Snow Safety Helicopter

Category: PACT
What is a snow safety helicopter?
  • We'll have a helicopter on standby for a portion of the season, in the Squaw Valley parking lot to be used for avalanche control at both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows after major snow cycles, when weather and visibility allow
  • As a new program for the 2017-18 season, our patrol teams will be continuously developing best practices and applying learnings to our snow safety helicopter program throughout the season
Fast Facts
  • Only resort in California using a helicopter as part of their snow safety program
  • Other resorts across North America successfully utilize helicopters as a part of their snow safety program, including Alta, Snowbird, Telluride and Whistler Blackcomb
  • Skydance Helicopters, based in Minden, NV, will lease us a winterized ASTAR AS-350B3 helicopter, equipped with baskets to safely transport ski equipment
  • Helicopter will be piloted by one or two Skydance professional and manned by specifically trained patrol team members

We're gonna have a helicopter on site, at least for the first part of the season this year, and potentially more. We're gonna see how it goes. We're approaching it with an open mind, but from what we've seen, it makes sense for us to have one around to be able to use when the wind's died down and the sky is clear. I know that that's not often with our variable weather, but there are those days when it goes blue and there's no wind, and we want to get the mountain open on time. I think this could be a really good tool, and a nice fit for us.

- Will Paden, Squaw Valley Ski Patrol Director

Helicopter Use Cases

Snow safety helicopter will only fly when the pilot determines that conditions are appropriate. It's estimated by our Patrol Team that it will be used for avalanche control for approximately five total days. Windy conditions, obscured visibility or flat light are some of the conditions in which the helicopter cannot fly. The snow safety helicopter program serves as one more tool available to keep up with snow control after storms pass through. When it’s appropriate to fly, the helicopter can be used anytime during daylight hours, from early in the morning to late in the afternoon. At these times, trained pilot and patrollers would use the helicopter to:

  • Test the stability of the snow pack and the accuracy of the avalanche forecast with hand charges before putting patrollers on the snow
  • Aerially deploy avalanche explosives onto terrain below
  • Transport ski patrollers to areas that are too difficult and time-consuming to access overland, where they can proceed with snow control on the ground
  • Move support supplies and personnel between two mountains
  • Train ski patrol teams and avalanche dog teams
  • Assist other trained resort teams on days where avalanche control is not being performed