Our Favorite Heli-Ski Runs in the Alps
While North America gets all of the attention for heliskiers, known for fly-in lodges, multi-run days, and occasionally getting weathered-out during your long-anticipated trip, the Alps not only have some epic heliskiing available, but it is little known, and in an à la carte style that you can tack on a flight any day that conditions permit. If you’re in the right place and you have the right guide it’s as easy as calling up the pilot or the heli operation, and calling it in like a taxi. Many of these runs will offer up 5000’+ descents, and some will take you 3-4 hours - throw in your skins, and get a second or even third run with a single drop, and it’s an all-day adventure.
Here are a few of our favorite runs and zones in the Swiss and Italian Alps:
Monte Rosa, Zermatt
On a big day in the spring, there can be as many as 35 groups headed up to Monte Rosa - just from Zermatt. But the Alps’ 2nd-highest peak (behind Mont Blanc) has plenty of room to spread out, and run variations for every ability, from relatively intermediate gentle glacier slopes, to steep life-changing couloirs, and everything in-between. With some fitness and a set of skins, you can stretch the run into an all-day adventure, but even the most direct route will take around 3 hours to ski the full 8000’ run from the landing point, which is the highest in the Alps at 4200m. Some routes will take you past the new Monte Rosa Hütte, the newest showcase refuge in the Alps, where a coffee and cake or something stronger awaits you before the long traverse out the Gorner Gletscher and through the gorge back to Zermatt.
Trient - Couloirs d’Arpette, Champex
Depending on snow conditions and stability, the Trient heli-skiing zone can offer up several very different courses on the menu - from the steep, classic Arpette couloirs, to big glacier runs to Trient or La Tour (France), or even some committed descents into the Glacier d’Orny or Saleinaz - there is something for everyone.
Petit Combin, Verbier
The smaller of the two marquee peaks across the valley from Verbier, the Petit Combin is the most aesthetic to ski, and offers several variations for keen off-piste skiers. The “normal” route takes skiers down the wide southeast-facing bowl off the top, before dropping down to the Glaciers des Follâts, before a short skin and the long tree-skiing run down to Fionnay for an excellent lunch followed by a taxi ride back to Verbier. More adventurous skiers in the spring can try the North Face for a true steep skiing experience, or head west and ski spring snow down towards Liddes.
The quickest heliskiing access in Zermatt is a straight shot up above Air Zermatt’s helipad, to a wide cirque just below the 4221m Zinalrothorn. From the LZ, you can choose to go on the sunny south-facing side, often fantastic spring snow, and in good winters (like 2018), you ski past the summer “berghotel” in Trift right into the village in Zermatt, kicking off your skis right behind the school! If you choose the deeper powder on the north-facing side, you’ll get a long descent down the Hohlichtgletscher to a sporty traverse that challenges tired legs, delivering you to Täsch, where you catch a taxi or train back up to Zermatt.
Château des Dames, Cervinia
Fly from the Cervinia Heliskiing base after a rip down Europe's longest piste, the 11km “Ventina”, and drop at the top of this northeast-facing run. Choose the narrow couloir from the true top, or work down the ridge skier’s right and flank into the wide-open bowl at the bottom of the couloir for hundreds of powder turns all the way to the road.
Alphubel, Zermatt / Saas Fee
From Air Zermatt, a quick flight up to the col that separates the Mattertal from the Saasertal, and depending on snow conditions, you can drop into either. The return to Täsch begins on the glacier, but then funnels you into several gullies, all of which run into Taschalp. Should you choose to drop into Saas Fee, you’ll track hundreds of turns on gentle glacier slopes, through giant ice features, before finishing at an always challenging steep chute that delivers you right into the resort.
Located between La Thuile and Courmayeur, and on the Italian side of the ridgeline from the Isère Valley (FR), the Valgrisenche is an anomaly in Europe - a true North American-style heliskiing experience, but in the heart of the big Alps. With over 40 different runs, you can do 4, 6, 8 runs in a day, with pickups at the bottom, which is rare in Europe. Typical glacial terrain, with some sporty steep options as well, and an excellent aprés ski meal with local Aostan specialties and wines awaits you at the end of the day. A great option to mix it up when skiing in any of the Valle d’Aosta resorts like Monterosa, Cervinia, La Thuile, or Courmayeur. Even worth a day-trip from Chamonix!
Technically in Lombardy, the Val Formazza is a little-known heliskiing gem where for about a month every year (typically in February), this hidden valley opens up to a local guide operation who swung a deal with the commune. Every skier has to spend at least one night in a local hotel (there are 2), patronize the excellent rustic restaurants, and enjoy a unique lap-able heliski experience in a remote authentic setting. Not far from the Simplon Pass, this location is within striking distance of our Zermatt operations as well as Valle D’Aosta and Monterosa.
Testa Grigia, Zermatt / Cervinia
Though not a powder run like most would associate with heli-skiing, the border of Switzerland and Italy at the top of Cervinia’s resort access is a helicopter landing place, and offers an “on-piste” heliskiing experience for even the youngest or most novice skiers. Early in the morning, when combined with a Matterhorn scenic flight, to get dropped at the top of the 11km “Pista La Ventina” for 1400m of fresh and empty corduroy carving is often many of our guests’ most memorable experience. We have taken 4 year-olds and 84 year-olds alike on this run, delivering the experience of a lifetime, and creating new heliskiing connoisseurs along the way.
Epic Europe is a luxury experiential adventure travel operator based in the Swiss Alps.
Epic Europe specializes in private bespoke itineraries for small groups. Experiencing the best of each region, from interacting with the local people and enjoying authentic regional food and wine, as well as time-honored traditions and festivals, to recreating in the alpine landscape, and truly understanding why the Alps are the birthplace of adventure travel. From custom ski, hiking, or cycling trips to building in city tours, cultural itineraries, or gastronomic discovery, these award-winning, multi-dimensional trips are tailored to our clients' wishes every time, and are not packaged tours. From Switzerland, Italy, and France's Alps, to world-class cultural cities and larger towns, Epic Europe can design a tailored adventure that fulfills your every need.
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