We put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions for our winter heli-ski programs at ISML. If you have question and don’t see the answer below, please email us at email@example.com.
HOW GOOD DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO HELI-SKI?
Contrary to what one sees in the movies, typical heli-sking the world over does not involve radical terrain with avalanche and cliff dodging descents. Rather, terrain is chosen every day that suits the group, avoids the hazards and pinpoints quality snow. A helicopter flown by an experienced mountain pilot and directed by a seasoned guide is the perfect tool to accomplish this goal. Any skier or snowboarder who is comfortable enough with his/her ability to handle most “blue” runs and some “black” runs at an average ski area will enjoy heli-skiing. Being in good physical condition helps as well.
WHY HELI-SKI SUN VALLEY?
There are three very good reasons to choose Sun Valley as a heli-ski destination. Foremost is terrain. Slopes are long, with consistent steepness and range from wide open bowls, to sparsely treed ridges, to sheltered north facing chutes. Ski terrain is why Sun Valley was chosen, not only as the birthplace of skiing in the United States, but heli-skiing as well. Second is weather. Helicopters need good weather in order to fly on a reliable basis. The term “bluebird day” was coined in Sun Valley. Third is exclusivity. Guest to guide ratio is four to one, with a maximum of four groups per day. This allows a guide to easily custom tailor the day to fit the desires and abilities of his guests. It is easy to book a heli-ski adventure with Sun Valley Heli-ski Guides.
WHY HELI-SKI AT THE IDAHO SMOKY MOUNTAIN LODGE?
While all the reasons mentioned in the previous question apply, the main benefit of basing your heli-skiing from the ISML is snow. Many years of flying, touring, and skiing have led us to locate the lodge in one of the snowiest places in Idaho. An added feature is the opening up of a great deal of powder hugging north facing slopes, thanks to a recent forest fire. In order to make the most of your trip, maximum number of groups is held to three. Comfortable Lodge, great food, miles of untracked within view, experienced staff, no waiting, and the list goes on. This is indeed the best kept secret in the world of heli-skiing.
WHAT ABOUT WEATHER?
Many ski runs are within view of the Lodge, so a down day can turn to ski day with a break in the clouds. Our summer bike trails are groomed for cross country skiing or packed for snowshoeing if the weather really refuses to cooperate. There are also nearby slopes that can be climbed and skied if your ski equipment has the capability and you are so inclined. The Lodge is a short flight from civilization, but occasionally travel plans are compromised by weather. We are prepared for the contingency of an extra night at the Lodge. You should be prepared by purchasing travel insurance. Remember, however, this place is called Sun Valley for a reason. It is very rare that weather keeps us grounded for more than a day.
WHAT ABOUT NON-SKIERS?
There are a number of activities available to members of the group who wish to limit or refrain from heli-skiing. However, you must realize that the helicopter shuttle is an expense. Also, once based from the Lodge, the helicopter is flying with an “empty seat”, which, even if it is being filled by a staff member, is not generating revenue. The rate charged for non-skiers reflects the helicopter costs involved.
WHY IS SKIING AT THE LODGE BASED ON HELICOPTER TIME?
It is our experience that the fairest way to charge for heli-skiing at ISML is by flight hour rather than per run or vertical feet. This way the shuttle to and from the Lodge is absorbed into the cost and guides are flexible to stay close or range far, ski short or long runs, depending on snow quality. Also, we can compensate for a full or partial down day by flying longer the following day or giving credit for your next visit. Each group is allotted up to four hours over three days. More flight time is available at a reduced rate for those who wish to ski more.
WHAT DO I PACK?
After receiving your deposit we will send you a complimentary ISML duffle, PACK LIST and ITINERARY. Everything you need should fit into the duffle. Your duffle will be shuttled in and out of the Lodge via snowmobile, so no fragile items, please.
WHERE DO I START AND END MY TRIP?
Your ISML heli-ski adventure begins and ends in Sun Valley. You need to arrive the day before your first heli-ski day. There is an evening briefing at the Sun Valley Gun Club where you can drop off your duffle, and get safety protocol and logistical information. You will return to the Gun Club the next day, ready to ski. We will return to Sun Valley the afternoon of the third day, in most cases too late to make airline connections. You may just want to linger at this world famous ski resort fro a day or two anyway! We are happy to help with your travel and lodging plans.
WHAT ABOUT ALCOHOL?
Beer, wine, soft drinks and mixes are available for purchase at the Lodge. We also have an extensive list from which you can order your favorite selections in advance. You may bring along hard liquor or your own wine to the evening briefing, to be shuttled by snowmobile. There is a transportation fee of $10 per bottle for this service.
HOW DO I CONTACT MY FAMILY/FRIENDS?
If it is an emergency we have a Satellite Phone. For non-emergencies, we do have free WiFi to email or Skype friends and family during your stay. Travel light and use our lodge computer.