You have to take your hat off to the dreamers out there. The person who first combined peanut butter and jam. The visionary who first mixed sweet and salted popcorn. The icon who combined helicopter rides with skiing.
And why not? If flying down a black route is your thing, chances are, adding a helicopter into the mix will only serve to dial the adrenaline up to 11 – especially if you fancy being dropped on a 11,388ft slope, miles away from civilisation. Here's a guide to your most extreme heliskiing options. You might want to start saving up, mind...
1. Bella Coola, British Columbia
If you’ve never been to British Columbia, now’s the time to go. Not only is the powder here incredible, the area is 90 times the size of France’s Vallees, and larger than the Swiss Alps, with some 2.64 million acres of snowy slopes nestled close to the Pacific coast, making it one of the world's biggest skiing paradises. Accomodation-wise, Bella Coola Heli Sports' Classic Vertical package offers an eight-day/seven-night trip with the option to heliski straight out of the airport onto 100,000 vertical feet of fresh snow. Which is pretty extreme.
2. Himachal Pradesh, India
Temperatures in Delhi may be hovering close to 50 degrees, but just an hour’s flight north will take you to the hill station of Manali. Close to the border with Tibet, Manali is adorned with Buddhist flags, and is known as the Valley of the Gods. Sitting 16,40ft above the town, you’ll get a truly spiritual experience as the region boasts everything from knife-blade ridges to steep summits and forests of birch, oak and cedar. Oh, and did we mention you’ll be able to gaze across to the 21,000ft peaks of the Himalayas? For a heliskiing experience that feels like you’ve wandered into a hidden kingdom at the end of the world, look no further.
3. Zermatt, Switzerland
Welcome to Giant Country. With the Matterhorn looking on like a benevolent uncle, Zermatt is a true ski Mecca, surrounded by 13,000ft giants like Breithorn and Lyskamm. Here you’ll find some of the biggest descents in the world, including the western summit of Europe’s second highest mountain – Monte Rosa. At 15,20ft, it’s no joke. And amateurs need not apply. Helicopters can save you the hike up the Haute Route (running from Zermatt to Chamonix), at prices that are far from steep. Pack your best gear – and your wits. You’ll need them.
4. Mica, British Columbia
Mica offers undisturbed snow far from the crowds. Two hours north of the city of Revelstoke, Calgary, the Mica Heli Sports area proffers a 500 square mile area at the base of the Selkirk mountains. It’s also only accessible via helicopter, which could explain why you’ll have the place to yourself. You’ll have access to a total of 11 valleys, with terrain ranging from steep alpine runs, to thick forests capable of testing even the most seasoned mountaineer. Ideal for those seeking extreme skiing away from the usual tourist hotspots.
5. Kaçkar, Turkey
Think of Turkey, and skiing isn’t necessarily the first activity that comes to mind. Which makes the Kaçkar mountain range a well-guarded secret. Located in the north-eastern reaches of Turkey, the mountains are harried by frequent storms blowing off the Black Sea, which result in amazingly fresh, deep snow. The highest point is 3,937 metres, which is a hell of a descent. Luckily, Heliskiing Switzerland has a base in the country, and can transport groups of up to four.
6. Hokkaido, Japan
Perhaps a little bit further afield than you normally venture for your winter slopes, Hokkaido can easily match its European counterparts for stunning vistas, fresh 'pow', and nail-biting slopes. The culprit is an annual storm system descending from Siberia, which deposits 60ft of snow on the mountains. Engage a helicopter (try Hokkaido Backcountry Club) and head up above the clouds to ski 3,63ft down dormant volcanos, and through deeply powdered birch forests.
7. Chugach Range, Alaska
The iconic mountain range around Valdez has played host to numerous extreme ski videos. And there’s a reason why – every year the Chugach Mountains receive over 700 inches of fresh powder. And, because it’s located near the coast, the snow remains moist, and compact, making it ideal for steep slope skiing. The only issue is… erm, how to get up there. Luckily, Valdez Heli-Ski Guides boast a Eurocopter A-Star B2 helicopter capable of delivering groups of four or less to heights of 3,000 to 5,000ft. Book a package, and you’ll also get gourmet dining, and accommodation, too.
8. Kamchatka, Russia
If you’ve never heard of the Kamchatka Peninsula, here’s your crash course. Located in the far east of Russia between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, it’s home to over 200 volcanoes. Which makes it a pretty extreme place to ski. And while only 29 of them are active, it’s still a raw and untamed wilderness. Luckily, the Russians have some pretty big helicopters to help you get to the prime powder, with the highest landing zone at 11,388ft. Best of all, it’s in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
9. Southern Alps, New Zealand
Head south for stunning vistas seen in The Lord of The Rings films. We can’t promise the Misty Mountains, but the 11 mountain ranges of the Southern Alps promise 3,200 square miles of terrain, with typical runs landing between 2000 and 3,280ft. The highest point is 8,480ft, but not even a helicopter will get you up there. Head out from Queensland and opt for a three-day trip (taking in the Clark Glacier en route) and never look back. Just watch out for the orcs.
10. Tordrillo, Alaska
For epic terrain and unbeatable views from the top of mount Denali, look no further than Tordrillo. The luxury Tordrillo Mountain Lodge retreat features two lodges, co-owned by US 1994 Olympic skiing champion Tommy Moe. In short, this is the gateway to some pro-level powder. From here, you can helicopter into 1.2 million acres of prime skiing country, along the glaciated Alaska Range. Slopes max out at 7,500ft. Get stuck in!