Flying high: Colorado’s only heli-ski operation is in Telluride | VailDaily.com
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Flying high: Colorado’s only heli-ski operation is in Telluride

Tom Winter
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The first thing you notice are the mountains.

They’re rough and jagged and they stand tall against the rising sun, etching patterns in the sky. The second thing you notice because it sits right in front of you is the helicopter.

It’s cold in the dawn of an early Telluride morning. Cold enough to make you want to add another layer, but you don’t notice the chill. The helicopter has all of your attention. The helicopter and the mountains, that is, because the ship is going to fly you to the top of the behemoths that make up the San Juans.

And with more than three feet of new snow gracing their flanks, the coming day is all you can think of.

Epic powder, remote peaks and memorable runs are enough to go heli-skiing or snowboarding. And, it you’ve never been, you should start saving your money now. But unlike the pricey week-long trips in Canada, heli-skiing doesn’t cost much here in Colorado.

That’s right, you can go heli-skiing in the Centennial State. Best of all, the operation, Telluride Helitrax, sells everything from one-time drops to multi-day excursions -which means that you can fly for much less than what you paid for your used ski equipment. Plus, the operation operates in some of the most breathtaking mountains on the planet: Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

With a season that runs from December to April as well as access to some of the highest heli-skiing in the world, Telluride Helitrax is blessed with light dry snow, endless descents and, of course, stunning flights.

Four feet of snow

In fact, for neophytes who have never flown in a helicopter, the chance to take a ride is one of the best aspects of heli-skiing. The fact that you get dropped off on top of acres of acres and acres of powder skiing is merely the icing on the cake.

Our day finally started after a weather hold grounded the helicopter for an hour or two in the morning. In minutes, the ship had whisked us up to a high saddle surrounded by rocky promontories. It took only moments for the heli to fly off, leaving us in a silent cold wasteland.

The storm had been a doozy – more than four feet of new snow in three days. Because of this, the avalanche danger was in the red zone, we stuck to the mellower lines. It didn’t matter that we were unable to ski the super-steeps. It was plenty steep enough and the fresh powder was like butter. It didn’t take long until we were at the bottom, and before we knew it, the heli was there to pick us up for another epic run.

With more than 250 acres of prime skiing terrain, you’ll never get bored or have to cross your own tracks when you fly with Telluride Helitrax. You’ll also rack up the vertical.

An average day, skiers and riders will chalk up more than 10,000 vertical feet. All of it will be powder skiing and all of it will be about as perfect a run as you could ever hope for. And with 20 years of experience flying and skiing in this part of the world, the guides know where to go to get the goods.

The final run

The last lap of the day was, as you’d expect, the highlight of the experience. The sun was painting the San Juans a warm golden glow as the ship rose off the valley floor and deposited us on a high ridge. In front of us stretched the whole mountain range, with the funky shape of Lizard Head Peak dominating the skyline.

Below us was a gravy shot – a steep avalanche chute that started above timberline and then plunged to the valley floor through lodgepole and spruce. The snow was perfect, sparkling in the late afternoon light. And while the run beckoned, we stood still in our tracks for a few minutes to savor the silence, the beauty and the warmth of the sun.

Finally it was time to go.

One by one, we dropped in, arcing GS turns down the ridge and into the chute. The run seemed to last for hours. In 10 minutes, maybe more, we hit the bottom. Was it the best run of my life?

Maybe. The most memorable? Quite possibly. The high-point of the season?

Very likely. In fact, it was all of these things and more. The best ever, until I fly with Helitrax again. The next time, I expect, will be even better.


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