Hokkaido Backcountry Club - Heli Skiing, JP: Feb 8th, 2020

ChrisC

Well-known member
A guide friend who works at Hokkaido Backcountry Club alerted us that the owner was planning a ski day due to new snow (50"+ the last few days) and sunshine forecasted in the morning of Feb 8th -- and they had seats on the heli.

Me: why are we spending money on heli skiing in Japan $$$ ?? But some of the guys had never heli-skied before, my brother spends half the winter ass-kissing the Telluride heli operation for flight time ... so since it had been snowing on/off for a couple of days with cold temps - OK.

The heli operation is actually over near Rusutsu - a relatively short 30/40 minutes from Niseko.

Their terrain is the large Shiribetsu-Dake volcano across from Rusutsu - so you could ski every aspect - 360 degrees. The snow was spectacular and the terrain was pretty good/OK - half open/half forest.

I am not sure how you run a heli operation is Japan when most of the time it's snowing heavily, you do not need a heli, you cannot fly a heli..... pre-pandemic/first world problems.

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Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
How much did the heli cost and how much skiing did you get?

I agree that with normal winter Hokkaido climate there would be a lot of down days. Maybe not as much as Alaska though. :evil:
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
Tony Crocker":38fuh7ap said:
How much did the heli cost and how much skiing did you get?

We booked/committed around 24-36 hrs out so they charged us around $1000 USD / 120,000 Yen.

The heli-day is 6 runs top-to-bottom of the volcano with a total of 2200-2300 vertical per run. Ski day metric is 'runs' - no vertical guarantee, heli-hours, etc.

The laps are quick since the heli is just serving as an elevator - pure vertical, very little horizontal. Also, the runs are all fall-line - so the day moves fast. We finished by about 1:30 pm including lunch. The day was also quick since the 3 groups were us and the owner. However, we were lucky that we got to go to the summit each time - since it had not been skied in days - and not getting dropped off on a lower sub peak.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
My brother had gotten quotes earlier in the season where they were trying to charge in the $1400+ zone / 150,000 Yen - which I think is very high.

(I can ski in the Alps for almost a week / 5 days for one day of heli-skiing)

However, that is around the going rate for a day of heli-skiing. Canada is cheaper due to the exchange rate.

Some examples:
Telluride - Helitrax. $1400 I have never gone over 20+ years.
https://www.helitrax.com/trips/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Chugach Powder Guides $1375
https://www.chugachpowderguides.com/trips/day-skiing" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Black Ops Valdez $1300
http://www.blackopsvaldez.com/alaska-heli-skiing/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Chugach Powder Guides is based in Alyeska not Thompson Pass near Valdez. The day skiing there was $800 in 2007 for 16-20K vertical. Now the surcharge starts at 18K.

Points North is the best value in Alaska, now $6,375 for a week and 4 heli hours. That's around 50-60K vertical depending on length of runs, and about what you can expect with average Alaska weather. That price is up ~$1K since 2014.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
Tony Crocker":q3kiyt55 said:
Chugach Powder Guides is based in Alyeska not Thompson Pass near Valdez. The day skiing there was $800 in 2007 for 16-20K vertical. Now the surcharge starts at 18K.

Whoops! I was looking at another operation on Thompson.

I skied with Chugach Heli for one day (and one day in Alyeska) in April 2016 before driving to Valdez for a week - the one-day rate from looking at old emails was $1200.
 

flyover

Member
I have really enjoyed these TRs from Japan.

A little off topic, this is interesting:

Tony Crocker":2p2ifae2 said:
Points North is the best value in Alaska, now $6,375 for a week and 4 heli hours. That's around 50-60K vertical depending on length of runs, and about what you can expect with average Alaska weather.

This really puts Mustang into perspective for me, where we skied 58,700 vert in 3 days this year.
 

Sbooker

Member
flyover":1rts4fyy said:
I have really enjoyed these TRs from Japan.

A little off topic, this is interesting:

Tony Crocker":1rts4fyy said:
Points North is the best value in Alaska, now $6,375 for a week and 4 heli hours. That's around 50-60K vertical depending on length of runs, and about what you can expect with average Alaska weather.

This really puts Mustang into perspective for me, where we skied 58,700 vert in 3 days this year.

And the cost of Mustang?
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Sbooker":g7veq92f said:
And the cost of Mustang?
$1,600CDN per day for 2021. Plus heli transfer of $110CDN each way.

Lifetime:
I have 31 heli days averaging 17,700 vertical, standard deviation 5,900
I have 31 Mustang days averaging 16,500 vertical, standard deviation 2,700

Maximum vert day at Mustang was 21,900. I have 6 heli days more than that.
Minimum vert day at Mustang was 10,300. I have 4 heli days less than that, generally cut short by weather.

The above does not count down heli days with no skiing at all.
US 1 ski day
Canada 17 ski days, 2 down days
New Zealand, 2 ski days but one of them was deferred 3x by weather
Alaska 7 ski days, 10 down days
Iceland 4 ski days, 4 down days
In both Alaska and Iceland one of the ski days was only a couple of hours due to weather

The Canadian heli record looks better but the skiing is no better than Mustang and arguably less interesting terrain much of the time for at least 50% greater expense.

In the other places you get more unique high alpine terrain, but you need to get lucky with the weather.

For perspective on snowcat skiing:
Island Lake 11 days, average 14,200 vertical
All other cat skiing 39 days, average 10,900 vertical
 
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