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Heli skiing in Italy?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi, new to the board but am hoping someone here may have experienced heli-skiing in Italy? I am planning a group trip for next March and it must include the option of heli-skiing for a few of the guys as well as a good hotel with a spa (for the ladies!)-unfortunately from Ireland we are limited as to what the operators offer but I had thought of maybe Cervinia, Gressoney, La Thuile or maybe Sestriere.
If anyone has tried the heli-skiing in any of these resorts I'd be interested in your views, cheers.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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about 3 years ago we did a trip to Cortina for a friend's 50th birthday. 5 days with guides, 2 days with heli. Difficult to beat flying around the Dolomites on a blue sky day with fresh snow. We had Paulo Tassi; bonkers, but in a good way.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
In addition to Cervinia, Alagna is one of the most well known bases for heli in Italy and there are plenty of nearby resorts with good hotels (gressoney is just one). For something a bit (a lot) more pricey check out: http://www.heliskivallestura.com - have had it on the to do list but never made it there.
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@Rikster, Welcome to snowHead 's

I have heli-ed out of Cervinia, but that was arranged privately through the guide.

There are not so many tour operators running to Monterosa. I'd DIY, flights and travel to Champoluc can be searched here for example, http://www.rome2rio.com/s/Dublin/Champoluc?dates=2016-1-16/2016-1-23. Deepending on group size, group transfer would probably work from (in order of shortest travel) Turin, Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate.

Champoluc (Ayas valley) is by far the most developed of the three valleys. For a spa, you have the Relais des Glaciers which seems rather nice. If you opt for Champoluc these guys seem very good, have a very high-service approach without being ridiculously expensive - www.ski-2.com - have a lot of experience and will arrange heli-skiing. I have no affiliation !

I don't know Alagna village really at all esp. re spa hotels, but Alagna is the worst for access to piste skiing. Gressoney, equally, I don't know of spa-hotels but there has been some development in recent years. I would think that for the non heli-skiers and anyone who isn't skiing dawn to dusk, Champoluc would be the best option by far.

A rather special option would be http://www.hotelleriedemascognaz.com/en/ These guys seem to organise heli tours http://www.monterosa.com/leftmenu/about-us.aspx but I have no experience with them.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Did heli drop last year with Monterosaskiguides from Gressoney ....dropped on Monte Rosa and skied to Zermatt and back via Cervinia and Champoluc .... excellent day out .... fairly easy skiing but spectacular scenery and ambiance. I thought it reasonably good value too ..... about E250 for the day with discount from staying in Hotel Nordend. The heli ride over the glacier was superb.
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no personal experience (yet) but I ran into this website and looked forward to making it happen http://www.heli-guides.com/en/heliski-alps-en/heliskiing-alps-gressoney.html
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Great info, thanks a heap guys, I really like the sound of Champoluc and like you PBJ, it is only one day's heli-skiing we are thinking of-it's been my ambition for years and next year is the year before I'm too old and decrepid Shocked (Special 50th birthday treat!!)
Unfortunately the only tour operator from Ireland offering Champoluc offer limited acommodation so I am very keen to research DIY, some great info there, lots to keep me occupied!
Keep it coming, can never have enough info!!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Rikster, I think (!) Ski2 leave you to find your own flights but take care of transfers, etc. I also understand that they are very good at running you around the village so if your hotel is not immediately beside the lifts, they'll send a minibus to drive you around.

My understanding is that as long as the heli can land somewhere sensible, it doesn't really matter where you're staying, especially if it's just for one day.
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Rikster I am in cervinia now ex dublin second time in a month and both times flights less than one hundred euro even booked at last minute, two and half hour drive up, heli ski available (avoiding at mo due to avalanche risk) there is also an apparently very good hotel here the hermitage with spa and michelin starred restaurant, one thing I would say is very little to do if you weren't skiing, or rather, if the ladies weren't skiing.

Don't let the lack of tour operators turn you off.
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Why not stay in Val d'isere in a nice hotel and heliski in Valgrishanche for a the day , the Heli operator in Valgrishanche will pick you up in Val or Ste Foy and you finish after doing a few drops in Italy with a long run down back into France . Valgrishanche is a big valley in the Asota just over the border from France with no ski lifts and over 20 different Heli drops to do . Best of both worlds top class ski resort with a remote valley to heliskiing on the doorstep .

Try these N http://www.tarentaise-tours.com/welcome
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@Rob Mackley, submit that going to Italy leaves a lot more € fror heli skiing that Val d'Espair.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Cheers guys, don't fancy a return to France at the moment, consider it a personal protest at the way they are treating 'non-French' ski and mountain bike guides! Not to mention their prices!
Interesting to hear about flights to Italy 8611, this could open up much more possibilities! The more I read about it the more I like the sound of Champoluc, though I am also interested in Cervinia or maybe Canazei, which I believe is also easily got to from a couple of airports-they all offer the Heli option and appear to have good skiing, so maybe the choice of accommodation will be a decider.
Thanks for the info.
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http://www.heli-guides.com/en/heliski-alps-en/heliskiing-alps-gressoney/zermatt-ch-tour-gressoney-monte-rosa-it-heliski-day.html

Did this last year, it was brilliant. One flight, two big descents. Epic day I'll remember, all for less than 300 euro.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Sounds brilliant Jbob, were you staying in Gressoney?
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jbob - what was the Monte Rosa tour like? We're out in Gressoney in a couple of weeks and have a heli day provisionally booked. We can't decide between the single drop and Monte Rosa tour or multiple drops and shorted runs. Our worry about the tour is how good the snow will be. I know it depends on the day, but a lot of guided days I've done have had epic turns at the top and then some sort of mediocre, chopped up, icy/slushy/crusty, lengthy traverse etc to get out of the bottom!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

epic turns at the top and then some sort of mediocre, chopped up, icy/slushy/crusty, lengthy traverse etc to get out of the bottom


Sounds about normal.
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Oh Guys!! Don't tell me my life hood dream may not be all I am hoping for Shocked
Sounds as though a couple of shorter higher drops are better-but is that then out of the stratosphere price wise?
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Price is 250 euros for a single drop and then 150-200 ish euros per additional drop drpending on where you go / length of flight etc. I think we're prob going for multiple drops and snow quality over awesome scenery and a big adventure, but never done heli drops so nothing to compare to!
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@Rikster, as a non-French ski and mountain bike guide living and working full-time in France, I can assure you that I am being treated very well indeed. Can't help with the prices though.
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Rikster wrote:
Oh Guys!! Don't tell me my life hood dream may not be all I am hoping for ....
It depends what your dream was. Helicopters are helicopters: some people are happy just going up in the machine and flying around a bit. You need to understand what you want, and the terrain you're in.

If you're riding where there's a large temperature/ snow quality difference top-to-bottom, then you're going to ride through those conditions. Think about where the tree line is, and how trees affect the snow pack. Novices tend to prefer open ("alpine") terrain, but experts usually prefer the trees... because the snow's better there and you can ride steeper safer.

If your heli is based around day trips, then you'll probably find quite a few people do it as a "one-off", which may mean they're not always hugely comfortable with the conditions.

Those things are perhaps indicative of why most heli skiing isn't done in Europe.
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Quote:

perhaps indicative of why most heli skiing isn't done in Europe


I think those are elements.

Economics of helicopters also plays a role (historically, Canada has (had?) a somewhat unique population of machines heavily used for industry in the summer and not so much used in the winter).

I suspect another driver is that you can't do it in France, which has one of the larger ski populations both from inbound consumers and destinations.
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@stevomcd, happy to hear that you haven't been taken to court like some of your contempories, do you work for the ESF?
Interesting stuff guys-a few of us could be described as experienced advanced skiers but not that experienced in powder. What we are hoping for is a day we will never forget-for all the right reasons Toofy Grin , at least one run in untouched powder, making our own tracks, away from the sounds of civilisation-we aren't looking for La Grave style vertical descents. The ride up will obviously be an exciting part of the day but not as important as the skiing-in my head I'm imagining the opening credits of Ski Sunday and I'm singing the tune to myself as I ski perfect turns on fat skis in perfect powder Cool , I wonder if it will be anything like in reality?@PBJ, your day out sounds something like what we are after!
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@Rikster, yes we stayed the night before in Gressonay.
@Dashed, the tour was fantastic, my first heli. What made it good was the although it was only one uplift, we effectively had two descents. One from the col between Castor and Pollux just short of 4000m, when we skied down on the Swiss side for what must have been nearly 2000m, then back up the Zermatt lifts to the kl Matterhorn, for another decent of 1500m down an off piste run to Champoluc. Then a ski back over to Gressonay.
The snow was mixed, with some powder and some wind blown.
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@Rikster, that's because I'm qualified and they're not... don't believe the under-qualified hype... I don't work for ESF.

I've heli-skied (boarded!) from Courmayeur, La Thuile, Zermatt and from Chamonix (pickup from just over the swiss border). The Zermatt and Chamonix days were best, although a lot of that was just down to the conditions (pretty terrible in La Thuile and mediocre in Courmayeur) and all of those have loads of potential.

If it's all about the heli, I'd suggest staying in Pre Saint Didier and flying at your choice of La Thuile, Courmayeur and Valgrisenche. If piste skiing is also important, maybe go for Zermatt, but bring £££££££££....
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Interesting @stevomcd, been reading articles like this http://www.planetski.eu/news/6634
This trip isn't all about the Heli, it has to have good relaxing pistes for many of the group as well-but we are trying Italy this year where we will hopefully get a lot better accommodation than we could afford in Zermatt 😁
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@8611, where did you fly to and with whom from Dublin? How have you enjoyed Cervinia, is it true that the slopes are gentle and flattering on the Italian side and much more challenging on the Swiss side? How was the connection back to Cervinia from Zermatt?
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@8611, where did you fly to and with whom from Dublin? How have you enjoyed Cervinia, is it true that the slopes are gentle and flattering on the Italian side and much more challenging on the Swiss side? How was the connection back to Cervinia from Zermatt?
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Cervinia is mostly motorway, or at least that's how it feels compared with Zermatt. Perhaps if you know it better, it gets more interesting. It's not terrible, but it's not as interesting as Zermatt.

I don't think Zermatt itself is particularly "challenging" - it's a resort with some quirky lifts and a piste layout which grew over time. The connection back is pretty good but you need to check when it closes. Some of the Zermatt lifts are slow.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I must admit that personally, I don't like Cervinia.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Dublin Bergamo Ryanair, fly about 17.30 out and 21.30 back = full day skiing on way back (prob not high on your priorities if you're going for a week)

Other options include Aer Lingus to Turin or Malpensa, both of which are actually closer

Cervinia very nice and very beautiful, stunning views, town is reasonably pleasant by skiing standards, love Italy and italians, charming, mnuch more so than France or Austria, impossible to have a bad meal, nice wines to explore. Chalet Etoile very nice setting, food and service from swedish waitresses. You're obviously aiming for high end skiing and Zermatt meets that, crazy expensive.

Link is grand but is often closed due to wind, in fact resort is exposed to wind, we went for four days first and was closed entirely for three days

Skiing is certainly gentle, I am a steep hound, I love a good steep adrenaline boosting black, I thought I'd be disappointed with Cervinia but I wasn't because

1 there is nice off piste, guide from the tourist office
2 the views are stunning its a very 'mountain environment' type resort
3 the descents are very long so you can just nail them instead of skiing the steeps, longest ski descent in Europe is here and its possible to do two different 2000m piste descents in a matter of an hour and a half maybe, so a lot of potential

If you're going heli skiing you won't be too concerned at that, and if there is others in your group who aren't going heli skiing they might prefer the gentle slopes

I went in to Zermatt seeking the steeps but didn't really find them. The initial runs were very flat at the top, made it down to the Furg or Furi region, bit steeper going down but nothing too exciting, there is black on the map somewhere around there but couldn't find it

I was unimpressed with Zermatt to be honest, though I only saw that quarter of it, maybe others could advise if its better elsewhere. You can certainly ski right to the other side and get back if you go early enough. I just preferred the skiing on the Italian side, and the snow was better there the two times I was over.

Lift system in Cervinia is very good and very few queues when I was there in any event
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Should add that the highest ski lift in Europe is in Zermatt on the Cervinia side, well worth a visit for the experience and breathlessness, stunning views from the gallery
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Should also add that I have stayed in two places in the town now and had a good walk around it and it sounds like if you're after a particularly nice place you should head for the hermitage (I've not stayed there but its reputation speaks for itself)

Also there are a ton of resorts in Aosta valley so you could also look some of then up, we skied Pila the days Cervinia was closed, nice little resort but you'll ski most of it in a morning so not what you're looking for, but la thuile, champoluc, gresony, courmayeur might float your boat
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@8611, thanks for the info, Champoluc is now back on the option list-either there or Cirvinia!
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Just sitting in Turin airport killing time so thought i'd update this thread after a heliski day last week...

Whilst it was an amazing day, it wasn't what we'd hoped for!

Conditions were mixed last week, fresh snow followed mild temps then v cold temps and high winds so lots of wind blown snow high up and crusty, unskiable creme brûlée lower down. We flew on Thursday and despite saying we didn't want a tour but multiple drops, we were advised the best snow was Zermatt side so we headed off on the Monterosa tour.

Couple of lifts up then onto the heli pad for a very quick flight (3 mins??) up to a col at about 4000m, along with many other groups. Felt more like a bus service rather than a heli trip into the wilderness! The snow at 4000m was horrid, really sticky and cold and impossible to slide on. We had a snowboarder with us and he had a nightmare on the traverse from the col, even with poles. Took us ages and he was thoroughly wrecked before we started (fit lad, experienced and quick rider). It would still be very hard work on a board in good snow.

The scenery was stunning, glacial terrain, huge seracs everywhere, proper big mountains. The best views I've ever had in the Alps! We skied about 5 runs of 200-300m in length I guess, all were tracked to some degree and all that day due to shere number of groups in the area. The snow was good though and we had some nice turns.

The traverse out was probably 2 miles! Again, awful on a board - if he'd known, my mate would have brought a split board and certainly wouldn't recommend it on a board otherwise.

Into zermatt for lunch, then the main gondola out of the village stopped for an hour with us on it, so we ran out of time for the cervina to Champoluc bit of the tour, but suspect we'd have been tight for time anyway after all the time taken to get our snowboarder through the traverses.
We ended up in combo of lifts back from cervina and got back to Gressoney about 7pm!

So all in all, fun but disappointing! Lots of hard work for not a lot of skiing. Reckon we probably spent 3 mins in the heli, 3+ hours in traverses and flat ski out, and probably 15 mins of skiing powder. If I'd skinned up then I'd have felt I'd earned my turns, but felt a bit cheated as we were supposed to be on a heli day! I guess it's all expectations isn't it?

Would I do it again? Yes, but only if the conditions allowed multiple drops and I'd also know what to expect!

Not wanting to sound too negative, we did have a great day, just didn't live up to expectations and thought I'd post a bit of reality!
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Very useful post for anyone thinking of doing it (including me next year!)
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Great day heliskiing in Valgrisanche from Ste Foy on Saturday , two drops in the Valgrisanche valley which were great mostly in 30cms of powder although the last pitches at the bottom of the Valley were a little wind blown . The Third drop from the Ruitor Glacier back to Ste Foy was excellent the top half was in 40 cms of light powder and we were the only tracks , it's a great 17km run dropping 2200m's .

The success of a good Heli day has a lot to do with the choices made by the guide , pitches , dropping zones etc , the guide I has used for the last 14yrs is excellent !!
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http://twitter.com/robert_mackley/status/571718486269014016/photo/1
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Dashed wrote:
...Not wanting to sound too negative, we did have a great day, just didn't live up to expectations and thought I'd post a bit of reality!

It's always useful when someone actually bothers to follow up on these things.

I suspect the European operators don't really have the terrain, which would explain tracks, poor snow, other groups, and traversing, none of which would be acceptable to me.

The correct guide is important, even in North America. A typical novice guide for example will "regroup" every few hundred meters, even with an experienced group. An expert guide would understand the group and just ride it top-to-bottom. After a while you work out how to ensure you get the right guide. And the right group of course.
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@philwig, I think they don't have the snow, rather than not the terrain...or are you considering the two inseperable?
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@Dashed, your drop sounds the same as ours. No lunch stop and straight down to champoluc getting in around 3pm but very tired, we should have had a break for ten mins.
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