Seeking Powder Hounds: Heli-Skiing the Northwest

Enjoy another epic guest post by Alan Carr, an aviation aficionado and winter sports enthusiast. He currently works with GlobalAir.com to provide resources on aircraft-related topics. For more of his writing, read Flying, Fishing and Sleeping Under a Wing: Fly-in Camping for Every Pilot.

If you’ve never been on a heli-skiing adventure, chances are your first foray into the sport won’t be dropping in on the Swiss Alps. Luckily, there are a few domestic tours focused on spectacular settings rather than extreme terrain and they’re perfect for intermediate skiers and recreationalists.

Heli-skiing isn’t exactly a hobby for tight budgets. For those willing to splurge – say goodbye to lengthy lift lines and heavy traffic and prepare to be whisked away to winter-y paradise.

Telluride, CO

Take a deep breath. You’re going to need it in Telluride. Though local outfit Helitrax stresses their trips to the San Juan Mountains aren’t exclusively for experts, elevations are among the highest in the country (the town itself sits at almost 9000 feet, with drop-off points around 13,500). With more than 200 square miles of skiable terrain and vertical drops up to 3000 feet, Telluride offers unmatched backcountry powder.

Spending time in the model train-set known as Telluride is a bonus. More laid back than Aspen and Vail, Telluride still has the rustic feel of an old mining town and the charm to draw everyone from rambling hippies to Oprah Winfrey.

Sun Valley, ID

Sun Valley, Idaho was among the pioneers of heli-skiing in the continental US, with companies in operation since 1966. Heck, Sun Valley pioneered the entire stateside ski resort push in the 1930’s. Sitting pretty amidst three mountain ranges, this tour offers expansive turf for world-class skiing. Sun Valley Heli Ski states outright that if you’re new to the sport, this is a great place to start.

High alpine bowls, endless tree runs and breathtaking views are just a few. Idaho boasts some of the deepest and lightest powder in the country, in addition to its rich history in the resort industry. For those looking for a personal, “small group” experience will find it here.

Mazama, WA

The North Cascade Range in Washington state, known as the “American Alps” for their heavily glaciated peaks, are regaled for their epic scenery. The immense granite peaks guarding the Methow Valley is the home base for the North Cascade Heli outfit.

With runs between 7000-9000 feet and drops between 1500 – 4000 feet, expect plenty of room to play around with. According to their website, they concentrate on intimate groups for maximum amount of runs and a high-quality experience. Word on the street is that they’re willing to cut some serious deals come the end of the season, so keep an eye out.

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