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Editor's Choice

Editors' Choice 2020: Above the Timber

Sample Idaho powder and above-treelike skiing courtesy of Sun Valley Heli Ski.

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Sun Valley is known for many things: challenging groomers; a historic ski town; incredible tree skiing in burn zones. But one of its greatest assets is located above treeline. Even during dry spells and days after the last storm, stashes of Idaho’s infamously dry powder can be found atop Sun Valley’s surrounding peaks, especially when you have a helicopter at your disposal.

“We have amazing powder skiing almost all the time,” says Jay Levin, owner and operator of Sun Valley Heli Ski. “Heli-skiers come from all over the world who just love the snow quality here in Sun Valley.”

Jon Jay and Jenny Wiegand in Sun Valley Idaho
SKI Magazine staff getting ready to see what heli-skiing is all about.Photo credit: Keri Bascetta

SVHS, started by Bill Janss in 1966, claims to be the oldest heli-ski operation in the lower 48 and is currently only one of four resort-based heli-operations in the contiguous United States. “I don’t think it was a real business for the first couple of years. It was just Bill and his buddies going heli-skiing before forming an actual business and opening it up to clients,” says Levin.

With operations based out of the Sun Valley Gun Club, just up the road from Bald Mountain’s River Run Plaza, SVHS is uniquely staged to transport guests to a powder playground only minutes away, with a run right next door that’s “3,500 feet peak to creek.”

And that’s just the gateway to SVHS’s 750,000 square acre tenure. If the snow isn’t good next door, SVHS’s four-passenger A-Star B-3E helicopter flies guests into the depths of that permitted area to find the best snow and pitch possible, affording passengers a scenic and intimate heli-ride along the way.

For guests looking for a true backcountry experience, SVHS also offers more remote heli-skiing based out of the operation’s fly-in Smokey Mountain Lodge, where up to 10 guests can book three to four day packages. “Unlike the heli lodges in Canada, our Smokey Mountain Lodge is really accessible, making it possible for guests to fly in for a long weekend,” says Levin.

Whether guests book one of SVHS’s half-day, full-day, or multi-day packages, they can expect a 4:1 guest to guide ratio, up to six runs per day (for full day), and deep turns in Idaho powder.

More from SKI Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Trip to Sun Valley