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Skiing Helicopter and Backcountry Snowboarding – Similarities and Differences

December 29, 2011 Last Frontier Heliskiing

Sounding deceptively similar, heli-skiing and backcountry snowboarding can be seen as two entirely different disciplines, with two sets of challenges and thrills. Look closer though, and it is possible to see a whole range of like-minded personalities, shared experiences, and goals. So what are these cumulative similarities and differences?

The first, and perhaps most obvious difference, is the choice of mode of transport. Backcountry snowboarders entirely rely on their own strength and stamina to get to the places they want to ride. This can test their physical endurance to the limits, but most see it as being as pleasurable (afterwards!) as the descent. Snowshoes are a common, and often necessary tool to help make life in the backcountry easier. They enlarge the surface area of the user’s feet, enabling easier walking on soft snow. Recently, splitboards have enjoyed a boom in popularity, allowing snowboarders better access to previously skier-dominated terrain.

Skiing Helicopter
Tree Skiing at Last Frontier Heliskiing, Photo by: Randy Lincks

However, None of this quite matches up to the speed and efficiency of helicopter travel. Within minutes of alighting the chopper you can be perched atop of almost any mountain peak. After a jaw-dropping descent, the helicopter will be waiting to take you back up again. Unfortunately, for most of us this is only affordable once or twice a year, compared with the freedom to hike in the back-country at any given time.

The view from the top is where backcountry boarders and heli skiers experience a similar rush. Once the snowboarders have gathered their breath, refueled on biscuits, dried fruit and the sound of the helicopters blades have all but gone, the scenery and silence will overwhelm them. This is the unspoken goal of both groups – standing up there, surveying the spectacular views from the top of the BC mountains, united with nature.

The feeling of descending these mountains, some of the greatest in the world, transcends both skiers and boarders. The sense of comradery between members of the groups are unbelievably high, and jokes, brags and screams of excitement flows from both sides.

Ultimately, it comes down to just being in the place you love with great friends and likeminded people. The roles can, and do, reverse with great frequency. Backcountry skiing is as old as the mountains themselves, and helicopters serve snowboarding just as well as they do skiing in the form of heliboarding. So whatever your preference, we’ll see you up there!

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