Plummeting from a helicopter onto spectacular off-piste terrain is the only way to ski if you’ve got the budget for it. The pastime is thought to have begun as early as the 1950s in the US, but these days there are a wealth of luxury destinations that provide thrill-seekers with the greatest of downhill pursuits.
1. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
With 90% of the world’s heli-skiing taking place in British Columbia, Canada, Whistler has quickly become a choice destination for enthusiasts. The glacial climate, vast wilderness and abundance of powder snow, mean Whistler is a haven for heli-skiiers who flock here to enjoy its classic, big mountain terrain.
Ski: To reach this epic glacial wilderness, Whistler Heli-Skiing take five to ten passenger helicopters led by experienced, certified guides. Their Ultimate Excursion is a six-run package for the experienced skier or boarder who lives for a fast pace and plenty of vertical. Prices start at CA$1,319 per person.
Stay: Whistler Luxury Condos has a selection of luxury properties for rental throughout the year, such as the Loft Penthouse: a two-bed loft house equipped with picture-perfect mountain views, wood-burning fire-places and two state of the art home theatres.
2. Santiago, Chile
Venture off the beaten (hel-iski) path and head to South America. Spend your day heli-skiing the deep powder of the pristine Chilean Andes and end it in a comfortable room in one of the city’s most luxurious hotels. Perfect for those who want some city nightlife after a long day of heli-skiing.
Ski: Pure Powder offers six-day trips which include five-star accommodation and a maximum of four skiers from €16,500 per person. Total Heliski also does seven-day packages from €9,900 based on eight persons.
Stay: Most of the packages include accommodation at the panoramic five-star W Hotel in downtown Santiago, while the Ritz-Carlton offers a presidential suite on the 14th floor.
3. Chugach, Alaska
One for the purists, Chugach does not offer the homely accommodation of British Columbia – but the skiing is unrivalled. Its northerly location and always snowy conditions mean you don’t have to venture as high up as you might in BC.
Ski: The steep terrain of the Chugach Mountains has made this a favourite location for extreme winter sports fans, but there is plenty of intermediate skiing, too. Chugach Powder Guides do five and seven-day Heli Packages which include 90,000 vertical feet of helicopter skiing plus lodging and a four-course dinner at the 4-Diamond Seven Glaciers. Prices are available on request.
Stay: The Alyeska Resort is one of the only truly luxurious lodges around and thus where most package holidayers find themselves accommodated. Guests are provided access to its aerial scenic tram and saltwater pool, while its Royal Suite’s floor-to-ceiling windows allow for breathtaking panoramic mountain views.
4. Riksgransen, Sweden
Sweden is not normally a country that springs to mind when you think of heli-skiing. Despite being relatively low in terms of elevation, the mountains in Arctic Sweden maintain reliable snow and cold temperatures meaning there can be good powder skiing right through until the end of May. By mid May there is 24hrs of daylight allowing for heli-skiing almost 24 hours a day.
Ski: Elemental Adventures do three and six-day Arctic Exclusive packages for “those who want to experience the ultimate in freedom and flexibility.” As well as helicopter flights this includes accommodation and unlimited spa access. Prices start at €3,800
For three days or €7,200 for six days.
5. Wanaka, New Zealand
For an easy to reach heli-ski hotspot, New Zealand’s got you covered. Lake Wanaka is the perfect base to experience some of the country’s best skiing and snowboarding and the Southern Alps that surround the region are renowned for having the largest skiable terrain in the Southern Hemisphere.
Ski: Release NZ does exclusive and flexible packages tailored to suit your needs. Your personal guide and helicopter will cater to your group’s pace, ability and terrain preferences. There’ll be no need to share your chopper with another group and a 4WD, private in-house chef and massage are all included. Prices are on request.
Stay: There are a host of luxury lodges and apartments available year round. Whare Kea Lodge has two Master Suites as well as a private Mountain Chalet in a private lakeside setting. Or you could opt for a self-contained holiday cottage like Briar Bank.