I went to Wanaka for a ski trip in August 2012 and had an awesome time with HMH. Due, to the rather high freezing level at the time the commercial resorts were not the best option for my skiing, so I went Heli-skiing three times with HMH.
Day 1: Local heli-skiing in the Buchannan ranges, from memory we did Black peak and Fog peak plus one other mountain top.
The day began with a phone call and a pick up time. We drove out to the staging area to meet the helicopter. The guests and guides got together and we did a helicopter and avalanche safety brief. The day works like this. One helicopter looks after three groups. Each group has about 4 or 5 guest plus one guide. The helicopter ferries each group up to the mountain top. So the first run is slow paced, which is good for a warm up run and to get the feel of the snow and enjoy the scenery. As the morning goes by the helicopter works in between the three groups. During the day we never skied the same run, but if the conditions were "sweet as" then we would work a face and then move on. Also, as the sun moves with the day often the guides would select different peaks and faces, so we always had to be choices. About half way through the day we stop somewhere up in the mountains to have lunch. The food, treats drinks and soups were tasty, practically and more than enough. Great to refuel the legs and go back for a few more runs. At the end of the day we returned to the staging area, then get dropped off at our accommodation. On this day the weather was great, sunning and with only light winds. The powder snow was about one day old.
I had selected "Heli 3" as my skill level and on this day we went down mostly blue runs and some red runs (European standard). One of the guests was not confident in the powder snow, so we did not get to go down any black runs. However, our guide Rodger was very patient and encouraging for her.
On this day we did eight runs, then our guide said that a few runs were a bit short so we got to do a 9th run for free. Overall this day was in silver (2nd place).
Day 2: I had put my name down to do the Mt. Cook tour. On this day the cloud and weather was a bit marginal in the morning. The guides took a chance and gave the go ahead for the tour. We started late to let the cloud lift and got in a Cessna 207 and flew from Wanaka to a staging area at the top of Lake Pukaki. The flight was very enjoyable, but we were down low and under the morning cloud.
From the staging area we crossed the lake and river and headed North. During the day we worked 2 powder bowls and skied from different aspects each time. We moved around with the sun to get the best snow during the day. Rodger said that this snow was about 2 days old. It had a small crush up top in the morning. The snow varied from 10 cm of dry powder to some sections of 15-20cm of champagne powder. My group were all very capable skiers/ borders and so we skied some black runs and red runs. Having 10cm of powder is so very forgiving and makes black runs so much fun and easier. On this day the weather was sunny and not a breathe of wind on the ridge line. We had spectacular view all day and view of Mt. Cook. At one drop off point we had 360 degree views, absolutely spectacular. We did 8 runs on this day. Being my second day I had run out of legs and we were running out of time, but if I had fresh legs that day I would have skied as many runs as possible.
For the return flight the cloud had burnt off and lifted and we flew over the ranges and had a spectacular scenic flight over the southern alps back to Wanaka
The day wins gold (1st place). The day was a real "bucket list" day for me. I ended up purchasing the guides film footage and will now have lifelong memories to review. You can view a 1 minute selection of the day from the HMH website. Go to the blog section and look for a video for "22nd August 2012 Mt. Cook."
For this tour I had rest day prior. We went locally and skied the North Harris ranges. I knew that this day would not top my Mt Cook day, but wanted to fit in another day before my holiday ended. The weather was marginal, lots of overcast weather, windy and poor light, so the skiing was less pleasant and more challenging with the low light. There had been now fresh snow for about 5 days. We skied an area near a valley called the "dragons tail." The snow was heavy'ish down low, but we got some great turns in up high. The top stuff was still dry and worthy of being powder snow. On this day we completed 8 runs all in one go, due to weather concerns. Then we had lunch down lower and returned to the staging area. All in all a good day, but it did not top the Mt Cook tour. I'll give this day 4th of 5th place.
With HMH you get a real feeling that they will go out of the way to find the good snow and good runs. From what I got told HMH also own their own helicopters so they are less inclined to save on flight minutes, unlike other operators. My advise is to be flexible and put your name down for as many days as possible. This is a weather and availability limited activity. You may strike it lucky or not so lucky. Best to go immediately after fresh snow. Even if Treble cone has 15 cm of fresh stuff I would still recommend doing the heli-sking first.
A special thanks to Rodger who was my guide for two out of three days. He is a great communicator and is encouraging and makes you feel safe, but aware of the environment. I can highly recommend him. I'd also like to thank the other guide Chris and the pilots Toby and Dean and one other I cannot remember his name.
I can highly recommend this activity and this operator. Enjoy!