When the calendar rolls into March, most serious skiers’ eyes roll toward the slopes far, far away. Spring skiing is synonymous with heliskiing, and during March, when the daylight hours linger and the conditions warm up enough to allow all-day fun, heliskiing is an adventure waiting to happen.
The best heliskiing is often the most remote, but fortunately for Alaskans, there are plenty of places close to home as well. From Valdez and Girdwood to Haines and Cordova, each offers its own rewards.
One of the highlights of the spring skiing season is Tailgate Alaska, a 10-day festival outside of Valdez set up in a makeshift parking lot amid the Chugach Mountain Range. This year’s event is set for April 3-12, and details can be found at tailgatealaska.com. It’s a great introduction to heliskiing, but be forewarned – it gets crowded and the slopes are anything but pristine and quiet. If skiing in solitude is your preference, opt for the weeks before and after the event. If a festive, party mood where you can meet lots of like-minded skiers and snowmachiners is your choice, Tailgate is the place to be.
“I think initially Tailgate started as this gathering that was all about trying to go snowboarding and skiing in the Chugach, and it’s gradually become more snowmachine-oriented,” said Dave Geis of Alaska Snowboard Guides. “But you can still learn a lot, and there are great safety classes. It’s a great introduction to Alaska.”
No matter your preference, the fact is, this is heliskiing season. Make the most of it.
Here is a list of Coast’s favorite go-to places in Valdez to catch Tailgate, as well as a few options for those who might want to explore different regions of fine Alaska heliskiing terrain.
Black Ops Valdez: Valdez. Top off your trip with lodging at Robe Lake Lodge, which includes great food, hot tub and sauna. Lodging is situated between Valdez and Thompson Pass. (907) 831-2339 or
Alaska Snowboard Guides: Valdez. This outfit’s weeklong packages include in-town lodging and transportation to and from base camp. Walk-ins welcome, and RV camping packages available for those on a tighter budget. (907) 835-7669 or www.alaskasnowboardguides.com
Valdez Heli Camps: Valdez. Great for beginners and experienced skiers alike, this operation has a variety of ski packages available and ski options available even when the helis can’t fly. (907) 783-3243 Ext.210 or valdezhelicamps.com
Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, Tsaina Lodge: Valdez. Stay at the bar and lodge, and enjoy some of the most affordable heliskiing in the state. (907) 835-4528 or www.tsaina.com, www.valdezheliskiguides.com
Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides: Valdez. The Rendezvous Lodge & Restaurant is on site, and Alaskan discounts are available. Another great option for Tailgate Alaska. (907) 822-3300 or www. arlinc.com
H2O Guides: Valdez. Discounts available for Alaskan skiers and a great pairing for Tailgate Alaska. (907) 835-8418 or www.alaskahelicopterskiing.com
CLOSE TO ANCHORAGE/SOUTHCENTRAL
Chugach Powder Guides: Girdwood. The best option for skiing close to Anchorage, CPG is housed with Alyeska Resort for fine lodging and dining après ski. (907) 783-4354 or www.chugachpowderguides.com
Tordrillo North: This newly opened operation has partnered with the upscale Winterlake Lodge to provide heliski and snowboard operations. Enjoy unparalleled heliskiing by day, and fine dining and lodging in log guest cabins by evening. (907) 274-2710 or www.tordrillonorth. com
Tordrillo Mountain Lodge: Anchorage. Another upscale option whose closest town is Anchorage, yet you will feel thousands of miles away from anything. Food, lodging and transportation included, 5-star dining, cross-country ski trails for down days, snowmachine tours, and other pampering included. (907) 569-5588 or tordrillomountainlodge. com
Majestic Heli Ski: Near Mile 115, Glenn Highway. This outfit features a full-service lodge and professional chef so you can ski – and eat — in style. All activities start from the Anchorage International Airport, or you can choose to drive yourself. (800) 559-8691, or majesticheliski. com
Points North Heli-Adventures, Inc.: Cordova. Another off-thebeaten- track location, Points North will get you to the silence and beauty of pristine powdered slopes that they share with no one. Must fly or ferry in to Cordova. (907) 424-7991 or alaskaheliski.com
Alaska Heli Skiing: Haines. You can ski and lodge with this outfit, which features a private chef for extra-tasty dining. Alaska resident discounts available. (907) 767-5745 or www.alaskaheliskiing.com
Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures: Haines. Located in Southeast, this outfit offers private trips as well as group discounts. (907) 314-0445 or www.seaba-heli.com