an areil photo of a man skiing down a hill

Heli-skiing the ultimate wilderness in Alaska


Deep in the Alaskan mountains is a lodge owned by a former Olympian downhill gold medallist, with a virtually exclusive claim on 1.2 million acres of snowbound slopes. It’s the gold standard of heli-skiing. Andy Isaacson drops in.

I charged after my guide into an untracked bowl that resembled all the other treeless slopes stretching out to the horizon. After a few turns, this giddiness morphed into a creeping sense of disappointment, my mood changing like a record that suddenly skips.

“I’m not liking this,” my guide said.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In the powder hound’s imagination, Alaska skiing occupies an almost mythic space – the realm of ski movies: stunning panoramic landscapes, steep couloirs etched into jagged peaks, 1,500m descents. Alaska’s maritime coastal ranges receive over 15.24m of average annual snowfall – heavier stuff than elsewhere – that sticks improbably to rugged rock spines. In March and April, ski days can stretch well into the dinner hour. Everything here feels larger, more expansive; Alaskans often refer to contiguous America, below Canada, as simply “The States”, as though they occupy a different country. Up here is a wilder, boundless canvas for adventure.

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