AK Heli Guide School Intro

Alaska Heliskiing, Haines, Alaska, Photos courtesy of Tim Thomas

2019 Alaska Heliskiing Guide School

February 25th to March 9th

Cost: $3,950

Our Guide School is the first step for aspiring guides, or anyone who is looking to expand their skills in a big mountain environment.  It is a comprehensive course including basic medical training, and avalanche education designed to introduce students to the world of helicopter ski guiding.

Guide Schoolers receive:

  • Fourteen days of training, including avalanche and wilderness first aid certifications, glacier travel and rescue, and helicopter operations
  • Significant helicopter time, equivalent to approximately 15 drops
  • Backcountry travel skills and training to safely protect yourself and clients in unanticipated overnight scenarios 
  • Graduates receive lifetime access to our lowest helicopter skiing/boarding rates

All components of this course are instructed by medical professionals and existing Alaska Heliskiing lead guides. Completion of our Guide School is required for anyone who wishes to become a guide for Alaska Heliskiing, it helps us get to know you, and you get to know us.

The main topics covered in our Guide School are:

Course Overview

Our Guide School begins with a Wilderness Advanced First Aid module that is focused on stabilization, treatment and evacuation guidelines for patients in a backcountry environment.  Using comprehensive and actual life-like scenarios with medical and rescue equipment, classroom learning is fortified with real, hands-on rescue experience including high angle and aviation evacuations.

Following the medical component of the course, students will focus on the skills necessary to become a competent group leader in the mountains.  With topics ranging from steep skiing and glacial travel, to more technical skills such as crevasse rescue and AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course for Helicopter Ski Guides.  When the weather is clear, students will use the helicopter for field training in the terrain used for clients.  Otherwise, we will conduct Guide School at base.


AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course for Heli Guides: AIARE is currently the national  standard for avalanche education in the United States.  This particular course will include all of the components of a standard AIARE Level I course plus specific strategies for managing guided groups, collecting data during heli operations, communicating with teammates, and understanding and contributing to the daily hazard forecast. Realistic rescue scenarios will be conducted during this course, including single and multiple signal searches, as well as organized avalanche rescue procedures. Upon completion of the AIARE course, students will have an understanding of human factors, mountain weather, and its relationship to avalanche formation. Students will be able to identify layers of instability through a variety of tests, and be able record and share their results to the team.

Guide Communication: This topic focuses on the specifics of radio use when working in an aviation setting, the skills for concise communication with clients, and the importance of integrating and sharing information with teammates. Proper communication is abostulely vital.

Knowledge and Comprehension of the Alaska Heliskiing Safety and Operating Plan: As one of the pioneers of heliskiing in Alaska, we are a driving force behind implementation of industry standards for heliskiing worldwide. We aim to improve our standards each year, and our Guide Schoolers will get hands on experience with our 25 years of experience as we attmept to spread the love.

Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue: Students will learn a variety of rope handling techniques.  Guide Schoolers will learn how to tie a variety of knots, and use the equipment necesary to conduct a crevasse resuce. Students will learn these techniques, and then practice them in realistic scenarios conducted on steep mountain terrain.

Aircraft Operations: Students will become familiar with the types and configurations of the helicopters we use ski and rescue operations.  Students will gain an understanding of aircraft operating protocols through actual experience utilizing these powerful machines. Guide Schoolers will leave the course with an understanding of: aircraft capabilities, limitations, safety standards, flight following, and fueling procedures.

Understanding and Utilizing Terrain: Participants will gain instruction on how to manage a variety of terrain types with guests of all ability levels.  From mellow glacier powder runs and tree skiing, to steep Alaskan spines and faces. Experience is everything, and guiding techniques are best learned in the actual terrain the guests will be skiing in.

Complex Decision Making: Witness and learn about the art of high risk decision making first hand. Work alongside the best pilots in the industry as they conduct flight operations in some of the most challenging terrain in the world. Get pointers on how to stay cool, calm, and collected as they manage guests of all abilities, and their egos. , manage terrain, weather, crevasse and avalanche hazard. Essentially, learn how to use the helicopter to show your guests the best day of their lives, while being efficient with Hobbs hours

Teamwork: There is no I in team, and we cannot do what we do, without the support and trust of the teammates we have around us. We aim to make an inclusive environment, where everyone's efforts and individual strengths are recognized and appreciated.