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After getting settled, we head out to explore, skinning past the bear-frequented waste-management shed at the edge of town, past the hydroelectric dam on Copper Creek, and up to the mine entrance (it’s closed). The snow down low is wet and heavy, and visibility nonexistent, but as we head up into Copper Basin, a brief opening in the clouds gives us a tantalizing peek at the terrain I’d been imagining skiing for years.

Holden Village

Holden Village, a remote village in mountainous north-central Washington, could be home to the most spectacular backcountry skiing in the Lower 48.

When Doug Coombs opened Valdez Heli Ski Guides in 1993, it was the first heli-ski outfitter in Alaska. Now owned and operated by Scott Raynor, VHSG has access to over 2,500 square miles of glaciated terrain, with one run as long as 6,200 vertical feet (it's called the Diamond, and if you're lucky, you'll get to ski off the top). You can book single-day packages starting at $925 (for six runs) or all-inclusive weeklong packages from $7,640. Find out more or book a trip at Valdezheliskiguides.com.

Valdez Heli-Ski Guides

Do whatever it takes: refinance your home, sell your kidney, get a telemarketing job. But at some point in your life, you need to go heli-skiing in Alaska. Here are photos from a day with Valdez Heli-Ski Guides—to show you why it's worth saving for.

Stoup and Garre

Ski the Arctic

Polar explorer Doug Stoup leaves today for seven weeks on skis in the great white north. Part of his itinerary includes guiding 15-year-old Parker Liautaud, the youngest person to attempt to ski to the North Pole.