The Canadian Rockies are home to some of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world, with unparalleled beauty and endless opportunities for winter adventure. Heli-skiing, an exhilarating activity that combines the thrill of skiing with the breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies, has become a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history of heli-skiing in Canada, as well as the nine best heli-skiing destinations in the Canadian Rockies. We’ll also provide details on the top heli-skiing companies in the region.
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History (Brief) of Heli-Skiing in Canada
Heli-skiing is a relatively new sport that involves being transported to the top of remote mountain peaks via helicopter, from where skiers and snowboarders can descend pristine, untouched powder slopes. Canada is considered the birthplace of heli-skiing, with many of the world’s top heli-skiing operators and some of the best terrain located in the country. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of heli-skiing in Canada and how it became the thriving industry it is today.
The origins of heli-skiing can be traced back to the early 1960s, when Austrian mountaineer Hans Gmoser pioneered the idea of using a helicopter to access remote, snow-covered mountainsides. Gmoser had been working as a mountain guide in the Canadian Rockies and saw the potential for helicopter transportation to revolutionize the way skiers and snowboarders could access untracked powder slopes. In 1965, Gmoser founded the company Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), which would go on to become the world’s largest and most successful heli-skiing operator.
In the early years, Gmoser and his team faced numerous challenges as they tried to build the heli-skiing industry in Canada. One of the biggest hurdles was convincing skiers and snowboarders that it was safe to fly in helicopters and ski in remote mountain terrain. Gmoser worked hard to educate the public about the safety measures in place and the training of the pilots and guides, and gradually, more people began to try heli-skiing.
As the popularity of heli-skiing grew, other operators began to enter the market, including Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, which was founded in 1970. By the 1980s, heli-skiing had become a major industry in Canada, attracting skiers and snowboarders from around the world. Today, there are dozens of heli-skiing operators in Canada, with over 60% of the world’s heli-skiing terrain located in the country.
One of the reasons Canada is so well-suited to heli-skiing is its vast, rugged terrain. Much of the country is covered in snow for several months each year, and there are thousands of mountain peaks that are accessible only by helicopter. The terrain ranges from gentle, rolling hills to steep, challenging drops, and there are runs to suit skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.
Another reason for Canada’s dominance in the heli-skiing industry is the strict regulations governing helicopter operations. Canadian operators are required to adhere to rigorous safety standards and follow strict guidelines for weather, terrain, and pilot and guide training. These measures ensure that heli-skiing remains a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants.
Despite the challenges of operating in remote mountain terrain, the heli-skiing industry in Canada continues to thrive. It has become a major contributor to the country’s tourism industry, generating millions of dollars in revenue each year. It has also become an important source of employment for many people in rural areas, providing jobs as pilots, guides, and support staff.
The Ultimate Guide to Heli-Skiing in Canada
Ready for a thrilling ski experience? Heli-skiing in Canada offers some of the best powder snow and spectacular terrain to explore. With our guide to heli-skiing in Canada, you can find out how to prepare and plan for your next big adventure.
The 9 Best Heli-Skiing Destinations in the Canadian Rockies
It’s important to do some research when choosing a heli-skiing destination in Canada. Factors such as the snow conditions, size of the terrain and the type of skiing experience you are looking for should be taken into consideration. Spend time researching different areas and read reviews from other skiers. Make sure to pick an area that suits your skiing style so you can enjoy the ultimate Canadian powder snow experience!
- Revelstoke, British Columbia: Located in the heart of the Selkirk Mountains, Revelstoke offers some of the most challenging and rewarding heli-skiing terrain in the world. With over 500,000 acres of skiable terrain, this destination is perfect for advanced skiers.
- Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta: The Banff/Lake Louise area is known for its breathtaking scenery and diverse terrain. Heli-skiing options include everything from gentle glades to steep chutes, making it an excellent option for skiers of all levels.
- Golden, British Columbia: Golden is home to some of the best powder skiing in the Canadian Rockies. The terrain is challenging, with steep runs and deep powder, making it ideal for advanced skiers.
- Kicking Horse, British Columbia: Kicking Horse offers some of the most incredible scenery in the Canadian Rockies, with views of the Purcell and Rocky Mountains. The heli-skiing terrain is varied, ranging from gentle bowls to steep chutes.
- Fernie, British Columbia: Fernie is known for its epic snow conditions, with an average of 37 feet of snow each year. The terrain is varied, with steep chutes, open bowls, and tree skiing.
- Jasper, Alberta: Jasper is a relatively undiscovered heli-skiing destination, making it an excellent option for skiers looking to avoid crowds. The terrain is challenging, with steep runs and deep powder.
- Panorama, British Columbia: Panorama offers some of the most spectacular views in the Canadian Rockies, with panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains. The terrain is varied, with something for skiers of all levels.
- Mount Carlyle, British Columbia: Mount Carlyle is a small, exclusive heli-skiing destination, offering some of the most challenging and rewarding terrain in the Canadian Rockies. With only a few groups on the mountain each day, skiers can enjoy the ultimate in powder skiing.
- Valemount, British Columbia: Valemount is a relatively new heli-skiing destination, offering skiers access to some of the most untracked terrain in the Canadian Rockies. With over 250,000 acres of skiable terrain, Valemount is perfect for advanced skiers.
Note: The ranking is not based on any particular order or preference. These destinations are well-known for their exceptional heli-skiing experiences and breathtaking mountain landscapes.
Familiarize yourself with safety tips and regulations
Before you set off on your heli-skiing adventure in Canada, it’s important to be familiar with basic safety tips and regulations. Be aware of different avalanche conditions, as these can affect the type of terrain you can access. Always wear proper protective gear, such as a helmet, goggles and other safety equipment. You should also be knowledgeable about local weather patterns so you can plan your trips accordingly. Make sure to have a plan for various emergency situations so that everyone on the trip stays safe.
Prepare the right gear and packing list essentials
Before you embark on your ski trip, make sure you are fully prepared with the right clothing and safety gear. Prepare a packing list with all essential items so that you don’t forget anything important. You will need layers of warm clothing to protect you from the cold weather, waterproof jackets, gloves and/or mittens, hats and neck gaiters, goggles or sunglasses, and quality ski boots. Don’t forget to include emergency supplies such as a first-aid kit and avalanche beacons in case of an emergency.
Top 9 Tour Companies For Your Heli-Skiing in Canada Adventures
To get the most out of your experience, it’s important to book an experienced and certified helicopter pilot and guide service. An experienced operator will be able to tailor your heli-skiing trip to your individual needs, providing you with a safe and comfortable experience. A qualified guide will be able to assess risk factors like snow stability, set safety boundaries, assess skill levels, instill mountain etiquette in guests, give proper instruction and plan exciting runs that maximize the adventure.
- Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH): With over 50 years of experience, CMH is the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-hiking operator, offering a variety of packages to suit different skill levels and budgets.
- Purcell Heli-Skiing: Based in Golden, British Columbia, Purcell Heli-Skiing offers small group tours with experienced guides, providing an intimate and personalized heli-skiing experience.
- RK Heliski: Located in Panorama, British Columbia, RK Heliski offers tours in small groups, allowing for a more personalized experience with highly experienced guides.
- Great Canadian Heli-Skiing: Based in Golden, British Columbia, Great Canadian Heli-Skiing offers a variety of packages, including private tours and small group tours, with expert guides and top-of-the-line equipment.
- Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing: Based in Revelstoke, British Columbia, Selkirk Tangiers offers guided heli-skiing tours in some of the most challenging terrain in the Canadian Rockies.
- Purcell Helicopter Skiing: With over 40 years of experience, Purcell Helicopter Skiing offers tours in small groups, with highly experienced guides, to some of the most challenging terrain in the Canadian Rockies.
- Icefield Helicopter Tours: Based in Banff, Alberta, Icefield Helicopter Tours offers a variety of packages, including heli-skiing, heli-hiking, and sightseeing tours, providing stunning views of the Canadian Rockies.
- Alpine Helicopters: Based in Canmore, Alberta, Alpine Helicopters offers private heli-skiing tours, with highly experienced guides, to some of the most breathtaking terrain in the Canadian Rockies.
- Mica Heliskiing: Located in Revelstoke, British Columbia, Mica Heliskiing offers guided tours in small groups, providing skiers with access to some of the most remote and untracked terrain in the Canadian Rockies.
Heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies is a truly unforgettable experience, combining the beauty of the mountains with the excitement of skiing. There are many heli-skiing companies operating in the region, each with their own unique offerings and destinations. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the nine best heli-skiing destinations in the Canadian Rockies, as well as the top companies that offer heli-skiing tours.