March 15, 2011
The dream: heli-skiing in Alaska.
The reality: sitting around in a drafty lodge, playing video games, drinking stale beer, and waiting for the storm to clear so choppers can fly.
When you (hope to) heli-ski in Alaska, it’s not uncommon to spend several days (sometimes your entire vacation) doing everything you can to take your mind off the fact that you’re not skiing.
There’s a lot of eating and drinking to pass the time. You can get what’s called the "heli belly" and return from your trip looking like you spent your vacation at the 24-hour buffet on a cruise ship.
So how do you fulfill the quintessential skier’s dream without taking out a second mortgage and pledging personal sacrifices to Mother Nature’s collection of heli gods?
Here’s how: Utah’s Diamond Peaks Heli-Ski Adventures.
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Now, I’ll admit, as a citizen of planet Utah, I am more than a little reluctant to share this precious powder gem with anyone. But as a writer who has taken the oath of journalistic integrity (and admittedly struggles to come up with a topic for this column each week), I’m sharing with you what is arguably the most sensible way to check heli-skiing off your bucket list.
About 3,000 miles southeast of the Chugach, you’ll find 20,000 acres of untracked, thigh-deep powder, clear blue skies and virtual nonstop heli-drops.
As Diamond Peaks’ owner Craig Olsen puts it, "Heli-skiing with us is all of the snow, less of the dough."
Located in the northern Wasatch Mountains, Diamond Peaks Heli-Ski Adventures’ private terrain is accessed off the backside of Snowbasin Resort, which averages about 400 inches of the greatest snow on Earth each year. Add in our average 240 days of sunshine annually and it’s nearly guaranteed you’ll heli-ski when you choose to.
Sean Petersen, a snowboarder who has twice flown with Diamond Peaks, agrees. "Both times I had friends planning a trip to visit and we only had a one-day window, which we secured in August. We just picked a random Saturday six months out, and both times we were able to fly under ideal conditions."
This is not atypical, but Olsen does recommend that hopeful heliers block out a three-day window to ensure flight time. "The weather here is ideal, but sometimes a long storm can come in and we’ll be grounded for a day or two."
If, on the rare chance the bird is grounded due to weather, the good news is you’re not holed up in some rickety ski shack sipping Kentucky Bourbon straight from the bottle and watching ski porn.
"Your opportunity for fun and adventure is limitless here. You can always ski Snowbasin or nearby Powder Mountain. And, we’re less than an hour to the world-renowned resorts of Park City, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, etc. So even if you can’t heli-ski, you can still ski," notes Olsen.
As for Sean, he’s content to leave dreams of skiing the last frontier behind him. "Yeah, it’s always been my dream to do this in Alaska. But dating a Playboy Playmate is also a dream of mine. In the end, though, that would probably consume a lot of my time and money, give me stress, and not be worth the effort. The same is true of trying to heli in Alaska."
Interesting analogy, Sean.
But come to think of it, dating a Playboy Playmate and trying to heli-ski in Alaska are pretty similar. It may sound glamorous and enticing, but in the end, you’re sure to shell out a lot of cash and you’ll probably just end up getting screwed.
For more information on Diamond Peaks Heli-Ski Adventures, visit: http://www.diamondpeaks.com .
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.