Proper heliskiing attire is critical for comfort and enjoyment during a high altitude, remote, powder packed day of heliskiing. Here are some helpful tips on backcountry ski wear selection, to ensure your backcountry adventure is a success.
Waterproof technical outerwear with space for several layers underneath is best for Heli-skiing and the changing mountain weather. Select modern ski clothing of breathable, water-proof, and windproof fabrics. A system of layering will serve you best; though avoid over-dressing to reduce excessive sweating. Quality goggles, powder gloves, and a wool or fleece hat are a must. Sunglasses and sunscreen are necessary on sunny days in the spring.
Layers: The base layer is a necessity to wick perspiration from your body as you become more active. Chances are good that you will wear this layer all day, it’s important to wick the moisture away from your body so it can dissipate. Synthetics like polypropylene or natural fibers like merino wool are the best options. Popular brands include: The North Face, Under Armour, and Patagonia.
Ski Pants: Soft-shell ski pants are a good choice for Heli-skiing. Select materials that have good abrasion resistance, also treated with a durable water repellent. Though if you choose a hard shell pant, look for designs that include a good venting system and high breathability. Popular brands include: Arc'teryx, The North Face, and Patagonia.
Ski Jackets: Most backcountry ski jackets are waterproof, breathable and light-weight, with availability for plenty of under layers. A common feature is the interior laminate; this creates a breathable membrane with holes small enough for vapor to escape though prevent water droplets from entering.
Jackets made with newer soft-touch fabrics are becoming more common, with excellent waterproof ratings, insulation and stretch panels. Look for a jacket with powder skirts feature to stop snow from accumulating around your waist. Also, consider jacket waterproofing factors near 25+psi or 10,000+mm on your outer shell. A DWR spray is available from companies like Nikwax to re-condition your waterproof/breathable garment after washing – try one of these if you notice water soaking into the face fabric. Shell jackets - along with ingenious wicking fabrics worn near to the skin, are the best in choice if you are generating a lot of heat on longer sessions. Popular brands include: Arc'teryx, Mammut, The North Face, and Outdoor Research.
Ski Caps & Hats: Air on a windy day always is cooler than the relative outside temperature, and the quicker the wind, the faster you'll lose heat. Be sure to wear a warm, breathable toque, be sure it fits comfortably under your helmet if you chose to wear one.
Sun Protection: Exposure to harmful UV rays doubles when the sun reflects its rays off the snowy slopes. Add dangerous UVB rays, at higher altitudes, where there is less of earth’s atmosphere to filter the rays.
Ski Gloves: Select gloves that are form fitting, malleable, warm and comfortable. Test various brands and styles and check skier reviews for professional recommendations.
Ski Goggles: Select goggles over sunglasses to protect you from a number Heli-skiing mountain hazards. At high altitudes, the air is thinner and filters less ultraviolet (UV) rays. The sun's reflection on snow is brighter and more intense.
Heliskiing: Hydration & Personal Sport Fuel
A week of heliskiing can take its toll physically on your muscles. Extreme physical sports require proper eating and hydration to ensure you can maintain your energy through-out the week. Your Heli-skiing success depends on eating the right foods to keep energy levels at your highest. The level of your alertness, judgment, skiing pleasure or pain, will be the result of your food and water intake.
Water is so important it accounts for 60% of your body mass. Water keeps the blood moving smoothly and gets more oxygen to the muscles while you are negotiating the mountain. When you are Heli-skiing you produce near 5x the amount of heat as normal, so it’s important to replace the fluids during your Heli-skiing vacation. Hydrate before your adventure, drink before you are thirsty. The rule of thumb is to replace the fluids that you lost and stay hydrated to Ski at your best.
On a challenging day of Heli-skiing, each liter of sweat saps 700mg of sodium electrolytes, though you can balance your electrolytes with snacks or a V8@880mg. Gatorade during a hot ski day will provide a profound jolt of quick digestible glucose, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. Water is better than coffee, which is better than beer or wine. If you drink a coffee, chase it with a glass of water. Red wine or dark beer can encourage your blood flow. It’s ok to have a couple of morning coffee’s and evening refreshments, but any more will work against your physical efforts. Maintain the benefits of H2O to stay at your peak, there is plenty of water and Gatorade on board the helicopter to help you stay hydrated during the day.
Personal Sport Fuel
Physical and mental energy comes from foods such as: fresh fruit, veggies and grain. Every individual muscle, bone, organ, needs this food to operate properly. Energy is required to perform mechanical work with muscle action. Then fluids conduct heat and sustain body temperature. Also, food calories produce energy to keep the body’s temperature at a level for systems to operate. The most important food materials are: water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fiber. The active Skier may eat as many different foods as possible to get enough variety for a well-balanced diet.
Calories are units of food energy or fuel. Strive to consume loaded calories that are high in carbs and low in fat; giving the best performance results. Fruits, veggies and grains are excellent, or check the food package for energy ratings per serving. A 160lb. intermediate skier requires near 3000 calories/day.
Carbohydrates are the most fuel efficient food for active muscles; they supply the bulk of energy during high intensity activity such as Heli-skiing. Energy comes from the carbs stored in the muscles, liver, and bloodstream. High-energy complex carbohydrates are slow burning fuel and include: fruit, veggies, potatoes, whole grains, pasta, and breads, rice. Simple carbohydrates are quick energy snacks: granola bars, energy bars, raisins, dried fruits, chocolate, nuts, shredded coconut, and trail mix.
Fats are less-efficient fuel but more concentrated than carbohydrates, most foods have a certain amount of fat to provide an automatic 20% for a balanced diet. Your body releases fat for energy during low intensity activity, there is little immediate benefit during high intensity sports. Fats are found in meat, butter, nuts. On a cold day, add some butter to your toast in the morning to help keep you warm, fat also acts as an insulator.
Protein is best at building and repairing muscle tissue after intense activities such as Heli-skiing. Protein produces even less energy than fat and consumes calories in this process. Meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheeses are good sources of protein. Minerals or electrolytes can be in the form of sodium, potassium, calcium and iron from fruit, veggies and grains. A balanced diet will provide minerals for enzyme functions.
Minerals are sweat-out easily and are important to be replenished regularly to help metabolize foods. Sports drinks provide an excellent supply of minerals or electrolytes.
Select the Best Sports Fuel for Heli-Skiing. Strive for optimal calorie consumption: 70% carbs, 20% fat, 10% protein. Not only will this formula provide optimal energy stores, it will prevent: heart disease, many cancers, hypertension, diabetes, eye disease. Snack often when you're Skiing and avoid the big lazy day lunch. Your digestive system won’t have to work as hard with a light lunch, your stomach will love you and this can make your Heli-skiing easier. Experiment with a variety of snacks, sports drinks and energy bars are the most efficient source of energy, though fresh fruit is best for you. Fruit such as oranges, apples, bananas, will replenish: fuel, electrolytes and minerals. Experience the best days of your life now, with the right personal sport fuel at TLH Heli-Skiing.
Top 5 Tips: Heli-Skiing Fitness for Maximum Performance
When preparing for your Heli-skiing trip, it's essential to keep in mind that you will be skiing for approximately 8 hours a day, for up to 7 days. This can be demanding on your body both physically and mentally especially when skiing at altitudes of up to 2,900 metres, and in the temperatures averaging -15C.
You have booked your time off, invested a lot of hard earned dollars, and for some people will have travelled half way around the world to experience skiing at TLH. Don’t take any chances with your fitness and flexibility. A light training program prior to your Heli-ski trip will go a long way to keeping your body sound, and maximize your days in the Powder.
Tip #1: Prepare Your Fitness 6 to 8 Weeks in Advance
Even modest exercise in the weeks before your arrival can have a huge impact on performance. Strengthening the muscle groups all through your lower back, hips and stomach will deliver better skiing posture. A strong core keeps posture and alignment, contributing to fluid technique; resulting in less energy expended while traversing your Heli-skiing adventure. Developing a strong core and consistent stretching are two of the most important factors in keeping you free from intense pain or injury. We suggest you start a fitness program that includes resistive muscle exercises and stretching 6 to 8 weeks prior to your arrival. The benefits of your program will improve your strength, balance and endurance.
Tip #2: Muscle Development Increases Strength & Agility
Strength training provides increased bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, strength & toughness, improved joint function, reduced potential for injury, increased bone density. We’re not saying to start a body building program, but some simple Heli-skiing specific exercises will go a long way such as: abdominal crunches, push up hold & row, lunge jumps, Russian twists, lateral jumps. Get into the habit of exercising and focusing on engaging specific muscle groups. You will feel the muscle groups developing when you are performing exercises properly. Exercise 3 times a week to improve your fitness, try the following “Leg Squat”.
Leg Squats: Train for Agility - 10+ Repetitions: Place your feet as if you’re about to squat with a heavy load, place your hands behind your head. Slowly drop into a parallel position, once balanced, drive up as high as possible, making sure to focus and push as hard as possible through your ankles, knees, and hips. Try and keep a consistent rhythm to the point your legs feel a natural elasticity from absorbing the deep squat.
Tip #3: A Cardiovascular Lift Improves Endurance
Cardio exercise is the key is to executing your ski technique effectively and consistently with the least amount of effort. Activities such as cycling, running, Stairmaster, elliptical trainer, rollerblading, swimming, can lift your Heli-skiing performance especially on exertion at altitude. If you can raise your heartbeat above 150 beats-per-minute for a minimum of 20-40 minutes, 3-5 times per week, this will register as a boost to your cardio-vascular system and fitness. Also consider a low impact stationary bike!
Tip #4: Consistent Stretching Reduces Pain & Injuries
We often forget to stretch after exercise, but it’s as important, as the workout itself. Methodical stretching adds flexibility, providing improved mobility in all joints. Stretching will allow you to be stronger over a greater range of movement, and less prone to injury. The following exercises and stretches will assist to raise your fitness level, specifically for Heli-skiing. Make sure you warm-up if stretching before exercising. While going into the stretch, exhale. Stretch to the point just before discomfort. The feeling of tightness should lessen as you hold a stretch. Hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds for best results. Perform 2-3 stretches before moving to the next. Shake your limbs to remove any tension. Try ”The Quad Stretch.”
The Quad Stretch: Stand on your right leg and grab the bottom of your left leg, just above ankle. Pull your heel toward your lower back and at the same time, push your hips out. Your thigh should be perpendicular to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
Tip #5: Create a Fitness Plan
Fitness is paramount to maximize the enjoyment of your Heli-skiing experience. It’s not too late to develop strength, promote stamina and add flexibility for this season. Heli-skiing is a full body workout, and though most people focus on leg strength, training your entire body will ensure you are gaining accurate control of your skiing into the next level. Create a daily fitness calendar of exercises, cardio work-outs and stretching, based on your current level and fitness goals. Also use Youtube.com as a visual resource for specific exercises and stretches.