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Are heli-skiers heroes or villains?

To some it is the ultimate skiing experience while for others it is environmentally irresponsible, the preserve of the rich and a lazy way to access the backcountry.

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It is not a new debate and there has been an ongoing row in Switzerland over heli-skiing in recent years.

Some environmentalists want it banned and they have a degree of political support.

Now Swiss environmental groups have handed in a 15,000 signature petition to the government demanding a ban.

It is only allowed in a handful of places, 42, and it does provide a considerable source of income for the Mountain Guides.

The helicopter companies also argue that heli-skiers take up only a fracton of their flights with rescue services, commercial flights and others accounting for the vast majority.

In France and Germany it is banned, but there are some places in Italy it is possible to heli-ski.

The purists also argue that in order to access the remote alpine areas the true way to get there is walk with skins on. 

It requires a high level of fitness and takes considerably longer but many say it is a more authentic experience.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes has been looking into the issue.

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For a PlanetSKI story on walking up with skins on rather than taking a helicopter, see here.

The story also has the video below within it.

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