The logistics of our operation are such that it can be difficult for us to accommodate solo or two-some skiers or riders (we work in multiples of four guests to one guide). With some schedule flexibility on your end, we may be able to match you up with another group looking for a other skiers/riders, but make no guarantees about a perfect match of abilities and fitness.
The heli barn is wi-fi enabled as is the Freestone Inn. Cell phone coverage is limited here in Mazama, so your best bet is to bring a calling card or set yourself up on Skype. Guests with Verizon or AT&T phones will be able to get reception in Mazama proper near the store.
Many people choose to purchase trip insurance from one of the many companies offering this service on the internet. It can cover all of your expenses such as plane tickets, lodging, guiding fees, etc., in the event that you have to cancel a trip at the last minute or even during the trip. NCH highly recommends this for all our programs. We do not make a commission on the purchase of travel insurance, but recommend it highly to all of our guests. One of the most reputable companies offering trip protection service is Travelex, please check them out online at www.travelex-insurance.com. If you decide to enroll in this important insurance coverage, when asked for a location number you will need to use the Travelex/NCH account location number: 47-0047.
You need to inform the NCH office of any dietary restrictions or food allergies at the time you make your reservation. We are generally able to accommodate all guests' needs with advance notice. The only dietary restriction we are not able to accommodate are if you are following a Kosher diet.
Yes, we welcome young skiers and riders with some exceptions. Guests under the age of 18 must have their Registration Form and Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk form signed by a parent or legal guardian before beginning their program with us. Guests under 18 must be of advanced intermediate or better in their abilities and be able to quickly and accurately follow their guides' instructions. If we deem a minor guest to be a risk to themselves or others, we reserve the right to return them to the heli barn with no refund. We do not recommend that guests under the age of 14 fly with us.
The Methow Valley has an abundance of recreation opportunities for people of all interests. It is home to the second largest cross-country skiing tail system in the US, and also has opportunities for snowshoeing, ice-skating, sledding and snowmobiling. The nearby town of Winthrop has plenty to do as well, including shopping, visiting art galleries, wine-tasting or simply having a cup of coffee in a cafe.
Avalanches are an inherent risk in back country skiing and riding. That said, our guests' safety is paramount, followed by great skiing and a good time. Our guides are all experienced ski guides who know the terrain and conditions intimately, many of whom possess advanced certification in snow and avalanche forecasting. We choose terrain based on our assessment of current conditions and utilize accepted back country travel techniques to help minimize this risk. All of our guests start their program with an hour long safety briefing, which includes avalanche and helicopter safety, as well as practice with an avalanche beacon and probe.
Due to our familiarity with the terrain and location on the Eastern slopes of the North Cascades, we are able to fly almost every day of our season. We do experience partial fly days and a few no fly days every season, but believe it to be far fewer than other operations. Your vertical from a partial or no-fly day and can be carried over to the next day in your program, or rainchecks for heli-skiing are sometimes issued. Please see our policies page for more information.
This is a frequent question and the toughest to answer. Our season generally begins in mid-January and ends in mid-March. The powder is usually good during this entire time. Later in the season, with longer days, spring conditions are more likely — awesome corn on the south-facing slopes and powder on the northern facing aspects.
Our 300,000-acre permit area allows us access to mountainous elevations ranging from 4,500-feet to 8,500 feet. The altitudes experienced each day will be determined by our pilot and guides depending on weather and flying conditions, as well as snow stability and quality.
We strongly recommend that our guests build an extra day in at the end of their program. This allows for a more relaxed pace, a safer drive and the opportunity to use remaining vertical should a partial or full weather day occur during your program.
You betcha! As long as all 4 guests in the group wish to continue skiing, extra runs are available at the cost of $100 per person per run.
We guarantee seven runs per day on our heli-skiing programs. We will ride the longest runs that the weather and snow conditions allow with safety and the choicest powder being foremost in our minds. This typically translates to at least 12,000 vertical feet for those seven runs with the good probability the total will be higher.
We welcome both skiers and boarders at NCH. "Mixed" groups occasionally happen, most often with four guests who know each other, yet if there are problems with chemistry or ability, your guide may make changes with other groups.
Each group, consisting of four clients and one guide, are formed depending on weight, ability and pace. Because of our smaller load sizes, in most cases, we are able to accommodate groups that want to be together for the day. In the interest of making the experience as enjoyable and safe as possible, our guides will use their discretion to make changes if necessary. Please be prepared for this and understand we do this to maximize both your enjoyment and safety.
Your level of fitness is as important as your ability. The better in shape you are, the more you'll be able to enjoy your experience with NCH. We recommend that all our guests be active — exercising and stretching — at least four weeks before their trip. Our guests need to be fit enough to take 7 runs at a moderate pace in all kinds of snow conditions. We can't encourage you enough to do as much skiing or riding you can do to "get your legs under you" before your trip — jumping out of the heli for your first run of the season is not recommended.
Most people who have been skiing at resorts at an advanced intermediate level or better are ready to heli-ski or ride. You should be comfortable riding blue to black runs in all conditions. You also need to be able to side-step, traverse, kick-turn and control your speed at all times. Experience skiing in deep snow is also VERY helpful, as well as being fit enough to ski multiple days in a row if you are on a multi-day program.
All types of mountain conditions can be expected during your trip. The guides at NCH will do all they can to find the best runs and the best snow, but like everyone else, we cannot control the snow and weather conditions. You should be comfortable skiing/riding in most conditions, whether it is 2 feet of new, heavy powder, or wind-effected hardpack. This doesn't mean you have to ski/ride it pretty, but that you can maintain control in a variety of backcountry conditions on a variety of slopes. We require our guests to be of advanced intermediate or above skiing/riding ability. Please be honest with yourself and your guides about your ability level, as your safety and enjoyment depend on it. We do reserve the right to adjust groups to match ability levels or cut short a guest's program if they are unable to keep up or pose a danger to themselves or others.

There are many beautiful mountain ranges in the world to explore by ski or board. There are also many good heli-ski outfits to help you experience these mountains. We are a small company of guides and staff living at the end of the road in the Methow Valley of Washington state. We consistently hear from our guests that our combination of professionalism, "laid-back" attitudes and intimate size are the reasons they ski or ride with NCH. Our backyard is the rugged east side of the North Cascades — an amazing location for powder skiing and riding, touring and adventure. We go out in small groups of five and come back with big grins.