Alaska heli-skiing in Valdez
Our location, snow and terrain combined with unmatched access to private heli-skiing regions create the world's best big mountain freeride skiing and snowboarding experience with runs for confident intermediate to pro-level skiers and riders.
LOCATION & geography
We have operated out of Valdez since 1995 in the core of Alaska's southeast Chugach (Chew-gatch) Mountains surrounding Prince William Sound. Valdez is situated on the shoreline of a fjord, surrounded by soaring peaks, glaciers, rivers and wildlife in every direction. The Chugach Range stretches more than 250 miles in a crescent shape from Anchorage in the west to the Copper River in the east with the Gulf of Alaska to the south. Our location in base camp Valdez provides 360° heli-skiing—we have unfettered access to thousands of square miles of rugged mountains in every direction with more available terrain and runs than any other Alaska operator.
The southeast Chugach Mountains are in the direct line of fire. Sopping Pacific Ocean storms that stream to the north from the Gulf of Alaska hit the mountains point blank. These highly saturated storms pass through and over the cold, glaciated Chugach producing legendary snowfall. Storm-snow accumulation is often measured in meters. The Chugach surrounding Valdez contains thousands of glaciers; the highest concentration of glacial ice in Alaska. Widespread glaciation refrigerates the atmosphere on a grand scale. This helps produce super abundant snowfall. Micro-zones with unique weather patterns then amplify snowfall. The refrigeration effect also preserves powder that has already fallen. We access excellent powder snow up to a week or longer after a storm especially in our private, wind-protected heli-skiing regions where we are not competing with other operators for tracks.
Premium Quality, Mass Quantity
Alaska's Chugach Mountains surrounding Valdez have abundant and reliable powder snow with up to 30 meters (100 feet) of annual snow accumulation. We ski and ride velvet powder—with the ideal consistency for adhering to steeper terrain yet still dry enough for faceshots galore. It is ultra rippable and stable snow on steep terrain, and that is why film crews shoot segments here every season. Valdez snow is generally more cohesive and stable than very dry, incohesive powder which doesn't adhere to steeps very well and is less stable.
You will be skiing and riding the smoothest, most forgiving snow of your life in virgin velvet powder that enables you to descend progressively steeper slope angles as you gain skills and knowledge during your trip. This is the pinnacle of the sport.
According to The Weather Channel, “Valdez is the snowiest place in Alaska and the snowiest incorporated city in the United States, averaging more than 300 inches of snowfall annually.” The National Weather Service office at Valdez recorded more snowfall from July 1985 through June 2015 than any other location in Alaska (725 feet). During a two-day period in 2013, Valdez recorded more than 10 feet of snowfall. Thompson Pass located at mile 26 of the Richardson Highway east of Valdez averages about 46 feet of snowfall annually at 2,700 feet above sea level. Snow accumulation is far more extreme in the surrounding glaciated Chugach Mountains at higher elevations in H2O Guides' heliskiing zones.
Avalanche concerns are always a factor in snowy mountains. However, the snow pack in the Chugach surrounding Valdez tends to stabilize more quickly following new snow accumulation. Thanks to a temperate climate and a very deep snow pack, we do not often encounter the same types of stability concerns found in mountains with shallower snow packs and wilder temperature fluctuations. Also, steeper slopes naturally shed snow during storms mitigating risk of avalanches while dissipation slopes that taper off to glaciers where we ski help provide snow pack structure from the bottom. Furthermore we often fly in wind-protected regions where snow loading on lee slopes is minimized. Better stability and excellent terrain and weather knowledge combined with practical top-down terrain management enables us to ski and snowboard steeper and more exciting lines. It's totally mind blowing.
Many ski areas cover a few peaks. Our "ski area" covers hundreds upon hundreds of peaks and glaciers including private heli-skiing regions where we do not share terrain with other operators. We access every kind of terrain that intermediate to pro-level skiers and snowboarders crave, including classic Alaska spines caked with powder, exposed ramps, flutes, slender couloirs, gentle glacier cruisers, moderate powder bowls, natural halfpipes, tubes, pillows, banks, and other playful features for your pleasure.
H2O Guides' tenure ranges from the Shoup Glacier in the west to the Copper River in the east. We can access northern areas of the Chugach and fly to Cordova further southeast. Our access is immediate and unfettered thanks to our location in Valdez and our mobile fueling/staging capabilities that get us closer to remote regions and save your blade time for accessing the goods.
Some of the large alpine glacial basins where we ski include the Tasnuna Glacier, Woodworth Glacier, Pencil Glacier, Schwan Glacier, and Heney Glacier - remote wilderness where only our guests are permitted to heli-ski. Others include Wortmans Glacier, Heiden Glacier, Deserted Glacier, Hogback Glacier, and Worthington Glacier. These glaciers flow through the rugged peaks where we ski tens of thousands of vertical feet, and they make excellent locations for pickup zones and eating lunch.
Sub-regions where we ski include Sharpies, McCabe's Area, Detention Center, Ice Face, Blue World, Clamshell, 49ers, Turner's Wall, Kodiak, Valley of the Tusk, Sushi Bar, The Books, Meteorite Area, Craig Creek, White Room, Brown's Canyon, Thompson Pass, Hogback, East Peak Area, and West Peak Area. That's the tip of the ice berg.
An untold number of glaciers, an ocean of peaks, thousands of Landing Zones and runs that we pioneered along with virtually endless first descents and abundant velvet powder snow are available for you to enjoy with H2O Guides of Alaska. We invite you to join us for the trip that will change your life forever.