Originally published on SeanCarothers.org
Ski enthusiasts around the world are very familiar with this extreme sport, but for those who may not have the same amount of experience, ‘heli-skiing’ can seem like a terrifying idea. While you don’t have to necessarily jump out of a helicopter from great heights, you do have to ride one to reach truly remarkable slopes, which many would argue is well worth the trip.
Heli-skiing allow skiers and snowboarders alike to access hard-to-reach areas for some truly adventurous downhill riding. These untouched slopes make for a unique experience in that many skiers are the first to ever reach them, and by helicopter to add to the excitement. The sights at these destinations are unlike any other, giving skiers bird’s-eye views of their surroundings, and a perspective of the mountains that is not attainable at any other point.
Derived from the actual word “helicopter,” heli-skiing (and heli-boarding) first began in 1960s Canada when hikers and skiers began to seek out new adventures, eventually stumbling upon the Canadian Rockies. This spawned the use of helicopters to access theses areas more quickly and conveniently for those wishing to ski down their enormous slopes.
Hans Gmoser is widely regarded as the founder of heli-skiing. He first began offering guided tours throughout the Canadian Rockies in 1965, and soon thereafter began to take advantage of helicopters to provide his guests with the most stunning views possible. He then created his heli-skiing business Canadian Mountain Holidays, which has since become the leading company in the heli-skiing world. CMH now operates out of 11 resorts around western Canada.
Today, heli-skiing is popular in countries all over the world. Italy, Chile, New Zealand, and the U.S. have all embraced this unique sport thanks to the mountainous regions of their respective borders. However, heli-skiing is prohibited in a few countries, those being Germany, Switzerland, and France due to conservationists claiming the use of helicopters is harmful to the environment and the mountains. The argument against this is that helicopters are accessing remote areas away from crowds and wildlife, leaving little impact on the environment. While this drums up some controversy, the sport itself remains a highly sought after adventure for winter sports enthusiasts everywhere.
Those attracted to extreme sports are constantly looking for new thrills, and heli-skiing is one of many ways skiers can satisfy that craving. While many resorts offer off-piste skiing areas and access to newer slopes, there is nothing quite like skiing down the side of a mountain unreachable by foot.