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Heli-ski and heli-board: Working Together in the Backcountry

November 04, 2011 Last Frontier Heliskiing

The relationship between snowboarders and skiers has been getting a bad rap. All to often in resorts we’ve heard boarders bad-mouthing skiers and skiers glaring at their shredding counterparts. Boarders don’t seem to like the skiers and skiers detest the boarders. Why all the animosity?

It’s because of the environment. In a resort setting, beginner skiers block and stall a snowboarder attempting to make it through the flat spots. Snowboarders pop out of the trees, have blind spots, and are usually the first ones at the burger shack, annoying the skiers. But it doesn’t have to be like that. We believe if you take the two disciplines, load them onto an aircraft and drop them at the top of a mountain in the backcountry they’ll get along perfectly.

Heli-skiing is well known throughout the skiing community, but heli boarding is just coming of age. You don’t have to convince a snowboarder about the thrilling adrenaline rush that comes with fresh powder. Sure, long and wide skis make for incredible powder descents, but heli-boarders have an advantage. Why? Because they get greater float with a single, wide surfboard strapped to their feet. Increased surface area equals more snow displacement, which equals big smiles. Snowboards were made for powder. And heli boarding in Canada was made for people who like to board.

Heliboarding At Last Frontier Heliskiing, Photo by: Dave Silver

Both disciplines require a considerable amount of skill, but in transition zones, snowboarders need to be particularly careful. A skier always approaches a crux facing it and is able to make corrections at the last minute. For snowboarders it’s a different game: the boarder’s blindside drastically limits his/her field of vision. Reaction time is significantly reduced. In transition zones, it’s a good idea for the boarder to wait for the skiers to go first. The skiers will leave tracks helping the boarder pilot his ride across a gnarly section.

You may think that the best board to ride in powder is longest one on the market. Think again. Maneuverability is the key to staying upright, and you don’t want a long board that is tough to turn. A board with generous side-cut and tapered ends that provides both float and manoeuvrability in mixed conditions is a good bet. As for the size, you can actually go about 2-3 cm shorter than a standard resort board and you’ll be happy.

Snowboarding the backcountry with skiers breaks the walls created by crowded resorts. A special bond between the two athletes can be made with this backcountry experience and snow is the catalyst. Break away from the lift lines and the cat tracks and uncover the perfect environment where everybody can ride or ski as they see fit. Snow-sports embrace the freedom of movement. The more room we all have to move, the more old stereotypes will melt away like spring snow in early May.

Related Articles: Skis used for Heli-SkiingWeather’s Impact on Heli-SkiingDifferent Heli-Ski Lodges in BCHeli-Skiing: A Day in the Life

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