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Heli-Skiing Outfits

Adventure
posted: 12/12/2001

Like all those zillions of snowflakes that add up to several feet of untracked, no two heli-skiing outfits are exactly alike. When it comes to the trip of your life, choose wisely.

The Corporation
CANADIAN MOUNTAIN HOLIDAYS
Spot:
Make that spots (all in British Columbia)
Lowdown: CMH has 11 lodges that access the Monashees, Selkirks, Purcells, and Cariboos. Founded in 1965, its clients have logged 12.4 billion vertical. Tree-ski in perfectly spaced forests, float powder-8's on boundless glaciers, or drop into chutes next to granite spires.
Daily Verts: Depends on the area
Digs: Lodges, some remote, some in small towns.
Nitty-Gritty: Weeklong packages, C$4,409-C$7,495 (US$2,860-US$4,863); 800-661-0252, cmhski.com

The Classic
MIKE WIEGELE
Spot:
Blue River, British Columbia
Lowdown: In its 32nd year, Wiegele's outfit boasts over a thousand peaks and runs in the Cariboo and Monashee mountains and 60 years of weather records to predict the most primo pow. And lots of it: These peaks get well over 30 feet a season. You might even get the old man himself as your guide.
Daily Verts: 20,000 feet
Digs: Wiegele's Heli-Ski Village, with main lodge, 23 chalets, guide hut, and sport shop.
Nitty-Gritty: Weeklong, C$6,118-C$7,329 (US$3,969-US$4,755), no charge for extra vertical; 800-661-9170, wiegele.com

The Real Deal
LAST FRONTIER HELISKIING
Spot:
Skeena Mountains, British Columbia
Lowdown: With 2.2 million acres of territory in northern B.C., skiers from as far away as Russia and Chile rack up more than 200,000 vertical in a week. With a maximum of five, the groups are small. This outfit is for people who want to ski hard all day, hold the pampering. Vast bowls, cornices, steeps, and deeps -- the opportunities to get gripped are endless. Wimps need not apply.
Daily Verts: 25,000 feet
Digs: The Bell II Lodge, a pit-stop turned chalet complex.
Nitty-Gritty: Weeklong, C$5,770-C$6,920 (US$3,743-US$4,489); 250-558-7980, lastfrontierheli.com

The Name
DOUG COOMBS' VALDEZ HELI-SKI GUIDES
Spot:
Valdez, Alaska
Lowdown: Pro freeskiers, ski-movie celebs, and other hardcores come here to find 50-plus-degree pitches, chutes, and cliffs, following Coombs and his crew into the hairiest of the Chugach. Rappelling to get to the best lines is routine.
Daily Verts: 20,000 feet
Digs: Tsaina Lodge, a complex of log cabins with handmade quilts and mining artifacts.
Nitty-Gritty: Weeklong, $3,640-$4,200;907-835-4528, valdezheliskiguides.com

The One-Stop Shop
VALDEZ HELI-CAMPS
Spot:
Valdez, Alaska
Lowdown: So, you want to heli-ski in Alaska, but you don't want to kick the bucket doing it? The Chugach actually boasts sugary powderfields that are wide open, moderately pitched, and confidence boosting. Here, one call gives you everything: lodging, serious local seafood, transportation, and bar-hopping.
Daily Verts: 18,000-20,000 feet
Digs: Local inns for now, but a classy, private lodge is in the works.
Nitty-Gritty: Weeklong, $3,970 double, $4,425 single; 907-783-3243, valdezhelicamps.com

The Mom and Pop
RUBY MOUNTAIN HELICOPTER SKIING
Spot:
Lamoille, Nevada
Lowdown: Hubby-wife pair Joe and Fran Royer run this joint -- he's the guide, she's the chef. Ski the choicest morsels of the Great Basin, the Rubies, which rise 11,000 feet over the desert floor into white pine glades and wide, empty bowls. The storms blow in, dump 18 inches, and blow out.
Daily Verts: 20,000 feet
Digs: Red's Ranch, a hunting lodge on a 125-acre property.
Nitty-Gritty: Three days, $2,900; 775-753-6867, helicopterskiing.com

The Drive-In
NORTH CASCADE HELI-SKI
Spot:
Mazama, Washington
Lowdown: The only outfit in the eastern Cascades, NCHS serveup megaruns, like the Silver Star glacier, that start on sky-piercing peaks and finish in dark pine stands some 4,000 feet later. Hail, weekend warrior: Guests can even drive from Seattle after a short week of work.
Daily Verts: 10,000 feet
Digs: The luxe log Freestone Inn or one of 15 surrounding cottages.
Nitty-Gritty: Three-days, $2,220 double, $2,425 single (less on weekdays); 509-996-3272, heli-ski.com

The Splurge
BLANKET BAY
Spot:
The northern shores of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand
Lowdown: If you can fork over the dough (or your last name is Aniston-Pitt), you'll get the goods: a private chopper to pick you up on the front lawn of an opulent lodge, suppers in the wine cellar, and a servant -- oops, we mean pilot -- to serve you baguettes and smoked salmon on a table built of snow. And the skiing? Pick your poison. The mountains are craggy, vast, and covered with endless powderfields. For the price tag, the free fleece jacket better be damn nice.
Daily Verts: 10,000 feet
Digs: Think Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: The lodge is complete with huge stone fireplaces and sweeping views.
Nitty-Gritty: Weeklong, NZ$6,723 (U.S.$2,984) for skiing, plus NZ$1,090-NZ$2,390 (US$484-US$1,060) a night for lodging; 64-3-442-9442, blanketbay.com



The Best of the Rest

DEAN CUMMINGS' VALDEZ H2O HELI ADVENTURES
Spot: Valdez, Alaska
Lowdown: Come here for big-name guides and big-mountain descents like The White Room and Deserted Glacier, but don't expect your pillow to be fluffed. Make sure to check out daily video footage and beers in the lounge, where you can replay your epic descents over and over. Then bring home a tape to show your friends.
Average daily vertical: 20,000 feet
Digs: Basic rooms at the Totem Inn. At dinner, meet your guides at restaurants around town.
Nitty-Gritty: Three days for $2,040 based on double occupancy, six days for $4,280, dinners not included; 800-578-HELI, www.h2oguides.com.

CRESCENT SPUR HELI-SKIING
Spot: near Price George, British Columbia
Lowdown: Tucked into a forested valley between the northern Cariboo Mountains and the Canadian Rockies, Crescent Spur offers dry powder, immense open bowls, expansive glacier skiing, and challenging treed slopes. Heli-virgins are welcome.
Average daily vertical: 16,000 feet
Digs: Ranch-style lodge with hand-hewn log beams and big windows.
Nitty-Gritty: Five-day packages for C$4,899 from January-March; $4,599 in April; six-day packages for $5,825 and $5,470; 800-715-5532, www.crescentspurheliski.com.

SELKIRK-TANGIERS HELICOPTER SKIING
Spot: Revelstoke, British Columbia
Lowdown: This town-based operation hits the eastern Monashees and the western Selkirks. The runs above tree line are spectacular and untracked, but don't shy from dropping down into the forest: You'll find undisturbed powder troves and sweet lines.
Average daily vertical: 15,000 feet
Digs: The spankin' new Coast Hillcrest Hotel in Revelstoke, a deluxe 75-room hotel with health club, restaurant, and gift shop.
Nitty-Gritty: Prices range from C$3,550 to $5,572 for six- and seven-day packages; $1,800-$2,791 for three-day packages; 800-663-7080; www.selkirk-tangiers.com.

TLH HELISKIING
Spot: Tyaughton Lake, British Columbia
Lowdown: The heavily glaciated Chilcotin Mountains boast blankets of powder and jagged peaks; Many runs start vast and finish thousands of vertical feet below in deep, tree-dotted pow. Between runs like Blind Man's Bluff and Moon Doggie, refuel on homemade soup and hot cocoa, right on the slopes.
Average daily vertical: 21,000 feet
Digs: The Tyax Mountain Lake Resort, a huge log cabin, complete with resident masseuse.
Nitty-Gritty: Prices range from C$5,710 to $6,846 for seven-day packages and $3,420 to $4,079 for four-day packages; 250-238-2221, www.tlhheliskiing.com.

ROBSON HELIMAGIC
Spot: Valemount, British Columbia
Lowdown: As their website says, "We won't have you jumping off cliffs -- that's just in the movies." Instead, expect small groups, long powderfields, and a mellow atmosphere.
Average daily vertical: 12,000-15,000 feet
Digs: Canoe Mountain Lodge, a small Valemount inn.
Nitty-Gritty: Three-day packages for $1,849, five-day for $3,099, seven-day for $4,339; 250-566-4700, www.robsonhelimagic.com.

R.K. HELISKI
Spot: Panorama Mountain Village, British Columbia
Lowdown: Though not as renowned as the Rockies or Selkirks, the Purcells offer just as many cornices, couloirs, bowls, and gullies. R.K.'s territory is divided into six distinct zones that span everything from long, remote glacier runs to steep chutes -- it gives guides the chance to tailor each day according to weather, ability, and snow quality.
Digs: Classy lodges in Panorama: The Ski Tip/Tamarack, The Hearthstone, and Panorama Springs Lodge.
Nitty-Gritty: Five-day package for C$4,318, dinners not included; 250-342-3889, www.rkheliski.com.

HIGH SIERRA HELISKIING
Spot: The Pine Nut and Sweetwater ranges of Toiyabe National Forest, southeast of Lake Tahoe.
Lowdown: Under a special permit from the U.S. Forest Service, this Tahoe-based outfit covers 40,000 acres -- and they'll pick you up from any Tahoe resort. In a short time, fly to a variety of 10,000- to 12,000-foot peaks with whatever exposure you desire. High Sierra is especially good for the intermediate skier who has never been off the groomed, resort slopes or ventured into the backcountry.
Average daily vertical: Up to 30,000 feet
Digs: Package deals with many Tahoe-area accommodations.
Nitty-Gritty: $650 a day, midweek. $750 a day, weekend; 750-586-1190, www.highsierraheliskiing.com.

POINTS NORTH HELI-ADVENTURES (PNH)
Spot: Chugach Mountains, Alaska
Lowdown: With its own slice of the Chugach, PNH is based out of Cordova and only reachable by ferry or plane. The reward? Solitary powderfields and plumes of powder without any sign of other outfits -- and plenty of opportunity for first descents.
Average daily vertical: 25,000-30,000 feet
Digs: The Orca Adventure Lodge, formerly known as the Orca Cannery, right on the water's edge. The copter's landing pad is right next door.
Nitty-Gritty: $99 a day for lodging and $450 per flight hour for the heli; 877-787-6784, www.alaskaheliski.com.

CHUGACH POWDER GUIDES
Spot: Western Chugach Range, Alaska
Lowdown: From the lowest pick-up point, just 10 feet above sea level, to the highest drop-off, at 6,500 feet, CPG will let you ski it all -- including 2,000-some vertical in the trees below timberline. The days start mellow and get more radical as the week progresses.
Average daily vertical: 16,000-20,000 feet
Digs: Stay in Girdwood at the Alyeska Prince, an elegant lakefront hotel with seven restaurants and a sightseeing tram.
Nitty-Gritty: Ranges from $3,100 for five days of skiing at double-occupancy to $5,000 for seven days at single occupancy; 907-783-4354, www.chugachpowderguides.com.



Note: Most heli outfits also offer packages that are less than a week long. om C$5,710 to $6,846 for seven-day packages and $3,420 to $4,079 for four-day packages; 250-238-2221, www.tlhheliskiing.com.

ROBSON HELIMAGIC
Spot: Valemount, British Columbia
Lowdown: As their website says, "We won't have you jumping off cliffs -- that's just in the movies." Instead, expect small groups, long powderfields, and a mellow atmosphere.
Average daily vertical: 12,000-15,000 feet
Digs: Canoe Mountain Lodge, a small Valemount inn.
Nitty-Gritty: Three-day packages for $1,849, five-day for $3,099, seven-day for $4,339; 250-566-4700, www.robsonhelimagic.com.

R.K. HELISKI
Spot: Panorama Mountain Village, British Columbia
Lowdown: Though not as renowned as the Rockies or Selkirks, the Purcells offer just as many cornices, couloirs, bowls, and gullies. R.K.'s territory is divided into six distinct zones that span everything from long, remote glacier runs to steep chutes -- it gives guides the chance to tailor each day according to weather, ability, and snow quality.
Digs: Classy lodges in Panorama: The Ski Tip/Tamarack, The Hearthstone, and Panorama Springs Lodge.
Nitty-Gritty: Five-day package for C$4,318, dinners not included; 250-342-3889, www.rkheliski.com.

HIGH SIERRA HELISKIING
Spot: The Pine Nut and Sweetwater ranges of Toiyabe National Forest, southeast of Lake Tahoe.
Lowdown: Under a special permit from the U.S. Forest Service, this Tahoe-based outfit covers 40,000 acres -- and they'll pick you up from any Tahoe resort. In a short time, fly to a variety of 10,000- to 12,000-foot peaks with whatever exposure you desire. High Sierra is especially good for the intermediate skier who has never been off the groomed, resort slopes or ventured into the backcountry.
Average daily vertical: Up to 30,000 feet
Digs: Package deals with many Tahoe-area accommodations.
Nitty-Gritty: $650 a day, midweek. $750 a day, weekend; 750-586-1190, www.highsierraheliskiing.com.

POINTS NORTH HELI-ADVENTURES (PNH)
Spot: Chugach Mountains, Alaska
Lowdown: With its own slice of the Chugach, PNH is based out of Cordova and only reachable by ferry or plane. The reward? Solitary powderfields and plumes of powder without any sign of other outfits -- and plenty of opportunity for first descents.
Average daily vertical: 25,000-30,000 feet
Digs: The Orca Adventure Lodge, formerly known as the Orca Cannery, right on the water's edge. The copter's landing pad is right next door.
Nitty-Gritty: $99 a day for lodging and $450 per flight hour for the heli; 877-787-6784, www.alaskaheliski.com.

CHUGACH POWDER GUIDES
Spot: Western Chugach Range, Alaska
Lowdown: From the lowest pick-up point, just 10 feet above sea level, to the highest drop-off, at 6,500 feet, CPG will let you ski it all -- including 2,000-some vertical in the trees below timberline. The days start mellow and get more radical as the week progresses.
Average daily vertical: 16,000-20,000 feet
Digs: Stay in Girdwood at the Alyeska Prince, an elegant lakefront hotel with seven restaurants and a sightseeing tram.
Nitty-Gritty: Ranges from $3,100 for five days of skiing at double-occupancy to $5,000 for seven days at single occupancy; 907-783-4354, www.chugachpowderguides.com.



Note: Most heli outfits also offer packages that are less than a week long.

(1)
Last Frontier Heliskiing is the real deal! Now they are offering one heli of a deal; hundreds of dollars off your next heliskiing adventure. Lifttickets.com is proud to offer select dates at steep discounts. This is a very limited time offer, and as you all know these don't come around often. http://www.lifttickets.com/lift-tickets/specials-discount-heli-skiing.php?ID=40 There are also some great heliskiing videos on the link, enjoy!!!
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