Heli-skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland

By Angelo Rossi, very special guest blogger

In my 30+ years of skiing, I had never skied in Europe nor gone heli-skiing. I did both this year. I had wanted to do heli-skiing for years, but always figured it would be a multi-day trip. In Zermatt, there were a few companies that offered day trips and I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to finally fulfill my dream even if it was just for a day.

With a little persistence, I was able to get secure two spots on one of the Air Zermatt trips. I recommend reserving your spot a few weeks before your arrival, however. Air Zermatt offers over 10 downhill runs accompanied by an experienced guide in groups of usually 5 people or less. I found the cost of CHF 380 to be reasonable, but that’s probably because I feel everything else in Switzerland to be overpriced.

We opted for the Monte Rosa tour. Monte Rosa is the highest mountain in Switzerland with a peak of 4,634m (15,200ft) and the second highest in both the Alps and western Europe (Mont Blanc is the highest at 4,810m). The drop point is at an altitude of 4,200m (13,800ft) and our descent was 2,600m (8,500ft) to the Furi interchange station.

We boarded the helicopter and made the 25 minute flight to the landing point.

Air Zermatt

Leaving the landing platform

View from the helicopter

After the helicopter left, I was struck by how perfectly quiet it was. None of us said too much; we all just savored the views and stared up at the section of glacier above over heads.

View prior to our descent

We traversed across the mountain to get into position.

Moving into position

Then we made our descent cutting back and forth across the mountain face avoiding known areas of crevasses and avalanche danger.

Loads of untouched powder

Our tracks

Another untouched face awaits

The descent normally takes 3 to 4 hours to complete, however ours took pretty much the whole day. One member of our group was a bit on the slow side, but that just allowed us to savor every moment of the tour. We were also lucky enough to have the opportunity to stop for a break at the Monte Rosa hut where we shared some laughs and a bottle of local Valais wine before continuing our descent.

A rock sculpture outside the Monte Rosa hut

The Monte Rosa Hut is a mountain hut located at the foot of Monte Rosa at an altitude of 2,795m. It is owned by the Swiss Alpine Club. The first hut was built in 1895 and a completely new building was inaugurated in 2009, at an altitude of 2,883 meters. The five-story crystal -shaped building was built on stainless-steel foundations with a spiral interior completely made out of wood, the exterior being covered with a silver aluminum shell. The building is designed to obtain 90 per cent of its power needs from the sun.

Starting at the top right, we made our way down the face of the mountain to the hut (shown in middle of picture) before continuing the descent.

Despite the lengthy traverse at the end of the run to exit the glacier, the trip was worth every penny.

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