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.
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.
“The nicest place you’ll ever rest your ski-wobbly legs”
Is how top ski journalist Christopher Solomon described his stay at Bighorn in Revelstoke. The whole experience felt like a “dream”, with the thrill of heliskiing in the Monashee Mountains, accommodation in a “tricked-out timber framed manse”, rejuvenating spa treatments and cuisine to die for.
“We dive, hooting and laughing in 18 inches of untouched snow. It’s not a bad warm-up. Soon we’re hammering to the next powder run. It’s only going to get better, and steeper, from here—and yet, weirdly, I’m already half-dreaming about après-ski back at the lodge… where chef Peter Hughes will be waiting in the rotor wash with a plate of salmon blinis, and then we’ll all marinate in the hot tub with a bucket of iced Mt. Begbie Kolsches within reach”.
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.
Let’s face it, every time the air turns cold and the snow clouds begin to roll in, our thoughts turn to hitting the slopes. Once that frisson of excitement subsides the lingering question remains, ‘Will my equipment live up to expectations and is there any must have kit that well… I just must have?’ We can answer that for you with 3 of the hottest products to take your luxury heliski holiday to the next level.
There’s no doubt that ski design has come a long way since 2m skis were on the short side of acceptable. The latest trend for those who look for deep snow is rocker technology. Having a rockered ski that bends skywards at the front and back offers more floatation in the powder so you use less energy and can really make the most of your day in the deep stuff. K2 pioneered this technology with the Pontoon and it continues to lead the way as one of the best powder skis money can buy.
Tired of having to always take your pack off to get at those essentials? Fed up with the lumpy avalanche gear swinging around on your back? The North Face Powder Guide Vest is the answer to your problems. Stylish, compact, and comfortable, the Powder Guide Vest has all the storage exactly where you need it for a great day in Revelstoke’s backcountry.
What better way to relive that perfect day heliskiing than showing off your amazing footage in the Bighorn movie theater? GoPro offers HD quality video from a camera that’s smaller than a juice box and a range of mounting devices that means you’ll always catch that enormous grin on your face as you put another turn down the perfect powder slopes of the Monashee Mountains.
It’s that time of year again – the shops are filled with pink balloons, expensive chocolates and teddy bears. Yes, Valentine’s Day is looming. The team at Bighorn know there is only one place to be in the middle of February however and that is on the slopes, as conditions in Revelstoke are amazing. With heaps of fresh snow and bluebird skies, guests have been hitting the high alpine and loving the powder, views and awesome terrain.
The Bighorn Chef, Peter Hughes, can create a special Valentine’s menu for any love birds who want the best of both worlds: amazing heliskiing and romantic gastronomy. We’ve got a sneak preview of what he is planning, it sounds delicious even if you’re not feeling romantic! Perfect fuel for another day skiing the dream.
Canapé and champagne party
Truffled gougeres with dolcellate
Oysters Kilpatrick grilled with Canadian Bacon and Worcestershire Sauce
Teppanyaki Seared Scallops with Lemongrass and Ginger Infused Miso Broth
Frasier River Sockeye Salmon served En Croute and Carved Table Side
Chocolate Marquise Kisses with Gold Leaved Strawberry Crostilliant
So, what should you be rocking on the slopes this season? After a few seasons of neon brights blinding us at every turn, this year it is back to simple primary colours: red, blue and yellow. Simple, unfussy blocks of colour. We love the Norrona Lofoten Pro Shell jacket and pants in ‘caviar’ black and ‘saffron’ yellow, perfectly blending function and design. www.noronna.com
Under your ski jacket, it’s all about the layers. A high wicking base layer followed by a lightweight down jacket allows you to stay warm without restricting movement. Great brands to look out for include Icebreaker for base layers www.icebreaker.com and Peak Performance down jackets. www.peakperformance.com
After an exhilarating day’s heliskiing, back at Bighorn you want to be cozy, comfy and yet still fit with your stylish surrounds. Of course the house is exclusively yours, so in theory you can wear whatever you want, but we’d highly recommend slipping on a soft cashmere sweater to relax by the roaring log fire. Perhaps the most luxurious on the market are Brunello Cucinelli’s fine sweaters, made from the soft under-down of the Hircus goat. www.brunellocucinelli.com
Update your look with a few key trends for this season. For the ladies, leather trim, colourful cords and tweed. For the gentlemen, plaid check, camel and velvet. If you don’t have the time to shop for the new season, staff at Bighorn can arrange a consultation with a personal stylist before you leave home. Londoners will be assured of personal service at our partner Boutique at Home, whose owner Natasha will find a variety of smart casual looks to suit your needs. www.boutiqueathome.co.uk
To see some cutting-edge skiers working the primary colour-block look at Revelstoke, check out this video: