We booked a two week New Year vacation in Whistler, Canada and decided to round the trip off with a day of heli-boarding courtesy of 'Whistler Heli-Skiing'. This for me was on my 'Top Ten things to do before you die' list and Whistler seemed to be a good location to give it a go.
Blessed by perfect conditions, we'd already had one hell of a time carving up the fresh powder at Whistler-Blackcomb resort with 20+cm of new snow coming down every night! It seemed too lucky to be true, but it happened, so we made the most of it. The massive snow dumps made for reportedly the best heli-boarding day of 2006 and 2005 seasons, with the sun shining and the powder conditions were light, cold and waist deep.
It was one of the best days we've experienced and I would recommend it to anyone who can justify the cost. Granted, on the day, it seemed too short and we didn't want it to end. If you've watched popular heli-boarding videos, you may think that the powder-fest lasts forever, but when you're paying per-run with a group, there's an unfortunate cash register clicking in your head as you descend and it ends far too quickly. The Whistler experience was a good representation, I would think, and there was no obvious corner cutting on enjoyment and safety, but we did feel restricted on adrenalin nonetheless.
We've chatted with people who have experienced heli-boarding holidays non-stop in Europe/Alaska. If you're lucky like this then you're no doubt close to experiencing paradise. But for most, that's too rich and we're left with the question 'Is it better to do a day trip with a random group like this, or are there other options to attain true powder heaven?' Well, having experienced other snowboarding resorts before/after, the best feeling we've had of pure powder freedom in great terrain has been in places such as Powder Mountain, Mammoth Mountain, Vail, Homewood and Kirkwood. If you pick a resort which has a quiet, off-piste runs in deep powder conditions and you can hit it all day long, then that in our opinion is closer to the dream powder boarding scenario than on an organised trip. We've never done back-country hiking and powder boarding, but whilst no doubt magical, I get the impression the lack of lifts for multiple runs reduces the miles you can cover.
Our video below hopefully gets across our experience. Definitely worth doing for the uber-cool helicopter transport alone. A great day, needs to be experienced, but make sure you follow it up by finding untouched, deep powder in resorts with trees and undulating terrain. That's where the true magic is.