05 Nov Heli-skiing in Europe: the Swisskisafari 101
Heli-skiing in Europe is unique for many reasons. Heli-drops offer a choice of routes and descents are long and varied. 2000 meters of vertical descent is not unusual, the snow changes as altitude drops so the skiing can be on many different types of snow.
Where is the best heli-skiing in Europe?
Switzerland and Italy are the only countries in Western Europe that allow heli-skiing. Both countries have designated landing spots. Switzerland has 48 designated drop-off zones, 19 of which are in the Valais where we operate the majority of our trips. This region is where Switzerland, Italy and France meet. Each drop-off offers a choice of descents with varying degrees of difficulty. In a week’s heli-skiing ski safari you can cross-country borders, speak different languages and eat different regional delicacies: you’re not going to find that anywhere else in the world.
When is the best time for heli-skiing in Europe?
Snow can be good anytime between January and April. Heli-skiin is better from mid Jan to April. The Alps benefit from microclimates, when conditions are not favorable in one valley you can usually find good conditions in another. We recommend allowing 5-7 days for a trip that combines heli-skiing and off piste or ski resort skiing. Combining different regions on one trip allows you the flexibility to follow the best snow throughout the week.
What’s involved in heli-skiing in Europe?
The practice of farming the slope exists in North America. Helicopters ferry skiers up to wide-open powder slopes and instruct you how to descend. Farming helps to preserve the snow for the groups coming behind you. In Europe the drop zones are controlled but not the descent. Expect long glacial descents, tree skiing and crossing national borders. Ski from valley to valley and coutry to country through picturesque villages. Along the way you will stop at mountain refuges, and be met by the helicopter at the bottom. These descents will take time and you usually only have time for one each day.
What happens on days that you can’t take the helicopter?
The most important difference between heli-skiing in Europe and elsewhere is that when the conditions are not suitable to fly in Europe we can still find excellent skiing. Here, ski lifts take you very high and offer great backcountry skiing. Ski touring can also guarantee amazing skiing. Having the choice of ski lift or heli-skiing allows you to make decisions based on safety and optimal snow conditions, for the best skiing possible on that day.
What sort of skier should you be to heli-ski in Europe?
You should be a confident skier, able to ski in control on all types of terrain and in different snow conditions. It’s not always powder snow up at altitude. You should be fit, but you don’t have to be a hard-as-nails ski mountaineer bearing a 40lb pack. Nor do you have to sacrifice those essential comforts. A private, tailor-made trip to suit your group and ski level is the best way to enjoy heli-skiing in the European Alps. Read our blog on the 5 ways to prepare to be fit.
How expensive is heli-skiing in Europe?
Whenever you involve a helicopter, trips inevitably become expensive. This is true anywhere in the world. When traveling with Swisskisafari there’s also a group of experts behind you throughout the planning and execution, guiding you to ensure an incredible experience. Our customers agree that it is definitely value for money.
These are not budget trips. How much you heli-ski, where you base yourself and in what style of hotel will all affect price. We recommend a week-long trip to maximise your chances of great heli-skiing. Generally, when people sign up for a heli-skiing trip they are eager to get away from the crowds and enjoy a new skiing experience. We can help you escape the resorts and create unforgettable experiences exploring multiple countries on a heli-skiing safari.
Armed with knowledge when you book a trip that involves heli-skiing you will be able to make the right decision. This article about heli-skiing in Europe and our last blog about heli-skiing will point you in the right direction. Let Swisskisafari help you for your next ski safari adventure.
Warm regards from the mountains,