VHS BLOG

Our Client Base

We service many of the Tarentaise and Three Valleys’ high-end chalets such as Consensio, Scott Dunn, Le Chardon Val d’Isère and Fish and Pips.

Equally, many of our clients are staying in the Tarentaise or Three Valleys in apartments, hotels or package-holiday chalets. Money is not the common factor amongst our guests, it is their shared love of getting out into the backcountry.

We also have many families of varying ski abilities – at least half of our clients have never been heliskiing before.

We love hosting corporate trips – During the 2013 winter we looked after Bentley, who made a great film about their stay.

Often, we’ll have groups of adrenalin seeking heliskiers – and for experienced backcountry folk looking to push themselves that little bit further, our guides (including French international skier Marc Ottoban) can easily help you find more extreme terrain.

We look after skiers and snowboarders equally – gone are the old animosities. Though we do sometimes group people together based on their shared desires, and sometimes skiers and snowboarders wish to access different terrain.

Heliskiing is for men and women, and we’ve looked after skiers and snowboarders ranging from age 14 up to 75.


Team Val Heliski

Owners:

Claire Jeffery:
Claire is a trained solicitor with over seven snowboard seasons under her belt. She was a Canadian snowboard instructor and Option NFA sponsored rider. Her love for heli boarding enthused her to make the sport more mainstream, and accessible to ski resort holiday enthusiasts not wanting to spend the time and money on long haul flights to the typical heliski holiday in Canada. In 2009, Claire took the decision to live the dream and started Val Heliski. Run by their 3A’s code of Accessibility, Ability, and Affordability, Val Heliski have captured the Canadian experience and brought the same level of service to France: now offering an all-inclusive door-to-door package, allowing their clients to sit back and enjoy a stress free experience.

claire

Tom Jeffery:
Tom is a Canadian ski instructor and chartered surveyor who utilised both his talents to win the European property ski championships in 2009. He met Claire whilst doing a ski season in Banff, Canada. Ten years on, now married and living part-time in Tignes, their passion for heliskiing is undiminished. Their business continues to grow from strength to strength as they believe their fundamental passion for providing an honest, good service keeps their clients coming back year after year.

tom
Operations Manager:

Jordan Tiernan:

Jordan is our Operations Manager. He has skied around the world, in resorts such as Chamonix, Zermatt and Revelstoke. He’s particularly at home skiing steep backcountry couloirs on his local mountain Ben Nevis. Having worked in the snowsports industry for eight years as a Ski Instructor and Ski Patroller and his current role at Val Heliski, he has written a dissertation on avalanche education and developed his own mountain weather website which brings together the climbing and skiing conditions of the mountain regions. He has the ability to design, develop and market our fantastic Heliski experiences, ensuring that your heliski trip runs as smoothly and safely as possible. Whilst you are in resort Jordan uses his knowledge of the Tignes / Val-d’Isère backcountry terrain & our Italian drop-zones to find you the best spots to ski based on the conditions during your stay, and his in-depth avalanche safety knowledge will ensure that you are always in the surest hands.

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Accounts manager:

Mark: (London Office)

Mark is a very likeable person with an extremely bubbly personality. Combining this with his attention to detail and his skills as a financial controller makes him a huge asset to our company. Mark has had an extremely diverse career starting off as a pilot with British Airways and then becoming a maths and engineering teacher. He also works as a commodity trader and is doing this in tandem with managing the accounts at Val Heliski.

marklee

 

Contracted PR and marketing:

All conditions Media – Chris Moran:

PR and marketing services for the action sports and adventure travel industries. Having being out there since 1989 they have years of experience and expertise.


Why We Are Unique

The Backcountry Specialist – We are not a ski school but independent Backcountry Specialists – a dedicated off piste and heli operator and hence this is our area of expertise.

A corporate attitude to business – We take heliskiing and backcountry very seriously! The company’s founders are both from a corporate background and believe in providing the same full and efficient service their corporate clients expected from them back in London. Embracing the international element of the product and location by using French and English VHS ground staff, local Italian guides / pilots and French ski instructors.

Val Heli Lodge – We have our own VHS private heli landing zone outside of our VHS Heli Lodge in France (between La Rosiere and St Foy ski resorts) to allow us to access the deepest backcountry easily as well as helicopter out of dead ends back to our landing zone, allowing us access to so much more terrain than is available if you needed to ski back to a road in France to get home (not to mention how crowded those runs get). It also creates a Canadian Heli Lodge style experience unique in France.

Products unique to VHS – Many of our products are totally unique to VHS including our multi resort reverse heliskiing in France, our heli scenic tours with guided (piste and off piste) ski home and we are currently the only operator offering such a large choice of heliski areas meaning we are best placed to find powder.

Nothing left for you to do – We provide an all inclusive door-to-door service so there is no need to organise lift passes, taxis, lunches, etc. The only thing you need to think about is the heliskiing. All groups are provided with Go Pro video cameras and given chance to invite friends and family to our après ski bar to see the footage of your day on the big screen at the end of your day.

Safety – We have the upmost consideration for your safety and do the following to ensure this:

  • Only use the most experienced UIAGM guides (they have all grown up in the area so are experts in the local surroundings)
  • Only the most sophisticated safety equipment is used
  • We dedicate 30 minutes to avalanche training, including transceiver use at the beginning of your Heliski day
  • Our helicopters are chosen for their fantastic manoeuvrability and safety record in the mountains
  • Our heli preparation course includes extra training in using the safety equipment as well as technique pointers

Glossary

Here are some commonly used words / phrases that you may not’ve come across:

  • Heli pick-up – When a helicopter collects you, be it from a remote, backcountry location or a helipad
  • Heli drop-zone – An area where the helicopter lands to allow you to start a descent. This is usually on a summit on a wide, flat area of snow
  • Heli take-off zone – We have three take-off zones just inside the Italian border. These are private helipads where the heliskiing days begin from, if you’re not utilising a heli-transfer from your home resort
  • Heli transfer – Transport, in a helicopter, from one destination to another. We offer helicopter-transfers from your home resort to the heli drop-zone to save valuable time and energy
  • Backcountry – Area of a ski resort that is un-pisted and un-marked. There’s a variety of terrain and snow conditions in these areas
  • Reverse Heliskiing – Using a resort’s ski lifts, and hiking, to ski / snowboard to terrain otherwise inaccessible without a helicopter. From that point a helicopter will pick you up and take you back to resort. Reverse Heliskiing is totally legal in France so accessible from your doorstep
  • Backcountry Experiences – Packages we offer, without a helicopter element, that allow you to explore the backcountry of multiple resorts in the Tarentiase area, lead by a guide or instructor
  • VHS Ski Test Centre – We’ve teamed up with Salomon and Liberty skis to bring you our Val Heliski powder ski test centre. The perfect way to experience powder skis, if you do not have your own. Available on all our packages
  • ABS pack – A backpack with inflatable airbags inside, activated by a pull-cord, used to keep you at the surface of an avalanche
  • Transceiver – A device that transmits and detects a certain radio frequency, used for finding people buried under snow
  • UIAGM Mountain Guide – International Federation Of Mountain Guide Assisstants, known as it’s French (UIAGM) and english (IFMGA) abbreviations. We use highly-experienced, local Italian UIAGM guides for our heliskiing packages
  • The Tarentaise – A valley in the heart of the French Alps that encompasses all of the resorts we operate in including; Espace Killy, Paradiski, Three Valleys, Ste Foy, La Rosiere and more
  • Couloirs – French word meaning “passage” it is a steep, narrow gully that’s exhilarating to ski or snowboard down
  • 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.

 


Is Heliskiing For You?

Want to decide if heliskiing is for you? Do you like the following…

  • Guaranteed fresh tracks?
  • Getting away from crowded pistes and skiing or snowboarding on pristine, virgin powder?
  • Not standing in long lift queues?
  • Cruising along in the stunning, untouched Alps where there’s a high chance of spotting Marmots, Ibexes, the Royal Eagle, Black Grouse, the Great Horned Owl, the Tridactyl Woodpecker, the Blue Thistle, Linnaea Borealis or Snow Foxes, Snow Hares, the Piedmont Primrose, and even Chamois?
  • Having the chance to photograph the backcountry scenery: mountains as they’ve looked for millions of years?
  • Riding in a helicopter over untouched valleys, cliffs, forests and mountain tops much like the opening credits of the BBC’s Planet Earth?
  • Experiencing the best snow of your life with some of the most fun guides operating in the mountains?
  • Having a picnic consisting of locally-sourced cheeses, breads, meats and wines, in the middle of valleys that turn into cow pastures in the summer?
  • Sharing the day with like-minded skiers and snowboarders all intent on getting fresh tracks and having fun?
  • Finishing the day with a mini celebration, and getting ready to carry on in one of the nearby world-class ski resorts?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to most of the above, you’re ready to come heliskiing with us at Val Heliski. If you answered ‘no’, then you should come anyway and we’ll try and change your mind! The cheese selection is out-of-this-world.


Reasons To Heliski With Us

  • We have 32 drop zones spread over three independent heliski areas, all within easy access from France – giving us huge choice of terrain, snow conditions and mountain orientation.
  • Only use local Italian UIAGM Mountain Guides (they have all grown up in the area so are experts in the local surroundings) for heliskiing.
  • Only the most sophisticated safety equipment is used (ABS airbags, Ortovox transceivers, and Haglofs backpacks).
  • We dedicate 30 minutes to avalanche training, including transceiver use.
  • Our helicopters are chosen for their fantastic manoeuvrability and safety record in the mountains (AS 359 B3 Squirrel, AS355 N Eurocopter, AW 119 Koala).
  • Our heli preparation course includes extra training in using the safety equipment.
  • We have a corporate background and a lot of experience in the area, resulting in a streamline experience/product/service.
  • We encourage heli transfers at the end of your final descent back into France to avoid the overcrowded run back to France.
  • We provide an all inclusive door to door service so there is no need to organise lift passes, taxis, lunches, etc. The only thing you need to think about is the heliskiing.
  • You don’t pay for any heliskiing you don’t get to do due to adverse weather conditions.
  • All clients are provided with Go Pro video cameras and given chance to invite friends and family to our après ski bar to see the footage of your day on the big screen.
  • We are in the process of building our own Val Heliski Lodges to get France’s only Canadian-style heli lodge experience.

What Off-Piste Skiing and Snowboarding Entails

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.

Ability indicator

Anyone can do it

It’s true that its not the cheapest day out you’ll ever go on, but from €299 per person for one drop (with some of our packages starting at as little as €99 per person) it’s an unforgettable day in a stunning, empty mountain location. It transports you back to a time when skiing was in its infancy, and you’ll be able to effortlessly glide through incredible snow. We believe that the price is within many skier and snowboarder’s means, and we see our heliskiing days as a fantastic rare treat. A day that you’ll always remember.

If you’re worried that you’ll slow up the group, or you’ll be unable to keep up with the pace, then please rest assured that our guides will tailor the day to your preference: it’s not a race to the bottom, it’s all about having fun in a beautiful environment. So whether you want to ski the easier terrains or do the more extreme routes, we’ve got every kind of skiing and snowboarding on our doorstep.

Lastly, many people still believe that heliskiing involves jumping out of a helicopter. We promise you, it doesn’t. Getting into and out of the helicopter is no more difficult than getting in and out of a large, family car. You won’t have to jump anywhere, you’ll simply be stepping out of this beautiful, wondrous machine; onto a wide, flat area near the summit of a perfectly-skiable mountain slope. Please read our FAQ page for more info, or have a look at our videos to see how this works in action


What a Typical Heliski Day Looks Like

Once you arrive in resort come and find a VHS staff member in the following Precision Ski / Skimium shops to confirm your weather window for your activity and sign a release of liability waiver; confirm you have adequate travel insurance and read our terms and conditions online, in-store:

  • Precision Ski, Val d’Isere – Gare Routiere, Centre Vilage, CC Iseran 2000. +33 (0)4 58 00 11 99. VHS desk manned between: Sat PM 1400 – 1930. Sun AM 0830 – 1930. Mon AM 0830 – 1230 and PM 1530 – 1800.
  • Precision Ski, Tignes – Val Claret, Les Platieres. +33 (0)4 79  06 31 89. VHS desk manned between: Sat PM 1400 – 1930. Sun AM 0830-1930. Mon AM 0830 – 1300 and PM 1430 – 1800.
  • Precision Ski, Courchevel – Courchevel 1650 Grande Roue. +33 (0)4 79 01 09 43. VHS desk manned between Sat PM 1400 – 1930. Sun AM 0830-1930. Mon AM 0830 – 1230 and PM 1600 – 1800.
  • Meribel – contact one of our VHS team on +33 (0)6 45 48 08 59 to arrange a chalet visit.

We will be on hand to answer any questions over the phone and in person and will be able to explain a more detailed plan of your day considering the snow conditions and your group preferences.

If you haven’t done already you will be given another opportunity to purchase the following optional extras (subject to availability – hence we recommend booking these in advance):

  • Extra heli drops, guided days and tuition.
  • Guided days with a UIAGM mountain guide or instructor.
  • Ski and snowboard tuition.
  • Heliski preparation half and full day.
  • Helicopter transfers.
  • Specialist off piste Salomon / Liberty powder skis and powder snowboards (why not take a powder board up instead of your regular snowboard, or use our wider powder skis?).
  • ABS backpacks (please see our blog for regular chat about which avalanche equipment we believe works well).
  • A Val Heliski branded memory stick with edited Go Pro footage of your heliski day!
  • Val Heliski branded ski clothing (check out our Val Heliski Ski Shop).
  • A pre-heli day wax & edge of your skis or board.
  • Lunch at our Wilderness Yurt – a stunning mountainside location overlooking a national park – catered using local produce and Tarentaise specialities. It’s the perfect end to an energetic day in the deep snow.
  • A packed lunch.

Then, on the morning of your day’s heliskiing, this is what will happen…

7am: (if based in 3 Valleys or Paradiski): Your VHS staff member will meet you at your chalet and assist you onto the VHS minibus/ helicopter or advise you if you are in your own car, to the heli take off zone on the French / Italian border. 

7.45am: (if based in Val d’Isère, Tignes, Sainte Foy): Your VHS staff member will meet you at your chalet and assist you onto the VHS minibus/ helicopter or advise you if you are in your own car, to the heli take off zone on the French / Italian border.

Your VHS team will get you kitted up with a backpack, avalanche tranceiver, shovel and probe (as your basic safety kit included in all package prices), show you how to use it, give a search and rescue exercise for kit familiarisation and then usher you to meet your UIAGM mountain guide for a safety briefing and ability assessment / warm up ski / snowboard. 

Then you’ll fly out to your designated drop zone, you’ll calmly step out of the heli (it’s just like getting into and out of a car), the heli will take off and your group will suddenly find itself at the top of a stunning, remote mountain! The only thing left to do is to ski or snowboard down it, following your guide as they show you the best lines and untracked snow. Our descents last between 1-2 hours of ski or snowboard time and are up to 2500 vertical meters of descent.  

Afternoon:

Depending on your route (which you’ll discuss with your guide), you’ll either ski or snowboard to a pick up point, where the helicopter will pick you up (again, it’s like getting into a car), drop you off for more heliskiing (if your package dictates) and then it’ll bring you back to France to either our Yurt – where you can enjoy a selection of locally-produced dishes – our private helipad or your resort heliport. Alternatively, for some routes it’s possible for your guide to get you back to France on skis or a snowboard, and they’ll radio ahead so we can come and collect you from a designated pick up area by minibus. This often works well in deepest winter when the snow allows us to ski and snowboard way down to the valley floor. Regardless, decide on your transfer options when you book the package and we will work out the best descents to suit.

There’s also the option of using your mountain guide for any time left in the afternoon for off piste around La Rosiere resort before your VHS Staff member meets you and ushers you back to your transport home (the lifts close at 4pm December and January, 4:30pm February, and 5pm March and April).

4.30pm – 6pm: Après ski party – Your VHS team will escort you to our après ski drinks in your local resort for a drink on us and a viewing of your day on the big screen. It’s the perfect chance to invite friends and family!

Val d’Isère: Chalet Doudoune (Place du Rond Point des Pistes).

Tignes: Couloir Bar (Val Claret).

Courchevel: The Kudeta Bar (in 1850, just under the tunnel to the left of the Chenus bubble station).

Meribel: The Evolution Bar (Route de La Chaudanne, below the Oakley ski shop).


What is Reverse Heliskiing?

We use ski lifts to reach the summit of resort, then ski backcountry to a point otherwise inaccessible without a helicopter. From there you will be picked up and taken to your home resort, or onto another Reverse Heliskiing location. In addition to the adrenaline buzz and unsurpassed scenery experienced during a helicopter ride, the beauty of heli-transport is the speed we can travel; allowing you to ski up to four resorts in a single day, reaching up to 3000 vertical meters in one descent, in good snow years!

If you’d like to read more on our Reverse Heliskiing packages you can do so here.

Multiple-Resort Reverse Heliskiing is totally unique to Val Heliski. Legal in France, so accessible from your doorstep, it’s the perfect way to combine helicopters, skiing / snowboarding and huge vertical meterage without bearing the brunt of full heliski day prices.

We can operate these packages on and off the pistes of the following resorts: Val D’Isere, Tignes, St Foy, Paradiski, La Thuile and La Rosiere. The resorts chosen will depend on: the groups preferences, the resorts with the best snow conditions and the ability level of the group. We aim to start the day where possible from the group’s home resort.