EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT
Helicopters are like a magical carpet ride, taking us to some of the most improbable places on earth, so it's natural that we get a lot of questions about these amazing machines. Here are answers to some of the most common questions:
HOW FAST DO THEY GO? The typical helicopter we use cruises at about 115-130 kts, which equates to as fast as a 150 mph!
HOW MANY PEOPLE DO THEY HOLD?
Our A-Star and Bell 407 helicopters can hold 5 clients, 1 guide and 1 pilot for a total of 7 "souls" on-board. Other operations will use the Bell 212 which can carry up to 12 people on-board.
WHAT KIND OF WEATHER CAN WE FLY IN? OR NOT IN? We operate under the FAA's Visual Flight Rules (VRF) Regulations, which means we cannot fly into clouds. The pilot needs to be able to "see and avoid" obstacles and other aircraft. We can fly in snow and rain, but we need to have at least ½ mile of visibility to be "legal", and usually we need more than a mile before we venture out into the mountains.
WHERE DO MY SKIS GO? The skis and snowboards get carried in a special basket that is mounted to the landing skids of the helicopter. This allows us to carry all of our gear with relative comfort and safety.
HOW MUCH GEAR CAN THEY/WE CARRY? Modern helicopters are very powerful. We carry our skis, poles, and packs in the basket. Although the helicopters can handle the heavy loads of gear and passengers, we try to keep things lightweight so the helicopter can have as much fuel as possible to avoid too many refueling trips during the day.
HOW MUCH DO THEY COST? A typical A-Star 350B3e configured for heli skiing costs a little bit north of 3 million dollars.
HOW ARE THEY MAINTAINED? The FAA requires that specially trained licensed mechanics called "A&P"s (for Airframe & Powerplant) work on the helicopters. Many of the components are "time-limited", meaning they are replaced well before they become worn or break. The A&P mechanic will service and replace the component as directed by the aircraft manufacturer.
HOW EXPERIENCED ARE THE PILOTS? Our pilots are some of the most experienced in the helicopter business. Mountain flying is very technical and can challenge the average pilot, so our pilots usually have over 10 years of experience (over 3000 hours of flight time) and have taken loads of mountain flight training. This is not a job for a new pilot straight out of flight school or for the pilot from Kansas!
WHERE CAN THEY LAND? OR NOT LAND? Helicopters are incredibly versatile in where they can land. A lot of people think that they need to jump out of the helicopter, which is something that only happens in James Bond movies. The helicopter can perform "toe-ins", where the front of the landing skids touch the snow - this lets us land on slopes and ridgelines. No jumping required!