15/01/2015 12:42 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

Top 5 Places To Go Heli-Skiing In India

Himalayan Heli Adventures

If you’re an avid skier looking for an experience to rival that of British Colombia and Canada, a famed heli-skiing destination, Manali and Gulmarg in India’s pristine North have come up as great destinations for downhill skiing facilitated by helicopter access.

Both Manali in Himachal Pradesh and Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir offer some of the best natural heli-skiing conditions in the world which have resulted in several skiing operations cropping up along the Himalayan pistes.

“The highest Canadian valley floors finish at approximately 9,500 feet, while heights here (in Manali) begin at 8,900 to 10,500 feet and go all the way up to 16,500 feet,” said Manjeev Singh Bhalla, managing director of Himalayan Heli Adventures, which is one of the oldest heli-skiing operations based in Manali since 1990.

The option of being flown by helicopter to the ski downhill - the only qualifying difference between backcountry or free-riding skiing - allows skiing enthusiasts to access spectacular heights and pristine slopes that are not otherwise accessible.

It is also why this version of the sport has become increasingly popular, attracting professional and amateur skiing enthusiasts. Helicopter rides provide easy access to the grandiose panoramas of the Pir Panjal and the Hampa Theli. Most of the outfits also offer a plethora of other activities that allow guests to explore local monasteries and nearby villages.

The Indian skiing terrain has become famous for its 'curry powder' - a phrase coined by skiers to describe the excellent granular or fluffy snow powder that allows for smooth ski trails. Set at a latitude of 34°N, the altitude in Manali and Gulmarg gives longer days and allows for skiing either with or against the sun. The moisture content in the air is low, making the topography excellent for corn snow-skiing in the spring. Skiers refer to granular snow that forms as a result of melting and refreezing cycles during day and night as corn snow.

Heli-skiing season opens in January and lasts till April in India.

Here are five of the best heli-skiing operations in India.

  • Himalayan Heli Adventures
    Himalayan Heli Adventures
    Himalayan Heli Adventures
    Himalayan Heli Adventures has been offering its heli-skiing services since 1990 in Manali. The company, in addition to developing rescue system devices and collaborating with the Indian Air Force for emergency back-up operations, has an exclusive tie up with Völkl (a German company that has been manufacturing skis since 1923) for its skiers to ensure safety.
  • Kashmir HeliSki
    Kashmir HeliSki
    Kashmir HeliSki was started in 2010 by Billa Majeed Bakshi, who has been skiing Kashmiri pistes since he was four years old. The company claims to sport a zero-accident record. While Kashmir HeliSki also provides back country skiing and snowboarding facilities in addition to a number of customisable packages, it also has some insight into the nocturnal party scene on weekends.
  • Free Ski Himalaya
    Free Ski Himalaya
    Free Ski Himalaya
    Recognised increasingly as the heart of winter sport, Gulmarg in Kashmir offers quality powder snow conditions for back country skiing. Free Ski Himalaya, has been based in this small village since 2005, and offers a plethora of activites from skiing to free riding and trekking across Himachal's picturesque pastures. A cable car to Mount Apharwat allows skiers to exploit the runs that range up to 2,000 vertical metres. Since 2011, FSH has also introduced heli-skiing.
  • Elemental Adventure
    Elemental Adventure
    Elemental Adventure
    Elemental Adventure promises quality ski runs through picturesque oak trees and cedar forests. The company also guarantees a high degree of exclusivity with groups of only 4 heli skiers. Most of its heli-skiing operations take place at altitudes between 2,700metres and 4,300metres with an impressive average run length between 900 and 1,200 metres.
  • Flory Kern Heliskiing and Heliboarding Himalaya
    Flory Kern Heliskiing and Heliboarding Himalaya
    According to Lineup Explorers, an online platform for the best heli-skiing and other winter sport experiences worldwide, 'the motto of Flory Kern Helisking and Heliboarding is a destination from riders for riders. The review also states that this Kashmir-based outfit provides a package that is well above what other heliski companies offer with more helitime per week (17 hours) and more vertical metres (43,000 metres).