Unearned Turns

Six downhill ski escapes with no crowds or chairlifts—and no hiking

Dec 4, 2008
Outside Magazine
Heli-skiing in Alaska

Heli-skiing in Alaska    Photo: courtesy, G. Peifer-Chugach Powder Guides

By Heli

Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience, Lamoille, Nevada Usually you have two options with heli-skiing: Scare yourself with aggro Alaska cowboys or spoon tracks with the masses in B.C. Ruby Mountains offers up something different—namely, accessible, crystalline powder for small groups. Tucked beneath a range of 11,000-foot peaks, Reds Ranch lodge is a 40-minute drive from the Elko airport. Four skiers at a time follow their guide into big, gentle bowls. And the place is laid-back, meaning the guides don't get pissed if you make big, fast turns. $1,350 per day, inclu­ding lodging; helicopterskiing.com

Wasatch Powderbird Guides, Alta/Snowbird, Utah Launching from a nook between Alta and Snowbird, Utah's most famous resorts, WPG is North America's premier day-trip heli-ski outfit—they access runs that can reach 4,000 vertical feet. Sign up a week after a storm, when the resorts are skied out, and WPG will fly you to sheltered, north-facing steeps where you'll choke on Utah powder for seven hours. Day trips, $875; powderbird.com

Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides, Valdez, Alaska Don't fool yourself—heli-skiing in Alaska is dangerous. If you're ready, go with ARG. Founder Theo Meiners and his crew take safety seriously. Because there are female guides on staff, the place doesn't exude the type of testosterone that leads to bad decision-making. But if you want steep and scary, Meiners & Co. are happy to oblige: Skiers routinely average 24,000 vertical feet daily, and push 50 degrees on the treeless and fluted shots that make Alaska famous. Day trips, $870; arlinc.com