December 28, 2016 / Luxury Lifestyle

Heli-Ski Destinations with a Difference

There’s skiing, heli-skiing, and then there are exclusive, luxurious, all-inclusive experiences opening up previously inaccessible terrain

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Bottomless fresh powder, luxury lodges, and the thrill of being picked up by helicopter from your front door for a flight to one of the world’s most hard-to-reach mountain rangefew adventures on the planet compare with heli-skiing. Luxury Defined spoke to expert Suzy Small, director of luxury travel company Mensos Concierge, which works exclusively with heli-ski specialists Pure Powderfor the inside scoop on where to find the ultimate mountain adventures in 2017.

FRANCE: Best for ultimate luxury
With your base in the tiny French village of Le Miroir, in the Tarentaise Valley, neighboring Italy provides 26,000 feet of heli-ski runs right back to your front door. “It’s difficult for a ski lodge to stand out in the competitive rental market,” says Small. “Lavish chalets are commonplace in an industry that becomes ever more staggeringly luxurious. But Chalet Pelerin, in the French Alps, is a breathtakingly beautiful establishment that is run by a wonderfully knowledgeable local couple who work as ski guide and lodge manager. So, rather than renting a chalet where guides are booked as an afterthought, it provides a supreme mountain adventure organized by an in-house team – with a focus on off-piste skiing and boarding.”

With its enviable French Alps location, Chalet Pelerin also offers lift-accessible terrain in the huge connected ski region featuring resorts Val d’Isere, Tignes, and Les Arcs. The chalet has five bedrooms with baths, a cinema room, indoor saltwater pool, Finnish sauna and steam-room options. Your ski guide can create bespoke piste adventures straight from your doorstep, returning you home to luxuriate amid roaring log fires and fur-strewn furnishings. There’s even a private backcountry refuge, L’Alpage, where you can enjoy traditional mountain fare and maintain the air of adventure.

Prices start at €7,040 per night for exclusive chalet use (8-12 guests), inclusive of pre-arrival planning and private concierge, full guide service, all activity gear, in-house breakfast, après and dinner, including all beverages, a full day accompanied by a professional photographer, and return airport transfers to and from Geneva.

CANADA: Best for powder heaven
When powder skiing, the key is to distribute your weight equally to left and right, and turn both skis as a unit; it takes practice, and powder skis, rather than regular carvers, are a must. "A remote former logging town in the deep Interior of British Columbia hardly screams ‘bucket list’ – but I tell my clients to leave any hesitations at the door when considering the snow-sport capital of North America: Revelstoke,” says Small. Some of the world’s best ski terrain lies in wait and, since the arrival of one of the most impressive ski lodges in the world, those wishing to sample it no longer have to stay in less-than-luxurious surroundings.

Operating in the Columbia Mountains, west of the Rockies, for over 50 years, Canadian Mountain Holidays – or more specifically its founder, Hans Gmoser – invented heli-skiing in 1965.“Bighorn Lodge regularly picks up awards as the world’s best ski chalet, and the dedicated manager creates a bespoke itinerary prior to arrival, curating menus for the week and entertainment for the slope-shy, who can enjoy films in the cinema room, take spa treatments, and make use of a private vehicle, included in the rental, to explore locally.” With up to 10 guests in eight sumptuous bedrooms, skiers and boarders can wake each morning and head downstairs to the helipad, where Canadian Mountain Holidays – the world’s original heli-ski operator – will be on hand to whisk them away to enjoy the expansive, exclusive territory on the lodge’s doorstep. Over 5,000 square miles, 247 runs, and a huge variety of terrain help to create the world’s most exclusive ski experience.

Prices start at C$220,000 based on 10 guests for exclusive use, including in-house chef-prepared meals, all house beverages, six-and-a-half days of private heli-skiing via a Bell 212 helicopter, two experienced IFMGA/ACMG-certified guides, 14 hours of helicopter flight time, safety equipment, and daily van transport if required.

ICELAND: Best for off the beaten track
Heli-skiing is the only sure-fire way to be the first skier or boarder group on virgin snow – because you are genuinely the only people on the mountain. Banner image: Chalet Pelerin“With epic, small-group heli-skiing under a midnight sun, at the edge of the Arctic Circle, Iceland has become the ultimate heli-ski playground,” says Suzy Small. The center of its burgeoning ski activity is on the Troll Peninsula, on the island nation’s north coast. Here, an abundance of deep-base freshly powdered slopes, descents of up to 5,000 feet and a season lasting from the end of February until the beginning of June – when long daylight hours lend themselves to extended activity – are heaven for the adventurous. “Surrounded by fjords and the Arctic Ocean, here – uniquely – you can ski right down to the water’s edge. So the skiing is an absolutely amazing experience.”

Deplar Farm offers jaw-dropping views of both the Icelandic mountains and the sea from floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the complex. There is suitably luxurious accommodation, too, at the impressive Deplar Farm. In fact, with an indoor–outdoor saltwater pool, complete with bar, a sumptuous spa and its own gourmet chef, this would be a luxury break in its own right. There’s plenty to occupy non-skiers: “Snowmobiling, dry-suit surfing, hot springs, whale-watching, and boat trips to visit the local puffin colonies are all on offer,” says Small. “With a maximum group size of four, ski days are fast-paced – with the constant backup of the lodge’s trusty Snowcat [tracked vehicle].”

Prices start at US$10,000 per person for four days’ semi-private heli-skiing. This includes pre-arrival planning and private concierge, all beverages, and in-house chef-prepared meals, full guide service with experienced and professional IFMGA/AMGA-certified guides, all activity gear (save boots) and safety equipment, and return airport transfers to and from Akureyri.

PATAGONIA: Best for once-in-a-lifetime thrills
Every cabin aboard the <i>Atmosphere</i> is en suite and has air conditioning/heating controls, as well as windows with panoramic ocean views. The luxury exploration yacht Atmosphere sails the untouched territories of the southern hemisphere. Described by Forbes as one of the world’s leading exploration ships, it offers a private heli-ski experience that is truly unique. “While most Chilean heli-ski companies operate in the north, Powder South instead explores huge areas of uncharted ski terrain further south – where first descents are therefore the norm,” says Small.

Two Bell 407 helicopters are available to ferry guests from the <i>Atmosphere</i> to the virgin slopes.“Operating from June through to September, with space for up to 20 guests, there’s a modest 32-strong crew and facilities include on-deck hot tubs, private chefs, a spa, and two Bell 407 helicopters for flying groups of guests to otherwise untouched slopes, for the most indulgent private snow-sports experience possible," continues Small. "This really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Prices start at €400,000 based on a full boat of 20 guests, including six days’ heli-skiing, 35 hours of flight time, on-board gourmet meals and beverages, full guide service with experienced and professional UIAGM/IFMGA-certified heli-ski guides, powder skis/ snowboards and safety equipment, six nights’ lodging on board and one in Santiago, and airport transfers to and from Puerto Montt.

Ski and mountain homes around the world

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  • Travel, Food & Drink

Suzy Small
is director of luxury travel company Mensos Concierge

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