Helicopters: Is Bigger Necessarily Better?

Helicopters: Is Bigger Necessarily Better?

One of our trusted operators, Snowwater Heliski.

The saying bigger is better, but is that necessarily true? When it comes to the premium heliski experience, we are firm believers that bigger choppers aren’t necessarily better, and here’s why.

When embarking on a heliski adventure, your morning usually begins around 7am. Over breakfast the group’s energy and excitement mounts in anticipation of the day to come. Gazing outside, several feet of fresh powder snow has completely covered the once green and lush mountains, converting them into a winter wonderland. But what will really get your pulse racing is the sound of the approaching chopper, its blades whirring through the crisp air. The thud thud thud grows louder and everyone can see the small helicopter, the Bell 407, coming in to land.

So, when you’re heli-skiing in Canada or Alaska, here’s the low down on the helicopters generally used for heli-skiing:

The Bell 407
In my opinion, the Bell 407 is by far one of the best helicopters built for heli-skiing. Not only is it quieter than many others and provides great views of the landscape, it’s also small and can seat up to six passengers including the pilot. Manufactured in America, the Bell 407 is small enough to fly into more intricate places and performs precisely at high altitudes. The single engine vessel promises smooth and safe travel in every type of weather condition and the helicopters manoeuvrability comes in handy when high winds may potentially pose a problem.

Eurocopter A-star
Similar to the Bell 407, the Eurocopter A-star (or AS350 B2), is also a single engine machine that’s lightweight. It’s great transport for small-group heli-skiing, seating up to six passengers.

The Bell 212
This powerful bad boy is a twin-engine helicopter commonly used for heli-skiing by some of the bigger, older operations. Although this machine can carry 14 to 15 passengers, heliski operations may limit the amount to 12 passengers and one pilot. It’s the workhorse of traditional heli-skiing. Although it’s functional, you will notice less manoeuvrability, more restriction on landing places, and a less zippy ride.

However, the real trend among our boutique operators is to deliver the more intimate small group Total Heliski experience, which is enabled by the smaller chopper. Depending on what you seek to derive from the flying part of heli skiing, in my experience, choosing between small or large helicopter skiing definitely matters. We find that most of our clients prefer the small group heliski experience – both for the view on the ride and increased manoeuvrability, as well as the resulting skiing experience. Skiing in smaller groups just feels more liberating as there is less waiting for slower skiers! But if you’ve travelled as a large group of 11 or so, the bigger chopper may appeal so you can ski together with one or two guides.

Whichever option you choose (we can cater to both), you’ll have an awesome heli-skiing experience.