Harris Mountains Heliski
Harris Mountains Heliski (HMH) offer daily heliskiing ranging from introductory 3 run, standard 4 run, ‘Max vert’ 7 run or more and charters. Runs are typically between around 600-800 vertical metres, though in a good season with good coverage lower down 1000-1200 vertical metres are possible in some places.
They predominately use Eurocopter Squirrel helicopters which will take 4 (or 5 in a B2) passengers plus pilot and guide. On a standard day the helicopter will normally work with 3 or sometimes 4 groups. If you are doing a charter then your group will have the machine to yourselves so you have the option of going further afield.
Heliskiing in NZ is weather dependant. As there are no trees they will not fly in poor visibility. Wind is a significant factor in NZ and they will also not fly if winds are too strong or gusting. As a result they will generally average about 4 flying days per week.
Snow quality can vary quite a bit. Much of the time it will be boot top to shin deep powder, often knee deep and just occasionally a bit deeper. Usually it will be deeper higher up. But wind is again a major factor so other times you may get a crust of various thicknesses from a light crust to solid hard pack and everything in between.
How the day works
HMH will contact you to advise whether they are flying or not and if so will make arrangements for pickup to drive or fly to the staging area.
At the staging area there will be a helicopter safety briefing, you will split into your groups, meet your guide and get an avalanche transceiver briefing and a quick practice. The groupings are roughly based on ability or desires - see the ability questionnaire on their website.
You fly into the mountains and enjoy! Your guide will explain the on mountain procedure - very important - pay attention! Upper slopes are normally a bit steeper, so if there is new snow, standard procedure is to ski one at a time.
At the bottom of the run the guide will look for a good pickup point where you will fly off to the next run.
The groups sharing the one machine will generally ski in roughly the same vicinity and meet up later for the famous alpine buffet lunch. At this point you have the option of considering whether you want to do extra runs or switch to another group if this works.
When your group is done (or it is gets dark) you fly back to the staging area in the valley (good to get a front seat for this).
Then back to town to enjoy a couple of beers and watch the days video (after settling your account of course).
- 1 Location
- 2 Pros
- 3 Cons
- 4 Contacts
- 5 Planning
- 6 Resort Facilities
- 7 Ride Guide
- 8 Other
- 9 Resources
Based in Wanaka, Queenstown & Mt. Cook Wanaka office - 99 Ardmore St. Queenstwon office - The Station, Shotover St.
They are a long established and very professional organisation so know what they are doing. HMH have the largest permit area with options of terrain in the vicinity of Wanaka, Queenstown and Mt. Cook so there is usually some good skiing to be found somewhere at least a week or more after a storm. This also means you can be n Wanaka or Queenstown and have the option of flying to the Mt. Cook region for the day.
Well it is heliskiing, so it comes at a cost. Weather plays a significant role. Sometimes you can get a whole week of fine weather, other times there will be no flying due to storms, poor visibility or strong winds. So if you want a reasonable chance of a good day it is best to be around town for a least a week.
Queenstown office (all year)
Phone: 64 3 442 6722
Fax: 64 3 441 2983
Postal: PO Box 634, Queenstown NZ
There is a luxury lodge in the North Buchanans available as a private charter.
In Wanaka, Queenstown or Mt. Cook village.
If you need to hire fat skis in Wanaka get them from Racers Edge which is next door to the heliski office.
They will operate out of various staging points in the valley depending on where they plan to fly. They will advise you of the actual location on the day. For Mt. Cook this will be Glentanner station. From Wanaka it will usually be from one of the farms somewhere along the Matukitiki valley. HMH provide minibus transport from town or you can drive yourself. Note that they usually have several operations along the valley, so if you are driving make sure you get to the right one, so it is best to follow their vans from the office.
At the staging area if you are driving. Be aware that this is farm land and the ground can sometimes be a bit boggy.
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HMH were the first to provide the alpine buffet lunch usually in a great setting.
Bars & Entertainment
Plenty in Wanaka & Queenstown.
No beginner areas as such, but for intermediates there is a 3 run ‘experience’ day option which will generally stick to lower angle slopes.
N/A - that would be defeating the purpose!
It’s all off piste.
Out of Bounds
The only real boundaries apart from obvious and not so obvious terrain traps are the permit area in which they are allowed to fly. This is all outside of national park. Each heliski operator has specific permit areas.
Parks & Pipes
Why would you?
It’s all above treeline. With the amount and variety of terrain there will nearly always be areas that are sheltered from the prevailing wind. The North Buchanans usually fare pretty well in this regard.
It is the NZ mountains so can vary quite considerably. Flying will normally be done on fine days, but the weather can change quite a bit during the day. Biggest enemy is the wind, it can get quite strong at times and a day or two of this can ruin what may have been perfect powder conditions. At other times though the wind stays away or at least just comes from one direction so you can be skiing boot top frost dried powder up to 2 weeks after a snowfall.
Yes, lots of it! In the Mt. Cook area the Ben Ohau and Gammack ranges. From Wanaka the central and North Harris and Buchanan ranges. From Queenstown the south Harris, Branches and Eyre mountains.
Harris Mountains Heliskiing was established in the late 70’s in Wanaka by Paul Scaife as one of the original heliski operators in NZ and did much of the pioneering work setting the template for heliskiing in NZ. They later established terrain in the Queenstown area and more recently took over part of the permit area in the Mt. Cook region from Alpine Guides.