Best Heli Skiing in the World: Is anywhere better than BC?
Here at Last Frontier we think we have it pretty good, and without bias believe that British Columbia (BC) offers the best heli skiing in the world. To justify our viewpoint, let us take a look at some of the other destinations in the world and see if they compare.
First a few words about heli skiing in Canada. The ‘sport’, if you want to give it that label, was pioneered right here, and up to this day BC represents 95% of the global heli ski industry. Because of its extensive national history, and the cumulative experience of pilots and professional guides, heli skiing in Canada is very safe.
Incredible snowfalls of up to 30 meters each season is another reason why northern BC is the best place to get your powder fix. As for terrain, BC also has it all. Unlike other destinations, in BC we can offer tree line heli skiing. This can be beneficial for many reasons. Less down days occur, due to the protection the trees offer against the elements and the increased visibility. This same protection prevents wind affecting the snow, almost guaranteeing good quality powder. Wide bowls; steep, tight chutes; and large, mellow, open fields are also in abundance. With so much terrain to pick from you’re spoilt for choice in BC.
Alaskan heli skiing also has an undeniable reputation for enticing people from across the world. A combination of the maritime snowpack and steep terrain offers arguably the world’s most intimidating and challenging riding. However, down days are plentiful, as the storms that frequently roll in can hang around for weeks on end, limiting skiing time severely. Furthermore, days are short due to the proximity to the Arctic Circle, which means that full days of skiing are only available later in the season. Also it can be difficult to access, compared with neighboring Canada. Outside of Alaska, heli skiing in the US is minimal, with few operators and unreliable snow conditions.
Europe, with its expansive mountain ranges, has the potential for being a great heli ski destination. Strong opposition and tight regulations have marred this however, and there are only a handful of places that can provide the kind of service expected from professional heli skiing outfits. Additionally, over development in the form of village settlements and ski resorts have made it extremely difficult to find vast areas of open space to make heli skiing work.
In the southern hemisphere, New Zealand, Argentina, and Chile offer heli skiing when people are enjoying warm summers in North America and Europe. Some of the allure of skiing in South America include high mountain elevations, foreign culture and in some cases; lower package pricing. However, one must remember that travel can be expensive. Also, the conditions are rarely as optimal as they are in BC. Pilots and guides generally will not have as much experience as their Canadian counterparts.
Japan also is probably only just worth a mention, as it has only a few heli ski operations. Considering the quality, and the quantity of the snow there, it is surprising that the same runs are regularly repeated, and fresh tracks are only common in the mornings. Other places of heli skiing include Kamchatka and the Caucasus in Russia, where large military style helicopters are employed. For the adventurous types, there is also limited heliskiing available in the Indian Himalayas.
So, although heli skiing is available worldwide, it must be noted that over 95% of it still happens in BC, Canada. The combination of vast and varied terrain, consistent snowpack and highly skilled workforce make it the premier heli ski destination in the world.