Heliskiing is off-trail, downhill skiing that is accessed by a helicopter, not a ski lift. Heliskiing is essentially about skiing in a natural—albeit highly selected—environment without the effort or gear compromise required for hiking into these areas as in ski touring or ski mountaineering.
Most heliskiers are seeking specific, pleasurable skiing conditions that are hard to replicate in the highly manipulated terrain of ski resorts: particularly powder snow, but also long descents, natural terrain contours and features, smooth corn snow, old-growth tree glades, and steep slopes.
The presence of the guide and machine offer some protection against the risks and discomforts unavoidably associated with entering this mountainous environment, allowing skiers with little or no mountain sense to enjoy a wild environment.
The term Heli-boarding is used if the participant is snowboarding instead of skiing. For the purpose of this article, "heliskiing" also covers snowboarding in this manner.