Our Review

Our Review

World Nomads Travel Insurance

Powderhounds Review of Telluride Helitrax



Review of Telluride Helitrax Heli Skiing It’s hard not to give Telluride Helitrax a glowing review. This is definitely not a to-hell-you-ride experience. Soaring atop the mountains taking in the majestic vistas, it’s difficult not to grin and that’s before the skiing even starts. When you combine the helicopter flights, the views and the skiing or boarding, the experience is not just unreal but completely surreal and dreamlike. We had a fabulous time!

That being said, no operation is absolutely perfect for everyone, so our review covers different aspects of their operation and you can determine if Helitrax is likely to align with your priorities.

Pros

  • Helitrax is a polished operation that has been in business since 1982. A high level of professionalism and expertise is evident in everything they do, and the quality of the guiding is top notch.
  • Being based at Telluride ski resort is a great advantage as it’s easy to mix and match heli skiing with resort skiing, and there are Telluride activities to entertain the whole family. It’s also very convenient because most guests can fly straight out from the Mountain Village heli pad.
  • Helitrax provides lots of added extras including the use of powder skis (or snowboard).
  • Telli-Heli puts safety up there as a top priority. Their commitment to minimising risk includes the blasting of some slopes, a strategy that is rare in the heliski industry.
Cons
  • There is no tree skiing per se, which apart from not being able to dodge around trees means that the snow is not protected from the elements. Another implication is that there is nowhere to hide on inclement weather days, and on average one of three days are cancelled due to weather factors. This is somewhat common for heliski operators that have treeless terrain including New Zealand heli skiing and Chile heli skiing.
  • The runs are generally not as long as many other USA heli ski operators, but nonetheless it’s likely you’ll finish the day feeling adequately satisfied.
See how the statistics for Helitrax compare to stats for other USA heli ski operators. Also see how the ratings for Helitrax compare to other heli ski operations in Colorado, Canada, and New Zealand. .

Powder Snow
Helitrax don’t cite a statistic for their annual snowfall, which always makes one a little nervous that they’re not proud of it. Telluride ski resort receives 7.9 metres of snowfall per season on average, so the assumption could be made that the Helitrax snowfall is a little higher than this. This would put the volume of snowfall in the “very good” category, but the likelihood of needing a snorkel is not as high as in Utah or the British Columbia interior.

If it’s snowed recently the snow quality will be excellent with gorgeous light dry Colorado powder. The only limitation is that with predominantly alpine terrain, the snow is exposed to the elements. After a few days without fresh snow, there’s the potential for sun and wind affected crust. At least the heli drops are at high elevations of up to 4,115 metres (13,500 feet), the highest in North America, so there’s a low likelihood of skiing mashed potatoes.
Overall Terrain
Helitrax has a never-ending choice of lines within the 250 square miles (64,750 hectares) of terrain. This area is ginormous in comparison to the tenure of any USA cat ski operation, and it’s significantly much bigger than Silverton Heli Skiing. It’s not as vast as other continental USA heli ski operators or Alaska heli skiing, but with only a small number of guests each day, you’ll always be able to ski untracked snow.

The Helitrax terrain is impressive. The only downsides would be that there’s not huge variety in the type of terrain, and because the snowpack in the San Juan Mountains is rather fickle, they are often limited to skiing low angle slopes.
Alpine Terrain
The majority of the Helitrax terrain is in the alpine and the views are absolutely spectacular. As above, the only drawback is that the snowpack may restrict the diversity of runs able to be skied.
Tree Skiing
There is no real tree skiing. In the lower areas of the runs there are a few sporadic trees and Xmas trees, but there’s not enough vegetation to create interesting obstacles. It’s hard to discretely use the powder room, but more importantly there are no areas where the powder is protected from the wind and sun, and there is nowhere to ski in inclement weather.
Strong Intermediate Terrain
With lots of wide open low-angle slopes, Helitrax can cater very well to adventurous intermediates or powderhounds on their “L” plates. The small group size also makes it somewhat feasible to customise the experience.
Advanced Terrain
Advanced skiers and snowboarders will thoroughly enjoy a day out with Telli-heli. The ability to ski trees, interesting terrain features, and steeper slopes would score them more points.

Expert & Extreme Terrain


no rating

The tenure has some chutes and steep runs that are technically challenging, but it’s rare that these can be skied due to avalanche risk.
Guiding
Helitrax have a small group of excellent guides that are incredibly professional. Some of the staff are highly qualified and have extensive experience in avalanche forecasting. Out in the field there is absolutely nothing laissez faire about the guiding, with strong leadership, clear instructions and appropriate re-grouping. It is easy to develop a high level of trust in the skills of the guides.
Heli
Helitrax use a Bell 407 helicopter which is renowned for its performance at altitude and a comfortable ride. The cabin has 5 seats for guests to sit with adequate space, unlike some helis where you’re squashed in like a sardine. It’s not so good though if you’re trying to crack onto a cute girl.
Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
Their website clearly states their commitment to safety, and safety as a priority is very evident to all guests during the day. They have to be very cautious considering the snowpack is erratic and somewhat unpredictable. One risk minimisation strategy is the use of a comprehensive forecasting system, and a couple of the guides are absolute experts in this area. They undertake some control work including blasting which is somewhat rare in the heliski industry. A client pack with a shovel and probe (but no radio) is carried by one guest per group. Helitrax would get a 5 out of 5 rating were it not for the fickle snowpack that they have to deal with.
Safety Briefing
The morning starts with a comprehensive safety briefing in the comfort of their office. It is conducted in a very professional manner and with the structured use of a powerpoint presentation. The outdoor practical components were a little swift and the use of the shovel and probe was not well covered, but otherwise the briefing was very good.
Frills
Whilst no heli ski operation really wants to be called “frilly”, Helitrax fits the bill considering all the trimmings and added extras that are laid on. Morning proceedings are accompanied by gourmet muffins and coffee, and guests can grab bottled water and naughty chockies for the day. Lunch is relatively simple with rolls, chips and cookies, but who needs gastronomical treats considering the magnificent views?! Guests can wear a headcam and watch the footage on a big screen during après ski. The screen can also be used for guests to share their photos of the day. You don’t get free steak knives with Helitrax, but there are many other trimmings such as the provision of high quality powder skis (or board), sunscreen, and a Helitrax cap and t-shirt to boot.
Value for Money

The costs are middle of the road for a continental USA heli skiing operator. The rates are similar to Silverton Heli Skiing, but Helitrax provides much better value considering that skis and other frills are included, and the experience is far superior. And impressively for 2010-11, Helitrax has reduced the standard package by $100 per day. BC Heli skiing day operators generally provide better value for money, but of course that’s partly dependent on the exchange rate.

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 every run and in all possible snow and weather conditions, and the terrain skied on a particular day is dependent on the ability of the group. Every guide is somewhat different and we acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different. The ratings are from our perspective only.

The video is not filmed using professional riders, but rather aims to show an example of a real experience.
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