Mount Cook Heliski

Overall Rating

Mount Cook Heliski

Mount Cook Heliski4.4/57
Mount Cook Heliski4.4 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
Cheap Flights
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski
Mt Cook Heliski

Mount Cook Heliski

Overall Rating

Mount Cook Heliski4.4/57
Mount Cook Heliski4.4 out of 5 based on 7 reviews

Mt Cook Heliski New Zealand

Mt Cook Heliski (formerly Wilderness Heliski) operates in the wild and majestic Mount Cook heli skiing region, and is operated by the highly respected Alpine Guides. It’s definitely worth experiencing the Mt Cook heli ski difference!

The ultimate “slack-country” skiing experience is to go with Mt Cook Heliski (aka Wilderness Heliski). It’s completely slack in that the only rise of your heart rate will be from the adrenaline and excitement of being up in a helicopter in the spectacular Mount Cook area of the Southern Alps. The actual heli skiing and snowboarding is also guaranteed to get the pulse racing. Of course rather than being in the slack-country (as it’s traditionally defined!), heli skiing with Mt Cook Heliski is actually out in the vast backcountry, far away from any ski resorts or crowds. And with a playground of over 1,500 square kilometres, Mount Cook Heliski has plenty of runs that are completely untracked. Sounds choice eh?

When Does Mount Cook Heli Ski Operate?

Mt Cook Heli Ski operates every fine day from July 1st to September 30th. Powder is more common earlier in the season.

Heli skiing is very dependent on the weather, and wind or low visibility can result in no-fly days. The weather at Mt Cook can be particularly fickle considering its position close to the west coast with frequent clouds and storms rolling in. They operate about 4.5 days per week on average, but keep a flexible itinerary as sometimes there will be a stretch of days when they don’t fly. On down days you could go for a tramp around the Mt Cook region or go skiing at Roundhill or Ohau.

More Reasons to Heli Ski with Mt Cook Heliski NZ

Mt Cook Heliski is guided by the highly experienced Alpine Guides who have been in operation since 1966. They know the Mt Cook region like the back of their hand and can take you on a safe and thoroughly enjoyable heli skiing odyssey.

Aoraki means “cloud piercer” in the Maori language, and thanks to the fabulous heights of Mt Cook, the quality and quantity of the heli skiing is superior to that in other parts of NZ. For more information see our Mt Cook Heli Skiing review. So powder hounds stop drooling and get out heli skiing to sniff all that delightful powder!

A Few More Details

Individuals are welcome to book, although a minimum of 3 total bookings are required to operate. Queenstown flight packages require a minimum of 4 bookings to operate. Because heliskiing is a weather dependent activity, pre-payment is not required. Mt Cook Heliski reserves the right to cancel heliskiing due to bad weather. This decision is usually made at 7am each day. In this case a refund of 100% is paid to any pre-paid clients, who are unable to re-book for a later date.

Where is Mt Cook Heliski NZ Located?

Aoraki / Mount Cook is the "Big Bertha" mountain of New Zealand at an elevation of 3,754 metres (12,316 ft) above sea level. Mount Cook is approximately 3 hours drive north of Queenstown (or a 40 minute flight) and 3.5 hours south of Christchurch. Mt Cook Heliski operates in the Mount Cook region, but not actually on Aoraki as this mountain can only be skied by super humans!

Mt Cook Heliski uses helipads at the Mount Cook airport and Glentanner Airfield, which are 5km and 20km respectively from the Mount Cook village. Complimentary transfers between the village and heli pad can be provided.

Heli Ski Terrain

Mt Cook Heli Ski has 1,500 square kilometres (150,000 hectares) of terrain from the Mt Cook National Park to Lake Pukaki. The terrain is across five mountain ranges: Liebig, Malte Brun, Ben Ohau, Gammack and Burnett Ranges, which are just east and parallel to Mt Cook and Mount Tasman of the Main Divide. This is the largest single heliski zone of the New Zealand heli skiing operators.

The region is dominated by glaciated peaks, many of which are higher than 3,000 metres, and some of the helicopter landings are as high as 2,800 metres. The high elevation combined with lots of snowfall results in higher snow quality compared with Queenstown heli skiing operations further south. The higher elevation also allows for runs that are generally longer than down south. The average vertical per run is 800 metres, and the “Whip of Love” run drops an amazing 1,300 metres.

Like other heli skiing New Zealand, the big mountain terrain is way above the timberline, but some variety is ensured thanks to the heavily glaciated terrain. Mt Cook Heliski can cater to strong intermediate riders and up.

Mt Cook Heli Skiing Review

The Powderhounds have been out with Mt Cook Heliski (previously Wilderness Heli Ski) on two occasions. Particularly near Mt Cook, the terrain was fabulously wild and untamed! However even though Mt Cook Heliski is a premier NZ heli ski company, no backcountry operation is absolutely perfect for everyone. Our review covers different aspects of their operation and hopefully you can determine if Mt Cook Heliski (Wilderness Heli Ski) is likely to align with your priorities for skiing fresh pow!

Pros
  • Mt Cook Heliski has a large heli skiing zone which gives the guides more runs to choose from to find the best conditions. Whilst it isn’t the largest NZ heli tenure, the terrain is all one interconnected area and not in small disparate zones as with another operator.
  • The heli drop-offs are generally somewhat higher than those around Queenstown and Wanaka. This higher elevation leads to a tendency for better quality powder and longer runs.
  • The Mt Cook Heliski terrain has extensive glaciations. This contributes to a “fridge effect” which can also result in better snow quality.
  • The Mt Cook area receives an abundance of snowfall, much more than other NZ heli ski areas.
  • Alpine Guides have been in the game for a long time and the guides know the area intimately. They are all well qualified and are “real” mountaineers. You know that they won’t pull in a ski patroller or ski instructor for the day to act as a guide.
  • The heli skiing is not mass produced. This is a boutique heli skiing experience with only small groups of guests going out each day.
  • NZ heli skiing views are generally pretty impressive, but the Mt Cook Heliski vistas step it up a notch or two to absolutely phenomenal. The big peaks and glaciers around Mt Cook and Mt Tasman are amazing, and the views across the lakes are beautiful.

Cons

  • Mt Cook heli skiing is a little like Alaska heli skiing. The weather is somewhat erratic and sometimes there may be a stretch of no-fly days. There are some alternative Mt Cook activities but nothing like the plethora of activities on offer in Queenstown or Wanaka.
  • The boutique nature of this operation is both a pro and con. With less guests to work with, there’s a higher likelihood of being put in a group of mixed ability levels (unless of course you BYO group!). In some of the terrain ratings for different ability levels, Mt Cook Heliski loses points for this.
Powder Snow
Like the rest of New Zealand, the snow conditions near Mt Cook can be very variable, the snow generally has high moisture content, and the lack of trees leaves the snow exposed to any wind or sun. However relative to other parts of NZ, the snow in the Mt Cook region is generally superior. It falls in greater volumes, and due to glaciations and cooler temperatures and much higher elevation (at least for the top of the runs), the snow has a tendency to stay in reasonably good nick.

Our first experience was that of creamy boot-deep powder and sometimes delightful knee deep powder (mind you my legs aren’t particularly long!). The snow quality was much better than that we’d seen elsewhere in NZ. Only towards the bottom of the runs did it start to get a little crusty. Our 2nd experience wasn’t quite as good with a balance of crust and fluff.
Overall Terrain
1st experience: Much of the terrain was somewhat steep but we weren’t able to tackle anything really steep, possibly due to avalanche considerations. The average run length was about 700-800 vertical metres, and we were impressed that the guide was definitely into quality not quantity and stopped the runs as soon as the snow conditions started to deteriorate. Some of the runs had really long fall line skiing which was awesome, and there were also various spots with banks and lips to keep it interesting. On some runs there was a lot of avalanche debris which limited the terrain available and meant that a bit of maneuvering was required to find fresh tracks.

2nd experience: I headed to the Ben Ohaus, which provided magnificent vistas across the lakes. Most of the runs were a 20-30 degree pitch, probably because I was placed in a group with some skiers who wouldn’t have enjoyed anything much steeper. The terrain was ideal for strong intermediates but not particularly interesting for more experienced riders, with long straight bowls that were devoid of features. Average run length was a big 900 metres of vertical drop.
Alpine Terrain
As above.

Tree Skiing
zero
There are no trees to dodge around, so you can definitely put the after-burners on and go hell for leather!
Strong Intermediate Terrain

Mt Cook Heliski has an abundance of 30 degree gradient slopes for strong intermediates, however considering the small group format there is a chance that intermediates may be grouped with advanced or expert riders. This was the case on our first experience where one intermediate in our group found the slopes way too steep to enjoy. She wished she’d been on Ski the Tasman tour.
Advanced Terrain
1st experience: The terrain was absolutely fantastic for advanced boarders and skiers. With plenty of decent pitch and variety, the only thing not perfect about the terrain was the lack of tree skiing!

2nd experience: The terrain didn’t provide enough challenge for an advanced rider because I was grouped with intermediates and we rode low angle slopes that had very few lumps and bumps to keep it interesting.
Expert & Extreme Terrain
Experts may enjoy Mt Cook Heliski but it all depends on whom you’re grouped with. The terrain we skied on the first trip had various chutes that would keep experts very interested. As with all NZ heli skiing, true experts should go on a private charter.
Guiding
The guides are “real mountain men” so it’s hard not to feel confident in the presence of such experienced mountaineers. Unlike other operators who may use casual guides with limited qualifications, Mt Cook Heliski has dedicated guides who know the terrain like their own backyard (because it is their backyard!). And all of the guides are highly trained and certified to international standards.

Our guides had plenty of personality and were great at powder searching and providing advice on finding the best snow, whilst also looking out for safety issues (our first guide had much more of a focus on the former than the latter). They now generally only have 4 guests per guide.
Heli
They use Helicopter Line with a fleet of B2 Squirrels. Our helicopter was comfie and had plenty of room in the back, but it was a little sluggish on take off. Some of us must have enjoyed the buffet breakfast at the Hermitage Hotel a little too much!
Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
These mountain men (and women) are absolute experts in monitoring and managing avalanche risk, although there were times when they didn’t always make their efforts that apparent to guests and discuss it out in the field. Nevertheless you can be rest assured that they’ve got your back with respect to safety. All guests are provided with a backpack with safety equipment.

Safety Briefing
For our 2nd experience, a safety briefing was provided that was very typical for a NZ heli ski operator. It covered helicopter safety, the basics of beacon use, and what to do in the event of an avalanche without going into too much detail.
Frills
The frills associated with a NZ heli skiing experience are somewhat uniform across all the operators. Mt Cook Heliski offers transport from the Mt Cook village to the airport if required. They also provide a simple picnic lunch out in the backcountry with soup, rolls or meat pies, muffins or other deli items, and a variety of chockie and muesli bars. Beverages are provided at lunch time but if you think you’ll need fluids during the rest of the day you’ll need to BYO. Conveniently Mt Cook Heliski rents out powder skis, poles and ski boots, but no snowboard gear.
Value for Money
Like other NZ heli ski operators, Mt Cook Heliski provides fantastic value for money. The rates are pretty good anyhow, but when you consider the very favourable New Zealand currency exchange rate, then New Zealand heli skiing looks very attractive.

The Mt Cook Heliski rates are similar to Methven Heliski (their sister operation) and about the same as the two big operators around Wanaka/Queenstown. However the length of runs down south is generally shorter, so the value for money at Mt Cook is slightly better.

As with all NZ operators, fat ski rental is not included in the package.

Notes Regarding Review

The review is largely based on our experience, but also on discussions with staff, former guests, and information available on their website. Our review has some limitations as it’s not possible to ski all the terrain and in all possible snow and weather conditions. Every guide is somewhat different and we acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different. The ratings are from our perspective only and if you've been out with Mt Cook Heliski, we encourage you to contribute to the overall review of the operation by adding a review.

Check out our heli ski ratings to see how Mt Cook Heliski (Wilderness Heliski) fares against other backcountry operations around the world.

The photos and video are not captured using professional riders. They aim to show an example of a “standard” experience.

Excellent Day

Willeee28/08/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Rider Country
    Australia
  • Month Visited:
    August
  • Admin Rating
    4

Excellent Day

Willeee28/08/2018
Excellent day on the 5 day wilderness run with Mt. Cook Heli Ski, guided by Alpine Guides. Despite the lack of a significant precipitation event in the past week, we found many very nice descents. The larger mountains surrounding Mt. Cook provide great shadows to preserve faces where the snow was 6 to 8 inches deep. Runouts typically got shallower and the snow quality deteriorated at the lower elevations, which is to be expected.

The guiding by Alpine Guides was excellent. They were incredibly professional yet accessible and approachable.

We did 7 extra runs, for a total of 12 dropoffs. Several of the runs were extraordinary, exceeding 1200 meters with excellent snow. Others were shorter with more marginal snow, but overall it was a fantastic experience and we hope to have the opportunity to visit again.

Finally got a day at Mt Cook

Andrew Henderson24/05/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Rider Country
    Australia
  • Admin Rating
    2

Finally got a day at Mt Cook

Andrew Henderson24/05/2018
I have wanted to ski here for some time, but kept getting foiled by the weather. The wait was worth it. Bluebird day, with 60cm of fresh. We did a few extra runs.

This is a sublime place to ski. The views are great even by NZ standards. The runs are huge and the terrain is perfect. If you ever have a chance to hit Mount Cook, do it.

Beautiful Lake Views

POWDERHOUNDS.COM13/11/2015
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month Visited:
    August
  • Admin Rating
    5

Beautiful Lake Views

POWDERHOUNDS.COM13/11/2015
Lake views
Any day out heli skiing is amazing, although my 2nd experience with Wilderness Heliski (now Mt Cook Heliski) wasn’t quite as good as the first. I was put in a group with some lovely intermediate skiers (one of which was having a hard time on the crust), so we could only tackle low angle terrain in the Ben Ohaus (where the views were magnificent). The potential for mismatched groups is one disadvantage of this boutique operation, and we haven’t seen this to the same degree with the big NZ heli operators (it’s happened with another small operator though). Our first experience also had skiers of differing abilities, although conversely an intermediate skier had to battle along on steeper slopes.

The snow quality wasn’t as good as the lovely fluffy powder we had on our first trip, but this is New Zealand after all, so you have to take the awesome with the just good.

Overall, Mt Cook Heliski has some advantages over the Queenstown and Wanaka heli ski operators, largely due to the high elevation. See our Mt Cook Heliski review for our thoughts on the pros and cons and also see our heli ski ratings to see how we rate Mt Cook Heliski versus the other NZ heli ski outfits.

Ultimate adventure

Alex Reid07/01/2013
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Admin Rating
    1

Ultimate adventure

Alex Reid07/01/2013
This is skiing amongst New Zealand's best scenery. This is a true wilderness experience not to be missed

Alpine Guides - Wilderness Heli

Terry Bradley19/08/2011
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Admin Rating
    3

Alpine Guides - Wilderness Heli

Terry Bradley19/08/2011
I have been doing heli with Alpine Guides for about 8 years now and cannot say enough about them. Friendly, entertaining and very knowledgeable guides that will do everything possible to find you good snow and the level of riding you are seeking. That said, it is not for beginners or those without powder experience. The terrain is all above treeline with spectacular peaks, couloirs, chutes, bowls and heaps of features. The snow can be a bit finicky depending on the wind, but overall is good quality powder. Have yet to have a bad trip with them and highly recommend them!

Wilderness Heli as an Alternative to Ski the Tasman

Krissie10/09/2010
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Intermediate
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Month Visited:
    August
  • Admin Rating
    3

Wilderness Heli as an Alternative to Ski the Tasman

Krissie10/09/2010
These guys also run Ski the Tasman, which was the entire reason I trekked out to Mt. Cook on my trip to the South Island. I was disappointed to learn upon my arrival that they wouldn't run ski the Tasman without a minimum of 3 people, and I was the only one scheduled that day, so it was getting cancelled. They convinced me instead to go heliskiing.

I wasn't sure that I was a good enough skier to heli but they say if you're a solid blue skier, you can do it. So I did!

It was really an incredible experience. The scenery was beautiful, the snow was decent, and the runs were the perfect length for me. The guides and staff were extremely accommodating, they even made me a vegetarian lunch! I did spend the day skiing with people who were way better skiers and riders than I am, but it was nice to be challenged and it was great to meet the people from powderhounds.com!

A Wild Ride

POWDERHOUNDS.COM28/08/2010
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month Visited:
    August
  • Admin Rating
    4

A Wild Ride

POWDERHOUNDS.COM28/08/2010
Wilderness Heli Skiing at Mt Cook is one of the best heli ski operations in New Zealand. Their awesome terrain is not far from Mt Cook itself. The terrain offers spectacular vistas, has lots of glaciations, and the steepness is very conducive for advanced skiers and boarders. The snow quality is generally better in the Mt Cook area relative to Queenstown and Wanaka due to higher snowfalls, cool temperatures and higher elevations. Consequently the run lengths also tend to be longer here. The quality of the guiding is excellent and the boutique nature of the operation is also a plus.

As is typical of New Zealand heli skiing, there is a high frequency of down days, partly because there is no tree skiing to afford the opportunity to fly and ski in protected areas. However at Mt Cook the weather is particularly fickle so there is the risk of a stretch of no-fly days, and unfortunately there isn’t an abundance of alternative Mt Cook activities available.

Another potential con could be the snow quality. Even though the snow quality is excellent by NZ standards, the snow conditions can still be variable.

An additional factor that is typical of New Zealand heli skiing is the value. You’ll definitely want to do additional runs considering that they are cheap as chups!

For a detailed review and ratings of this operation, see our Wilderness Heli Ski review.
select
Mt Cook Heli Ski Day DETAILS
Price p/p From price based on 5-run day (per person).
Base/invoice currency is in NZD.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 762

MT COOK HELI DAY
5 Epic Runs among New Zealand's highest peaks

Location: New Zealand | Tour Focus: Guided | Terrain Focus: Backcountry
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Price p/p From price based on 5-run day (per person).
Base/invoice currency is in NZD.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 762
Explore the natural wonders of the Mt Cook region whilst carving some turns in pristine powder. This package includes 5 runs (option to purchase more on the day) plus lunch, avalanche safety gear & guiding. More
View inclusions & Add-ons
Click here for rates, dates & availability
Future rates & dates are currently not yet available for this operator. Click here to enquire.
Custom Booking Period
Min Days
Price
Availability
Custom Booking Period: Jul 01 - Sep 30, 2019
Min Days: From 1
Price: Enquire
Availability: Enquire
DETAILS
1Total Results: 1Total Pages: 1