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Helicopter skiing Alaska, and everywhere, challenges the norm and takes extreme sports enthusiasts out into the wild. The actor Steve McQueen once said that he’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city in the world. In their quest towards commercialism, many modern ski areas are beginning to resemble the urban locations that their visitors are escaping from. Indeed, some ski vacations merely present a replica of city life, albeit on the mountains.
Unfortunately, the crowding, long lines for lifts and gondolas and the lack of freedom as to where you can go can bring about the stress we strive to escape. For skiers who have finessed their skills, the predictability of perfectly groomed corduroy may grow to be far too mundane. Isn’t skiing about escaping a mundane existence? If you believe that skiing is about personal freedom, isn’t it time you experienced helicopter skiing? Alaska offers a vast variety of opportunities. In fact, it was Alaska that popularized the idea of the skiing helicopter in the United States. Lets’ take a look at the history of Alaska heli skiing.
History of Helicopter Skiing, Alaska
Helicopter skiing, Alaska began in Girdwood in the 1960s. At the time, most of the helicopter skiing was done either by people scouting for a new resort location, or by construction workers responsible for building lift towers. The first known helicopter skiing in Alaska that was open to the public took place at Hatcher’s Pass in the 1980s.
Alaska West Air was the first outfit to offer skiing helicopter service in Valdez. Chet Simmons, Doug Brewer and Tom Tibideau were pilots. They flew a Bell 206 skiing helicopter. The following year, they purchased a beaver as a ski plane shuttle.
Modern Alaska heli-skiing began in Valdez, Alaska in the 1990’s when Shannon Loveland, Mike Cozad and Chet Simmons, owners of the Tsania lodge, succeeded in bringing the World Extreme Skiing Competition to the area. Kim Reichelm was the winner of the first World Extreme Skiing Championship (WESC) in Valdez, Alaska in 1991. She had recently retired from the US Ski Team. This was her first time in a helicopter skiing. Alaska also gave Reichelm her first big mountain skiing experience. After her Alaska heli-skiing experience, Reichelm commented that her “mode changed” and the education involved in becoming a better backcountry skier began right there in Valdez. As a professional racer, Kim was an expert carver, but she knew very little about skiing chutes. She claims that her Alaska heli skiing experience helped her improve her ability to handle different types of terrain and conditions. Four years later, she returned to Alaska for the World Extreme Skiing Championships, and won the event again.
Modern Helicopter Skiing, Alaska
Nowadays, Alaska heli skiing is a snow sport enthusiast’s idea of nirvana. Can you imagine seven days without lift lines? Would you miss lugging your gear across an icy parking lot while a mob of tourists push past you? Wouldn’t you be thrilled by thousands of vertical feet of unblemished dry powder? Wouldn’t you like to fly? A skiing helicopter provides you with astonishing views that could never be seen from a chairlift. As Warren Miller says:
Remember, if you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do!
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