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Surely the pinnacle of any ski or snowboard experience, heli-skiing / boarding is highly regulated in the Alps and only in Lech – Zurs in Austria are heli-ski flights available. For those of requisite experience a heli-ski trip represents one of the absolutely outstanding activities – serious bragging rights are on offer in the hotel bar for those who boarded the flight.
There is something truly stand-out about the flight into the powder heavens. Boarding a noisy helicopter in full view of mere mortals really sets the adrenalin running and the flight over the ski areas of Lech or Zurs is pretty special. Leaving the familiarity of the Lech – Zurs ski area behind the distant peaks become visible and before long it is clear which cloud-piercing peak is the target for the flight. Expect nerves as the helicopter hovers and then drops onto the tiny plateau of the Mehlsack – the doors open and the instructions are barked – ‘head down and don’t forget anything.’
Heads down as the chaos of the ascending helicopter clears the summit and then still as the air settles and you can take in the drama of the location – miles from a ski lift or hut and a serious powder bounty beckoning. When we skied routes from the Mehlsack a couple of winters ago the route we took had some steep early sections to really sort the wheat from the chaff in our group – luckily for us it was our Telemarking world powder ski champion who was first to fall! After some initial steeps there were some high altitude valleys that were untouched by skiers or snowboarders and they offered some great pitches where you could traverse high and drop down short steep sections. Soon the mountain dropped off again and steep powder bowls appeared and provided great vertical down into the valley above Zug. The snow quality and routes were nothing short of perfect. At the bottom the schnapps came out along with plenty of high fives
Flights do not operate on weekends or public holidays and take off from the Flexenpass in Zurs and Kriegerhorn in the Lech ski area with destinations being the Mehlsack and Schneetäli. Bad weather and avalanche danger can prevent flights at very short notice.
There are strict requirements for those boarding these heli-ski excursions with a locally certified ‘Bergführer’ Guide a required group member. The guide takes 1 seat of the 4 available per flight. Normally the guide will ski with the group beforehand to assess the ability of those heading out to these distant peaks. Departing from Kriegerhorn has kudos as onlookers in the Lech ski area watch as the party boards the helicopter and sets off on their jaunt, whereas a Flexenpass departure is notable for buzzing the skyline and ski area of Zurs am Arlberg – either way the flight is a fantastic experience in itself.
Flights including guide reservations can be made directly at any of the Arlberg ski schools.