Harris Mountains Queenstown Wanaka - Reviews

Legendary Day

POWDERHOUNDS.COM
15/11/2015
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month Visited:
    August
Legendary day! Roger leaving some trenches Lovely powder Top Dog leaving a little cold smoke behind
With New Zealand skiing you generally don’t have super high expectations for the snow quality as it can be very hit and miss. As has been the case with all our HMH experiences, before we went out the staff understated the likely snow quality we’d experience. So it came as an amazing surprise when we first clicked into our skis. Thanks to some low temps and a dump just over 24 hours prior, the snow quality was phenomenal. It wasn’t particularly deep but enough to leave nice trenches, and if it had been deeper, we might have thought we were in Hokkaido Japan considering how fluffy the snow was!
Some of the heli landings were at 2,150 metres and we didn’t do particularly long runs, so the good elevation also contributed to the snow quality. We weren’t able to do any steep runs due to avalanche risk, but the slopes were a nice pitch and just perfect for advanced riders….. glorious actually!
We were guided by Roger who is a veteran of the heli skiing industry (and seems to be the ski model for HMH!), and it was great to be out with someone with such a wealth of experience.
HMH what a legendary day!
See our Harris Mountains Heliski review for our thoughts on the pros and cons and also see our heli ski ratings to see how we rate HMH versus the other NZ heli ski outfits.

An Excellent Heli Operation

Andrew Henderson
30/04/2013
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    N/A
  • Rider Age
    36-50
HMH is a great company, run by friendly staff and well established. I have been lucky enough to ski with them a few times over the years, mostly during occasional "discount days." After a ski with them a few years ago, which was the day after a week of almost daily snow, I went out and bought my first pair of powder skis. They issue a sort of ski report each day, like the commercial fields in the area and the day I skied was the usual sheet with "EPIC" written accross it in big letters.

Epic snow is not guaranteed in NZ, but you do know that when you heliski you will be in the best possible snow conditions for that day. If there is a perfect day with fresh snow you can bet that the HMH office will be full of skiers looking to get a place. Go and sign up with them early and don't miss out.

This is another example of how well NZ does heliski. Excellent guides, top ranked pilots and good ground staff. The lunch is pretty good too! If you have never been heliskiing, this is a good place to start.

HMH Go the Extra Mile

POWDERHOUNDS.COM
07/10/2012
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
Once again the snow quality at the ski resorts had been dreadful and we weren’t sure if it was worth going heli skiing. It definitely was and HMH came up trumps - we were impressed with the quality of snow they sourced. Sure it wasn’t fluffy deep powder, but rather nice nonetheless.

Extensive terrain is really important when the snow is marginal and HMH have plenty to choose from. They flew us into the depths of their terrain and they weren’t misers when it came to helicopter flying time.

We rode lots of interesting advanced terrain features with little gullies and half pipes.

Harris Mountains Heliski is a terrific all-rounder heli ski operation.

Really Good Heli Operator

Method
14/11/2011
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
I reckon it's pretty hard to rate heli-skiing, particularly if it's your first time. It's probably one of the most exciting things you'll do. Add together the excitement of untracked snow, hopefully powder, and getting chauffered around in a helicopter and it's all pretty cool. Harris Mountains is the 3rd operator I've done heli with. Generally, there's not much to separate the operators. They all have their own terrain, but luckily there is plenty of awesome terrain to be shared around between the operators in the Wanaka/Queenstown/ Mt Cook area. Their main area of operations is the Harris Mountains (oddly enough!) to the west of treble cone. They also operate in the Ben Ohau range which is closer to Mt Cook.

The 2 main factors that will determine how good your experience is, are the conditions and the guide(s). I was lucky that I went in mid August '11 on the 1st flying day after the big 50 year storm that made Queenstown resemble Niseko in mid January, so we had absolutely champagne bottomless powder, the best I have had in NZ.

We were also lucky that we had one of the more experienced guides, Roger, as our guide. I believe he has been guiding since skis were first invented, so he knew the terrain like the back of his hand. He was really good and I could tell he was working pretty hard with the pilot to find the best conditions and dropoff points to make our experience as enjoyable as possible. Normally they're quite happy to film and take photos for you, but on this particular day, given the amount of snowfall, Roger had his work cut out finding safe routes down and avoiding avalanche areas. The storm that had come through had quite a bit of wind associated with it, so not all the terrain was offering deep powder and was quite wind blasted in places, but Roger did a great job finding the best snow and there was only a couple of times at the bottom of the runs that I felt my board cut through all that beautiful fluffy snow to the hard ice below. The pace was really good too, I hate stuffing around, I just want to put the hammer down! There's plenty of awesome terrain in this area of NZ, so convince them you can handle it and if the avalanche conditions are safe there is truly some Alaskan stuff out there.

Safety wise, they are pretty good, with a fairly solid beacon briefing. I have always found it funny that heli ski operators make you wear a beacon, but don't insist on the probe and shovel part, particularly if there is only one guide, because since they are out front, if there is an avalanche they would probably be the ones to set it off and get buried! Our group of 3 all had the gear so I felt safe.

I'd happily go back (and I will). They are a pretty good operator, but there's probably not a lot between the major players.

3 August 2011 Heliski

Mark Trim
09/08/2011
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Intermediate
  • Rider Age
    18-35
I did the Classic 4 run day and signed up for Heli2 level. I was the only Heli2 in the group, the others I went with [5+guide] had all signed up as Heli3, although I only found that out after quizzing them a bit more. As we had a very stable snowpack we were taken to steeper than usual terrain to get to the powder in the shady spots - we ventured to the Nth Harris Mtns. We got some great powder, a heavier type as it had a bit of a crust but quite deep and 'buttery'. Considering it hadn't snowed for 6 days this was surprising and they knew how to find the good stuff.

Guides were great people and we had a fantastic heli pilot. My only issues are that they kind of push you to do more runs [I was asked about 10 times to do a 5th run and had to put my foot down] and that I feel they went a bit past the strong intermediate level that I signed up for. I'd recommend a high level of fitness and lots of previous powder experience to get the most out of it. I certainly wouldn't rush into it unless you can ski a lot of blacks in powder.

Amazing First Heli Experience

Dougal
29/09/2010
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
We had to wait a few cancelled days before we got to fly, but when we did it was amazing. The conditions on the day were great - clear blue skies and not the strong winds they were expecting. We were relatively inexperienced on powder so the amount that there was suited us fine, although it wasn't exactly knee deep (but they were always very honest about the conditions). The only slight limitation was that they had several groups all skiing one section of mountain as conditions elsewhere in their terrain weren't great, and this did mean some bits became a bit tracked, but really, this is picking at minor points as we still had plenty of freshies.

Of course, heli-skiing is never cheap, but we thought it was really good value that we got from HMH. And on a good day I think everyone on the 4 run package will upgrade to the 7 - it is a bit of a no brainer given how little extra it is (and even if you originally only book for 4 runs and then upgrade they still only charge the package price for 7, not the charge for 3 individual extra runs).

The safety was first class. Our guide had more than 30 years experience of heli guiding and mountain safety. He has also volunteered for mountain rescue for 30 years and had been rewarded with the QSM for his efforts. What he didn't know about mountain safety probably wasn't worth knowing. He took us through everything well, showed us how to use the transceivers and the probes and we felt very safe in his company.

We don't have any other experience of heli skiing to serve as a comparison but suffice to say we will almost certainly be finding the funds to do it again one day after the experience we had. Overall we would thoroughly recommend HMH.

Harris Mountain heli skiing

Ross Wearn
28/08/2010
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    51-70
Mother nature put on great day and so did Harris Mountain heli skiing. I'm coming back next year, thanks guys.

HMH is Choice eh?!

POWDERHOUNDS.COM
15/07/2010
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
HMH absolutely impressed the socks off me (even if they were a little sweaty!).

Harris Mountains Heli-ski is incredibly experienced and is probably the biggest NZ heli skiing operator. As Harris Mountains Heli Skiing have the capacity to take out loads of guests each day, it gives them the flexibly to really cater for different ability levels. The chances are slim of being stuck with people that are way above or below your ability level or desire for speed.

Other pros: huge terrain to choose from so they have a higher chance of finding optimal snow conditions; impressive terrain; and fun yet professional guides. And of course the vistas are absolutely spectacular.

As with other New Zealand heli skiing, cons include: no tree skiing; more down days compared with heli skiing Canada due to inability to ski and fly in protected areas; and that thigh deep powder snow is far from guaranteed. However the staff will be very honest about the snow conditions.

The vertical is also somewhat limited to about 600-700 metres per run (but it’s generally longer than nearby competitors). However at 7 runs for NZ$995 it works out at about US$706 (as at July 2010) for 4,550 metres of vertical. With continental USA heliski operations you’d pay about US$1,000-$1,350 for the same vertical or less. So Harris Mountains is an absolute baaaaa….gain. Choice eh?!

For a more detailed review see our Harris Mountains Heli Ski review.