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Alaskan heli-ski last March.

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Last March the sale of my mother's house, after her death 2 years before, gave me the funds to risk a heli trip again. The first time had been quite a few years ago to Stewart BC (Canada by the tongue of Alaska that goes down the coast). On that occasion they had had high winds just before and most of the skiing above the tree line was breakable crust. Eventually we persuaded them to drop us lower.
This time it was to be the (potentially) more exciting destination of Alaska, which has the downside of more days of no-fly because of wind, but also the possibility of steeper slopes, which is what I like. The financial cost was, of course, going to be rather huge. I went with VHSG (Valdez Heli Ski Guides) who I had heard were the best (though not cheap). Helicopters normally take 4 clients, a guide and a pilot.
I flew to Anchorage, Alaska via Seattle (the first part BA and the second booked through BA). After a nights sleep I transferred to the nearby resort of Alyeska by taxi and skied that afternoon and the next 2 days. It is a small resort with a good off-piste, steep North side, but otherwise (at least when I was there) very little other off-piste. First photo is the top of the North face, taken from the cable car station. In the second photo, the North face is down over the edge to the right - the 3 lowest access points (out of 5) are 2 shortly before the building (cable car top) and one a bit behind me. Sea in the distance. Only good skiers skied it. Some off-piste on the piste map had not been open for years and was choked by bushes. The snow was very thin and some peripheral runs closed. I had hoped to do a day of cat skiing, but they were not running it due to lack of snow.

After this I flew to Valdez (40 minutes) where the next week's group were picked up by a van and driven 30 minutes to the lodge (pic).
They had recently had 90 mph winds and we soon discovered there was nothing but crust or breakable crust available (and mostly a half inch dusting on top), with only an occasional turn in lightly crusted snow . On this basis they couldn't risk really steep slopes in case we fell a long way. Many of the drops provided quite short descents and all the mountains were quite low. The next 2 photos below show two with steeper bits.

One day they thought the visibility was too poor for breakable crust and we took a boat trip in the bay at Valdez (photo of harbour) . It cleared up and we could have skied, but the trip was rather good and we saw about a dozen sea otters a seal and 2 eagles (one in a tree close up).

The last 3 days they planned to fly us 80 miles further North in an aeroplane with skids, landing on a glacier, the helicopter the 3 groups shared taking one group up. However the conditions weren't good enough for the landings. On the last day they worked out a way for our groups to do it with helicopters. They had to go back and refuel half way through and some people had to get up early and be driven up most of the way. (The private groups with one helicopter per group had done this all week). At the end of the day, instead of going back to the lodge and then flying back to Anchorage, we were taken to a nearby road, where a taxi picked us up and drove us to Anchorage.
The trip us was spectacular with glaciers more than a mile wide (see pic: behind me valley is all glacier) and nothing human to be seen. This time the snow was, finally, powder. We did 8 exhilarating descents.
Unfortunately on one I turn on a hump and discovered the far side was a short rocky drop which tore out part of my ski edge along with quite a chunk of the (mostly wood) core. After the guide snipped off the trailing ends of the metal edge I was able to continue with only a small effect, because we were skiing powder. Many of the landings were very precarious with both ends of the skids projecting into space with drops on both sides.

PS order of photos has got jumbled in the middle due to mixing portrait and landscape formats, but I'm sure you are intelligent people and can work it out.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Fri 21-09-18 17:09; edited 8 times in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
snowball,

Thanks for the report. Very comprehensive and some great photos.

That's something I've always wanted to do but was always concerned about the unpredictability of Alaska.

Looks like you win some and lose some Confused
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Nice pics Smile
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@snowball, interesting report and great pics! Shame you didnít get better conditions but such is the lottery of these type of trips! Did the people in the private heli get better skiing? And what was the standard of the groups?

Iíve signed up for a heli trip in Georgia next year. What price these conditions 🤞🤞🤞

http://youtube.com/v/dk0bAvz2rXE
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@snowball, Looks like you had some great runs on the last day. Shame about the mixed conditions. At least you got to ski though - it's not unusual for people to go to Alaska for heliskiing and be grounded all week!
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@BobinCH video: Wow!

Yes, the 2 private groups definitely got much better conditions since they skied every day what we skied only on the last day. And it didn't cost them all that much more. Trouble is, you need to fill a helicopter. And in good conditions it would only be marginally better.
Standard of groups was high in the ones I saw. Only one or two wouldn't be counted gold skiers by the SCGB. But I think they attract better skiers in that heli company. My previous heli holiday in Canada the standard was lower (I was one of the best). On this holiday I was average.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Good pix.

Cool wildlife.

Submit the otter to the SH calendar.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Unlucky
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
That's tough - did you get a refund on the Hobbs stuff?
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Hobbs?
We did the prescribed minimum number of drops (or was it vertical? Whatever), so no refund.
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
It's how they charge in AK. Otherwise known as "collective time". It's the time the machine is "flying", which is how it;s billed to the operator.

I think I misunderstand - it sounds like a bad trip, but presumably you didn't fly around for 4.5 hours for just 8 runs?
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
If you are talking about the last day: being taken 80 miles North (and helis going away to refuel part way through day). 8 lifts is good. Around 7 or 8 in a day is usual in my 2 experiences (even without the long commute). 3 groups per helicopter so the heli did 24 drops on the last day plus the commuting and refuelling runs and dropping us at the road at the end of the day. Very good pilot actually. Ex army.
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