How To Choose The Right Equipment For Your Heliski Day

March 22, 2018

Maximise your enjoyment with the right equipment for your heliskiing adventure.

Maximise your enjoyment with the right equipment for your heliskiing adventure.

Skis and snowboards have come a long way over the last few years. Having the right board or skis can really help to ensure you maximise your heliski day and make it as enjoyable as you can.  Powder skiing or riding is a little different from being on-piste, but recent ski and board innovations have made the dream of riding bottomless snow more accessible than ever before.

Skis and boards with larger surface area and rockered profiles help to keep you floating and allow effortless turn initiation.

Carving up a slope in New Zealand while heliboarding with  Southern Lakes Heliski

Carving up a slope in New Zealand while heliboarding with Southern Lakes Heliski

The evolution of skis

The old ski shapes of the 80s and 90s are dead and buried. New shapes, materials, and gravity-defying technology have well and truly taken over! Pulling a leaf out of the school of snowboard design, skis are no longer straight, now sporting multiple different rocker or camber profiles, widths and shapes depending on what you need them for.

Skis designed for performance on groomed snow are generally narrower under the foot making them quicker edge to edge and allowing skiers to create a tighter turn shape. Increasingly these skis are incorporating rocker or “early rise” into the shovel in order to make them even easier to turn.

Rossignol S7 skis  are perfect for deep powder or spring corn..

Rossignol S7 skis are perfect for deep powder or spring corn..

From a heliskier’s point of view, fat skis have been revolutionary these are a lot wider under the foot and often make use of heavily rockered tips and tails. Some even eschew the traditional camber profile under the foot and may be flat or even reverse cambered.  What is reverse camber you ask? It’s the reverse of traditional ski design! The wood core is milled to turn upwards at the tip and tail whilst the center section is flat. This results in more float in the nose without sacrificing the awesome edge hold and stability that camber can provide. You will see all the cool kids on these and for good reason. They are super versatile and suit the fast, big radius carving turns most experienced skiers enjoy. Wide skis perform a lot better off-piste as you get more float in deep snow and greater stability in variable or chopped up snow. The underfoot width of these skis can range between 95 and 140 mm. With more surface area underfoot and rocker in the tip, you will float better above the snow and be able to rip through crud and powder like never before.

Powder skiing simplified on a pair of fat skis..

Powder skiing simplified on a pair of fat skis..

Snowboard innovation has also continued apace – especially in terms of the development of plan shapes, camber profiles, and core materials. Back in the day snowboards featured a simple wood core laminated between the base and top sheets. These days snowboard brands are integrating all sorts of materials into boards to increase pop, decrease weight and help absorb vibrations. All this results in a smoother ride and less fatigue for the rider.

Camber and rocker have become one of the most important attributes to consider when buying your snowboard. Traditional camber remains a popular design – when weight is applied to the board it flattens out and creates a stable and aggressive edge that pops the rider in and out of turns.

Surfing the mountains

Surfing the mountains

The only problem with traditional camber is that it can tend to nose-dive into the snow a little in powder. To counteract this trait, many new shapes, feature shortened camber under the feet and use reverse camber or rocker in the tip and tail in some cases or camber under the feet and reverse camber between the feet! You can also opt for full reverse camber boards which tend to be a little softer in flex, but may not provide the response a lot of riders need in varied conditions.

There has also been an explosion in interesting plan shapes, inspired by surfboards with swallow tails and classic fish-type shapes appearing on many powder models.

Guide Tarn prepared for a spring day in the backcountry.

Heliskiing in New Zealand is all about riding untouched snow and whether you’re skiing or snowboarding we recommend taking advantage of these developments. For snowboarders, look for reverse camber or a rockered nose and don’t be afraid to go slightly longer than your normal board. You’ll get more float and stability.  We recommend skiers choose a wide ski, over 100mm underfoot and again featuring a rockered profile.

Working in the wilds with nature creates many variables and snow conditions can change regularly, but a little technology can make a big difference to your heliski day. Before you heliski come in and see us at our shops in Wanaka or Queenstown and let us help make sure you’re on the right equipment for the day! It could be the difference between a great day and the best day ever!