FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
Our first runs are 6-8 minutes out from the base. From there we leap frog throughout the day averaging 2-3 minute lifts for the next given run. An average day consists of 8-10 runs equaling an hour and fifteen to an hour and a half of fly time. Its not common to fly more than an hour and half on a big day.
We charge heli time to make it simple. The heli ride is the expense in heli skiing, not the vertical. You get to choose your own vertical you wish to ski or ride. You fly 6 minutes to your first run from our base. Your second run may take 3 minutes of heli time. Your third run may take 5 minutes to obtain. You now have 3 runs in the can and have burned 14 minutes of time. The time to get home is generally around the same as it takes to get to the fly zone. Again, an average day is around 8-10 runs for an hour and a half of total fly time. Many lifts are much quicker than the example. Some lifts may take longer given the variable in elements. You don’t have to ride from point A to point B. You ride want you choose to ride given the guide deems it safe and can manage and mitigate the various hazards to each given run.
Given the Alaska heli season is only 12 weeks or so, there really is not a “Best time” to come. Most like to come in the middle of the season to get the best of both worlds. Early season, February, can consist of cold waist deep powder. Weather days allow us to ride our local chair lift. Late April has long daylight hours with boot top to shin deep powder. The long day light hours in April make the days seem like they are never going to end. This would make you think that you could have 15 hour days in the mountains however, even the best skiers and riders get tired and for safety reasons we still have standard hours of operation so you can be ready for the next day.
Every operation is Alaska has the very same terrain. We all ski the Chugach Mountains. It makes us all ponder here at PNH when others state they have more or better terrain. WE SKI AND RIDE THE VERY SAME MOUNTAINS. Everyone has a selling point and all say they have a larger amount or better piece of the pie. Honestly, everyone has the very exact type of terrain and the Chugach Mountains offer terrain for all abilities. PNH has over 1500 square miles of skiable areas. You do not have to be and expert or an extreme skier to have a great time in Alaska. We do however ask that you come with an open mind, in descent shape, and able to feel confident in all conditions. It is very common for the guest to say after each run “that was the best run of my life”, only to be followed with the same comment on the very next run.
We start our season with 2 A-Star helicopters and by the 2nd week we have 3 until the end. Our aircraft have been provided by North Star Trekking out of Juneau, Alaska now for over 8 years. When doing your research it is very important to know how many aircraft the given operation has. Mechanicals can happen and fuel is needed throughout the day.Having a number of aircraft is important so that you don’t spend time on the glacier waiting for a pick up. If your given aircraft is getting fuel at our in the field cache, we have 2 additional aircraft to bump you to your next run. Keeping you on the top of the mountains and riding is our priority. The glaciers can get cold waiting for a pick up.
Tree line in Alaska hovers around 1500 feet above sea level. Our local chair lift provides you with unreal tree skiing with access to a 2800′ run down to the facility if you so choose. It is very important to know that you are kept skiing as much as possible at PNH. We do not put you in a snow cat on down days and chase the Frisbee down the glacier. Our local chair lift has history in itself, given that it is the oldest working chairlift in the world, the 13th ever built and it was Sun Valleys first chair ever. Riding the single chair is something that everyone should experience. Powder Magazine gave Mt. Eyak its own story in there feature, “Little areas that rock”.
No matter where you heli ski in the world, avalanches are always the concern. You must assume inherent risks when heli skiing. We do our very best to mitigate all of the hazards and ski one by one always. WE DO NOT SKI DOWN THE GLACIER AT THE SAME TIME WITH THE GUIDE OUT FRONT LEADING THE CHARGE! We always ski one by one, safe zone to safe zone and communication is the most important factor. Everyone in your group will have a Motorola radio to communicate with your guide and other groups in the field at all times. We take a lot of time in the briefing prior to riding on the safety elements of heli skiing.
As many of you know, the airbag is a new standard in avalanche safety. Airbags are allowed to be carried onto flights however the canisters must be empty. Here at PNH we do have a fill station for all airbags except the the ABS system. We do have the BCA Float airbags available for use for our clients. It is not an air carrier decision in regards to the canisters being allowed on your flight. It falls solely on the TSA agents during screening. In the event you do have your own airbag system, again, we can fill your canister for you.
Cordova is 30 miles from Valdez as the crow flies. Alaska Airlines, ERA Aviation and the Alaska Marine Highway access Cordova. Our airport is always open. It is not common for our airport to close. You can get to Cordova via Anchorage or Seattle. We are a 28 minute flight from Anchorage and a 3 hour flight from Seattle. Once you arrive at the airport a PNH courtesy van is waiting your arrival. Our facility is a 15 minute ride that offers breath taking views from the airport.
We never have more than 4 groups in the aircraft. This keeps you riding and allows additional safety back up with the other groups in the field working around you. Average runs can take up to a hour at times with various hazard mitigation and we can say confidently, you are never waiting for your aircraft. It is generally waiting for you. If you find yourself waiting it is only due to shuttles home at the end of the day or you are taking a break eating lunch on a peak. In the event you do find yourself waiting your generally thankful for the rest time between runs.
Our guides are what make PNH special. They are not only guides but teachers, personalities, and professionals. They are skiers first! Most are trained in the highest level of avalanche certification, medical rescue and are seasoned backcountry professionals. We are extremely proud of our guide staff and their credentials. Please make certain to view our guides page to see what all of them are about. We can again say confidently most of them rate as being some of the best skiers and riders in the world!
There is not a bad operation in Alaska. All are very good. We like to think of PNH as a little different. We encourage you to do your research, ask the right questions and are confident that once you do you will end up at the right place for you. We can assure you that if you get the weather window on your trip no matter where you go, it will be the best trip of your life! That’s Alaska!
Yes, in fact PNH is one of only two heli ski operations in Alaska that have met the high standards of Heli Ski US. Heli Ski US is an association that is recognized by the governing agencies as meeting the “golden seal” in safety, standards and protocols. We strongly advise when booking your heli ski trip that you chose an operation that is part of Heli Ski US. These operators and there guides are some the best in the industry. www.usheliskiing.com
Weather in Alaska can make or break a trip. We are 30 miles from Valdez and we have the very same weather. All of us here in Alaska fly the Chugach Mountains. The Gulf of Alaska is a giant weather maker. It is this that provides the Chugach with over 50 feet of snow annually and makes the runs world famous. An average week consists of 2-3 huge fly days. If you get 4 or 5 big fly days you have luck on your side. This is why we charge only 4 heli hours up front and you are not out of pocket 5 and 6 thousand counting on flying every day. In the event you do get to fly every day you simply pay as you go. It is not common to go over your 4 heli hours. This alone makes PNH affordable for you. It is important that we are very honest on this topic as we are the only operation that has you on an every day basis. You are at PNH from the time you get off the plane until the time you depart Others see you only on fly days and can sell you on a vertical package. The weather is why we choose to charge heli hours for your trip. Not to mention, vertical does not cost. The magic carpet ride to obtain the vertical is the expense. When the weather is on, you will get your vertical. It is very important to us that you understand the weather when heli skiing. This is for your safety and the safety of our operation. Remember, tree line in Alaska hovers around 1500 feet. All of the heli skiing in Alaska is in heavily glaciated terrain. We need clear skies to fly and ride safely. When you are not in the heli, you are riding the local chair lift.
NO. We always have guests in house that vary in abilities, not to mention a staff that is waiting to fill a seat. All of them are world class riders and will be more than happy to ride with you where ever you so choose to ride. It is very easy to accommodate you into the group that is ideal for you and your goals for the experience. Group dynamics are very important for your heli experience. All of the operations in Alaska take pride in making certain that your group is comparable in abilities.