Heli-Skiing In U.S.: Heading Deep Into Pow' Territory
Taking a helicopter to find untouched powder isn't only for skiers and riders in Alaska or Canada: Plenty of runs can be had in the Lower 48, too.
Nine locales in the West fire up the 'copters for daily trips into powder stashes. Most are near major resorts that often package lodging with 'copter tour. Extra runs can often be purchased if conditions allow.
In Idaho, heli-skiing takes off from near Schweitzer and Sun Valley. The Selkirks of northern Rockies are heli-heaven. Two 'copters leave near Schweitzer to bring up to eight for up to seven runs with about 14,000 total vert.
At Sun Valley, the most acreage (750,000) in Lower 48 can be sampled with up to six runs a day (more can be purchased) on 3,000 ft. vert max. Four-person capacity for full- and half-day trips.
Near Jackson Hole, skiers and riders can get 15,000 vertical on six-run daily flights on 305,000 acres. Three 'copters fit four for full days in chutes, bowls, and trees.
In the Northwest, North Cascade Heli operates out of Mazama, Wash., with 300,000 permitted acres and up to 5,000 feet vert per run. The nearest resort is Loup Loup.
East of Elko, Nev., Ruby Mountain offers one-day tours and three-day stays at a nearby lodge. A day's vertical tops at 13,000 with up to seven runs for five-person groups.
The San Juans are the place for heli-skiing in Colorado. Telluride Helitrax flies into 128,000 acres for six-run, 14,000 vert max trips. 'Copters hold four, custom trips up to 16. Also can combo heli trip with backcountry X-C tour.
Over the ridge, Silverton's all-powder resort now has helicopter rides -- only operation with single-run option ($179). Nearly 4,000 vertical can be had on Silverton Mountain with plenty of steeps (35 degrees or more).
Utah has two heli ops: Powderbird out of Snowbird and Park City, and other up north near Cherry Peak. Powderbird runs day trips into 170,000 acres in the Wasatch Range. Four-seat 'copters deliver up to 15 runs a day with 1,500 vertical per run.
Outside Cherry Peak, Whisper Ridge flies into 70,000 acres. Guarantee for at least six runs a day (up to 15) and a max of 20,000 vertical for four people per 'copter. Plus, a remote yurt to stay in the backcountry.