Ultimate ski lift

Utah’s Wasatch Mountains offer some of the world’s best and most accessible wilderness downhill skiing opportunities—especially for those who ride a helicopter to starting points that are at elevations of 7,000 to 11,000 feet. From there, you can enjoy deep-powder runs, some beginning above tree line, that are 1,000 to 3,000 feet long and descend through scenic alpine bowls and glades.

The downhill season here is December through April, with a peak period from January 15 through March 15. Although the 2017–18 season started with a disconcerting near-zero snowpack, storms hit the Wasatch Range on cue and, by April, accumulation had built to 50 to 60 percent of normal. Utah slopes typically receive 400 to 500 inches annually but even in a year with just 300 inches, there’s much more snow here than in any other region in the West.

Powderbird Helicopter Skiing, the area’s oldest and largest heli-skiing operation, has been introducing adventurous folks to this extraordinary Rocky Mountain backcountry since 1973. It employs AStar single-engine helicopters to fly four guests and a guide on daily trips that typically run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Powderbird manager Jared Grant advises his private-jet customers from Aspen to San Francisco—an hour to an hour-and-a-half flight away—to sign up for his “storm watch” for last-minute charter opportunities when fresh powder bestows ideal conditions.

“Any predictions for this year’s weather?” I asked Grant. He laughed, then noted that even in winters with relatively low precipitation, the beauty of mobility by air is that “we always manage to find snow.”  

 


Arriving by Private Jet

Heber Valley Airport’s 6,900-foot runway is the perfect entry point for your Utah heli-skiing adventure. It’s an easy hour’s drive from Salt Lake City and 20 minutes from Park City, home of the famous Sundance Film Festival and a galaxy of world-class ski resorts. Featuring 76 aircraft storage hangars, the airport serves a wide range of aircraft, from gliders to recreational aircraft to business jets. You can arrange for a chartered helicopter to pick your party up at Heber Valley and whisk you directly into the backcountry. —T.R.P.

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