Trees blur past you. The only sound is the wind whipping past your ears and the sound of your skis carving through the snow. It’s exhilarating cutting through the powder of the backcountry, and the clear blue skies above you finish off the experience nicely. You reach the end of the slope and wait. You can only hear your own breathing, and the soft crunch of the snow as you shift.
Soon, the rest of your group arrives. In the distance, a gentle thumping sound drifts toward you. Before you know it, the helicopter swoops overhead and gently touches down in a whirlwind of snow. You load up your gear, get back in the helicopter, and you’re flying back to the top of the mountain.
Sun Valley Heli Ski provides a unique skiing experience in Idaho. It was also the first helicopter skiing operation in the United States. Sun Valley Ski Resort has long been a pioneer in the skiing industry. They were the first resort to have chairlifts. Helicopter skiing provides an incredible thrill, and gives you the chance to ski where few others have. It’s a small group. There are only four people, including you, as well as a guide. Whether this is your first time helicopter skiing of your one hundredth, Sun Valley Heli Ski offers skiing that is customized toward your skill level.
Before you climb in the helicopter for the best skiing experience of your life, you’ll need the proper gear to ski the backcountry of the Sun Valley Ski Resort. You’ll be skiing slopes that aren’t groomed. There are no ski lifts, and the only access to these slopes is by helicopter. As such, you’ll need special skis to handle the powder and conditions you’ll be facing.
Sun Valley Heli Ski requires you to use specialized powder skis. They need to be a specific width in order to handle the powder and keep you safe. You’ll need skis that are at least 95 millimeters wide at your feet. If you don’t have the right skis, you will be able to rent them from Sturtevant’s. Sun Valley Heli Ski guests receive a discount, but you’ll need to reserve your skis at least a day in advance. You’ll be able to find the reservation form in the helicopter skiing itinerary available on Sun Valley Heli Ski’s website that’s been linked above.
Of course, you’ll also need the proper snow gear. Remember to layer up. It’s better to be able to strip off layers as needed, instead of not having enough and getting too cold or wet. Sun Valley Heli Ski will provide you with basic avalanche and transceiver training at an orientation before you get in the helicopter.
Avalanche Floatation Devices
There’s always a risk of an avalanche when backcountry skiing. The guides and crew of Sun Valley Heli Ski do their best to keep you safe, and to track weather and slope conditions to reduce the risk, but it’s best to prepared. There’s a relatively new device that’s been used to help in the event you are caught in an avalanche. It’s called an avalanche floatation device.
These devices are worn as a backpack, and in the event of an avalanche, can be inflated to form a giant air bubble that will help keep you at the top of the snow. Tests have shown a positive amount of success in keeping the user near the top of the debris field, but most tests have only been done in Europe. Sun Valley Heli Ski doesn’t require that you use an avalanche floatation device, and they don’t really even encourage it.
You might be wondering why Sun Valley Heli Ski doesn’t encourage the use of avalanche floatation devices. Listed in their itinerary, they provide some information on the devices. You’ll find that the devices have only been used in Europe. Skiing conditions in Europe are much different. In North America, skiing conditions typically involve more trees, whereas in Europe the slopes are open. The devices tend to carry you head first down the hill during an avalanche. This can be a problem if you’re in trees.
However, Sun Valley Heli Ski does provide some devices for rental if you’d like. They must be removed before entering the helicopter, as there have been a number of accidental deployments. As you can imagine, that can be quite hazardous.
Enjoy the Slopes
The helicopter skiing guides will do their best to keep you safe, and you rarely have any reason to be concerned. It’s best to prepared in case something does happen, though. The best way to stay safe on the mountain is to follow and listen to your guide. It’s their job to keep you safe, and ensure that you have the time of your life. If you’re properly prepared, there’s no reason you won’t stay safe, and have an excellent adventure.