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Skier with helicopter in background

Heli-skiing is off-trail, downhill skiing or snowboarding that is accessed by a helicopter, as opposed to a ski lift. Evidence suggests that heliskiing may have begun in the late 50s or early 60s in Alaska, Wyoming or Utah based on old photos in ski books.[1] Heliskiing was promoted in ski films and has its own star athletes such as Seth Morrison, Mark Abma, and Glen Plake.


The Canadian province of British Columbia is the most popular area for heli-skiing with over 90% global market share.[citation needed] British Columbia heliskiing is divided into four subdivisions of the Canadian Rockies.[2] It is also practised the continental United States and Alaska, Nepal, Iceland, Greenland, New Zealand, the Indian Himalayas, Russia, Turkey, Voss, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Argentina, Georgia and Chile.[3]

In Switzerland there are an estimated 15,000 heliskiing flights each year, to 42 landing sites at places not reached by ski lifts. In 2010 Switzerland's major environmental groups, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), handed a petition with over 15,000 signatures to the Swiss government, demanding a ban on heliskiing.[4]

Heliskiing is banned in Germany and was banned in France in 1984, while neighbouring Austria allows just two landing sites.


The skiers board the helicopter and are lifted off and carried to a landing zone on the mountain. The guide or a helicopter crew member load the skis and poles into an exterior basket. Helicopters land at the top of runs; skiiers do not jump from the helicopter.[5]


Snow conditions on the mountains vary considerably over the course of the winter as the snow is subjected to sun, wind, temperature variation, and new snowfalls. Snow conditions change almost every day.[5]


Risks include those typical of back country skiing, including avalanches,[6] as well as the inherent risk of flying in a helicopter. Risks are mitigated by using experience pilots and certified guides, avalanche transceivers, avalanche air-bags, and radios.


  1. ^ Atwater, Montgomery M. (1968) The Avalanche Hunters Philadelphia: M. Smith Co. OCLC 449852
  2. ^ "Heli-Skiing Canada, Importance of Location". 
  3. ^ Wanrooy, Bill; Anthony, Chris (2006) Dream Season: Worldwide Guide to Heli & Cat Skiing/Boarding Lulu.com ISBN 9781847287915
  4. ^ Foulkes, Imogen. "Pressure grows on Swiss heliskiing". BBC. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "FAQ". Whistler Heli-skiing. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Gmoser, Hans (1996) The CMH Gallery: a visual celebration of CMH Heli-Skiing and Heli-HikingAltitude Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 9781551531168