What about offers that include days of skiing or numbers of runs over an extended timeframe?

About heli ski operators that boast 3 days of heli skiing out of 5 or 5 days out of 7 for a heli ski week...

"I've seen packages that are less money than yours and allow me to "pick" 3 days out of 5 days or 5 days out of 7 to heli ski. This sounds like a great deal! How does this really work?"

The reason some operations structure their programs in this manner is purely economic and it is important that you know how this effects you and your heliskiing "booking" with them. You might be attracted to this type of offering when you are on a budget and want to maximize your chances to get the Heli Skiing you can afford in during the length of time you have to be here. 



Heli skiing inevitably is at the mercy of the weather. If an operator does not provide comparable alternatives to heliskiing during these weather events that cause heli skiing to be cancelled for the day or more, they have no way of providing service to you.  Understanding the weather averages and the commitment a heliski guiding company has to its helicopter contractor is key to understanding why these trips are offered in this manner.  

The helicopter has both fixed and variable costs to the heliski guiding company each day therefore, when a weather day occurs those fixed costs now carry to a new day. It is important for these operators to have as many groups in house as possible to make up for the lost revenue opportunity of the weather day. This can put the operator in a cycle of overbooking the good weather days to make up for the loss of revenue for the previous poor weather day(s).  This becomes compounded when the operator allows and encourages heliskiers with weather day credits to "hang out" or "show-up" during the time you are "booked" to be there attempting to service their client weather day liability beyond their helicopter capacity.

At least two of our competitors offer heli skiing packages that allow you book a trip that provides heli ski days "you pick" to fly over a extended period. The reality of "picking" days is that this is dictated by the weather for you. You are lead to believe you have a "Booked Trip" insinuating priority seating when the weather is good. What you really have is a "Stand by" reservation. Here's how it works:

Alaska heli skiing operators all use similar helicopters with similar capacities. Most ski in groups of four with one guide, with at least one operator running five to a Heli Skiing group.

It is our experience that if you are central to your terrain, running four groups of four clients out of one A-Star Helicopter is optimum for all involved. Logistically, we can service each group and make sure there is "no" or VERY limited waiting between runs during normal operations. Most of the time the helicopter is waiting for you as you finish up your run, then five minutes later you begin the next one!

The issue with the 3 "non-specific days" is that EVERYBODY wants to ski the BLUEBIRD days.

So what happens if everyone else "booked" for a particular week wants to go when you want to go? as do the "hang out" clients?? as do the "show-ups" that have been told to come use their non-refundable credits or lose them??? We have sympathized with many client's complaints to us about these practices of our competitors.  Buyer Beware!

While you are attending your trip it is very possible the operator will have all of these client types it has a liability to (especially if the weather has been bad for multiple days in the week) in house.

There are only two options to answer this question:


1. You (or some one else) gets "Bumped" and doesn't get to fly at all.

OR

2. The operator attempts to service more groups per helicopter than the Heli can effectively handle in a day to attempt to accommodate everyone in the yard


Depending upon how many groups the operator can keep in house to service on good weather days, one or two runs may be your "day" and you may wait "hours" yes hours between runs as the helicopter services more groups than it can efficiently. This is not only inconvenient to you as a customer but we feel it is unsafe to expose that many people to the back country from one aircraft late into the evening. If you think about it, it is the equivalent of putting as many as 32 people in a 16 person lifeboat. It may float but if the seas change you and your companions can be in a lot of trouble. Extracting 8 groups from the field is a far different endeavor then extracting 4 groups as the weather can change fast and any injury or logistical issue can pull a helicopter out of the rotation at any time.

So what are your budget alternatives?

The least expensive option is our Vertical Foot Punch Card. This is a standby program (but hey, this is what you are considering with the other guys anyway). We can't guarantee you a seat, but we will share with you what our reservations are looking like for a specific period. Since we sell this as a space-filler, we will not guarantee that groups will ski together (but neither will the other guys). Pricing? How about 20 runs of about 2500 vertical feet (around three days of skiing) for about 95 bucks a run? Can't beat that!

Also, there's the Snow Cat! All-inclusive Snow Cat options are relatively inexpensive (start at $1499 per person) and include all your food and lodging. With these packages, you can choose to upgrade to the Heli for around $800 on any day you'd like (and we have space available).

Questions to Ask Operators Offering "pick the day" packages:

Is your Helicopter Base Central to your Terrain?

How many Heli Skiing groups will be serviced with one Helicopter?

How many Heli Skiing groups will you book for this week?

What kind of waits might I expect between runs?

How many Heli ski runs can my group expect each day we fly during a normal full fly day?

What if we do short runs, do we get more runs in the day with your package?

Are daily runs guaranteed?

What is your heliski day credit or refund policy?