Over The Top - Heliskiing In New Zealand

29 March 2015

“I’d have thought after 13 years I’d get sick of this,” heli-ski guide Scott Walker shouts as a shiny black helicopter hovers above us.

“But all it takes is the sound of the first helicopter of the season and I’m hooked all over again; this is the best six-seater chairlift on Earth.”

He has a point. There’s no chairlift in the world that can provide access to uncrowded powder slopes like a helicopter.

 Get away from the crowded slopes

Consider this: one operator alone in the Wanaka region – Southern Lakes Heliski– offers skiers and snowboarders access to a staggering 8500sq km of exclusive terrain across 11 mountain ranges with a choice of over 600 runs.

Another major operator in the region – Harris Mountains Heliski – offers access to over 400 exclusive runs from over 200 mountain peaks and 3000sq km of skiable terrain, while the third, Alpine Heliski, can take you to eight mountain ranges with over 1200m of vertical descent on each ski run.


Look beyond the chairlifts. Into The Wild – Skiing New Zealand’s Backcountry

Why Queenstown is such a favourite. Queenstown Wins Hands Down


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There's Never A Crowd And You Always Have A Guide

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The Wanaka region of New Zealand’s South Island is one of the world’s premier heli-skiing areas.

What makes it so great is that almost anyone can heli-ski here. With its diversity of skiable terrain – from ludicrously steep, tight chutes to wide, gently rolling mountain flanks – everyone from intermediate to expert is catered for.

 The best six-seater chairlift on Earth

The biggest myth about heli-skiing is that it’s only for experts. But if you can make it down black runs at New Zealand’s major ski resorts then you can easily go heli-skiing around Wanaka.

It’s actually safer than riding at resorts – there’s never a crowd, and you’ll always have a guide to show you the safest path to the bottom. You’ll also be briefed on all aspects of safety by your guide before you take off and you’ll be wearing an avalanche transmitter.

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Feast Served On A Snow Table

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It’s also a lot cheaper to heli-ski in the Wanaka area than at most heli-ski operations in North and South America, with an assortment of day ski packages beginning at $NZ870 (A$845).

But it’s not just the price and the diversity of the terrain that makes Wanaka such an attractive place to heli-ski; it’s the sheer beauty of the region. You’ll take off from Wanaka’s tiny airport across emeraldcoloured, glacier-fed lakes, swooping in low over high-country sheep farms towards jagged triangular peaks that jut out from thousands of square kilometres of the Southern Alps.

With the size of the terrain available to operators, you’ll never do the same ski run twice, nor will you ever cross a single ski track, and because you’ll ride in single file there’s never another skier in your way.

And you won’t have to return to base to eat – instead your guide will fashion a table from snow and serve you a feast in the wilderness.


Craig Tansley

A Polynesian tragic, Tansley blames his parents for having him in Rarotonga for why he can't stay away from there for more than a few months at a time. Give him a coconut and a lagoon and he'll be happy.