How to Pack for Your Heli Ski Trip
For most of us, heliskiing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—a dream trip we save up for years to achieve—which is why it can also come with a fair amount of anxiety over what to bring with you.
And, because heliski lodges are remote by definition, if you forget something, there ain’t no Walmart to pop into on the way. To help alleviate some pre-trip jitters, here’s a quick guide to how to pack for your trip.
We know, this is obvious, but we see even seasoned ski travelers make the cardinal mistake of checking your ski boots in your luggage. Hear us now and thank us later: Always bring you ski boots as carry-on. You could arrive naked and shivering on the front step of the lodge, and if you have your boots, you’ll be fine. The guides at the lodge will have plenty of clothes for you to borrow, but boots not so much. Also, do not buy new boots the day before you come—be sure you’ve skied in them enough to know they’re comfortable enough to ski in for days in a row. Nothing ruins a heliski trip more than being in constant pain.
Be sure you pack your boots in your carry-on. If you check them, they could get lost.
Heliskiing can be challenging to dress for. There are no warming huts or lodges, the runs are long, and you’ll only be as fast as the slowest member of your group. This means you may go from sweating to freezing your ass off in a single lap. You’ll want to be sure to bring waterproof breathable outerwear, wicking base and mid-layers, and an extra packable down or synthetic layer for long wait times. You can typically get away with wearing your long underwear bottoms for multiple days in a row, but if you tend to sweat, bring extra shirts. We recommend a fresh pair of thin ski socks for each day, too. The don’t take up much room, and your lodge mates will thank you.
Bring plenty of warm layers. You'll be waiting for the helicopter!
Most heli lodges have double occupancy rooms, so you’ll likely be sleeping feet away from another person, whether it’s a buddy or a stranger. Nothing will ruin a trip more than lying awake all night listening to him or her snore. Even if you’re traveling with your partner, pack them anyway, because the walls can be thin enough to hear the folks next door.
No matter how in shape you are, most of us aren’t accustomed to skiing bell-to-bell powder day after day. (And if you are, well, we want your life.) It’s tiring and you’ll be firing your muscles all day every day. Soreness happens, but you don’t have to let it put a damper on your trip. Throw in some muscle recovery balm if that’s your thing.
There’s no better way to end the day than with a soak in the hot tub or a sauna session. Whether you’re traveling in a group or going solo, the hot tub or sauna is where the après fun gets going.
Your feet will be working hard for you on back-to-back ski days. Treat them right with some cozy slippers for hanging out in the lodge. Wear them from the hot tub to the shower and even to dinner—the lodge may have five-star food, but the dress code is always casual.
Believe us, your slippered feet will be happy at Tordrillo's Lodge.
Leave yours at home. We know, you may feel more comfortable with your daily drivers, but trust on this one. The skis at the lodge are most likely better suited for plundering pow, as most of us don’t own boards fat enough for the conditions you’ll get from the helicopter. They’ll also likely be newer and better tuned, too. So save yourself the money and hassle and get kitted out from the fleet once you’re there. You may just want to check your DIN setting on your bindings before you go to save yourself the math once you get there.
We suggest using the gear the lodge will supply you with, as they will have top-of-the-line equipment (safety is their No. 1 priority). There are a couple of exceptions, however. If you feel more comfortable using your own beacon and it’s relatively new, feel free to bring it. The guides may insist you use the lodge’s, however, so be prepared for that. Also, if you have an avalanche pack and feel safer wearing one, bring it. Just check with the lodge in advance, as some provide guests with this as well. Fan-operated packs are far easier to travel with; if you have one that requires cannisters, you may need to research where to get them filled upon your arrival.
Lead guide Wes Wylie in his full kit of gear.
Even if you don’t regularly use these at home, it’s a good idea to pack these just in case. Your gloves may get full of snow, and you won’t be able to dry them all day. You can also throw one in the pocket you keep your cell phone in—cold drains the battery even if it’s in airplane mode, and you won’t want to miss out on photo opps.
Don’t forget your critical medications, and also pack these in your carry-on just in case.
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Steamboat, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.