A powder hound may look like they have fleas when they’re itching to get a necessary fix of fresh powder. In the US where many ski resorts have a high ratio of skiers per acre, the chances of sniffing out powder without going backcountry are slim. The obvious treatment for a powderhound with an itch - a good dose of heli skiing
(or heli boarding
Heli Skiing USA
The largest concentration of heli ski operators in the United States is in the Chugach Range in Alaska near Girdwood, Valdez (Valdez Heli Ski Guides
) and Cordova (Points North
). Alaska Heli Skiing is world renowned for riding the steep and deep.
In continental USA (ie the lower 48 states or “outside”) there are relatively few heli-ski companies, especially when compared to heli skiing Canada
. There is only one helicopter ski operation in each of the states of Wyoming, Washington, Idaho and Nevada.
Heli skiing Colorado consists of two operations: Helitrax
is located at Telluride ski resort
; and Silverton Mountain
has added Silverton heli skiing
to their repertoire.
There are three Utah heli skiing options: Diamond Peaks operate from Powder Mountain
ski area; Wasatch Powderbirds Guides
are adjacent to Snowbird
and Alta ski resort
; and PC Powder Cats
are near Park City. Heli skiing Utah is superb, considering the light dry powder that falls in abundance.
Types of Heli Skiing
(and heli-boarding) in continental USA is somewhat different to the typical style of heli skiing Canada
. Instead of multi-day trips that offer remote backcountry lodging, all heli ski operations offer single day trips. Some even have one or two run options. Multi-day packages are also on offer, some of which include various accommodation options at a nearby ski resort.
In Alaska, some companies such as Points North
and Kenai Heli Ski
offer the typical Canadian style of multi-day heli trips, whilst a few also offer single days (e.g. Valdez Heli Ski Guides
), some of which are charged according to the amount of flying time. Some companies use snowcats as a backup alternative when the heli is unable to fly due to weather conditions.
Heli Ski Terrain in the US
The Alaska heli skiing
terrain differs somewhat from that in continental USA. In Alaska the tree line is low at about 450 metres (1,500 feet) above sea level, so opportunities for tree skiing are very limited. The treeless alpine terrain is similar to heli skiing New Zealand
and heli skiing Chile
. In the other states of the USA it is similar to heli skiing Canada
whereby the terrain includes a mix of high alpine and tree skiing, which provides the advantage of less “no-fly” days because the trees afford some protection from the weather.
In Alaska, the ski terrain is often on glaciated peaks where the maritime snowpack is strong. With less avalanche risk and snow that sticks to even the steepest faces, the likelihood of skiing 60 degree pitches is greater, which is why Alaska gets the reputation for extreme heli skiing. Of course you don’t have to be a stunt skier as more gentle terrain is also on offer.
There is no shortage of powder in Alaska. The annual snowfall in the Chugach Range is anywhere from 30 to 80 feet (9.1 to 24.4 metres) per year, but it’s generally wettish powder. Other US helicopter ski areas also receive significant snowfall but thankfully the powder is much drier.
Most heli ski operators guarantee a certain number of vertical feet for each package they sell. The amount of vertical per run varies between operators, between runs, and will be dependent upon the weather, snow conditions and terrain available on any given day.
See our USA heli-ski comparison
document to compare the average annual snowfall, size of terrain and the daily vertical for the US heliski operators.
Typical Heliski Costs
Heli-skiing in the USA is generally more expensive than New Zealand heli skiing
or heli skiing BC
, but it really depends upon the currency exchange. Prices vary significantly from $US675 to $US1,350 per day, which doesn’t include accommodation. Consider the cost as a wise investment in fresh powder happiness!
See our compare USA heli skiing
document to look at the costs for each of the operators and different packages on offer.
Where is the Best Heli Skiing?
When choosing the best heli skiing operation for your next snow holiday, everyone has different factors that are important in the decision making process. For some the choice is largely based on location, but for others it may be about the quality of the tree skiing, the amount of expert terrain, the emphasis on safety, or value for money. To help you choose the best heli skiing experience for you, we have provided ratings on various operations in Colorado, Utah, Canada, and New Zealand, and broken the ratings into various determinants including the most important factor of all….the powder! See our Powderhounds heli skiing ratings
for more information.
Go Heli Skiing or Heli-Boarding
A helicopter is the ultimate super fast chairlift that provides access to fresh tracks all day. Definitely give it a go. In the words of Warren Miller "if you don't do it this year, you'll just be one year older when you do."
USA Heli Skiing Listings
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||Heli Skiing Colorado Helitrax
You don't have to be an expert to enjoy untracked powder with Helitrax, just a desire for an adventure. Spoil yourself with heli skiing in Colorado and one of the best days of your life.... Operates from Telluride Ski Resort.