The slopes are not colour-coded like in a resort, so you’ll have to discuss with your guide what level of steepness you’re comfortable with (please also note that powder skiing usually requires slightly steeper slopes as the snow is slower than pisted slopes). Off-piste descents are not monitored, controlled or maintained. To some this may seem like a disadvantage, but the flipside is that when slopes are left in their natural state, your skis or snowboard sink in, creating the rush of gliding over virgin, untouched snow. It’s the best kind of skiing and snowboarding there is.
To get the most out of your heliskiing day, we would suggest that you should be comfortable with skiing or snowboarding in powder snow and able to cope with a variety of snow conditions (see our “Packages Pages” for an ability level calculator). If you’ve never been in powder; we run heli preparation days with a Val Heliski guide or instructor. Alternatively, if you’re in resort, and it’s snowing, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to experience powder snow skiing or snowboarding. If you can master this, then all the other snow conditions are normally much easier. Over the course of the season, we often encounter the following snow conditions / terrain and advise you are competent on all types before heliskiing / boarding:
- Deep powder – the classic, cold, winter “champagne” snow (it shimmers in the cold air like champagne bubbles) that skiers and snowboarders love the most.
- Velvet spring snow – when conditions get warmer, untouched, smooth snow turns into lovely, spring snow. It’s slightly denser than powder, but just as fun to ski or snowboard through.
- Crust – this kind of snow forms on top of the powder, or spring snow. It can be amazingly good fun.
- Traverses – we often have to get from one side of the slope to the other, so we’d expect that all our snowboard and ski guests can safely traverse a slope without losing too much height.
- Steeps – very occasionally we might encounter a steeper slope than you’re perhaps used to skiing. We’ll help you down.
- Flats – some routes have flatter spots. But as you’re poling or one-footing across, take in the views – you’re alone with your group in a spectacularly wild part of the world. Enjoy it.
There are, of course, many more types of snow, and our guides can advise what your day is likely to encounter. But the rule of thumb is: if you can ski or snowboard on powder, you’ll be fine with everything else!
Look at our Ability Level Calculator below for a better idea of your off-piste ability level.