How Fit Do I Need To Be To Heli Ski?

Alaska Heli skiing guides standing on top of a mountain

So, you are considering going Heli-Skiing/Heli-Boarding in Valdez, Alaska and you’re wondering just how fit you need to be. Well, there are a few ways to look at this. You got to be fairly physically fit and fairly mentally fit. Physical fitness can make up for a lack in mental fitness and vice versa…

And of course, you have to be pretty proficient in your skiing or snowboarding. But here’s the really cool part about Heli-Skiing/Heli-Boarding in Valdez: the truth is that you’ll be riding some of the most perfect, lightest, untracked snow on Earth! And once you get over the amazingly distracting beauty of the mountains in the Chugach Range, you’ll find that skiing/riding up here is much easier than at your home resort down in the lower 48. The heli ski terrain in Valdez offers steeper slopes, where gravity becomes your friend, and your transitions between turns come much easier. You just have to relax and go with the flow, that’s where the mental fitness comes in.

If you can ride/ski the powder out West, once it gets tracked out and chunky, you’ll find that riding slopes that have deep, light powder on them- with no tracks- is actually much easier, and you’ll see that your heli ski fitness level is more than sufficient. So, any rider/skier that can get it done back home will have no problem up here. Basically, get to the advanced-intermediate level with confidence in ripping wide-open slopes and get fairly balanced slipe-sliding into steeper entrances and you’ll be ready for the time of your life.

Physically, if you can stay out for five hours on a fairly chilly day, then your legs will hold up just fine while Heli-Skiing/Heli-Boarding in Alaska. Granted, it tends to be a bit colder up on the 61st parallel, but if you dress warm, the cold, crisp air shouldn’t take too much out of you. And remember, after every perfect run, you get to load back into a warm, heated helicopter and fly to yet another perfect pow line.

The best way to get in shape for Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding in Alaska

Go out skiing and riding as much as you can in the months before your trip. There’s really no other way to get in shape for riding than by riding; even if that means going out in crappy conditions and dialing in your turns. But if you live on the coast or somewhere where you can’t get out every week to ski or board, just try to stay in fairly reasonable shape. If this means riding an exercise bike for a few hours a week, or shooting hoops or swimming laps, just do it. Because you’re gonna have so much fun riding the Chugach Mountains in Alaska that you aren’t going to want to have to stop because you’re getting leg-burn.

Mentally, well that’s another story. And even the best, most fit skiers and boarders tend to burn up a lot of energy being scared. But once you get a few runs under your belt, you’ll realize that your guide knows exactly what he’s doing and will keep you out of harms way. But standing on top of a steep peak above a huge serac-riddled glacier can be intimidating, and you just have to breath deep and realize that there’s no substitution for experience. That said, your second trip up North will be a lot less stressful. The only way to get comfortable with riding in this environment is by doing it, so remember that everyone has their first run up here before they get relaxed at the drop-in.

Heli Ski Fitness Tips

To stay physically fit for heli skiing it is best to focus on these three things; warming up, strengthening your knees, and stretching. One of the best ways to warm up is to get on an exercise bike. This will both increase your overall aerobic fitness, and provide strength and stamina for you legs.

In regards to strengthening your legs, the most common injury for skiers and snowboarders are associated with the knee, and generally involve the mcl or acl ligaments. To help prevent these types of injuries it is best to strengthen the muscles around you knee. The easiest knee exercises that can be performed anywhere include wall sits, calf raises, lunges, straight leg raises, and hamstring curls. If you are determined to be in great shape for your heli ski trip, start an exercise program a month or two in advance.

Finally, to keep your body loose and flexible get into a routine of stretching before and after your workout. Seek guidance online or at a gym for proper exercise and stretching techniques, as over stretching or pushing yourself too hard in the gym can lead to injury, which after all is what your trying to avoid.

Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding in AK is by far the pinnacle of the sports of skiing and snowboarding, so keep riding, stay healthy and the sooner you book your first trip, the sooner you’ll be ready to come back with a head full of experience for your next one!