Tips for Planning a Utah Heli Trip

We get calls every day from skiers and snowboarders, young and old, families, couples and large groups of friends, who are trying to plan a Utah vacation around a day or two of heli-skiing or boarding with Powderbird. As most people familiar with heli-skiing already know, even if you make a reservation, it is not a guarantee that you will be able to complete your heli day. Utah has extremely unpredictable weather patterns that often result in day after day of snow during a storm cycle. Here is the best advice I can give to make the most of your trip to Utah (whether you are able to heli-ski or not), and also how to increase your chances of experiencing an unforgettable day with Wasatch Powderbird Guides.

Choose your Lodging and Resort Wisely
Make a specific checklist of what you are looking for in a ski resort and a hotel/condo. The great thing about planning a ski vacation to Utah is the variety of resorts and lodging options—all within reasonable driving distance from the Salt Lake International Airport. Your lodging options range from:

1. Rent a car and stay in downtown Salt Lake City. This gives you the opportunity to hit up more than one of Utah’s unique resorts during your vacation. You can also ditch the car and try Utah’s public transportation system. The UTA Ski Bus is available from many pickup locations for $7 round trip to Alta/Snowbird or Brighton/Solitude resorts. For schedules visit www.rideuta.com. The upside to staying in Salt Lake is possibly saving money on your hotel package. The downside is a further commute to the ski resorts.

2. You can also choose to stay at any of the properties offered by Alta Ski Resort and Snowbird Ski Resort, located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, a 45 minute drive from the airport.

High speed tram, Snowbird Ski Resort

Here you will have everything you need, along with ski-in, ski-out access to two of the country’s and most highly regarded and challenging ski resorts. The bonus of staying at a hotel in Little Cottonwood Canyon is your close proximity to Powderbird’s heliport—located on the Alta bypass road, nestled in between the two resorts. Both resorts offer a variety of terrain, lodging and restaurants choices, but they each have their own unique feeling environment and culture. My advice is to check their web sites and other reviews on the Internet to decide where you and your group will fit in best. The upside of staying in Little Cottonwood Canyon is the ease and convenience of sleeping, skiing, eating and heli-skiing within walking or shuttle distance.

3. If you are looking for a more high-end, full-service experience, you may want to consider staying in Park City. Powderbird now offers daily heli trips out of the Canyons Resort in beautiful Park City. The Canyons itself has a wide selection of high-end properties (with 4-star restaurants, spa services, and a helpful concierge team on site), many within walking distance of the gondola and brand new heated bubble chair.

Sundial Lodge at Canyons Resort

If you are planning to go heli-skiing with Powderbird, but are also looking for more activities outside of skiing, Park City is the way to go. Downtown Park City and historic Main Street are a short bus ride (free!) or drive from the Canyons and offer a variety of nightlife options. Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley are also nearby, which offer an entirely different resort feel, along with many additional lodging, dining and skiing terrain options.

Do your research. Ski vacations are not inexpensive! You want to make the most of this trip. Read about all the different activities each resort has to offer—ski school, shopping, restaurants & bars, nighttime events, spa services, childcare, etc. The options are endless. And now Powderbird offers our guests the convenience of staying any of these places during their Utah ski & heli vacations!

Allow Room for Unfavorable Weather Conditions
Like I said before, high winds and low visibility often leave our helicopters grounded, sometimes for a few days in a row. Allow some flexibility when planning your trip. If you are planning to spend four or five days in Utah, I suggest one (or two) day of warm-up at any of Utah’s wonderful resorts, then book your heli trip on the 2nd or 3rd day, allowing a few days afterward if we need to reschedule your trip. Of course the trip is 100% refundable if we are grounded for poor weather, but spare yourself the disappointment and allow a few days of leeway around your scheduled heli trip. The more flexibility in your vacation, the better your chances of getting out in the heli. Also feel free to check the weather. Although is impossible to accurately predict more than 48 hours out, do a little research to see what Utah is expecting in terms of weather during your stay. Here is a good resource: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) .

Stay in Shape
Most people don’t understand how much physical strength and endurance are required to complete a full day of heli-skiing or boarding—feel great about it instead of beat up and exhausted when the day is finished. I understand that not everyone is lucky enough to live within such close access to ski resorts, like we are here in Utah, but there are other ways to stay in shape in the days and weeks leading up to the heli trip. Run, bike, life weights, do lunges and squats, take yoga—anything you can do will help to make you feel better throughout your ski vacation!

And don’t forget to relax and have fun when you get here! Good luck planning! If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact Wasatch Powderbird Guides at info@powderbird.com or 801-742-2800.

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