Heli skiing - the ultimate experience on snow?

It isn't the cheapest day on the slopes, there aren't too many locations offering it and it is very weather dependent / fickle, yet mention the prospect of heli-skiing / snowboarding to a good skier or snowboarder and jaws drop and 'life wish lists' grow.

In truth it isn't just about the descent since ski tourers can access the very same terrain and good, adventurous skiers or snowboarders can readily reach epic, lift accessed off-piste routes. It isn't all about ego or show-boating either, once off the heli-pad there are few admiring looks to thrive off. Yet combined, the thrill of a heli flight into the unknown, along with the prospect of an epic off-piste experience is the stuff of dreams for many skiers and snowboarders. There is of course the adrenalin buzz from boarding a helicopter, laden with safety equipment and accompanying ski guide under the envious gaze of onlookers - you wouldn't be human if that wasn't a great kick. There is also something thrilling about the professional routine of entering the helicopter under a tight schedule - military-like without the prospect of road-side bombs at the end of the flight. Once the blades are accelerating overhead the adrenalin really starts and what follows is often a stunning journey through the peaks toward a dot on the horizon. From personal experience in the Arlberg, this was for me an unforgettable component of the heli-ski experience. We left from the Flexen Pass Zurs am Arlberg, banked over the resort and climbed rapidly over the ski area, with the crossing of Madloch-Joch nothing short of incredible. The feeling that there was no turning back was already at the forefront of my mind and despite having quite a bit off-piste experience over the years there was something thrilling and intimidating about rushing toward a distant peak, to be tested in very remote surroundings. As we descended onto the peak the apprehension grew, again very possibly because of the isolation of the area. This was not a place with ski patrol and blood wagons. We were also in the hands of our ski guide, a world champion powder skier who had the audacity to free-heel his way to the valley. As soon as the helicopter rose from the peak the flying snow and noise gave way to sheer silence and dramatic atmosphere. Next there was a steep drop-off through some rocks and then followed a flattish high altitude valley before the fun really started with a massive steep bowl. There were tracks visible from maybe 20 or so descents but there rest of the bowl as far as you could see was untracked, 50cm deep powder. A few pauses to catch breath and select some interest lines punctuated turn after turn in deep powder. It almost felt that the steep powder carpet would never end - it eventually it did though. The idea that a lifetime ambition was ticked off was only partly true - upon reaching the valley floor the burning desire to do it was satisfied, soon to be replaced by the realisation that before the bone yard, I will surely have to do it all again.

Helicopter above skiers on snowy mountain.
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