Heli-Skiing in Telluride: A Must for Powder Lovers
There are no friends on powder days, but when you’re heli-skiing, every day is a powder day meant to be enjoyed with friends!
Asa and Shimmy both recently got to experience heli-skiing with Telluride Helitrax (the best in the biz!) and wanted to share their insight for anyone interested in being dropped off in fresh powder by a helicopter.
A typical day with Telluride Helitrax includes six runs with up to 14,000 feet of vertical skiing. Safety orientation, helicopter briefing and avalanche protocol expectations are covered in a morning meeting and the day ends with an après ski. Powder skis, poles, an avalanche transceiver, avalanche airbag pack, food and water throughout the day are included. In addition to day trips, they also do custom multi-day trips or overnight adventures!
Check out our Q&A with Asa and Shimmy below and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions about their experience!
Q: Why did you decide you wanted to try heli-skiing?
Shimmy: Because it’s an adventure to get to pristine powder stashes with amazing scenery and camaraderie! I’ve been invited by others to go and jumped at the opportunities. Less people equals less tracks and more pow for everyone! Add the excitement of landing on a ridge at 13,500 feet in a chopper and having highly experienced guides and untracked freshies and the results are sublime. Besides, it’s good for your physical and mental health too.
Asa: This question is like asking someone why they decided to go to heaven! Skiing untracked powder has been a driving force in many of my life decisions for the past 29 winters. Also, Telluride has some of the most stunning alpine scenery in North America. Therefore, being able to fly around these mountains with three other friends skiing untracked powder with Telluride Helitrax has always been a dream of mine.
Q: What kind of skill level should you have to go heli-skiing? Do you need avy experience?
Shimmy: An advanced intermediate skill level or higher would maximize the fun quotient. We were skiing on the equivalent of runs like Henry’s and Lookout on the Telluride ski mountain. The two big criteria are being in shape and having powder skis, which Telluride Helitrax provides.
Asa: At a minimum, participants should be able to ski blue runs at Telluride in powder conditions with some proficiency. No avy experience is required. Helitrax does avy control work that includes throwing bombs out the window of the helicopter! (not with skiers in the chopper), they have a full-time, experienced snow safety director, and outfits participants with beacons and backpacks integrated with airbags.
Q: Do you always find fresh snow? What’s the skiing like?
Shimmy: The trips I’ve been on have been blessed with fresh powder. The guides were on the hunt for what they called “the ripple” which are basically ski surface indicators of soft powder conditions. The conditions were super smooth and carvable. There are natural terrain features beneath the snow, usually rocks, and I had a couple of double heel ejections yesterday, but all landing in very soft snow.
Asa: Both times I’ve gone, we have skied fresh snow. My understanding is that is the common scenario. The skiing is so fun! The terrain is varied, with a mix of open bowls and moderately pitched faces. The choices of the terrain vary depending on many factors, with the main factors being snow conditions, skier ability, and snow stability.
Q: What makes heli-skiing so different from skiing at a resort?
Shimmy: There’s no mad dash for the powder. You’re delivered onto many miles of powder fields and there certainly are no bumps. I think it is better on your body. Plus you get to escape the hustle of humanity. It’s just you, three other friends, the pilot and a knowledgable and happy guide.
Asa: There are quite a few differences. The available terrain is measured in miles, not acres. There are natural hazards and obstacles that can also be found on the resort, but out there it feels more like a natural environment. Perhaps the biggest difference is the snow quality. Getting to ski 6 untracked runs in a single day simply does not happen on the resort, but is the “norm” with Telluride Helitrax. Oh, and don’t forget you get to fly around in a state-of-the-art aircraft, in the glorious San Juan mountains.
Q: It’s definitely not cheap to go heli-skiing – is it worth it? Why should people try it?
Shimmy: It’s less expensive than a Nordic Track or Peloton and the memories last far longer. It is definitely a bucket list experience and allows one to reconnect with friends over powder turns in an unhurried manner. It brings joy and exhilaration while having a deeper inner connection with nature in a vast mountain wilderness.
Asa: Value means different things to different people. I would rather sacrifice a dozen fine dining experiences and go heli-skiing. Or drive an 8-year-old vehicle that’s paid for and use the savings from a monthly car payment to go heli-skiing. It’s definitely spendy, but it’s a bucket list experience. It’s also expensive to travel to Europe or name your spot, but in the end, it’s the people and experiences we have, not the things, that matter and makes our lives fulfilling.
Q: What is your favorite memory from heli-skiing?
Shimmy: Celebrating skiing and bonding with my work friends. Feeling like a bird, of sorts, while carefully careening in a whirlybird between mountain peaks and ridges that you’ve always wondered “what’s around the next corner”.
Asa: It’s not a single thing, it’s the whole experience. Starting from walking the three minutes from my office over to their office at the Peaks and taking off in the heli from the spot that I practice and play golf in the summer, to flying over the town of Telluride and areas in these mountains that I have hiked, ridden motorcycle and bicycles. And then getting to ski untracked powder all day in my backyard with a group of friends and a guide I’ve known for 25+ years.