Planning a Heli Ski trip this winter? Great idea!
We’ve done our best to pre-empt some of your questions below.
How “good” do I have to be to go heliskiing?
The good news is you don’t need powder experience; you only need to be of an intermediate level and above. If you can confidently link your turns on a blue run you can heliski.
How old do you have to be to go heli-skiing?
If you are an intermediate skier or boarder you are welcome to come. Our youngest so far has been 6 years old and he had a great time.
I’m an expert, how will the trip be tailored to my ability?
The amazing thing about NZ terrain is we have such variation within one back country area, so talk to your guide and he will show you the more advanced lines open to you.
My partner is a different ability level. How can we be together?
We find people like to be together with their friends and family so we try and offer this as much as possible. There is terrain for everyone within the one run so we can make it work most of the time. It’s always way more fun heliskiing with friends!
I am concerned that I will hold up the group. What should I do?
This is your day and we do our best to make sure each and every person enjoys it. Your guide is there to keep you safe and to take you to terrain that is comfortable for you to ski or board. Communicate with your guide and he/she will help you achieve what you need to from the day.
What to Expect
What kind of terrain do you ski and how steep is it?
We ski alpine terrain, which is above the tree line. It has a combination of chutes, natural half pipes, big open bowls and can be steep or mellow. If the avalanche danger is low we can get into some steep terrain that will get your heart pumping.
How long are the runs and how long do they take to ski/board?
The runs vary depending on the terrain area. They can be anywhere from 600-1000m vert. Depending on people’s abilities, it can take 15mins to get down or an hour. We generally heliski the best snow between 1200m and 2585m.
Where do you ski?
We can heliski anywhere from Queenstown to Wanaka to Kingston, Glenorchy, Makarora and over to Ohau (within the Southern Alps region). Our heliski terrain spans over 11 mountain ranges so we go to where the best snow and weather conditions are on the day, which is determined by our snow safety expert. Check out our terrain map to see where we can go!
How many runs can I do in one day?
It depends on the package. Daily Heliskiing offers the opportunity to add in extra runs so you can do more than the package bought. If you partake in a private charter you average around 10-15 runs in a day.
What is the snow like?
Because New Zealand is an island and close to the sea we have maritime snow, it makes it easier for our first time clients as it compacts quickly after a dump. Snow will vary during the season depending on temperature, sun exposure, snowfall and wind. We are fortunate to get regular dumps of snow in our backcountry and our guides are excellent powder hunters.
Do you have to jump out of the helicopter?
Although you can see that stuff in the movies and we have flown with professional riders who have done it, we do not allow it. Our guides need to be able to unload equipment and get people out at the top of the mountain.
Do you mix skiers and boarders?
Yes and this has never been a problem. There is terrain out there for everyone and by the end of the day most people, whether they ski or board are sharing a beer and some stories together at the local pub.
If weather prevents me from completing my booked runs what happens?
Unfortunately sometimes bad weather prevents our operation. Should this occur, all payments will be fully refunded. If some heliskiing has been possible, but due to the weather you had fewer runs than you booked for; the value of refund offered will be determined by the package purchased. Refunds are not given due to injury, lack of ability, fitness or cancellations on the day so we advise taking out comprehensive insurance before booking your trip.
What about avalanche danger?
Because we are working with Mother Nature in conditions that are always changing, there is potential of avalanches. To eliminate as many dangers as possible our guides and snow safety expert are constantly monitoring the snow pack and weather conditions. We share that information with other guides and companies. Safety is our main priority.
Do guests wear avalanche airbags?
Southern Lakes Heliski doesn’t require the use of airbags but we allow it if guests want to wear one to feel safer in the mountains. All of our customers are given an avalanche transceiver and training. We also carry 2 shovels and probes per group of 4-5.
Do you accommodate special dietary requirements?
We sure do. Just let us know when you make your booking.
How to Prepare?
Can I bring a snowboard and skis and switch part way through the day?
No unfortunately we don’t have the room in our heli pod for both pieces of equipment.
Can I use my own transceiver?
Yes but we do include ours as standard practice.
What should I wear?
Wear what you would normally wear for a day on a ski field. A couple of warm layers under a ski jacket and pants. Make sure you bring your gloves, goggles, boots and ski or boarding equipment.
Should I bring a backpack?
Try and be as compact as you can in the helicopter as there isn’t much room. We provide everything you need for the day so try to fit your camera, sunscreen etc. into your jacket pockets.
Do I need special skis or board?
For skiers we recommend fat powder skis (95mm or greater underfoot). Snowboarders have the option of using a longer board for big powder days or changing the stance on their own boards to a free ride position. Talk to our booking offices in Queenstown or Wanaka to make sure you have the right equipment for the day, if you don’t we’ll assist you with suitable rentals.
Do you offer a photo and video service?
Yes but we need to pre-book it so let us know before you head out and we will make sure we give you a photography guide. If safety is compromised photos will not be taken. You are also welcome to bring your own cameras and we encourage it.
Do you offer film shoots and photo shoots?
Southern Lakes Heliski specialist film safety guides have assisted in the making of many film and television productions over the years. We provide extensive location knowledge, site management, helicopter safety and filming advice.