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Heli Skiing vs. Cat Skiing – Detailed Breakdown

Heli Skiing vs. Cat Skiing - Detailed Breakdown

Skiers do always level up their skiing game by trying out different methods. Heli-skiing and cat-skiing are two such advanced methods that most people don’t know about.

This is what we call mechanized skiing and is a type of skiing that uses helicopters or snowcats to get skiers to the top of mountains that they wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. Experienced skiers and snowboarders embrace the idea of remote slopes because it allows them to explore new terrain, incredible views, make fresh turns, and find untouched powder.

This is different from regular skiing because it usually involves backcountry terrain that is unmaintained and unpatrolled. Because of this, it’s important that skiers and snowboarders who participate in these activities are well-prepared and aware of the risks involved.

So stay with me if you want to learn more about the difference between heli-skiing and cat-skiing, as well as which one might be right for you.

1. What is Heli Skiing?

1. What is Heli Skiing

Heli-skiing is a type of skiing that uses helicopters to transport skiers and snowboarders to the top of mountains. Heli-skiing operations are typically located in remote areas that are inaccessible by road or other mountain travel facilities.

This type of ski was originally developed in Europe in the 1950s, but it did not become popular until the 1970s when it was introduced in North America. Heli-skiing is now available in many parts of the world including Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

2. What is Cat Skiing?

2. What is Cat Skiing

If you’re not familiar with them, snowcats are fully-tracked vehicles that resemble a tank and shuttle skiers up remote backcountry slopes. They’ve been used for years to groom ski resorts and have enough space inside the cab for all your skiing or snowboarding equipment.

In order to use a snowcat, you first must have a road made of packed down snow. These types of roads are called “snow roads” and they must be frequently cleared in order for the snowcat to access different areas of terrain. You ride up in the cat to the top of the mountain, ski back down, and wait for the next available pick-up.

Usually, lodges that utilize cats have many miles worth of these kinds of roads. However, because you’re relying on pre-made routes, your range is more limited compared to other methods. Typically, cats travel at slow speeds between 5-10 mph due to both driver discretion and poor conditions of said roads.

3. Heli Skiing vs Cat Skiing: Which is More Expensive?

3. Heli Skiing vs Cat Skiing Which is More Expensive

The Cost of Heli-Skiing

The cost of heli-skiing is $7.000 to $15.000 for 7 days depending on the location, duration and extras of the trip. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the price.

The first is that most heli-skiing companies require a minimum group size of four people in order to go out on a trip. This number can increase depending on the company, but it’s something to keep in mind when budgeting for your trip.

The second thing to consider is that the price of your trip will likely include some, but not all, of the following:

  1. Lift tickets
  2. Ski or snowboard rental equipment
  3. Lodging
  4. Food and drink
  5. Ground transportation to and from the airport
  6. A professional guide
  7. An avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe

The Cost of Cat Skiing

The cost of cat skiing is around $500 per day. This price includes the rental of equipment, transportation, and a guide. It’s important to note that the cost may vary depending on the location and duration of your trip. Some companies offer discounts for multiple days, while others include the cost of lodging, food and other facilities like the ones above.

4. Pros and Cons of Heli Skiing

4. Pros and Cons of Heli Skiing

I did try Heli-skiing for the first time last winter and was blown away by the experience. The untouched powder combined with the beauty of the mountains was unforgettable. And the fact that I wasn’t tired at the end of the day because I didn’t have to hike up the mountain was a huge plus. Here are some other pros and cons of heli-skiing:

Pros:

  • Heli-skiing is intense
  • Heli-skiing delivers an entirely different experience
  • You don’t have to hike up the mountain
  • Is the peak of any skier or boarder’s bucket list
  • Heli-skiing will forever change the way you experience resort skiing

Cons:

  • Heli-skiing is more expensive than cat skiing
  • Helis might be blown out because of storms, visibility or winds
  • Dangerous for beginners

5. Pros and Cons of Cat Skiing

5. Pros and Cons of Cat Skiing

Cat skiing is a great way to experience the backcountry without having to hike up the mountain. It’s also a lot cheaper than heli-skiing. Here are some other pros and cons of cat skiing:

Pros:

  • You don’t have to hike up the mountain
  • Cheaper than Heli-skiing
  • Can be a more intimate experience

Cons:

  • Limited to pre-made roads
  • Slow speeds
  • Not as intense as Heli-skiing

6. Heli Skiing vs. Cat Skiing: Similarities

6. Heli Skiing vs. Cat Skiing Similarities

The Experience:

When it comes to the experience, there’s really no comparison. Both heli-skiing and cat-skiing are the ultimate way to experience untouched powder and pristine slopes. There’s nothing quite like it! At the same time, they are also different experiences. Heli-skiing is more intense, while cat-skiing can be a more intimate experience.

The Crowds:

One of the great things about both heli-skiing and cat skiing is that they allow you to avoid the crowds that are often found on regular ski slopes. In Addition, because cat skiing requires transportation via snowcat, it does mean that you’ll be sharing the experience with other people – which may happen to be like-minded people. However, heli-skiing offers a more personal experience since you’ll be transported via helicopter directly to your desired location. 

The Safety:

When it comes to safety, there really isn’t much difference between heli-skiing and cat skiing – they both come with inherent risks. However, because these types of skiing require travelling in groups, there is always someone around in case of an emergency – which can provide some peace of mind for those who are safety-conscious. 

The Terrain:

When it comes to terrain, there are pros and cons to both heli-skiing and cat skiing. On one hand, heli-skiing allows you to access more remote areas that may not be accessible by snowcat. On the other hand, cat-skiing gives you the ability to explore a larger area since snowcats can travel on multiple trails.  Ultimately, it just depends on what kind of terrain you prefer. 

The Snow Conditions:

One thing to keep in mind, both heli-skiing and cat skiing are weather-dependent. This means that the snow conditions can vary from day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour. Heli-skiing is particularly susceptible to bad weather conditions since helicopters can be grounded by storms, high winds or poor visibility.

The Accessibility:

Another factor to consider when choosing between heli-skiing and cat skiing is accessibility. Heli-skiing is typically only available in remote areas, whereas cat skiing is often located near resorts. This can be a pro or a con, depending on your preferences.

7. Who Should Choose Heli Skiing?

7. Who Should Choose Heli Skiing

Heli-skiing is the ultimate way to experience untouched powder and pristine slopes. If you’re looking for an intense, adrenaline-pumping skiing experience, then heli-skiing is definitely for you. Just keep in mind that it is more expensive than cat skiing and can be dangerous for beginners.

8. Who Should Choose Cat Skiing?

8. Who Should Choose Cat Skiing

If you know you’re afraid of heights, cat skiing may be a better option since the snowcat travels on the ground. Cat skiing is also a great option if you’re looking for a more intimate experience or if you want to save some money.

9. What is the Best Time to Go Heli Skiing vs. Cat Skiing?

9. What is the Best Time to Go Heli Skiing vs. Cat Skiing

Both heli-skiing and cat skiing are enjoyed during the winter months from January to April, and oftentimes, the best powder can be found in March and April. However, keep in mind that the conditions can vary depending on the weather.

10. Heli Skiing vs Cat Skiing: How Many Runs Can You Do?

10. Heli Skiing vs Cat Skiing How Many Runs Can You Do

Heli-skiing wins in terms of the number of runs you can do in one day!

Heli-skiing definitely offers the potential to go on more runs than cat skiing in a day. This is because helicopters can travel significantly faster than snowcats, meaning that you could potentially go on 10 or more runs in a day.

With cat skiing, the maximum is around 6 per day – which is significantly less than what you can do with heli-skiing. So, if you’re looking to ski as many runs as possible in a day, then heli-skiing is the way to go.

11. Is Heli Skiing or Cat Skiing More Dangerous?

11. Is Heli Skiing or Cat Skiing More Dangerous

Heli-skiing and cat skiing are both dangerous activities that come with inherent risks. Things like avalanches, crevasses, and tree wells can pose a serious threat to skiers. Additionally, both heli-skiing and cat skiing require travel in remote areas, which can make it difficult for rescuers to reach you in the event of an emergency.

So, while there is no definitive answer as to which one is more dangerous, it’s important to keep in mind that both come with risks. If you’re safety-conscious, then you may want to choose cat skiing over heli-skiing.

12. What Should I Bring on My Heli Skiing or Cat Skiing Trip?

12. What Should I Bring on My Heli Skiing or Cat Skiing Trip

There are a few essential items that you should bring on your heli-skiing or cat skiing trip, regardless of which one you choose.

First, you’ll need to bring the proper clothing and gear to keep you warm and dry. This includes items like a ski jacket, pants, gloves, goggles, and a helmet.

Second, you should pack some snacks and water to keep your energy up throughout the day.

Third, it’s always a good idea to bring a first-aid kit in case of any minor injuries.

And finally, don’t forget your camera! Heli-skiing and cat skiing offer some of the most stunning scenery that you’ll ever see – so make sure to document your experience.

13. Heli Skiing vs Cat Skiing – Which is Right for You?

13. Heli Skiing vs Cat Skiing – Which is Right for You

So, you’re trying to decide between heli-skiing and cat skiing. Both offer a unique and exhilarating experience, but which one is right for you? To help you make your decision, here are a few factors to consider:

1. Cost: Heli skiing is typically more expensive than cat skiing. If you’re on a budget, then cat skiing may be the better option.

2. Terrain: Heli skiing offers access to more remote and rugged terrain than cat skiing. If you’re looking for an adventure, then heli-skiing is the way to go. However, if you prefer groomed slopes, then cat skiing may be a better option.

3. Skill level: Heli-skiing is more challenging than cat skiing and is best suited for advanced skiers. If you’re a beginner, then cat skiing may be a better option.

4. Number of runs: Heli skiing allows you to ski more runs in a day than cat skiing. If you’re looking to ski as much as possible, then heli-skiing is the way to go.

5. Safety: Both heli-skiing and cat skiing are dangerous activities that come with inherent risks. If you’re safety-conscious, then you may want to choose cat skiing over heli-skiing.

So, there you have it – a few things to consider when choosing between heli-skiing and cat skiing. Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and what you’re looking for in an experience. Whichever one you choose, you’re sure to have the time of your life.

14. Final words

14. Final words

Comparing them is not quite apples to apples, as they are two different ways to get to the same place – remote backcountry slopes. Heli-skiing is going to be more expensive but offers a more personal and exclusive experience. Cat skiing will have you share the experience with others but will be a more budget-friendly option.

So in the end, the only one that wins is you – the skier! Heli-skiing and cat skiing both offer an amazing way to experience the backcountry. It just depends on what you’re looking for in your skiing adventure.

Thanks for reading! I hope this article helped clear up some doubts as well as helped you make an informed decision about Your next winter vacation! Happy travels!

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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