Heliskiing, the last frontier of skiing in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

On board of an Ecureil AS350B for Heliski Tour in ItalySkiing or snowboarding, using a helicopter as lift to reach the highest points, in an amazing environment surrounded by the most beautiful peaks in the Alps, is without any kind of doubt, an unforgettable experience.

Heliskiing is off-trail, downhill skiing or snowboarding that is accessed by a helicopter, as opposed to a ski lift.  Old photos in ski books suggest heliskiing may have begun in the late 50s / early 60s in Alaska, Wyoming or Utah. Heliskiing was promoted in ski action movies and has its own star athletes such as Seth Morrison, Mark Abma, and Glen Plake. Not a proper heli-ski scene, but a scene including helicopter & off-trail skiing is also included in the 007 movie “A View to a Kill” (1985), the fourteenth spy film of the James Bond serie, with Roger Moore interpreting the fictional MI6 agent.

Sited among the amazing granite spires of the Dolomites, Cortina is a unique destination. The city has hosted World Cup downhill skiing for years, and is known as an uppercrust resort. Also in these days (January 17th-18th) Cortina is hosting the Audi FIS Ski World Cup. It is a bustling town in its own right, and offers some of the most chic and fashionable shopping opportunities anywhere. The dining in town is exceptional.

A safety concern of heliskiing operators is the danger of avalanches. Heliskiing operations employ guides and pilots who are trained and experienced in evaluating snow conditions, snow stability, and risk management. When you are booking an heliski ride, you will be followed by a guide, trained by the local association of mountain guides (Gruppo Guide Alpine di Cortina). Guides also enter the profession after years of personal experience, ski patrol experience, other guide experience, and a high mountain I.Q.

Risker slopes are avoided depending on the assessed risk of the snow pack, resulting in guests riding mellower slopes in safer places when the risk is high.

Poor weather, especially limited visibility, freezing rain or high winds limit the ability of helicopters to fly in the mountains. In these conditions most operators will be unable to fly.

Any tour organized by the official recognized guides will include the use of avalanche transceivers, shovels and probes and provide training on the use of them and other avalanche rescue equipment. Guides, and increasingly guests, carry radios to communicate within the group, between groups, with the helicopter and the lodge.

In order to enjoy this experience, you must be a strong experienced off-piste skier or snowboarder. You need generally to bring a complete skiwear/boardwear, well waxed pair of freeride skies or snowboard, backpack, snack lunch (I suggest some energy gel/bar as well), drink, sun cream, camera.

Heliski: on the top of the mountain after a lift with an Ecureil AS350B

If you are not so “extreme” you could also consider a simple helicopter tour. Unmissable helitour departing from Fiammes, including a stop-off at a typical mountain refuge for sunset.The complete tour includes the helicopter, and a light bite at the mountain refuge as well as a shuttle service to and from your residence.

As well as you could consider the helicopter for a transfer from/to the airport. Open the link for more information about transportation in Cortina.

 

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