Thinking about taking the powder skiing trip of a lifetime next season? If so, take a second to read through these tips about what to do (and what not to do) when you visit a heli skiing or cat skiing operation.
This is just a starting point, so feel free to add comments with your own Dos and DON’Ts and any questions you have about heliskiing and catskiing in general.
- DO Tip your guides. These guys are using their personal knowledge of the mountain to get you to the absolute best goods they can provide.
- DO Listen to your guides. They’re not trying to limit you, they’re keeping you safe and making sure the group has the best day possible. Once in a while, you get a jerk who ignores the guides and does something stupid such as riding past the known stop point, getting himself into a cliff band and making the rest of the group wait while the guides fish him out. Don’t be that guy.
- DO Pay attention during avalanche training. If worse comes to worst, it could be up to you to lead a successful rescue. Know how your avalanche beacon works, and the proper steps to take if a slide happens. Every operation will include an orientation at the start of the day to brief you on the basics.
- DO Take out an insurance policy to cover your trip, including riders for hazardous activities and emergency evacuation. People get hurt while skiing, and if you need a lift out of the backcountry via helicopter, the bill could run into the Lamborghini range. Insurance is cheap, and worth it.
- DO Verify your equipment rental in advance. Many times, the operation will be able to loan or rent you boards that will be the best tool for the job. However, if you plan to use operator gear, tell them when you make your reservation, and call a day or two before your trip to verify the plan.
- DO Pay attention to last-minute deals. If you stay can flexible on timing, you can often score discounted rates for unfilled seats.
- DON’T Bum rush the line. The whole point of a cat or heli trip is that everyone has untracked lines, all day long. Take your time, and take turns going first in following the guide. It’s frustrating when every newbie in a group pushes off immediately following the guide, riding shoulder to shoulder and competing for lines.
- DON’T Ski too close to a photographer. An operation will often provide a professional photog to snap shots of you ripping the pow. These guys have big lenses, and it’s not necessary to get close to get the best shot. Riding too close makes them jumpy.
- DON’T Be afraid to tell your guides what you want to ski. They’re there to show you a great time, and if you want to huck a few cliffs, they might be able to lead the way.
- DON’T Expect a run to take an hour to complete. Each run on a cat skiing or heli skiing trip will likely average 1,000 to 2,000 vertical feet, which you will descend in about 10 or 15 minutes, including regroups on the way down. Once within the operating area, most rides back to the top in a snowcat take another 10 or 15 minutes, giving you time to rest and grab a snack. If you’re lucky enough to be in a helicopter, of course, hold on for the ride. You’re going to be tired.
What are we missing from your list of heli skiing and cat skiing DOs and DON’Ts? Let us know.