Heli-Skiing: ALASKA - Spring 2022

Trip Details

LOCATION & TERRAIN

Pulseline operates out of the Valdez Pioneer Field airport just a few minutes from Valdez, Alaska. Our position at the airport provides us with access to terrain in nearly every direction offering flexibility to choose the best terrain based on daily weather and snow conditions.

Alaska's Chugach Mountains surrounding Valdez and Prince William Sound are Earth’s snowiest, most glaciated mountains. Widely considered the best ski terrain anywhere, these mountains offer an ideal combination of diverse terrain, massive vertical, broad glaciation, and a consistently deep annual snowpack. Due to their remoteness, helicopters provide the most efficient access and only feasible way to effectively ski the deepest regions.

This unique glacially-chilled powder paradise is shielded from rain and warm temperatures that often wreak havoc on snow in other maritime climates. You won’t find Sierra Cement or Cascades Concrete in the Chugach. Thousands of square miles of glaciers and cold microclimates contribute to immense snowfall and premium powder snow that has made the Chugach so coveted by skiers and snowboarders.

Chugach powder has been described as velvety or silky. The snow also has a unique consistency that allows it to adhere to steeper terrain yet is still cold and dry making it possible to ski very steep slopes. It’s magical. The deep snowpack in the Chugach is generally more cohesive and stable than very dry powder on top of a thinner snowpack like found in the Rocky Mountains; and Chugach snow has an ethereal quality that will leave you craving more and more as you devour thousands upon thousands of vertical feet. After heli-skiing in the Chugach you’ll quickly realize that nothing else compares.

VALDEZ VS. HAINES

People often ask us whether Valdez or Haines has better heli-skiing – the truth is we love them both equally! The terrain and experiences are different but equally enjoyable. Haines is more remote and has a smaller full-time population. The heli-ski acreage is smaller in Haines, but the distances between areas is also shorter, which often requires less flight time. Valdez has more skiable terrain, but it also has much larger and many more glaciers, which can increase flight times. Haines has more potential for tree skiing and Alaska spines, while Valdez is known for many large, steep planar slopes and ramps that taper at the bottom near the glaciers; although you can find a great mix of terrain in both places.

REQUISITE ABILITY

Heli-skiing in Alaska is the pinnacle of big mountain freeride skiing and riding. We access some of the most challenging heli-ski terrain in the world including steep, deep, technical lines along with variable snow and weather conditions. Therefore for these trips, we require that each rider be at least a High Level Advanced, Expert, or Pro level as described below:

High Level Advanced

You confidently ski or ride all conditions (fresh powder, hard pack, wind buff, ice, etc.) and ride in control on steeper slopes up to 40 degrees. You are comfortable descending steeper or more difficult lines occasionally, but conditions must be good, and you may take additional time to make it down. You may not have experience with slough management on bigger Alaska faces, but you are open to learning and improving your skills.

Expert

You ski or ride with confident control in all conditions and terrain; you are generally comfortable skiing steeper lines greater than 40 degrees even in challenging snow conditions. You often push yourself to ski more technical lines and are comfortable getting a bit of air occasionally (but not necessarily hucking the largest cliffs).

Pro

You ski or ride at the absolute highest level – whether or not you are actually getting paid for it.  You are known as a local ripper, shredding with style and ease.

FITNESS REQUIREMENTS

Heli-skiing in Alaska is mind blowing, but it can be strenuous even for expert skiers and riders. It is mandatory that you are physically prepared before your trip, so that you can handle large amounts of vertical, deep powder, variable snow surface conditions, technical terrain, long days in the mountains, and potentially harsh weather conditions over multiple days, while wearing a pack.

We recommend that you ski or ride as much as possible before your trip. If you are not skiing or riding three to four days per week, please undertake a supplemental fitness training program to ensure that you are ready for this Alaskan big mountain freeride experience and can keep up with the rest of your group while not impeding other groups. Fitness is also key for helping prevent injuries and increasing the margin of safety. As part of your trip application, we will request information regarding your fitness and planned fitness training.

Additionally, we will provide you with a suggested 4 to 6 week training program that can be completed at home without weights to help ensure you are at peak performance for your trip. This training program focuses on a number of exercises that we have found to be extremely helpful for skiing fitness. Please check with your physician before starting any new exercise program.

EQUIPMENT

Excerpt of Required Equipment (Full List will be sent to you after booking):

  1. Big Mountain Powder Skis or Snowboard – skis should be at least 105mm underfoot (we recommend 110mm or wider). Skis with traditional sidecut and camber underfoot and slight to moderate rocker at the tip and tail perform well in Alaska terrain since we will encounter snow surfaces that require you to engage your edges. Alpine style ski bindings are preferred. Snowboards should have sufficient rocker and an appropriate size and width for your weight. Please confirm the proper functioning of ski and snowboard bindings and double check your DIN before arrival in Alaska. We strongly recommend a full tune and wax as well (all temperature wax). If you are coming with new equipment, ski or ride on it at least one day before coming to Alaska. We also recommend bringing a second set of skis or two snowboards in case of any equipment issues, since there are no local ski shops in Valdez or Haines. Please call us if you have any questions about appropriate equipment.
  2. Avalanche Backpack – each guest is required to have an Avalanche backpack. The size should be sufficient to include an extra layer, shovel, probe, lunch and water (22L pack is sufficient). We love Ortovox packs, but there are a number of good manufacturers. We will have a few extra avalanche bags to rent, but this must be arranged in advance. We can also provide guests with an Ortovox discount code if you would like to purchase one. Please contact us for more details.
  3. Modern Digital Avalanche Beacon – must be digital (no analog). Again, we prefer Ortovox beacons, but other brands are fine as well (e.g. Mammut, Pieps, or BCA). If you have any questions please ask us.
  4. Shovel and Probe – your shovel should be metal or aluminum (no plastic), be large enough to move snow efficiently in the event of an avalanche, and be stored inside your pack; please make sure your probe is at least 240cm and that it can be locked when fully extended.

Lightweight Harness and a Locking Carabiner – We recommend the Couloir Harness from Black Diamond (https://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en_US/product/couloir-harness/) and the Black Diamond Rocklock.  (https://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en_US/product/rocklock-twistlock-carabiner/) - if needed we will provide you with a harness and carabiner as part of your package.

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