Winter Sports

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Bringing a Formerly Extreme Sport to Ski, Snowboard Enthusiasts

15 Nov, 2017

By: Michael Popke
Start-up May be a Trend for Planners to Watch for Spectator Interest

With a self-described mission to “unite through adventure,” Heli is hoping to make booking expensive heli-skiing adventures and other sports excursions as easy as reserving a campsite or hotel room. Heli-skiing involves transporting participants to remote mountain peaks via helicopter to ski or snowboard down virgin snow.'

And thanks to a start-up, it's the kind of thing sports planners for winter events might be able to market to families, spectators and others - who already have a taste for the snow.

Bloomberg.com recently labeled Heli as an “adventure-themed Airbnb” and served up a primer on the sport:

Heli-skiing has been around since the early 1960s, but it didn’t really start to take off until the 1990s. The past 10 years have seen continued growth and a number of new operators opening up shop, but it remains a small sport, with fewer than 60 operations in North America, and something like 100,000 skier days booked annually. It often costs more than $1,000 a day for a heli-ski trip, which typically includes a stay at a high-end lodge with restaurant-caliber dining, and as a result, operators report that roughly three-quarters of their bookings are from repeat clients. Either you can afford to be a regular, or it’s not for you.

Bloomberg goes on to explain the majority of heli-ski operators have utilized sales agents and specialized travel agents. But now Heli has made heli-skiing, along with kitesurfing, windsurfing, biking and other adventures, more accessible — especially to millennials. The company’s thinking, according to Bloomberg.com is “if it can attract a fresh crop of younger clients, it would be invaluable to operators old and new.”

Industry veterans are skeptical, though. Ian Tomm, executive director of HeliCat, the trade association for Canadian heli- and cat-skiing operators, told Bloomberg.com that Heli could potentially tap into new skiers but added a word of warning: “We’re a pretty small industry at the end of the day, with pretty small margins.”

At least one thing is certain: Fewer millennials are participating in traditional skiing and snowboarding, compared to baby boomers, according to Jim Powell, vice president of marketing at the Park City (Utah) Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau. “You’re possibly getting married, you’re possibly launching a career or you’re possibly buying a home. Or maybe all three of those things,” he told the city’s Park Record newspaper last month. “That distracts you, except for the most serious participants, from the idea that you might have time and the financial ability to be able to spend a weekend or a couple of days or even a day skiing.”

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