First Time Heliskiers – Read This!

August 16, 2016

First time Heliboarder above Wanaka, NZ, photo Kazu Oba

First time Heliboarder above Wanaka, NZ, photo Kazu Oba

For first time heliskiers or heliboarders, the thought can be both exciting and a little daunting. The most common question we get asked in the office is “Am I good enough?” and the answer for the majority of people is “Yes”, as you only need to be of an intermediate level skier or boarder.

We sent one of our staff members Rachel Harvey out for her first time and these were her impressions. 

“Our guide Phil put us immediately at ease with his laid back, professional manner.  As we cruised past Lake Wanaka to the Alpine Helicopter staging area, there was a combination of anticipation and the buzz of excitement in the vehicle.

Once we arrived there was time to get ready for a day in the backcountry,  we were well prepped on avalanche transceivers, backcountry awareness and helicopter safety. Although this increased the nervousness a little it was also was reassuring to know we were heading off into the mountains well equipped.

The first lift off in a helicopter is unique, one moment you are on the ground, and the next high up in the air with the ground dropping away quickly beneath you.  As we fly high into the Southern Alps the scenery is simply breath taking, and after flying amongst the peaks for a few minutes it’s not long before we land on a high snowy ridge to begin our skiing and boarding. 

We exit safely onto the snow and form our ‘heli huddle’ as per our ground training, and snow blasts us from every angle as the chopper takes off and then disappears into the distance ready to collect us at the bottom.  Silence descends upon us and our hearts beat a little faster as we anticipate our first heli drop.

My first turn takes me into the softest, most amazing snow and my nervousness switches to a feeling of relaxation as I become at one with my board and surroundings. I sink into the snow and its like riding a fluffy cloud. There are no crowds, no lift queues, no tracked lines, just endless open terrain and a sound of my board sliding across the snow.

I feel like I’m cheating, run after run of perfect pristine snow made so easy by utilising a helicopter to help me to my next drop. 

Rach Harvey heliboarding an intermediate run at Towers Ridge, Wanaka, NZ, photo Kazu Oba

Rach Harvey heliboarding an intermediate run at Towers Ridge, Wanaka, NZ, photo Kazu Oba

We stop for lunch enjoying a delicious spread of hot and cold food served on the side of the helicopter pod. This was a great time to share stories, add on extra runs and take photos of our amazing surroundings. After this much needed rest we were off again, this time excited to get into more fun terrain and push ourselves.

We did 6 runs in total, which for me (an advanced intermediate) was just perfect. 4 I would have wanted more and 8 I would have needed to be more advanced.


I arrive home to Wanaka with a massive smile on my face. I was left with a blissful mix of tiredness and a super satisfying knowledge that I’d just had an adventure that I will remember for the rest of my life.”