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Get lost! Heli-hiking vacations take off

Topher Donahue / CMH Summer Adventures

Hikers reach new heights while trekking on one of Canadian Mountain Holidays guided summer adventures.

Heli-hiking and heli-camping give the phrase “mountain getaway” an entirely new meaning.

Adventurous hikers and campers simply hitch a ride on a helicopter to a remote location that would otherwise take days to reach. At the top of a mountain, the helicopter drops hikers off to explore the backcountry — saving them both time and grueling mileage.

“It’s unlike anything you could do anywhere else,” said eight-time heli-hiker Anne Hipp of Atlanta, Ga.

Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), located in Banff, Alberta, offered its first heli-hiking trip in 1978.

Since then, CMH has evolved from hosting a handful of heli-hikers its first year to 1,200 participants in 2011 — a 25 percent increase over the previous season, says CMH marketing representative Jane Carswell.

But the experience isn't cheap. The price for a three-night trip is $2,565 Canadian per person, which includes meals, helicopter flights, 2 1/2 days of guided heli-hiking and accommodations.

CMH continues to tweak existing hiking programs and create new specialty trips tailored to guests’ needs, said CMH spokesperson Sarah Pearson. “We are constantly asking our guests what they enjoyed, what they would like to see us improve, and how can we make these trips even more exciting.”

Canadian helicopter charter service White River Helicopters offered its first heli-hiking trip in 1996 and over the past two years has seen a 30 percent to 50 percent increase in business, said company spokesman Andy Ramsay. He attributes the spike in popularity to the originality of the experience. “It’s the ability to actually do more adventurous things,” he said.

White River Helicopters also offers heli-camping (think helicopter ride, with an overnight stay thrown in) and heli-fishing (a helicopter ride to a remote fishing location). White River is currently advertising heli-camping offerings around the globe, specifically focusing on the European market. “We are diversifying at the moment,” said Ramsay.

A two-week heli-guided trip with White River Helicopters can exceed $10,000 per person, including any hotel stays and meals.

Longtime heli-hiker Hipp already has her trip booked with CMH for next season. “I can’t think of a better vacation if you like the outdoors,” she said.

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