There are no ski lifts to be seen. No tracks from previous runs, and no disturbances in the immaculate winter landscape. The mountain slope is smooth and powdery, untouched by man. This kind of run is every skier's dream, but the chances of coming across a scene like this one are getting slimmer every day. But pistes like this do still exist, hidden in mountainous areas that have yet to be affected by industry or habitation. These runs are so exclusive they can only be reached by helicopter.
Back in the 1960s when heliskiing first appeared, it was a pastime only for the most extreme risk-takers. There were no regulations, no safety measures and no guides. Skiers simply hopped into a helicopter and dropped onto whichever remote slope struck their fancy. Fifty years later, everything about heliskiing has changed – except the pristine runs that are available to ski.
Today the sport is highly regulated, with professional guides explaining rules, handing out avalanche transceivers, and accompanying groups down the slopes. Heliskiing is particularly popular in Canada, where it originated, but some of the best-kept secret spots are situated right in the Alps. Due to environmental concerns, heliskiing is banned in France and Germany, making Switzerland the prime destination for European skiers looking to experience the Alps as naturally as possible. Heliskiing may be in danger even there though, since some feel that these untouched areas of mountain slope should remain exactly that – untouched.
But for those irrepressible skiers who crave an authentic experience of the Alps, the opportunity to do so can still be found with companies such as SwisSKIsafari, Air-Zermatt and Adrenaline Guides.
Based in Anzere, Switzerland, SwisSKIsafari offers prestigious multi-day packages for those seeking the ultimate heliskiing experience. Itineraries are specially customized for every trip, but previous options have included exploring the Italian Alps, multi-country trips and even a James Bond-themed adventure down summits and frozen tunnels.
CH 1972 Anzere
Tel. +41 (0)79 2394 152
Another option for heliskiing in the Swiss Alps is Air Zermatt. Based at the famous Zermatt ski resort, the helicopters give skiers breath-taking views of the Alps before they zoom down the Monte Rosa. A 16,000 metre run, the mountain offers a dynamic and unforgettable experience.
AG Heliport, Zermatt
P.O. Box 177
CH 3920 Zermatt
Tel. +41 (0)27 9668 685
Lastly, Adrenaline Guides in Verbier offers flexible heliskiing opportunities. Based on experience, skiers have options to go as a group or ski privately in various locations. Rates include the helicopter drop and a guide, and give skiiers access to some of the most pristine mountains in the Alps.
Adrenaline - Official Mountain Guides Company Verbier
Rue de la Poste, C.P. 54
CH 1936 Verbier
Tel. +41 (0)79 2059 595
Heliskiing has had an adventurous history since its inception. It may soon become a thing of the past, so anyone hoping to experience the exhilaration of rocketing down a secluded mountain run should book their package soon!