Most women underestimate their skills but once they heliski, they realize they can enjoy the backcountry. For those looking for some instruction and a confidence boost before heading out in the helicopter, we recommend booking yourself onto our 1 day heli ski preparation course.