Heli-Boarding!

A snowboarders guide


First time heli-boarding? Been out before but looking to have a better experience? Here are a few suggestions for you to follow to make sure your trip is as rad as possible…

Gear: Important… using new gear is usually not such a good idea on a heli trip. The last thing you want is to tell the guide you have to sit this run out because your new boots are cramping up your feet or the blister on the back of your foot has just exploded! On the flip side, your gear shouldnt be so old that it could break at any moment. Equipment failure is not only a bummer, it could be unsafe.

Board: There are many options out there for the powder enthusiast from super long powder guns to the super short “fish” style boards that use width and taper instead of length to achieve great flotation. Most people that don’t have the chance to ride powder that much often prefer a fish over a longboard because they are easier to maneuver, lighter and more versatile(especially in tight trees). In fact, more and more people that ride powder everyday are riding shorter, tapered boards.

Boots: Comfy.... Its that simple. Your boots don’t have to bee terribly stiff yet you don’t want something too soft either. Just make sure you have spent a few days in the boots to break them in BEFORE you get in the heli with them! The fit should be precise. Too much room and you’ll get blisters and have no control. Too tight and your feet will be frozen before you even get out of the bird! Step-ins work but tend to create more problems than they are worth i.e. powder clogging up the system making for frustrating moments when its time to ride and you cant get your boot to stay in! Hard boots while they work fine are generally way too much boot for what you are about to do. Too stiff to enjoy the surfy sensations of untracked pow.

Bindings: As stated above, No step-ins. There is too much clog potential. Plate bindings means hard plastic and thats just too much boot for ripping powder. Standard freestyle or freeride bindings will do just fine. If you have some spare parts like ratchets, ladders, straps and such bring them with you.

Clothing: Waterproof, breathable. Powderskirts in jackets are a pretty cool thing, keeping out the white stuff when you take the inevitable bail. Layering is Key. At first you might be cold to start, getting warmer with each run and finishing off with a chill cuz your were sweating! Layering helps prepare you to deal with the changing climate both inside and outside your clothing. Warm, waterproof gloves are a must. Bring a neck gaiter or scarf of some sort. The blowing snow from the heli can certainly add a little discomfort if you don’t have something to protect your face from it. Speaking of protecting, helmets are not a bad idea as well! Bring two pair of goggles… one is surely going to get caked with snow and fog up on you!

Skill level: This should not be your first time riding powder unless you are taking the Worldwide Tribes / Burton Snowboards Learn To Ride: Powder snowboard camp with HMH. Take a lesson with a certified instructor and go find some pow! Make sure you can start, stop and control speed W!ITHOUT sideslipping… in other words, turn! While sideslipping is a great tool, there is no quicker
way to lose the respect of all your powder craving friends by sideslipping it all away! Spend some time in the trees (with deep snow if at all possible) getting comfortable with your timing and control.

 

Written for High Mountain Heli skiing by Mikey Franco. Mikey is a member of the American Association of Snowboard Instructors National Team, an instructor and backcountry guide for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort as well as a guide for Alaska Rendezvous Heli and owner of Worldwide Tribes, an adventure snow and surf travel company.

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