Heli Skiing Europe
Heli skiing is definitely nirvana for skiers and snowboarders. Become intoxicated by the spectacular vistas as you ride up in the helicopter, and then revel in the complete euphoria of riding down the virgin powder. Heli skiing
is absolutely the best high a powder hound can experience!
Heli skiing costs a lot more than a lift ticket at one of the European ski resorts, but forget about saving for your retirement. With heli skiing you get so much more pow for your pound.
Considering the massive profile of skiing in Europe
there are surprisingly few European heliski operators. Europe has a high population density and associated with that is a highly regulated industry. Heli skiing is pretty much banned in France and Germany due to environmental concerns, and if the greenies have their way, countries like Switzerland might soon follow suit. In many European countries the high degree of regulation includes the designation of specific helicopter landing sites. The limited number of these LZs contributes to the exclusivity of heli skiing in Europe.
Characteristics of Europe Heli Skiing
Heli skiing Europe differs somewhat from the convention of heli skiing Canada
or Alaska heli skiing
. Rather than being destination heli skiing with a week long trip where you stay in a remote backcountry lodge, most Europe heli skiing is based at a ski resort. The traditional European style heli skiing consists of just a single heli drop or perhaps two to three heli drops in one day. This provides the huge advantage of being able to combine heli skiing with resort skiing. You can stay with your family or friends, and also enjoy the famous European nightlife and excitement of the ski resort village.
Multi-day heli trips are available in Europe, but they are not the norm, and the accommodation is mostly in hotels. Some are heli safaris where you stay in a different hotel each night and your luggage is transported via road.
Unlike heli skiing in other parts of the world, the Europe heli skiing operators can’t just land anywhere within their tenure. The designated landing sites provide a finite number of lines which effectively limits the size of their terrain. This is somewhat different to heli skiing BC
and Alaska heli skiing
where they have an infinite number of runs and hundreds of thousands of hectares of terrain.
The terrain is largely up in the alpine, unlike heli skiing Canada
where it’s a combination of tree skiing and above timberline terrain, so Europe is more akin to Alaska heli skiing
or New Zealand heli skiing
The heliski runs in Europe are generally longer than heli skiing elsewhere, but the downside of this is that the snow conditions vary significantly across the vertical of the run. The snow quality is generally not as good as what you’d find with North America heli skiing, and the volumes of snowfall are significantly less, so unfortunately the chances of riding nipple deep powder are pretty slim.
Heli Skiing Switzerland
The fun police haven’t prohibited heli skiing in Switzerland (yet) and this country has the most helicopter skiing opportunities in Europe.
One Switzerland heli skiing company operates out of Zermatt
, whilst Adrenaline Heli Skiing operates out of Verbier
. They offer the “traditional Europe-style heli skiing” with single drops. You have to get a taxi back to the heli pad if you want to do multiple runs. They also provide multi-day heliski safaris where you ski to different villages and your luggage is transported each day to the hotel you’re staying in.
The largest heli skiing operator in Switzerland is SwissSKIsafari.com who are based in the Valais region. They offer a range of superb multi-day heli skiing trips as well as customized heli skiing packages. Due to the proximity to Italy and France, some of the itineraries travel across the three countries, whilst some focus on just Italy or France. Some trips combine heli skiing with lift accessed backcountry riding, some stay in different hotels, whilst it’s also possible to stay in backcountry “glamping” huts.
Heli skiing is not permitted in the Engadin region, although one exception is a curious form of heli skiing where you fly to the top of the St Moritz ski resort, only to ski down the piste. Huh??!
Italy Heli skiing
Italy also has various heli skiing opportunities. Examples include Valgrisenche which is based in Valle d’Aosta on the French/Italian border. Monterosa Heliskiing
offers backcountry skiing across three valleys: Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna. They have two day tours or customised trips.
Heliski Cervinia based in Cervinia Italy
offers the options of one to three drops, all day packages, or multi-day trips.
Austria Heli Skiing
Heli skiing in Austria is very limited to only a couple of landing sites. Heli skiing is available in the Arlberg region (near Zurs
) where single heli rides (with a guide) can be purchased.
France Heli Skiing
Heli skiing in France is banned but a few loop holes exist, so you can still enjoy the joys of heli skiing when staying at French ski resorts
such as Tignes
, Val d'Isère
, and Courchevel. It’s legal to use helicopter lifts out of France, and to heliski down French peaks and glaciers, so long as they don’t land the helicopter in the French mountains. For example, heli skiing is available out of Chamonix
with heli drops over the border in Italy and Switzerland.
Heli Skiing Russia & Other Heli Skiing
Russia heli skiing is rather popular, particularly in the Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. This offers a culturally unique experience, whilst also providing the delights of heli skiing.
Heading across towards Asia, Siberia heli skiing is also possible which combines the Russian culture with quality powder. Heli Ski Siberia
offers 2 week trips that include: heli skiing (with a modern helicopter, not one of those old Soviet birds!); cat skiing; skiing at the local resort; and plenty of interesting experiences.
There are also at least a couple of Turkey heliski operations, and a couple in Georgia. There are also a few helicopter skiing operators in Sweden and Romania.
More Reasons to Go Heli Skiing in Europe
Europe provides diverse and magical cultural experiences. Combine this with the age old tradition and majesty of skiing in the Alps, and the festivity of many of the European alpine towns and villages. Far away from the chopped up runs at the Europe ski resorts and the elbowing that occurs in the lift lines, heli skiing provides the MOST amazing skiing or snowboarding experience. You don’t have to pant for your powder, the views are stupendous, and heli skiing provides line after line of virgin snow.