Many prospective heli and snow cat skiers will have questions: how safe is powder skiing by helicopter or snowcat? How worried should one be about safety? What is the likelihood of an avalanche? These are legitimate questions. You will find that operators, while highlighting the great extent to which they go to be as safe as possible, do not brag about 100% safety records. Accidents can and do happen, but they must be put in perspective. Avalanches tend to be partnered, perhaps unfairly, with the ferocity of floods, erupting volcanoes and tsunamis.
Avalanches can, to a large degree, be forecast, but there is still an art to the process of prediction--it is not an exact science. Just as there are risks to driving your car or sailing across an ocean or heading to your local ski resort, there are risks associated with cat skiing and heliskiing.
As a first-time heli/cat skier, it is normal to be apprehensive about these risks, but as one gets used to the environment, one becomes more comfortable with it. It is the paramount role of the guide to help in this process. He/she constantly analyzes the surroundings, choosing where to take the group in order to effectively manage the exposure to this risk. As you can read in the ACMG section, all guides are, without exception, professionals who have undergone extensive periods of training and examination. They are not extreme-skiing fanatics or hardcore backcountry radicals trying to push the group's limit—they are guides. Their role is twofold: first, to keep the group safe, and second, to ensure the group has fun.
Accidents and incidents do happen on occasion, and those events are part of the learning process. We analyze those events and openly share information in order to ensure that they are not repeated. Each year thousands of man-hours are devoted to refresher courses and training all over the province.
Given the number of skiers and snowboarders guided on a daily basis in the winter by members of HeliCat Canada, the small number of incidents speaks volumes for the measures taken to keep clients safe.
Most risk avoidance, regardless of the environment, boils down to prevention and preparation. By skiing or snowboarding with a member of HeliCat Canada, one is assured that safety is the top priority and that one could not be in more experienced hands.