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Subject: Heli-ski pilots
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ghettobird1User is Offline
JH Member
JH Member

10/09/2011 1:55 AM  
Heli-Ski pilot jobs. Any insight on this type of flying. Is it a good flying job (benefits/drawbacks). I assume its a tough job to land, any suggestions on needed skills or ratings besides mountain flying? What do most of you guys do in the off season?
AK355User is Offline
JH Newbie
JH Newbie

10/14/2011 7:14 PM  

Heli-ski jobs are very few and far between, and it's a real specialist skill. Unless you've flown it for years without accident or incident, you won't be offered a heli-ski pilot position on a seasonal basis without working full time for a wilderness, mountain based employer for a minimum of 2 years beforehand, and are at the very top of your game.

In Alaska, Utah/Nevada, Italy, Chile and New Zealand, landing sites are nearly always miniscule, literally just big enough to put your skids on and that's it. They are mostly pinnacles or knife edge ridgelines, between rocks or on cornices, and will be on belly deep soft snow or solid hard-pack with 3,000' drop offs. Couple that with being at between 7,000' and 12,000' with no wind indicators, it's waaay too easy to make one tiny mistake that can be disastrous.

Canada is a little more forgiving in location sometimes, but still, non the less extremely challenging with blowing snow outside the aircraft, flat light, bright light, and little or no references to work with on a bigger snowfield type area. Now add into the mix inconsistent snow pack, endless slope landings, boards, skis and poles that want to fly away or up into in your rotor blades or tail rotor, several adrenaline junkies that you are flying along with their continually running helmet cams, a rapidly changing lateral center of gravity and aircraft gross weight whilst you are trying to balance on a pin head as they are getting in and out leaving the door open and letting minus 20 degree air and blowing snow inside the aircraft, extremely fickle, swirling mountain winds and the request/pressure to keep the hobbs time to a minimum, be that while you are flying up or down the mountain, or at the LZ or PZ (drop-off or pick-up zone).

Of course there's always just one more group that has to have a lift to the top before you desperately need to go and refuel, oh, and the weather is coming in - you've got 5 groups out in the field scattered all over the place that insist on staying out for one more run each, that means 5 more lifts as well don't forget, and you've probably only got 3/4 hr to get them all back to base before you are immersed in cloud it's snowing sideways.

What do we do in the off season? Thank one's own god that we made it through the season unscathed, and continually pray that we still have the razor sharp skills and expertise to make it through the next one.

There's absolutely no room for error. One miss read of the wind and that saddle you are going to land on between those two pinnacles will come up towards you so fast that the hard landing will rattle your teeth, and you'll wonder how on earth that gentle headwind you had became a strong tail wind without notice in the last 30 feet!

My advice, fly full time in increasingly high mountains in the summer months for a couple of years before thinking about heli-skiing. Don't even ask to go out heli-skiing until you 110% know you have the skills and expertise for it. Thinking you are ready for it will only end in tears as many have found out, see renown mountain specialist Heliswiss's heli-ski accident earlier this year at 9,000'


AFGHANVETUser is Offline


11/09/2011 2:43 PM  
HAHA I never thought about the people who pay 1000's to go heli skiiing and realize they cant ski down and got in way over there heads. It always looks easier on TV

Thanks for the Information. I would love to fly for a Heli Skiing company someday. Maybe my Mountaineering might help me stand apart. Headed to Climb Everest 2013!
LeewenhookeUser is Offline
JH Guru
JH Guru

11/17/2011 4:22 PM  
I've never been involved in heli-ski, but I think it's the same labor pool of guys that do utility, longline and firefighting. My friends in that industry seem to pick up contracts doing all four depending on the time of year.

60-driver, Robinson survivor
Sayer of Nay

"I regret to say that we of the FBI are powerless to act in cases of oral-genital intimacy, unless it has in some way obstructed interstate commerce."

-J. Edgar Hoover
HiAk!User is Offline
JH Newbie
JH Newbie

03/30/2012 12:56 PM  
the biggest thing with heli-skiing for me is respecting your limits. The guides are gonna always ask you to put them where its convenient for them, but not necessarily safest for you. there's alot of variables and certain days some spots just aren't available. it's like anything, put in time, get the opportunities and start humbly. but hot damn, its FUN
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