What would your response be if I told you I was going heli-skiing in Spain?
If you are anything like my friends or our guests who I told then you would have the same reaction – a giggle, a smirk and a confused repetition of my statement “Heli-skiing in Spain?? Really?” But earlier this year that is exactly what myself and Richard Lumb did, and we were blown away!
Day 1 – Arrival
We flew from Zurich – Barcelona. However, anyone in the know would fly direct to Toulouse (France) which is just a one hour 45 minute transfer to the Val D’Aran and the resort of Baquiera-Beret in the northern/central Pyrenees. As we arrived in the evening we met our guides in a beautiful, no thrills tapas bar half way up the valley. The bar was complete with open fire, comfy couches and enough stunning tapas and Rioja to help you sleep like a baby.
Day 2 – Heli-skiing
Next morning we met up with our guide and prepared for an action packed day of heli-skiing, beginning with equipment fitting and safety briefings. Once we were kitted out with the latest Black Crow Skis, ABS backpacks and avalanche gear we were off to meet the helicopter.
For those that have heli-skied in Europe before, you will know that you can only fly on certain days, to certain drop off points and are limited on your choice of runs. This often means that on sunny blue bird powder days the helicopter drop offs are more a kin to a high speed four man chair lift.
Prepare to be BLOWN AWAY! When we say unlimited, we mean unlimited! The only boundary is the National Park and the French Border meaning there are countless possibilities. Heli-skiing in Spain is something else – if you can see it and the pilot can land then you can ski it! If he can’t land then you can ski tour but that’s tomorrows adventure!
Once out the helicopter you will find all types of terrain beneath your powder skis – steep, deep and soft. Steep pitch, flat pitch, forest runs, open slopes, gulley’s, chutes, drops and did I mention the unlimited expanse of open faces to enjoy? It really is a skiers playground.
Four heli drops later we had skied a mixture of snow. It was an absolutely fantastic ski experience, the quiet, peaceful mountains enjoyed by just the four of us with a private helicopter.
Amazing Spanish Food
The experience doesn’t start and end with heli skiing… The food – wow! Spanish food is one of my favourites, so I may be a bit biased – but once you have tasted the food, experienced the tapas bars and indulged in the local gastro culture, you will be hooked. When you realise the price – you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.
Traditional houses or restaurants, some of them no thrills with stone walls and years of tradition are the ones to seek out. The hotels (the 4 and 5 star ones) have some fancy, excellent restaurants, with fondues and raclettes, and steak houses – but it’s the local gems that you really want to find.
On the first night we were at a restaurant where the chef spoiled us with a delightful 10 courses. Including deer carpaccio with fois gras shavings, squid with bacon and chorizo jus, salmon and avocado tartar and tomato and olive oil gazpacho with avocado ice cream. We also have to mention the scallops with pork belly and main courses that included monk fish, lamb and duck.
Day 3 – Heli-touring
Heli-touring is exactly as the name suggests. We caught a helicopter up in the morning to a rather ominous looking peak, this time with the company of the owner of KABI, who just happens to be the most famous female high altitude climber in the world and the first woman to climb all 14 peaks above 8000m on this planet!
Once we’d landed we embarked on a long ski down to a hut in the middle of nowhere, the sound of silence really is a beautiful one. Then on with skins on the base of our skis and we began a two hour hike to another summit, one of the highest in the area. This time we enjoyed a leisurely pace, great conversation, snacks and water breaks until we reached the top, hovering rather close to a pretty big cornice, we didn’t hang around too long!
The Ski Down
The ski down was steep at the start and then exciting from there on in through narrowing valleys and tree lined traverses. Beautiful soft spring snow with varying terrain it was quite simply exhilarating. We were picked up at the bottom of the valley by our hosts and whisked off to a small, traditional Spanish back country village for a late lunch. The place was understated, non-pretentious and a real treat of a surprise shared with us only due to our guides fantastic knowledge. The food was delicious and beautifully presented with all local village produce, we feasted on legs of ham, cheese, fois gras, wild boar meatballs, local goats cheese crepes and farm reared chicken strips.
This same evening we were taken by snowmobile to an ancient (restored) Refuge up the mountain and out of the resort. After a 25 minute journey on the ski-doo’s along tracks, slopes and through the forest you end up at this stunning church type Refuge. Another feast ensued – a bottle of delicious house Rioja, more tapas and then the special; a huge soft and tender steak and duck breasts, lightly seasoned, cooked on the open fire grill and sprinkled with salt. So simple and incredible tasting!
How To Book
For further information and to find out how you can book your own heli-skiing in Spain experience please get in touch with the Kaluma team.