As with many things ski-holiday related the world over, operators of Heliski holidays are warning that availability for next winter – when it is hoped that much of the world will be out of lockdown and some sort of normality returned – is fast selling out.
The long-standing independent specialists in the sector, Heliski Holiday, are warning that those who have decided in lockdown that the coming season will be the one when they tick off that indulgent bucket-list dream, of a heliski trip to deep Canadian powder, need to start moving on those plans now if they want it to happen next winter 2022.
Heliski Holiday’s Nina Kaufman, who has been a specialist in Heliski holidays for more than 30 years, reports that as with other ski holiday booking, many skiers who had booked their dream trip from March last year, or for the current season, took the option to roll-over their bookings to next winter 21-22, leaving limited space for new bookings.
Ski areas and heliski operators in Western Canada were not forced to close this season but BC health officials and the Canadian government stopped all international travel and with a very high percentage of skiers coming from outside Canada, this hit heliski businesses hard. Some closed for the duration, others opted to stay open and reach out to Canadians.
“If the season was operating normally, guests would still be skiing and making their reservations for the following year when their week is done. But with so many not able to enjoy their preferred week, they automatically rolled over to the next year. So now these weeks are full and any new person wanting to make a reservation is now finding their preferred week is full and now choosing another week. What is happening is that those who did not get what they wanted in 2022 are now already booking the next year 2023. This trend may continue for some time but only the future knows that for sure,” says Nina, who adds,
“BC heli-operators report reservations are up translating into limited seats but don’t let that stop making an enquiry. There is still opportunity to land your preferred package. Operators will do their best to accommodate every request.”
The advice is to start the booking process at least a year in advance with the first step, requesting a hold on preferred dates. That means acting now for winter 2022. In previous years individuals or couples/duos made up a high percentage of heliskiers, and single/double bookings remain an option. But group bookings are more popular at present, in large part as the pandemic has taught us to stay within our own group/bubble and with helicopters accommodating four skiers – this is a magic number.
“For the past nine years, the number of skiers booking trips to Bella Coola Heli Sports has grown year-on-year. Prime dates in February and March are usually sold out at least a year in advance. As Nina from Heliski Holiday mentioned, heliski operations like ours who could not operate this winter, are having the majority of their clients opting to reschedule their trip to Winter 2022, creating even more demand for a limited supply. People are chomping at the bit to get their heliski powder fix! Even with this demand, it is still worth reaching out to see what is still available,” said Tim Wilkinson of Bella Coola Heli Sports adding,
“Here’s an insider’s tip: when heliski operations like ours say January and April are good times to visit, we aren’t making that up. People assume that because prime time at their local resort is around February and early March, the same must be true for heliskiing. Well, it’s not. The first half of April in Bella Coola is epic. Longer ski days, deep stable snowpack and we still expect mid-winter like dumps. It’s the best of January, February and March combined! You should definitely consider January and April….and if the conditions aren’t enough to sway you, perhaps pricing is as those times are more economical than high season. We even give guests a free night of accommodation and meals for packages booked in January!”
Group Heliski bookings are indeed on the rise – specifically groups of 4, 8 or 10. For lodges that accommodate up to 12, there would also the option of booking the entire lodge with one group.
“Heliski Holiday is able to place holds while the group discusses. The length of the hold depends on when the planning begins. It is recommended to begin this process a year in advance or even sooner as people are difficult to herd! Making a reservation early gives you the best opportunity to get the dates wanted with the number of people wanted in the group,” Nina says.
Heliskiing is about the experience. Operators prefer guests book a 5 or 7 day, allowing the time to get your “grove” on. However they also understand not everyone has the physical ability for 7 days nor have the schedules or cash flow.
Throughout the heliskiing season December to April (operator dependent) 2, 3, 4 day packages are offered. These packages are all inclusive and are defined by: standard or classic, semi-private and private. Private package offers flexibility along with exclusivity of helicopter and accommodation.
There are though, very few deals in heliskiing, ever, and there will be less with current events. Some operators do offer incentives for full payment bookings before a specific date and lower rates for January or late March reservations – the heliskiing ‘low season’.
Operators should have in place a COVID-19 Refund policy along with a non COVID-19 refund policy so guests should not have to worry about losing any money if there are future COVID related problems. If guests are not able to travel from their country due to COVID restrictions, reservations again will be moved to 2023 with no penalties and rates already paid honoured. Each operator will implement their own policies.
(Pictured above is: Skeena Heliskiing who are served by flights into Vancouver arrival, connecting flight to Smithers and take small groups – max of 12.)
(Pictured below and top is: Bella Coola Heli Sports. Same day access from Vancouver. Small & Single Groups – Choice of 5 lodges & one 138ft catamaran! Image credit: Blake Jorgenson.)