Do I want (need) a private helicopter?

The difference between a private heli ski charter and a semi-private or all-Inclusive heli ski trip by general industry standard:

A private heli ski charter should consist of exclusive use of the aircraft for the entirety of the operating day consecutively each day of the contract.  No other groups would utilize that aircraft and it remains at the complete disposal of the chartering client.

A semi-private heli ski trip allows the heli ski operator to utilize the aircraft for you and your groups as well as other groups in a heli ski rotation.

The key difference is this; With a private heli ski charter the client is responsible for the flight time and minimum requirements of the aircraft and crews regardless of weather conditions as that aircraft is not available to the heli ski outfitter for the duration of the charter. 

With a semi-private trip generally the heliskiing operator shares the weather risk to some extent through vertical or flight time guarantees with the various clients and client groups that would be assigned to that helicopter during the duration of their Heli Ski trip.

The private helicopter option for heli skiing provides the ultimate flight flexibility for those well seasoned to heli skiing.  With our Semi-Private/All-inclusive Heli Skiing packages, we tend to go to the best snow closest to base, and if that snow and terrain works out to be just as we anticipate it to be in the morning guide meeting, we will work that area for the day.

If it is not what we expect we will mobilize to a different area of our heli skiing terrain.  We know this by the first run with the first group of the day.  Once the first group's guide reports in, and based on what he finds, we will make the call to bring the other heli ski groups out to that heli skiing terrain zone in the semi private (or public helicopter as it is sometimes referred to as) or instruct them to go to another zone that we feel will have even better heli skiing conditions for the day.

It is important to note that the areas we choose for heli skiing terrain do not necessarily change from semi-private to private. The main difference is this, and it is the same for all heli skiing operations that run both types of service:

The semi-privates (or all-inclusive heli ski trips in our case) have vertical guarantees. Most companies will promise some amount of skiing for a set price over the course of a stay with their semi-private type package.  Most manage those trips to get maximum skiing with minimum helicopter time utilized as the company pays for the helicopter flight time. **(Buyer beware this is not the case with some operators that charge for flight time and not skiing time.) Of course, if conditions for flying and skiing exist anywhere in the terrain most operators will go no matter how far it is but due to both logistics and costs, will go to the closest quality zones.

With the privates, an operator may choose to ski those same areas as the semi-private if conditions dictate or more likely encourage sending that aircraft to more far reaching zones (not necessarily better, just further away) to spread out terrain utilization and save (the closer in) snow for the semi-privates on future days. Since the client is paying for the helitime, the efficiency issue is not critical for the company, and in fact, the company is in a better position the more the helicopter flies regardless of the skiing provided with a private charter.  Those are simply the business incentives of any operator providing private heli skiing charters in the industry standard manner.

Now, if you understand this heli skiing model, it is our opinion that if you aren't filming or trying to ski first descents of the season on ultra challenging terrain, you are better served in the semi-private ship. The other issue is that if conditions are so marginal that we feel launching a heliday from the semi-private will be essentially futile or the early morning conditions delay a launch, we will immediately go cat skiing and switch out if the conditions improve or complete the day in the cat.  We have found being in the cats, already skiing, makes our reaction time to improving conditions second to none.

With the private ship, "window shopping" (flying around looking for a potential hole in the sky or to just look around) is an option as that heli-time will be billed to the client either way based on a cumulative minimum contract similar with any heli skiing operator.

This type of flying around is really at client's and his guide/advisor's and ultimately the helicopter pilot's flight safety discretion. The heli ski operator is not financially affected if you get to ski or not because the helicopter time is paid essentially either way with a private charter.

Bottom Line: Most people find the semi private/all-inclusive heli skiing packages work for them.  We take you to the best available places we can at any particular time.  Cat ski back-up is included, so you can always be skiing, rather than sitting around waiting for the weather to change.

If you have a group of 8 or 12 HARD CORE skiers that are seasoned in off-piste skiing and want the most input possible about where you want to ski, the Private Option may be the ticket for you !