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BellaOnline's Winter Sports Editor

Heli Skiing in Alaska

Ever dream of helicopter skiing? Even though itís springtime, donít put your ski or snowboard equipment away yet! April is the best month to go heli-skiing or snowboarding in Alaska!

April is perfect because the longer days allow for more daylight and more time for flying, which means more time for skiing and snowboarding! The weather is also more stable, which is ideal. The best days to fly are the ďbluebirdĒ days, when the sun is shining and thereís not a cloud in the sky. Of course, the helicopters are not going to fly clients if weather rolls in. They need good visibility and if itís snowing, the heliís will stop flying.

More stable weather also means a more stable snow pack. This makes it generally safer for skiing and snowboarding. Although avalanches can occur at anytime during the month of April in Alaska, itís at least less likely than the month of March, due to a little less snowfall.

There are several locations in Alaska that offer heli-skiing and snowboarding. Girdwood, Haines, Cordova, Juneau and perhaps the most well known, Valdez. Valdez has had its share of publicity over the years in both magazines and ski movies.

Here is a list of variables to research before booking your heli ski vacation.

What is the cost per person, per day? How many runs does that include? Can I gather enough friends of similar ability level to fill all the seats in the heli? What is the certification level of the guides that are with the company Iím thinking of booking? How many days can I afford? Have I factored in a few extra days in case the weather is bad and I need to wait it out to get all my fly days? How much will the hotel and airfare cost? If I donít have a transceiver, shovel, probe or pack, will the heli company rent me those? How much will renting those items, or skis, cost?

You should expect ďdown daysĒ where the weather is bad enough that the heli cannot fly. This is bound to happen and folks often entertain themselves by going to the bar (shocking, I know). Some bars have pool tables, music, or TV for entertainment, and on rare occasions, someone might even break out some playing cards.

Be forewarned though, once you try heli-skiing, the heli bug will bite you. There is nothing quite like flying through the air in a small aircraft surrounding by beautiful mountains and mouth-watering terrain. Getting out of the ship on the top of a remote mountain with fresh tracks awaiting you is a dream come true. Youíre adrenaline will let you know itís there and the best thing you can do is to slow down, take your time and above all follow the directions given to you by your guide.

Heli-skiing isnít the cheapest vacation, but it is an amazing experience. Save your money, bring your patience and offset your carbon footprint for this vacation by buying some green tags!

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