Why British Columbia is the Epicenter of Heliskiing

While initial ascents in helicopters for the sole purpose of skiing on otherwise inaccessible peaks may have taken place in Alaska or the American Rockies in the late 1950s, Johann “Hans” Gmoser is often credited with founding modern day heliskiing in British Columbia in the mid 1960s. Gmoser, an Austrian immigrant, was an experienced mountaineer and intent on showcasing the world class skiing conditions he discovered in western Canada.

His first customers were lifted to remote peaks of the Bugaboo Mountains near Radium, BC. With the simple goal of introducing skiers to the highest quality backcountry conditions and the immensity of the potential terrain, Gmoser’s business model spread around the world.

What could be better than skiing 3,000 vertical feet on previously untracked slopes in quality powder with only a small group of people? If you are a skier, nothing really. Currently the sport can be found in dozens of countries you might expect and a few you might not.

There is no shortage of desolate mountains, gorges, and glaciers to be skied on our globe – The Alps, The Himalayas, and The Andes. So why is it that British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies still maintain a commanding majority of the heliskiing business in the world? Figures representing BC’s slice of the global heli-skiing pie have been estimated at over 90%. The term ‘slice’ doesn’t even seem appropriate.

When Hans Gmoser arrived in British Columbia he knew the conditions here were unlike any others in the world. The Austrian Alps on which he honed his mountaineering skills as a youth paled in comparison to what he found in Canada. Like the optimal conditions of any outdoor sport, there are several factors which place BC far ahead in the heliskiing world.

Why British Columbia Is The Epicenter Of Heliskiing - Last Frontier Dave Silver P04
Around the Heli at Last Frontier Heliskiing, Photo by: Dave Silver

First, it’s the snow. Drier than most other heliskiing areas, the snow here is light and powdery – exactly the kind skiers desire. There is also a substantial amount of it that falls every season. Some ranges report annual totals of more than 15 metres! So while other heliskiing locales must until late in the season for a decent base, BC usually accumulates enough by mid/late November.

Next, it’s the trees. Beyond the obvious opportunity and challenge presented by gladed runs, the old growth forests found in British Columbia reduce alpine wind. This lessens the occurrence of affected snow drifts as skiing impediments and also increases visibility. However, the mere novelty of finding heliskiing runs that dip below the tree line is enough to earn the region many accolades.

Lastly, it’s the variety of terrain. From the aforementioned glades, to wide open bowls, movie-worthy pillow runs, couloirs, steeps, chutes, and glacial expanses, British Columbia has it all. It is the envy of all other heliskiing locations on earth.

So now that you know what it is that sets BC apart from the rest of the world, how can you be sure to take full advantage of your heliskiing trip here? By choosing the operator that will bring you the best of these features for your money. Last Frontier’s Vertical Drop Guarantee uniquely places the customer and the operator on the same page.
Unlike paying a high price for unlimited runs and perhaps overspending, the footage you ski with us is the footage you pay us for. We only win if you win. There can’t be a better way to heliski the unrivaled quality of British Columbia.

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