Heli ski group to helicopter ratios, how does this affect my heli ski trip?

Why do operators claim to carry 1 or 2 or 4 or more groups per helicopter and what does this mean to me as a heliskier visiting these heli operations?

This is a question that must be broken into two categories to address the two issues we hear about the most in regards to heli ski group to helicopter ratios.

First let's sort by operator type:

Responsible Operators will set limits to the number of groups they will service with a single aircraft.

Irresponsible Operators will not.

The Responsible Operators will set heli ski group to helicopter ratios based on the logistics of their operating area and treat it as an integral part of their heli ski operating plan.

Irresponsible Operators will let the heli ski group to helicopter ratio be dictated by how many groups they can round-up.

Remember, if you don't ask they won't tell.

The helicopter to heli ski group ratio can be the difference between you heli skiing 1 or 2 heli runs in a day and having the greatest heli ski day of your life! Know what to expect.

Even Responsible Heli Ski Operators may boast a small "heli ski group per helicopter ratio" with their standard packages (private heliski charters are a separate discussion) in most cases the real reason for the smaller ratio is logistical rather than as a means of providing a premium service as they may insinuate with their advertising and here is why;

Due to the helicopter flight time distance from the bulk of the primary heli ski terrain, it is impossible for these operators to ferry and service a higher ratio of groups per helicopter effectively.  Although the lower group per helicopter ratio sounds good and will lead a potential client to believe this is the "premium" they are receiving for the cost.

The reality is the travel time to the terrain reduces the helicopter's ability to efficiently service a higher ski group to helicopter ratio therefore the reduction becomes necessary to maintain reasonable response and wait times when traveling the greater distances to the heli ski terrain.

The true answer you need to seek is;

Do more or less groups per aircraft cause my waiting time between heli ski runs and overall heli skiing experience to change?


What is the value of this to me?

Operators with a central location of their base within the surrounding terrain and few encumbrances to the lands tend to be able to operate with a slightly higher heli ski group to helicopter ratio without sacrificing the quality of the experience or your waiting time between runs. This is a balance and it is important to know that the operator sets limits to the maximum number of groups it services per helicopter before you book a trip with them.

This issue can be the difference you will see reflecting in the costs to heli ski at various locations in similar markets in the US and Canada. Heli Ski Operations central to their terrain tend to offer the higher ratios reducing the heliskiing cost to you and to everyone without sacrificing wait times or overall experience.

Of course, this is a balance each operator must find within their heli skiing operating plan specific to the challenges of the heli ski operating areas they access.

As a first time customer this is sometimes hard to judge. As a seasoned heliskier you will get better at recognizing these nuances. 

The simple review for you will be;

To ask for the group to helicopter ratio, and look at the relativity of the heli base to the terrain.

If you can see a map you can do this easily. 

Below are a few Questions to help you out as well.

The Alternative?

If you would like to avoid the whole group ratio and wait time issue, I suggest you consider getting your own personal helicopter for you and your friends with a Private Heliski Charter.

Questions to help with terrain access and heli group ratios:

Do you have a map available for me to view of your terrain and your base?

Are your operations central to your terrain?

Are you disconnected by helicopter flight restrictions, available lands, or water over flights, to your primary heli ski terrain?

How far is the bulk of your terrain from your heli base?

What is the maximum number of groups you will service with a single helicopter?

What are your waiting times between heli ski runs at maximum group per helicopter ratios?

How long do we wait in between fuel runs for the helicopter?

What other encumbrances to access to all of the terrain you advertise might I find?