Heli-skiing, or helicopter skiing, if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford it, is something many people dream of and something that you might turn your mind to once you’ve succeeded at everything else in skiing that a ski resort has to offer. You’ll have cut your teeth going off piste, or even back country to enjoy the freedom and excitement that only deep powder, off-piste skiing can offer.
Helicopter skiing offers access to remote terrain and blissfully long runs and days where you can notch up a vertical total that you could never manage in a resort, off piste or on.
Popular Heli-skiing Destinations
Heli-skiing has been around for decades and the place that it made its name is the Rocky Mountain range of the USA and Canada where pioneers like Mike Wiegele set up operations to fulfill the ski dreams of those who watched movies like Blizzard of Aaahs. So the longest running operations are set in places like the Bugaboo and the Selkirk ranges in Canada. For these destinations have a look at Wiegele Heliskiing and Canadian Mountain Holidays but take note of their conditions regarding having adequate heli-skiing insurance.
Of course, nowadays you’re not limited the Rockies and strange places have opened up for heli-skiing, places such as Georgia (no, not that one, the one that used to be in the USSR) and even the Himalayas. One thing to be aware of is that some of these new places do not have the safety track record that North American companies have. Back in the seventies, you might have been flown up the Selkirks by an ex ‘Nam pilot flying Huey but nowadays the choppers are brand new and safety is the first concern. Sadly, some of the new operations are where the Rockies were in the seventies, i.e, using ex-military helicopters and in mountain areas where the avalanche conditions are less well known. So when looking for heli-skiing travel insurance, before you ask, check the track record of the company you’re considering booking with and also check with the FCO Travel Advice service to see if the area they operate in is proscribed – in other words, they advise against all travel, in which case we can’t insure you.
Heli-skiing Cover: The Lowdown
DOGTAG are avid off-piste skiers. Until we launched DOGTAG, we were never sure that we carried proper heli-skiing travel insurance cover because traditional travel insurers just didn't make things clear. This is one reason why we launched DOGTAG.
Now we're pretty sure we've got things sorted. DOGTAG makes it easy to pick the right level of cover for adventure sports like helicopter skiing and snowboarding.
Heli-Skiing Insurance Cover
DOGTAG Annual Multi-Trip travel insurance or a Single Trip or Gap Year travel insurance, will cover you for most types of skiing within the resort by default – as long as you select the Winter Sports Upgrade. However, we rate everything by risk and if you check our Sports List you'll see that your Heli-skiing Insurance is listed under Sport+. This is because heli-skiing carries a slightly higher risk than ordinary in-resort skiing on the marked trails. With DOGTAG you know that you carry a high enough level of travel insurance. So if you want to go helicopter skiing or snowboarding you'll need DOGTAG Sport+ and don’t forget to add the essential Winter Sports cover upgrade too.
If you also want cover to do some other adventure-related winter sport, say, Ski Mountaineering, being that bit riskier gain, it requires DOGTAG Extreme Don't worry, DOGTAG Extreme includes cover for all of the sports and activities listed under both Sport and Sport+ so you will have heli skiing travel insurance cover under your Extreme policy automatically.
What Type of Cover?
The heli-skiing trip probably won't be your only trip abroad this year. If you are going abroad again, say for a summer holiday, think about an Annual Multi-Trip policy, it probably represents better value than taking multiple Single Trip policies.
What Else Do I Need To Think About When It Comes To Heli-Skiing Travel Insurance?
Dogtag offers different levels of cover: an entry-level policy (BASE), a mid level (PRO) anda MAX level, each offering different levels of compensation if you have to make a claim. Almost any level of cover will more than adequately cover your emergency Medical needs but when it comes to heli-skiing insurance, you probably need to think about the cost of your trip. A heli-skiing holiday will not be an inexpensive affair so it might be wise to check the levels of cancellation cover to make sure that they match you expenditure. You can do that by vising our Cover page.
Equipment, Fitness and Safety
Not only should your equipment be in first class shape (it may be provided for you by your tour operator), so should you. You need to be fit enough to undertake the physical exertion required at high altitude where breathing is a much greater challenge. A high level of physical fitness will certainly help with your transposition to the high altitude environment but more to the point, it will help you enjoy your holiday even more.
Tree skiing is one area of off piste where fitness is of importance. Anybody who's done any amount of tree skiing in deep powder will have landed up in a tree hole and they can be surpisingly difficult to get out of, especially if your skiis are buried; fitness is your friend in these circumstances.
In the mountains, the atmosphere can be and very dry and this, physical exertion and sweating can cause you to de-hydrate rapidly. Make sure you carry plenty of fluid. A first aid kit helps as well. Your guide will carry one but he's not there to fix your blisters!
You should ensure that you have the correct safety equipment; your personal safety, when it boils down to it, is up to you. Most heli-skiing operations will offer you the use of avalanche detection equipment but many avid off-piste skiers now carry their own. Check it before you go. Oh yes and a shovel is a good idea. Everybody should have one. It's no use if the only guy with a shovel is the one that's buried. Another must is a crash hat.
These days you hardly see a snowboarder without a helmet and skiers are taking the advice. If you think that your helicopter guide might take you into a wooded area then it's complete madness to go there without adequate head protection so get a proper branded ski/snowboarding helmet. You'll also find that it's easier to control your temperature with a helmet with adjustable vents than it is, say, with a wooly hat. And a woolly hat isn't tree-proof. Helmets will almost certainly be mandatory wear with most heli-ski operators.
Just in case anything goes wrong, you need to make sure that you carry proper heli-skiing travel insurance and that it specifically calls itself Heliskiing Insurance or Helicopter Skiing rather than simple Winter Sports Insurance. Ordinary winter sports insurance will almost certainly exclude helicopter skiing. Make sure you go to a travel insurer that understands your sport and where you can be clear that you have adequate and specific heli-skiing insurance cover.
You can find some other useful information regarding sports that we cover in our Sports Information Library.
The DOGTAG Team
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