Revelstoke in Canada is hard to beat as an all-round heli ski destination. It has a consistently good snow record and light powder snow that is amazing (and fun) to ski. The terrain is vast and varied – a mixture of high glacial bowls and the world’s best tree skiing. There are several heliski operators including Selkirk Tangiers, CMH and Eagle Pass, each with their own tenure and ski style. The key here is flexibility – you can heliski for one day or one week and there is a world-class resort as back up in case the helicopter can’t fly in bad weather. Revelstoke Mountain Resort also offers fantastic backcountry skiing, cat skiing, ski touring and even dog sledding and paragliding. Alaska may have the best steep skiing, but for all-round adventure BC is your best bet.
2) Best Time of Year
Traditionally, the heliski season in Canada runs from January to March, with February being the most popular month. For those that want sun and more temperate climes March is the best month and for guaranteed fresh tracks, the biggest dumps of snow come in December and January.
3) The Right Equipment
Most heliski operators will include rental of powder skis with your heli ski experience. These skis are wider and aid flotation over deep snow. Layers of clothing work well as you heat up whilst skiing and cool down whilst resting. The experts at Bighorn in Revelstoke recommend a merino wool base layer, down mid-layer and a shell jacket. A spare pair of gloves, goggles with interchangeable lenses and boot warmers are also useful recommendations for skiing in deep snow.
Make sure that your chosen heliski operator uses guides that are fully qualified by a recognised association such as the ACMG or IFMGA. You should receive a full safety briefing and avalanche training before heliskiing, including a rescue simulation to practice using equipment such as transceiver, shovel and probe. Wearing an ABS airbag backpack is another precautionary measure that can be taken and most heliski operators rent these out for a small fee.
You can heliski either from a Bell 205 or A Star helicopter. The Bell accommodates 10 skiers plus guides and the A Star takes 4 plus guide. The ultimate heli ski experience is achieved by chartering a private helicopter for your group. This allows you to maximize the amount of skiing you do: a totally bespoke experience tailored to your group’s needs and wishes. Guests at Bighorn in Revelstoke can even fly direct from their private helipad. A private charter comes at a price however, so there are more economical options for shared groups that fly in a Bell and offer the same wilderness ski experience.
There are types of accommodation to consider: self-catering apartments, hotels or a private full-service ski lodge. Apartments are the best budget option, whereas hotels offer greater amenities and meal options. For groups, a private lodge is a superb option with Bighorn Revelstoke offering meals prepared by an executive chef, a private helipad and luxury spa facilities. Think about proximity to the ski area, the type of facilities your group needs and the range of activities that are accessible in case of bad weather.
Revelstoke has the world’s best tree skiing. A mixture of tree species, the right amount of snowfall and the lightness of the snow create a powder playground like no other. The old-growth forests that Selkirk Tangiers have in their heli ski tenure are carefully tended so trees are nicely spaced (this is known as ‘glading’). Skiers therefore have exciting lines through the trees and plenty of space to turn. Seasoned heliskiers will argue that whizzing through trees and popping off tree stumps covered in snow pillows rivals high altitude glacier skiing any day. Check out Swedish freestyler Johann Persson ripping through the trees in Revelstoke here
At first tree skiing can be a bit daunting – the thought of skiing into a tree can put you off your stride! Here are our top 5 tips for techniques to ski trees like a pro:
1) Ski the gaps. Look at the white stuff and focus on where you want to ski, not what to avoid. It may sound like common sense, but too may people get preoccupied with looking at trees, which affects their flow of movement.
2) Plan your turns and look ahead. Look through the trees and plan 2 turns in advance. This will help you connect your turns and prevent a turn-stop pattern that zaps your energy.
3) Stay on your feet – by this we mean keep your balance centered above your feet and don’t lean too far back. You might be in deep snow, but your skis will float without you leaning backwards and throwing yourself off balance.
4) Keep your arms in front of you. Not only will this improve your balance and put you in a reactionary position, but also you can brush any small branches out of the way.
5) Take your pole straps off. In the unfortunate case that you take a tumble this will prevent you injuring your wrists and shoulders.
Have fun with it. One of Bighorn’s guests said they could never lose their friends when skiing the trees because of the noisy whoops of joy! We can arrange for you to enjoy a day’s coaching in the trees at Revelstoke Mountain Resort with a top instructor to get you ready to heliski the best tree terrain on Earth. Plus, on a down day when the heli can’t fly, world class tree skiing is always accessible from Bighorn.
Everyone knows that heliskiing is the ultimate skiing experience , but how much better is heli-skiing than lift skiing in Revelstoke? If you can’t decide, we weigh up 5 key considerations below.
- The heliski terrain surrounding Revelstoke gets an average of 40-60ft of snow per year, whereas Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) gets 30-45ft.
- Heliskiing offers 100% fresh, untouched snow so you will ski virgin powder all day long. It is unbeatable in this respect.
- However the lifts at RMR do give you access to some amazing powder bowls and gladed tree skiing, with fantastic conditions. Of course you won’t have exclusive access to the terrain, but RMR is wonderfully uncrowded so the fresh stuff doesn’t get skied out as quickly as in other resorts.
- Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing has access to 500,000 acres of heliski terrain with over 200 known runs through wide-open glaciers, alpine meadows and the world’s best tree skiing. The size and variety of the terrain speaks for itself.
- RMR has 3121 acres of terrain with 56 runs through high alpine powder bowls, gladed trees and groomed terrain. The resort offers a superb range of terrain for advanced skiers prompting the Telegraph to describe it as “the world’s best skiing”.
- Heliskiing from Bighorn couldn’t be easier as the private helipad at the house means you are just steps away from accessing some of the world’s best heliskiing. You can be at the top of a wilderness peak in a matter of minutes.
- RMR is just a 1-minute drive away in the Bighorn vehicle and the high-speed lifts mean you’ll be at the top in no time. Not quite as fast as in a helicopter, but faster than most other resorts.
- Heli ski runs range from 500-2200 vertical metres, giving you what feels like an endless descent on powder snow.
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort has North America’s highest vertical descent at 1713 metres, making for an incredibly long run by resort standards.
Value for money
- To talk in general figures, lift passes cost $74 per day and heli skiing starts from $797 per day. The additional cost of heliskiing affords you the thrill of flying by helicopter, wilderness terrain, access to the best snow and the fastest lift for maximum vertical.
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort offers a superb alternative with high speed lifts, relatively quiet slopes, exciting terrain and an impressive vertical descent.
In summary, heli skiing is unbeatable, but Revelstoke Mountain Resort also excels on all counts. As a back-up option for down days when the helicopter can’t fly it is superb and means you are guaranteed world-class skiing every day of your trip. The terrain in particular is exciting, varied and uncrowded, making it the perfect complement to the heliski terrain for adventurous skiers. Thankfully, guests at Bighorn get access to both heli and lift skiing allowing them to enjoy both from one base.
1) Is heli skiing only for expert skiers?
People go heli skiing to experience pristine powder snow in stunning wilderness locations. It is a back country experience and there are no groomed runs. Whilst a heli skier needs to be proficient in deep snow, the sport is by no means the reserve of the expert skier. The type of terrain skied will typically not be too challenging and at Bighorn we can ensure that your guide caters for your ability and wishes.
2) Where is the best place to heli ski?
Revelstoke, British Columbia is the birthplace of heli skiing. This is due to the excellent annual snowfall and vast expanse of varied terrain. There are over 1 million acres of heliski terrain accessible from Revelstoke and the presence of a world-class lift-accessed ski hill gives the ultimate in flexibility regarding options for your ski week.
3) What are the costs associated with heli skiing?
When compared to traditional lift accessed skiing, heli skiing is an expensive sport. However, the experience is mind blowing. Skiing untouched powder snow and exhilirating terrain that is inaccessible to any other method of transport more than justifies the cost.
4) What is the best way to try heli skiing?
A good starting point is to book a single day heli ski experience. Revelstoke Mountain Resort run a classic package which is an excellent starting point for the heli ski novice. Ideally, if the day can be booked for the middle of your ski week then it gives you a chance to warm up on the mountain (and also to book another heli ski day later in the week!).
5) Do I need to be fit to go heli skiing?
While you do not need to be an athlete to heli ski it is a simple fact that the better condition you are in, the more you will enjoy the experience. You can always soak aching muscles in the outdoor hot tub at Bighorn.
The team at Bighorn are delighted to have been crowned Number One Heliski Destination in North America by Outside magazine. Our inaugural season has started with a bang as guests have been blown away by the stunning accommodation, Revelstoke’s incredible snowfall and the amazing heliski terrain in the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains.
Outside is America’s leading active-lifestyle and adventure travel magazine and their travel experts search the globe for the best and most innovative outdoor experiences. It is the unique experience on offer at Bighorn that Outside loved so much; “Bighorn is the lovechild of two outstanding concepts: the European catered chalet and a Canadian heliski outfit. Strap on your ski boots in the morning, shoot a round of pool as you watch for the bird to land in the backyard, and then hop in for a ride to 500,000 acres of bowls, glades, and glaciers in the ragged Selkirks”.
Bighorn offers heliskiing direct from the house helipad with Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing and lift or cat skiing at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Tim Neville from Outside commented that “there are plenty of things to do when storms keep the helicopter tethered to the ground—like ski out the door and ride the lifts at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which has the most vertical feet of any mountain in North America (5,620 feet). Either way, you’ll get a powder day”.
Indulgence doesn’t stop with the outstanding skiing however, as Bighorn offers new standards of luxury accommodation, service and cuisine “Chef Peter Hughes will be waiting in the rotorwash to serve you champagne by a huge stone fireplace and salmon canapés or duck confit on the chalet’s 15-foot-long black walnut table”.
Click on the link below to read Outside’s full review:
Heliskiing is the ultimate thrill for any avid skier. Unsurprisingly this comes at a price, so careful consideration is required when deciding where to go for this indulgent trip of a lifetime. We asked one of our experienced guests at Bighorn to discuss the risk reward profile of two of the best heliski destinations in the world: Valdez in Alaska and Revelstoke, BC.
Alaska has the best steep skiing terrain in the world. The proximity to the coast and extreme cold throughout much of the winter create a very low risk of avalanche. This allows skiers to ski terrain as steep as 60 degrees. Revelstoke has the best tree skiing in the world, and also has an abundance of excellent high alpine skiing in large glacial bowls. The terrain is extremely varied but, on average, will not be as steep as Alaska.
Both Alaska and Revelstoke are snowsure places to ski, the difference is the quality of the snow. As Revelstoke is located away from the coast in the interior of British Columbia, the snow has less moisture and is lighter. In Alaska, proximity to the coast means the snow can be wetter and heavier.
3) Down Days
This is the major difference. A week of heli skiing in Alaska will typically on average have 3 down days, Revelstoke will on average only have 1. In Alaska, when you cannot ski, there is very little to do as there is no lift skiing. There is only so much table tennis one can play in the mountains. In Revelstoke, guests at Bighorn can experience the all new Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which provides the perfect alternative to heli skiing. Boasting the longest vertical drop in the whole of North America, it is the perfect antidote to being told you cannot fly. In the wider Revelstoke area there are also a number of cat skiing operations which operate irrespective of the weather. In short, there is never a zero ski day in Revelstoke.
No one can argue against the fact that Alaska has excellent ski terrain. Every real skier should tackle an Alaskan spine at some point in their life. However, to travel so far, and then not to ski is unthinkable. It happens. Revelstoke provides endless options for amazing skiing whatever the weather, and with the addition of Bighorn, can boast the ultimate in luxury ski accommodation and service.