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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. As early as the late 1950s helicopters were used in Alaska and Europe to access remote terrain.[1] Heliskiing was promoted in ski films featuring Seth Morrison, Mark Abma, Glen Plake, Hans Gmoser, and others.

Heliskiing is practiced in many countries around the world. The highest concentration of heliskiing operators is in British Columbia, Canada. It is banned in Germany and was banned in France in 1984, while neighbouring Austria allows just two landing sites. In Switzerland there are an estimated 15,000 heliskiing flights each year, to 42 landing sites. In 2010 Switzerland's major environmental groups, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature, handed a petition with over 15,000 signatures to the Swiss government, demanding a ban on heliskiing.[2]

Skiers board the helicopter and are carried to a landing zone on the mountain. Skis, snowboards and poles are generally carried in an exterior basket loaded and unloaded by a guide.[3] 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.[3] Risks include those of back country skiing, such as avalanches and tree wells, plus those of helicopter flight. Risks are mitigated by using experienced pilots and certified guides, avalanche transceivers, avalanche air-bags, and radios.[4]


  1. ^ Donahue, Topher (2008). Bugaboo dreams : a story of skiers, helicopters and mountains. Rocky Mountain Books. ISBN 9781771600224. Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Foulkes, Imogen. "Pressure grows on Swiss heliskiing". BBC. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "FAQ". Whistler Heli-skiing. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Gmoser, Hans (1996). The CMH gallery : a visual celebration of CMH Heli-Skiing and Heli-Hiking. Canmore, Alta.: Altitude Pub. ISBN 978-1551531168. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Heliskiing at Wikimedia Commons