Snowcat Skiing vs. Heli Skiing

By definition, snowcat skiing (most commonly known as catskiing) is fundamentally skiing in a remote area where the skiers are transported by a snowcat not a ski lift. If you’re heliskiing you will be taken to a specially selected skiing area by a helicopter.

Snowcat skiing and heliskiing both involve skiing in deep powder snow, in rugged backcountry terrain, with thrilling natural turns and considerable vertical runs. Choosing between cat skiing and heliskiing is a tough decision. In this article we will some discuss distinctive advantages of both forms of skiing to help you to choose the one that is right for you. 

  1. The first and foremost difference between cat skiing and heliskiing is the cost of operations. Heliskiing is considerably costlier than snowcat skiing. A heliskiing package costs more than double that of a snowcat skiing package.
  2. Another point of difference between heliskiing and cat skiing is the dependency on the climate. Heliskiing is heavily dependent on climate, as  bad weather may be a hindrance to operations because the helicopter will not fly in poor weather conditions;  because of this you may lose one or more days of your holiday package. Whereas, the snowcat would still be able to take its passengers to the skiing area regardless of weather conditions.
  3. Heliskiing offers a greater assurance of bottomless powder snow because Heliskiing can be conducted at a higher altitude than Cat skiing. Snowcat skiing is mostly limited to 2000 – 4000ft runs whereas heli skiing can access longer runs since they can drop you on the top of higher mountains. The mobility of helicopters allow for a much more varied skiing experience as compared to cat skiing as a snowcat can only visit areas with constructed roads, or manageable trails. Cat skiing offers mostly tree runs and open bowls; in comparison heliskiing can easily take you beyond the tree line, for very steep chutes and glacier skiing. Skiing in the glaciers and high alpine is an exceptional experience. Also, the permit areas for heliskiing operations are vast as compared to cat skiing, so skiing enthusiasts will have endless new tracks to ski when heliskiing.
  4. Another important factor to consider when choosing between heliskiing and cat skiing is time of the year you have chosen for your skiing trip. In months of December and January, due to snowfall, it is easier to find deep powder heli skiing as cat skiing needs several feet of snow to ensure that obstacles are covered down low and the roads or trails are passable to climb the mountain. If the month of your trip is April or May,  deep powder may be found only at higher altitudes (where it is colder longer), which is only accessible by helicopter. 
  5. You will get considerable rest time between runs in cat skiing as compared to heliskiing where time restrictions are imposed in accordance to flying time, which may not allow for lengthy comfortable rests. Heli skiing offers the exhilaration of flying high in the sky taking in breath taking views of the mountain ranges where as cat skiing is often in the trees on a rather bumpy access road.

Both heliskiing and cat skiing are great adventures for skiing buffs and both offer ample opportunity for skiing in natural surroundings. Cat skiing and heliskiing are both unique experiences and will bring considerable fun and enjoyment, for your upcoming winter vacation,  when done safely. Since both have their own pros and cons it is better to weigh your alternatives and choose the best skiing adventure for yourself.  

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