Heli-Skiing in Canada: What's New?
October 6, 2017 2:40 AM   Subscribe

I am supposed to write an article with something newsworthy about heli-skiing in Canada (and possibly cat-skiing) to promote a company's heli-skiing offer. I know nothing about winter sports. IS there anything new happening in the world of Heli-Skiing?

As far as I can google, heli-skiing stopped being a "new trend" ten years ago. But maybe there are other things that are changing on the market, like new bespoke equipment, changing price range for heli-skiing trips, new statistics about how many people go heli-skiing etc?

Thank you for your help!
posted by Omnomnom to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (3 answers total)
A few things worth exploring:

Human-powered access is kind of the hot new thing (old becomes new again). E.g. Might be interesting to hear how heli companies are reacting to both the new ethos and the new focus on environmentalism. See also the Jeremy Jones Further/Deeper/Higher trilogy.

Heli trips are expensive. Some operators allow for a la carte single-drop options. See, e.g., Silverton, CO.

As far as I know, equipment for heli-skiing isn't any different from standard powder-skiing.

Avalanche airbags have become either required or recommended equipment for (some? many?) heli-skiing operators. They also tend to operate in zones where airbags have the highest chances of saving lives (big alpine terrain, wide runout areas without lots of trauma hazards like cliffs, trees). Some people who usually don't bother with airbags may want to consider them on a heli trip.

Not necessarily newsworthy, but timing heli-trips can be hard. Usually you're gunning for a zone that has a lot of snow, and lots of snow = lots of storms = lots of days helicopters can't fly. Seems like the options are either to book on short notice to know you're going to hit a weather window, or ski somewhere that has a cat-skiing backup or resort backup option. Something exploring those options might be interesting.

One more: if you're going solo or with a group that is too small to fill a heli/cat, how do you ensure you're getting paired with other people of the same skill level? Most operators will calibrate the trip to allow the worst skiier to ski, so how do you avoid getting stuck with a bunch of gumbys that can't ski?
posted by craven_morhead at 8:00 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]

What he said. Also, a lot of companies are doing single drops into a zone in the backcountry. They drop you off you go tour all day and then they come pick you back up. Some heli ops also include lux accommodations in the backcountry. Heli ops are expanding into newer, deeper zones and more remote countries.
posted by trbrts at 8:27 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]

I don't heli-ski (but would love to) but I do participate in and read about winter sports a lot and am also a big sucker for skiing/snowboarding films, so it's possible I'm a target audience. (Speaking of, if you're willing, watching one of the upcoming films or last year's ski films -many of which focus on heli-skiing - might give you an angle to pursue. A good start might be Teton Gravity Research's film archive - many of the clips are on Youtube.) I like TGR - it's not as dude-bro as some of the others can be. One thing I've noticed in the last few years is more women coming into it - in fact, a woman, Angel Collinson, won Powder's "Line of the Year" in 2015, which was just HUGE.

Another trend that's emerged is more of a move towards backcountry (off-piste) skiing in general - a search for adventure and "roughness" that's not found in resorts. With Mom and pop ski areas dying everywhere and big resorts become really rigid and corporate, more people are looking for the "spirit" of skiing by going outside resort boundaries. New advances in safety with items like locator beacons and airbags becoming more widespread and common is helping to push that. And speaking of safety, are there credentials with the guides you can talk up? You don't have to be a super super skier to go heli-skiing; I frequently see "advanced intermediate" as the minimum skill requirement, and guides might appeal to that skill level. (My husband really wants to go sometime, which is why I know some of this.)

Global warming, environmental protection, and the spirit of keeping places wild has also emerged as a theme recently. While that's not "new" per se, a lot of companies have become much more vocal about it. Protect Our Winters might be a good starting point.

Does the company provide drones or have a contact for drone filming to film its skiers? Some companies don't since drones are dangerous around helicopters, and there's a lot of regulations, but it might be worth asking - there might be some kind of filming angle, and it might be more available for cat-skiing.

Oh and one more thing - companies in Canada are competing against heli-skiing in Alaska (and some in the lower 48, but Alaska is the North American dream). If you can think of some ways to play up how it's better - i.e. more reliable weather, more luxurious accommodations (spa/eating/rooms etc.), safety, or activities when the chopper is grounded, etc. - that possibly might be another angle. Taking advantage of the strong American dollar (welllll still strongish) could be another advantage if it's an American audience.

You might find searching the archives at magazines like Powder Magazine or Off Piste fruitful.
posted by barchan at 9:01 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]

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