You don't have to be a pro, an extreme skier or a fitness freak to go heli- or catskiing. Any advanced skier who's reasonably proficient in powder and can adapt to changing natural snow conditions will be welcomed by most operators. They'll do their best to ensure that you're in a group of skiers with similar skills. But in addition to ability, there are other considerations. Before sending in a deposit, ask yourself the following questions:
>Do you ski well enough? You must be able to link short to medium turns in the fall line in order to control speed. You should be accustomed to fat powder skis, which like to be skied two-footed and with a tighter stance than you use on groomed snow. You must have good balance, both side-to-side and fore/aft. Most important, you'll need a disciplined upper body and a solid pole-plant. Deep snow amplifies the effects of small rotational errors in the upper body or excessive arm movement.
>Are you strong? Powder skiing demands muscular and aerobic fitness. We all fall in powder, and getting up can be exhausting. Heliskiing runs can be long, too. You should be able to ski 1,200-1,500 vertical feet without stopping.
>Are you a team player? You'll need to communicate and work well with other people in your group and be willing to share the honor of going first. Skiers typically outnumber snowboarders, but there may be some boarders in the group. Share the load: Snowboarders can be the first to test tricky snow conditions; skiers can break trail to help snowboarders get across long flats.
>Do you listen (and hear)? Your guide holds your life in his hands. Deviate from his instructions, and you place yourself and others at potentially grave risk. A good guide will dress you down appropriately, right on the spot. Be prepared to make turns right next to his or her tracks, even if the powder looks glorious a few feet away. And stop where he or she says to.
>Are you patient? Heliskiing sometimes involves long waits for poor weather or dangerous conditions to improve. Be prepared to cope with down time.
>Are you ready for the ski trip of a lifetime? The vast mountainscape, the helicopter rides, the guide and the deep snow may seem overwhelming at first. But don't be intimidated. Be receptive to a wondrous experience.