ABA Frequently Asked Questions
Here is a brief rundown of common questions posed by past clients of ABA; however, if you do not see your question listed or still need clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us via email.
Q: “Can I afford to go heliskiing or heliboarding?”
A: We find that after someone has gone heliskiing or snowboarding with ABA, they quickly rephrase this question to be “How can I afford not to go heliskiing!” The plain and simple fact of the matter is that heliskiing and snowboarding in Alaska is unlike any other ski or snowboard experience in the world…the type of experience that is impossible to put a pricetag on. But if you were to compare the amount of vertical and untracked snow you get by heliskiing with ABA to other snowcat or helicopter operations worldwide, you will quickly find that ABA offers the most affordable and flexible options in the industry.
Q: “How good of a skier or snowboarder do you have to be to go heliskiing or snowboarding? Will I be holding the group up, or conversely will someone else be holding me up?”
A: Skiers and snowboarders need to be at least high intermediates able to link turns in all conditions and should not only be comfortable in powder, they should have a passion for it. ABA has the entire spectrum of terrain available for all types of skiers and snowboarders from wide, open powder bowls to steep, technical lines. Ideally, forming your own group of four people will insure a like-minded experience as our guides have an endless amount of options to choose from each day. In the case of mixing groups, ABA thoroughly screens all clients for their preferences and attempts to match up groups of similar skill/experience levels. Finally, keep in mind that the private helicopter is a great option for both first-timers or extremely high end groups.
Q: “How dangerous is heliskiing or heliboarding?”
A: There are inherent risks involved with the sport both in the helicopter and on the slopes. However, given ABA’s more than twenty years experience in the industry, you can feel secure in knowing you are surrounded by the best guides and pilots in the business. Every precaution is taken to insure the safety of the pilot, guides and guests. This may include not flying due to inclement weather or unstable snowpack concerns. Please understand these decisions are made for the safety of everyone involved. Guests are walked through a preflight safety discussion that includes familiarization with the helicopter, loading/unloading procedures, rescue scenarios and beacon search. Statistically, helicopter skiing and snowboarding is safer than driving a car…especially in L.A. or New York.
Q: “How much vertical will our group get in a day?”
A: The average run at ABA is around 4,000 vertical feet with some run options as long as 6,000 feet. With a full day consisting of six runs, groups quite regularly log well over 20,000 vertical feet in a day. Given the long Alaskan days during the latter half of April, it is not uncommon for ABA to be able to squeeze in two full day sessions and a few twilight runs under the “Pinky Tuscadero” skies. Groups can always opt for additional runs when conditions permit…our guides never get tired of skiing powder!
Q: “Do I need fatskis or an extra-wide snowboard? Are there any other special gear requirements I should know about?”
A: Although there is no magic ski or snowboard to make up for experience, the current trends in ski and snowboard technology definitely offer a leg up when it comes to “condition-specific” options such as deep powder…and they definitely do wonders when it comes to conserving energy throughout a day of logging 20,000 feet of vertical. Fatskis, reverse-camber, wavy-edged snowboards, elf-shoes…although there are a lot of options out there, one thing seems to ring true: “Once you go fat, you never go back.” As for other gear needs, at a minimum you will need a beacon, probe, shovel, harness and locking carabiner. And if you haven’t checked your batteries or taken your backcountry gear out of your pack in a while, give them a good once-over before heading to AK. Ski straps are required for skis and snowboarders are well-served to carry extra binding parts and a multi-tool.
Q: “Is it customary to give the guide and pilot a gratuity?”
A: Yes. Although the guides and pilots working at ABA love their jobs, they also greatly appreciate the generosity of the clients to make the long hours and short season worthwhile. As for the appropriate amount, it is difficult to put a dollar figure on an epic, safe adventure in the Chugach…perhaps just keep in mind that the person that brings water to your dinner table expects 18-20% and a good chauffer driver’s best friend is a Benjamin.
Q: “Is there any advantage to booking with the same operation each season?”
A: Most definitely. No matter how many heliski operations you fly with around the world, you are going to find that a bond needs to be formed between a guide and his guests before he feels comfortable stepping up the terrain options. This is just common guiding sensibility. Rather than skiing the same terrain year after year with ABA, you will find that your options only get more expansive upon your return…and it is always a good feeling to see a familiar, smiling face waiting for you at the helipad