Heli 101 photo

When you're skiing in rare air, the author has found, you learn quickly to trust your team.

Heli-Skiing 101

Do you have to be an expert-level skier to go heli-skiing?

Absolutely not! Even if you are a beginner powder skier or have never skied in the backcountry before, there are heli-ski trips that offer terrain and groups that will fit your abilities and comfort levels.

Do I need backcountry gear and powder skis to go heli-skiing?

Heli-ski operations have backcountry gear for you to use (they also teach you how to use it prior to flying) during your stay. Most operations also have demo skis that you can try out. But here’s a pro tip: Even if you are going to use their skis, always bring your own ski boots — even if you are flying to your destination. Ski boots can make or break your ski experience.

What are the heli-ski lodges like?

The lodges vary based on what country you are in, what price point you would like to stay at, as well as what type of terrain you would like to ski. In British Columbia, the lodges range from more simple (usually in small mountain towns) all the way to swanky — five-star lodging, spas and food — all located in the middle of the backcountry, and only reached by helicopter. The two places I recommend? CMH Kootenay in Nakusp and Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing in Revelstoke.

Is it scary to fly in the helicopter and ski in avalanche terrain?

My theory is this: Living is dangerous. Do I go out of my way to put myself in poor situations or take risks? No. Especially since becoming a mom. But know this. These guides and pilots are THE BEST at what they do. Most heli-ski pilots fight fires from the air in the warm months and many of them also served in the military as pilots prior to becoming heli-ski pilots. They’ve been in every situation countless times and have nerves of steel. That being said, if I got to choose a pilot for every time I flew, I’d choose Brad Lillow at CMH Kootenay every time — I’ve flown with him at least one day every time I’ve been up there. The last time we went up, he even gave our son, Ryder, the ride of his young life.