Valdez Heli Skiing
The history of Valdez heli skiing can be traced back to the late 1980’s when Alaskan bush pilot Chuck McMahaon would use his plane to drop his friends off deep in the Alaskan mountain ranges for some skiing. Eventually his search for new and exciting terrain led him to Thompson Pass on the Richardson Highway just outside of Valdez, AK. It was here he discovered the snow was deeper, and the mountains bigger.
As he continued to take his friends skiing, other Valdez skiers and snowboarders began to catch wind of his adventures, and as you would expect, they wanted in on the action. This soon led him to charge clients a mere $15 for airplane assisted ski trips, thus paving the way to what we know as Helicopter skiing in Alaska.
This transition didn’t happen overnight, but a series of steps helped put Alaska heli skiing on the map. One event was the purchase of Tsaina Lodge by Chuck’s close friend Michael Cozad. The Tsaina lodge is located in the heart of Thompson pass, and Michael was able to recognized the potential for great helicopter accessible skiing in the area. To generate more business Cozad came up with the idea to hold an extreme skiing competition on Thompson pass, thus introducing skiers and snowboarders from around the world to the mountains of Valdez, Alaska.
Heli Skiing in Valdez Currently
Today, the Valdez heli ski scene is a thriving destination for some of the worlds best skiers and snowboarders who make an annual pilgrimage to test their limits and on some of the worlds biggest and best mountains. Almost all ski and snowboard films would not be complete without at least one segment featuring Valdez heli skiing. The video segment below, from Teton Gravity Research provides a rich look into Valdez heli skiing history.