Like all those zillions of snowflakes that add up to several feet of untracked, no two heli-skiing outfits are exactly alike. When it comes to the trip of your life, choose wisely.
DEAN CUMMINGS' VALDEZ H2O HELI ADVENTURES
Spot: Valdez, Alaska
Lowdown: Come here for big-name guides and big-mountain descents like The White Room and Deserted Glacier, but don't expect your pillow to be fluffed. Make sure to check out daily video footage and beers in the lounge, where you can replay your epic descents over and over. Then bring home a tape to show your friends.
Average daily vertical: 20,000 feet
Digs: Basic rooms at the Totem Inn. At dinner, meet your guides at restaurants around town.
Nitty-Gritty: Three days for $2,040 based on double occupancy, six days for $4,280, dinners not included; 800-578-HELI, www.h2oguides.com.
CRESCENT SPUR HELI-SKIING
Spot: near Price George, British Columbia
Lowdown: Tucked into a forested valley between the northern Cariboo Mountains and the Canadian Rockies, Crescent Spur offers dry powder, immense open bowls, expansive glacier skiing, and challenging treed slopes. Heli-virgins are welcome.
Average daily vertical: 16,000 feet
Digs: Ranch-style lodge with hand-hewn log beams and big windows.
Nitty-Gritty: Five-day packages for C$4,899 from January-March; $4,599 in April; six-day packages for $5,825 and $5,470; 800-715-5532, www.crescentspurheliski.com.
SELKIRK-TANGIERS HELICOPTER SKIING
Spot: Revelstoke, British Columbia
Lowdown: This town-based operation hits the eastern Monashees and the western Selkirks. The runs above tree line are spectacular and untracked, but don't shy from dropping down into the forest: You'll find undisturbed powder troves and sweet lines.
Average daily vertical: 15,000 feet
Digs: The spankin' new Coast Hillcrest Hotel in Revelstoke, a deluxe 75-room hotel with health club, restaurant, and gift shop.
Nitty-Gritty: Prices range from C$3,550 to $5,572 for six- and seven-day packages; $1,800-$2,791 for three-day packages; 800-663-7080; www.selkirk-tangiers.com.
Spot: Tyaughton Lake, British Columbia
Lowdown: The heavily glaciated Chilcotin Mountains boast blankets of powder and jagged peaks; Many runs start vast and finish thousands of vertical feet below in deep, tree-dotted pow. Between runs like Blind Man's Bluff and Moon Doggie, refuel on homemade soup and hot cocoa, right on the slopes.
Average daily vertical: 21,000 feet
Digs: The Tyax Mountain Lake Resort, a huge log cabin, complete with resident masseuse.
Nitty-Gritty: Prices range from C$5,710 to $6,846 for seven-day packages and $3,420 to $4,079 for four-day packages; 250-238-2221, www.tlhheliskiing.com.
Spot: Valemount, British Columbia
Lowdown: As their website says, "We won't have you jumping off cliffs -- that's just in the movies." Instead, expect small groups, long powderfields, and a mellow atmosphere.
Average daily vertical: 12,000-15,000 feet
Digs: Canoe Mountain Lodge, a small Valemount inn.
Nitty-Gritty: Three-day packages for $1,849, five-day for $3,099, seven-day for $4,339; 250-566-4700, www.robsonhelimagic.com.
Spot: Panorama Mountain Village, British Columbia
Lowdown: Though not as renowned as the Rockies or Selkirks, the Purcells offer just as many cornices, couloirs, bowls, and gullies. R.K.'s territory is divided into six distinct zones that span everything from long, remote glacier runs to steep chutes -- it gives guides the chance to tailor each day according to weather, ability, and snow quality.
Digs: Classy lodges in Panorama: The Ski Tip/Tamarack, The Hearthstone, and Panorama Springs Lodge.<
Nitty-Gritty: Five-day package for C$4,318, dinners not included; 250-342-3889, www.rkheliski.com.
HIGH SIERRA HELISKIING
Spot: The Pine Nut and Sweetwater ranges of Toiyabe National Forest, southeast of Lake Tahoe.
Lowdown: Under a special permit from the U.S. Forest Service, this Tahoe-based outfit covers 40,000 acres -- and they'll pick you up from any Tahoe resort. In a short time, fly to a variety of 10,000- to 12,000-foot peaks with whatever exposure you desire. High Sierra is especially good for the intermediate skier who has never been off the groomed, resort slopes or ventured into the backcountry.
Average daily vertical: Up to 30,000 feet
Digs: Package deals with many Tahoe-area accommodations.
Nitty-Gritty: $650 a day, midweek. $750 a day, weekend; 750-586-1190, www.highsierraheliskiing.com.
POINTS NORTH HELI-ADVENTURES (PNH)
Spot: Chugach Mountains, Alaska
Lowdown: With its own slice of the Chugach, PNH is based out of Cordova and only reachable by ferry or plane. The reward? Solitary powderfields and plumes of powder without any sign of other outfits -- and plenty of opportunity for first descents.
Average daily vertical: 25,000-30,000 feet
Digs: The Orca Adventure Lodge, formerly known as the Orca Cannery, right on the water's edge. The copter's landing pad is right next door.
Nitty-Gritty: $99 a day for lodging and $450 per flight hour for the heli; 877-787-6784, www.alaskaheliski.com.
CHUGACH POWDER GUIDES
Spot: Western Chugach Range, Alaska
Lowdown: From the lowest pick-up point, just 10 feet above sea level, to the highest drop-off, at 6,500 feet, CPG will let you ski it all -- including 2,000-some vertical in the trees below timberline. The days start mellow and get more radical as the week progresses.
Average daily vertical: 16,000-20,000 feet
Digs: Stay in Girdwood at the Alyeska Prince, an elegant lakefront hotel with seven restaurants and a sightseeing tram.
Nitty-Gritty: Ranges from $3,100 for five days of skiing at double-occupancy to $5,000 for seven days at single occupancy; 907-783-4354, www.chugachpowderguides.com.