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5 essential items to keep in your pockets while Heli-Skiing


One of the great things about CMH Heli-Skiing is that you don't have to bring much with you - CMH takes care of just about everything and the helicopter is never too far away. However, there are a few things that make a day of deep powder nirvana just that much sweeter.  I'd suggest never leaving the Lodge without these 5 things in your pocket:

heli ski tips

  1. Sunscreen: Sometimes even the snowiest mornings lead to sunny afternoons, and with the transportation capability of the helicopter it is easy to start at the Lodge, surrounded by thick clouds, thinking sunscreen will not be necessary - and then spend most of the day in the sun on the other side of the range.  A small tube of SPF 30 or higher is recommended as well as lip protection. If you don’t have any, your guide or another guest will help you out, but it’s better to have you own.
  2. Goggle wipe: To protect the anti-fog characteristics and clarity of your goggle and glasses lenses, use the cloth or soft case that came with them to wipe them clean. If they’re not badly smudged, or you are near the bottom of a run and can see well enough to ski or ride safely, don’t wipe them at all and instead use the helicopter heater vents (ask a guide or veteran CMH Heli-Ski guest where they are on the machine) and hold the goggles over the vent during one of the day’s many heli lifts.
  3. Sunglasses or goggles: If you start  the day in goggles, put your glasses in your pocket. If you start the day in glasses, put your goggles in your pocket. A soft case is nice to protect them from rubbing (and faceplants). Not only will the extra eyewear make your day nicer when the weather changes, but if you fill your goggles with snow in a wipeout, you can often save some time (and prevent the group from waiting for you while you struggle to clean your goggles in a snowstorm) by just putting on your glasses for the rest of the run and save the goggle drying project for the helicopter.
  4. Thin gloves: If you end up fiddling with your snowboard binding, your GoPro, or simply eating lunch on a cold day, having a pair of thin gloves can save you a painful case of cold hands. Also, if you accidentally let a glove get away form you on a windy ridge (and you wisely decide not to chase it over the cornice) you’ll have another pair to wear. Your guide will have an extra pair in his or her pack, but you may need to ski a little ways before he or she can get them to you.
  5. Camera: Although I’m a photographer by trade, I have the utmost respect for people who don’t want a camera to intrude upon their vacation. “I just want to have fun and not worry about pictures” is a perfectly admirable philosophy. The only problem with this approach is when the mountains deliver an exceptional moment – and there are many exceptional moments in the mountains where CMH operates. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard heli-skiers say, “Oh! I wish I had my camera!” Get a tiny point-and-shoot and stick it in your pocket. It won’t hinder your day and when the clouds part with the sun shining through a mist of rainbow-coloured ice crystals and the Canadian Rockies fading into the distance, you’ll have a way to capture the moment. Don’t carry your phone if you can help it. Phones are big, fragile and easy to drop, there is no cell coverage out there, and even inexpensive tiny cameras work really well.

Photo of skis and rotors turning simultaneously in CMH Adamants by Topher Donahue.

ShredFX: The forecast for Canadian powder


Starting this winter, Western Canada has a weather forecasting website designed specifically for skiers and snowboarders. It is called ShredFX, and it delivers snow and weather forecasts for the region’s ski areas – forecasts that take into consideration the unique weather patterns of individual ski areas and the idiosyncrasies of the mountains themselves.

We can now make a call as to where to ride if we’re looking for pow with just a quick glance at ShredFX. Even the colour legend suggests it was built from the ground up with powder hounds in mind:

  • Lots of Rain
  • Lots of Rain and Snow Mixed
  • Some Snow
  • Oodles of Snow
  • Champagne (I don’t think they’re talking about the bubbly drink.)
  • Oodles of Champagne

A partial screenshot from ShredFX looks something like this:

describe the image

Looking more closely, ShredFX gives us forecasted precipitation amounts for each of 27 different ski resorts over the next four days. Why only four days? Because mountain weather is so difficult to predict that four days is about as far in the future as a mountain weather can be forecasted. For that matter, 2 days is about as far ahead as we can expect highly accurate mountain forecasts.

Yup, I think ShredFX was designed by people who play in the snow. Indeed, it is a service provided by the Mountain Weather Services, the same resource that provides avalanche professionals (including CMH Heli-Skiing), heli and cat skiing guides, and the movie industry with subscription-based weather forecasts designed for professional users.

With a tagline of “only the gods know better” ShredFX must be pretty sure they are providing an entirely new forecasting product, and I'd agree. A CMH Ski Guide once told me that the Mountain Weather Services forecasts were the first forecasts to have any real usefulness for ski guides in Canada – and up until now these pinpoint mountain forecasts were the exclusive domain of snow professionals.

powder snow

The ShredFX forecasts are broken down the 3 main regions of western Canada - the Coast, Interior, and the Rockies. Along with the precipitation forecasts are two weather maps: a satellite view of precipitation and an atmospheric pressure map.

While the mountain weather forecasting has gotten better every year, until very recently there has been little done specifically for skiers and snowboarders aside from truly excellent avalanche forecasting services - and avalanche forecasting has a fundamentally different mission than powder forecasting. A few years ago, Joel Gratz, a meteorologist from Colorado started the Colorado Powder Forecast, combining the automated weather forecasts with location-specific climate and terrain knowledge as well as powder-centric weather pattern modeling. The snow riding community was ravenous for such a resource, and Gratz went national, changing the name to Open Snow which now has over 15 million monthly hits.

The significance of sites like ShredFX and Open Snow is enormous. What it means is that the information that was once only available to professional groups with paid subscriptions - and vast experience in intrepreting weather data - is now being made available for free to the public.

It means that recreational users of the backcountry now have one more tool in their toolbag for making decisions, but as with other decision-making tools, we can use them to make good decisions as well as bad decisions. It is for this reason that the Mountin Weather Services backcountry forecasts remain the domain of professionals and are not made public by ShredFX. There is a lot of wisdom in their explanation of why they don’t publish backcountry forecasts:

“The ShredFX, like all public and freely available forecasts, is not suited for applications where adverse weather can get you into trouble. MWS does not encourage backcountry winter travel without thorough and detailed knowledge of avalanche and weather conditions that go well beyond the information contained in the ShredFX. Professional guides certified by organizations like the ACMG, IFMGA and CAA have the knowledge to interpret weather information on a professional level and often retain services by professional meteorologists (like MWS) to keep you safe in the backcountry. Your best bet is to stick with those professionals or a ski resort.”

Here’s another way to put it: Knowing which ski area is likely to get the most snow is great for maxing out the fun, but incorrectly interpreting a forecast calling for oodles of fresh snow in one valley in the backcountry can be dangerous and not fun at all.

The bottom line is that ShredFX is obviously designed as a resource for snow riders looking to have fun. We now have more information at our fingertips that will help us enjoy the wonders of winter to the fullest. Thank you ShredFX!

Ice crystal photo by Topher Donahue.

CMH in Denver and Joel Gratz on Boulder precipitation trends


Colorado is ready to ski!

Last night, CMH rocked Denver, Colorado. (Or maybe it was the other way around.) In either case, I headed to CMH Heli-Skiing’s Take Flight show in Denver last night hardly thinking about skiing, and today that’s all I can think about.

joel gratzMaybe it was Open Snow meteorologist Joel Gratz’s presentation on long range snowfall predictions (which he prefaced by saying that long range snowfall predictions are terrible). But he dug into old records and found that after Boulder’s five wettest Septembers, the winter that followed was above average or significantly above average for Colorado Snowfall!  Even Joel was shocked at the correlation, and with Boulder just finishing its wettest September on record, Colorado skiers might want to get some fatter skis!

Perhaps my skiphoria this morning is because of Chris Davenport’s inspiring presentation showing him going deep at CMH Valemount last winter and raving about just how darn much fun it is to ski – any kind of skiing.

Both Chris and Joel are hosting trips to CMH this winter – although after last night I don’t know if there are any spaces left. Give CMH reservations a call ASAP at 1 (800) 661-0252 to snag the last spaces with these two powder legends in Canada for a Heli-Ski trip.

It could have been being surrounded by 300 of Colorado’s most inspired skiers and snowboarders, from muscular 20 year olds with their baseball caps on sideways, to fit 60 year olds in leather.

Then there was the full length Take Flight movie, which is riveting. The sequences of powder skiing and snowboarding are good enough that you can almost feel the snow crystals bouncing off your goggles; some of the best snow texture and snow experience footage I’ve ever seen. I think the faces on the crowd in this photo pretty much agree:

denver ski crowd

icelanticOr it was the irrepressible stoke of the guy who won a pair of powder skis from Icelantic in the free gear drawing.

Then there’s the cold temperatures and fresh snow falling on the peaks this morning.

Whatever the reason, I can’t stop thinking about skiing today, and my suspicions are that it’s a combination of all of the above.

Thanks CMH, Joel and Chris for the incredible show in Denver last night. Thanks to the crowd for the psyche and the generous donations to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.



Only Sasquatch seemed grumpy, but maybe that's because he didn't win the skis.

Sasquatch girls

Two wrap it up, we threw down on the rooftop of Battery 621 under the cooling Colorado skies that prefaced today's early winter storm.

red bull DJ

Wanna get stoked and Take Flight with CMH Heli-Skiing? This is just the beginning…

Join us in Washington DC at the US Navy Memorial on October 9 (RSVP here), Seattle, WA on November 5, or New York, NY on November 21.

Photos by Topher Donahue and Mike Arzt.

Take Flight with CMH Heli-Skiing


We're ready.  Are you?  That's right.  The CMH Heli-Skiing season starts in 70 days and we are all gazing longingly at skis and boards in the garage, debating new ski pants, scoping out new touring gear.  At the CMH lodges there are new runs being developed, walls getting repainted and storerooms getting stocked as we gear up for another great season of skiing and socializing with new and old friends.

This time of year also means we're hitting the road to get you stoked for the season.  Our team leaves tomorrow for our first event of the fall season in Denver, CO.  Here's where you can find us this fall, with more cities and dates to be announced:

Denver, CO     September 26    Battery 621     RSVP Here

Washington, DC  October 9      US Navy Memorial   RSVP Here

Seattle, WA    November 5       evo, in partnership with K2    RSVP TBA

New York, NY  November 21      W Hotel, in partnership with Paragon Sports  RSVP TBA

We hope to see you out there, and here's a little glimpse at the fun and excitement we'll be sharing along the way!


To add your name to the invite list for an event in your city, subscribe to our emails here.

Photo Essay: The Evolution of the Heli-Ski helicopter


“The helicopter permitted the age-old emptiness of the wilderness to remain intact, free from the commercial hardware and gingerbread that a network of lifts would have imposed upon it.”
-Hans Gmoser, from Lynn Grillmair’s Bugaboos cookbook, Gourmet in Paradise

heli-ski beauty

While we’re extremely proud to be the company that invented Heli-Skiing nearly 50 years ago, we realize the concept was obvious, and that if we hadn’t been the first, someone else would have done it. Let's see - use a helicopter to get to the top of the mountain, then ride down in blower powder - no brainer.

The execution however, turned out to be a bit more complicated, and that’s where being the oldest company in Heli-Skiing has its advantages. The helicopter technology and our understanding of mountain safety developed in parallel, as well as our relationship with our sister company, Alpine Helicopters.

Today, helicopter technology for Heli-Skiing is on a happy plateau. The machines are extremely reliable and their power and payload are perfectly suited for mountain flying at the moderate altitudes of CMH Heli-Skiing. But it wasn’t always that way. Here’s the evolution of the heli-ski machine in image:

Bell 47 G3B-1: The first Heli-Ski helicopter. Flown by Jim Davies, the original Heli-Ski pilot, the B-1 held two passengers, was underpowered, and hard to start, but it got Heli-Skiing off the ground:

Bugs 1965 B 1 high landing
Alouette II: Although slightly bigger and more powerful than the B-1, the Alouette II didn’t last long in Heli-Ski service before larger helicopters became available:
Bugs 1967 Alouette 11 Jim Davies, Bill Allway

Alouette III: The Alouette III was well-tested in the Alps as a rescue and service helicopter, and with a 6-passenger payload it allowed a full group of skiers to be transported to the top in just two flights. Up until this point, skiers carried their skis over their shoulders like you see in resorts. Then someone shoved their skis through the rotors of an Alouette III, shutting down the “ski lift” until repairs could be made. That’s why Heli-Skiers now carry their skis below waist level:

alouette III
Bell 204: One day the Alouette III was in the shop for maintenance, and a Bell 204 was brought out as a temporary replacement. Jim Davies remembers that when he flew the 204 the performance was so superior to the Alouette III that he told the helicopter company, “You’ll have to leave that (Bell 204) right here.”:
bell 204
Bell 212: In 1970, just in time for the opening of CMH Cariboos, the Bell 212 entered the picture. Hans Gmoser, the founder of CMH, called the twin engine machine the single biggest factor in the success of Heli-Skiing. “It was the helicopter capacity. Once we had the 212 we had a business that could really work." Here's to the Bell 212:
DSC 0550
Bell 407: The 407 is the race car of Heli-Ski helicopters. It was certified by Transport Canada in 1996 and has become a staple of small-group heli-skiing, holding 5 guests, the guide and the pilot:

bell 407 heliskiing

Bell 206: The 206, also called the Long Ranger, is our support machine. With excellent fuel efficiency, we use the 206 alongside the 212 to make our Heli-Ski program more economical during those flights (such as when a tired skier needs to return to the lodge) when the payload of the 212 is not necessary:
bell 206

10 expert tips for warm hands while skiing and snowboarding


Snowboarders have all the advantage on this one. Since they only have one tool to deal with – instead of four – it’s a lot easier to keep the hands warm.  But regardless of how many boards you ride, these 10 suggestions will help you enjoy the coldest winter days.

keeping your hands warm


  1. Consider mittens instead of gloves. Mittens are warmer and you don’t really need the added dexterity of gloves unless you’re shooting photos.
  2. Don’t hold onto your board for too long with either hand while walking to the lift or boot packing for some freshies. The cold board and the pressure on your hands both contribute to your hands losing heat.
  3. Don’t let snow get inside your gloves. It takes just a moment of inattention to get a pile of snow inside your gloves – and all night to dry them out before they’ll be warm again.
  4. Make sure you can put your board on without taking your gloves off. Practice everything with your gloves on, even when it’s warm, so that when it’s cold you already know what to do.
  5. Practice keeping your hands warm from the moment you put down the coffee cup. When you’re cleaning the snow off your car, getting your gear out of the shed, and even driving the car before the heater gets going – keep your fingers warm! Use a beater pair of gloves and keep your best ones dry for riding, but protect your fingers long before you get on the hill. You can quite often track your cold fingers back to a hurried mistake in the morning before you even got to the first run.
 warm hands snowboarding


  1. Practice skiing without wrist straps. The straps restrict blood flow to your hands. Savvy backcountry skiers and Heli-Skiers don’t use them anyway because of the risk of catching a tree and injuring a shoulder, or even worse, in case of an avalanche or falling in a tree well your wrist straps will pin your arms down. (In fact, for safety reasons, CMH Heli-Skiing removes all wrist straps from their fleet of poles, and strongly suggests guests who bring their own not to use straps.)
  2. Let go of your poles every chance you get. Wrapping your fingers around your pole handles both limits the circulation to your fingers and conducts cold from the pole into your hands. When you’re standing in the lift line, waiting on the slope for your friend, or even sitting on the lift, position your poles so you can let go of them (tucking them under a leg on the lift works well) and ball your hands into a fist inside your gloves.
  3. Practice everything you do without taking your gloves off. Putting on your goggles, cleaning the ice off your bindings and boots, adjusting your buckles, putting things in your pockets, turning on your GoPro and even lighting a smoke (if you smoke you’re going to get cold hands even easier since nicotine is a vasoconstrictor.) 
  4. Dry your gloves every chance you get. Be it in the helicopter, snowcat, gondola or in the lodge.  Even if they’re still dry on the inside, go through the motions of drying them out. Experienced Heli-Skiers will carry a pair of thin liner gloves to wear during lunch, and stick their ski gloves inside their jacket while eating and drinking. Getting hot tea or soup on (or in) your gloves feels good at first – but later, not so much.
  5. Most importantly, don’t let you hands get cold in the first place. Once they’re cold, the most expensive gloves in the world will have a hard time making your hands warm again.  Practice keeping your hands warm all the time. Once it becomes second nature to move your fingers to improve circulation, keep them dry, keep your jacket sealed over your gloves, and be vigilant to your hands at all times, you’ll be amazed how you can keep your hands warm even in the coldest conditions.
Photos of warm hands and big smiles in the mega-deep powder of CMH Heli-Skiing at CMH Gothics and CMH Galena by Topher Donahue.

CMH Heli-Skiing’s Colorado Winter Kickoff in 2 weeks!


powderIt was such a blow out last year, that we’re doing it again!

On September 26, 2013 at 7:00 PM, CMH Heli-Skiing and the Colorado ski community will descend on Battery 621 in Denver for the Colorado WINTER KICK-OFF!

Besides all you Front Range powder hounds to fuel the stoke, a few famous cold smoke personalities will be there to lead the charge. CMH Ski Guides will be hanging out in the CMH Guide Zone, answering questions (and generally making us all wish we lived in Revelstoke).

Guest speakers include:
The always informative and entertaining Joel Gratz. Joel is the Colorado meteorologist who seems to have cracked the code to reveal weather forecasts that really work for snow riders. Last I heard he was trying to figure out what La Nada  (when there is no La Niña or El Niño) means for both Colorado and British Columbia snowfall.

The legend himself - Chris Davenport. Chris really needs no introduction to most of us, but in case you’ve been living in the Sahara for the last 15 years, Chris is a two-time world champion who also skied all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains in 12 months.  Skiing one of them is a worthy achievement, but a little known fact of Chris’ blitz of the 14ers is that he didn’t just ski them all, he also did several first descents in the process and often chose more difficult lines than the traditional ski routes off the peaks.

Besides just getting fired up for winter, winning door prizes, and a chance to sign up for a heli-trip with Chris Davenport, we will also get a chance to view the new CMH visual treat, Take Flight.

A donation of $5, with proceeds going to the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) will be accepted at the door.

Battery 621
621 Kalamath Street
Denver, Colorado 80204

Thursday, September 26, 2013
7:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Mountain Time

Here’s the official Online registration for this event. RSVP by Monday, September 23. See you there!

10 tactics for ski area powder days


Everyone has a strategy for getting the most out of a powder day at a ski resort. Here are 10 time-tested tactics, ranging from the aggro to the zen:

ski area powder tactics

1. First Chair: It takes a special kind of skier to get to the lift half an hour or more before the lifts open, and stand there stomping like an excited race horse trying to stay warm, in order to be the first skier on the lift.  While there is immense prestige with being on the first lift, it has little bearing on how many freshies you’re going to get – to have the most fun on a powder day you need to study the following strategies no matter what chair you’re on.

#2. Local discount: Hooking up with a local is by far the best way to harvest the most pow. They know which runs tend to get skied first, where the secret lines are hiding, and how to beat the crowds. If you don’t know a local, listen carefully in the lift line. The locals are usually either talking loudly about their run selection strategy, or not saying anything at all.  Then follow the one who’s not saying anything – they probably know best.

#3. Sloppy seconds: One of the best-kept secrets of the ski area powder day is that sloppy seconds are some of the best turns on the mountain. I’m not talking about skiing across somebody’s tracks; I’m talking about that point when the deep piles have been knocked down, creating a consistent surface that rides like carving the surface of a lemon meringue pie. Sure, the first lap or two in truly untouched snow is great, but after that, I’d rather have sloppy seconds on a sweet line than root around the flats for another turn or two in the fresh.

#4. All too obvious: If you can’t hook with a local, or find one to follow (or can’t keep up with the local you tried to follow), don’t ski the obvious runs. Everyone else will be there too. Instead, look for those obscure lines that require a traverse to reach, runs where you have to take your skis off and boot pack to reach, those black diamond runs hidden in the middle of mostly blue terrain. Watch for places where a number of tracks traverse off the side of the main runs – those tracks are probably from locals gettin’ the goods (Remember, though, you may get more than you bargained for by following those tracks!).

#5. Tree team: There’s always that guy or girl who jumps into the thickest trees on the very first run while even the main open runs are still untracked. To each their own, I suppose, but most of the tree team will hit the trees after the main lines are skied out. Poking around in the trees is a great way to find freshies long after the rest of the ski area is fully hammered, but it’s also a way to get suckered into lousy fall lines and slots where less skilled skiers and snowboarders have side-slipped through, removing the fluff. Explore the trees on a bluebird day so you know where to find the goods when the flakes are flying.

#6. Hey diddle diddle, straight down the middle: With the invention of the fat ski, anyone who’s an intermediate level skier can ride powder. This is great, but it means there are a lot more powder hounds on the hill than there used to be. I almost don’t want to tell you this one, since it makes me giggle every time I score on this, but quite often everyone thinks the middle of runs have already been skied, so they ski the edges, leaving large swaths of untouched snow right down the middle.

#7. IBOB - In Bounds Out of Bounds: While you may find some fresh snow here, this method will get you busted. Most ski areas have roped off areas within the ski area boundaries. On powder days, there are always a few people who decide it is worth getting their passes taken, or getting injured, so they duck the rope. Think about it: losing your lift ticket or season pass over a single run is more expensive than Heli-Skiing.

#8. Sidecountry/Slackcountry: Progressive ski areas with good backcountry terrain accessible nearby have installed gates where riders can leave the ski area legally. This is a fantastic evolution of our sport, but it also means skiers who leave the area need to realize they are entering the wilderness. The ski patrol does not usually do avalanche control or patrol outside the ski area (unless the slopes threaten the resort or roads) so you’re on your own. Avalanche and terrain assessment are essential, and remember that just having avalanche rescue gear does not mean you are safe.

#9. Patrol Beers:  The whole mountain doesn’t always open immediately after a dump, but instead runs open in stages as the ski patrol determines it is safe to do so. In areas with the most rowdy terrain, the day after the powder day often results in the best skiing when the whole mountain is finally opened. It might be a good investment to take a six-pack to the patrol office, tell them you're new to the area, and ask nicely how they tend to open terrain after a storm. This can be more effective than jonesing in line for the first chair only to miss the main event when they open the backside hours later.

#10. Last Chair Larsen: This is the ultimate zen approach to the powder day. Named for a legendary ski bum, Last Chair Larsen would show up on a powder day for his first run – and catch the last chair; not just once but nearly every time it snowed.  While many dozens of riders vie for the first chair, Last Chair Larsen was in a league of his own. At first, I thought he was missing the whole point of the powder day, but he seemed to be having at least as much fun as anyone else on the mountain – maybe it was those of us stressing out for fresh tracks who were missing the point…

the best heliskiing

PS. Go Heli-Skiing: If powder is your thing, take a lesson from Last Chair Larsen. Mellow out at the ski area and have fun no matter what time you arrive - then do whatever it takes to go Heli-Skiing. In an average week of Heli-Skiing with CMH you’ll rip more powder than a decade at a ski resort – and even though Heli-Skiing is expensive, from a dollar-per-powder-turn perspective it is the best deal going.

Any of you powder gurus have any other tactics you'd like to share? C'mon, we'd never use your own tactics to poach your line...

Photos of Man versus Machine at Alpental, Washington, and Man loving Machine at CMH Galena by Topher Donahue.

7 favourite CMH snowriding backdrops


When I think of Heli-Skiing with CMH, the first thing that comes to mind is pow snorkeling through old growth forests with fluffy snow rushing past every inch of my body.

The second thing I think of is the common psyche of hanging out in ski paradise with a group of people who would rather be nowhere else on earth.

The third things I think of are the backdrops against which we ride. It is easy to get distracted by the first two, but here are a few photos to remind you of the spectacular arena where CMH Heli-Skiing takes place:

1. The Duncan River Valley, Bobbie Burns. The Duncan divides the Purcells from the Selkirks, and is one of the wildest valleys in North America. No roads, no trails except those made by moose and bears, and in the winter it creates a wilderness ski experience that must be experienced to be believed.

bobbie burns duncan

2. The Howser Towers, Bugaboos. Ok, I’m partial to the Howser Towers, having done the first free ascent of the North Howser Tower’s West Face (On the left side as seen in this photo) but even those who have no interest in climbing vertical rock find a day of skiing around the Howser Tower to be about as beautiful as snow riding can get.

bugaboos howser

3. Cariboos Glaciers. The Cariboos hold the biggest collection of glaciers left in the Columbia Mountains. It seems that nearly every run in the Cariboos, even the steep tree runs, have patterns of glacial ice forming an artistic backdrop.

cariboos glaciers

4. Gothics Clouds. Perhaps it is the Gothics location at the junction of several immense mountain valleys in the Northern Selkirks and the Monashees that holds the clouds so well, but for some reason a classic day in the Gothics involves skiing the alpine above the clouds in the morning, then dropping into the steeper trees as the clouds burn off in the afternoon. 

gothics clouds

5. Monashees Trees: Just saying the words, “Monashees Trees” gives me a little shot of adrenaline. The Monashees has incredible peaks to look at as well, but this is the usual backdrop to a day of steep and deep in the Monashees – if you take the time to emerge from the countless face shots for long enough to take a look around.

monashees trees

6. Revelstoke Peaks: With it’s location in the epicentre of powder skiing, the mountains around Revelstoke create a spectacular canvas against which to ride. Revelstoke Mountain Resort is one of the world’s most impressive ski resorts, but it is possible to ski the backcountry around Revelstoke and never even see RMR because the rest of the terrain is so vast and rugged.

revelstoke peaks

7. Adamants Cathedrals: In spending a good part of my life wandering the world's crags, summits and spires, I don't think I've ever seen a more impressive display of nature's architecture than the namesake peaks of the Adamants. Skiing below them is an unforgettable experience.

adamants spires

Photos by Topher Donahue.

5 top ski and snowboard training websites


The season’s first snows have dusted the summits of the Rockies. Summer activities are losing their appeal. Days are growing shorter at a rapid rate. We all know what that means. For some of us, it also means it is time to wonder what we can do to get in shape for winter.

ski and snowboard fitness

Perhaps you’re the kind of snowrider who likes to just get out there and let fitness come as the winter goes, but if your planning a dream snowriding trip this winter, or you want to take your game to the next level, a bit of focused work in the preseason will go far in both improving your abilities and preventing injury. Even a simple approach like “I’m going to ride my bike a couple days a week” is better than nothing, but if you want to feel dramatic improvement, check out these websites and consider a more systematic approach.

To pick these sites, I looked for places with a little different approach to ski and snowboard fitness rather than just another training program. Here are my top 5:

  1. National Ski Patrol: The National Ski Patrol is an organization that represents one of the hardest working groups in the world of skiing. Their preconditioning page on their website shares the wisdom of Dave Merriam, the head coach of the PSIA and the AASI demonstration teams. Here’s a glimpse into his understanding of snowsport fitness:  "In most snowsports, it's important to build a strong base of aerobic fitness, because that's what's going to allow you to be on the hill longer and reduce your chance of injury due to fatigue. At the same time, skiing and snowboarding are anaerobic activities, which means that they require short, intense bursts of energy interspersed with rest periods."
  2. Bodybuilding: At CMH Heli-Skiing, we tend to think of snowboarding and skiing as two equally wonderful ways to do the same thing – rip deep powder on spectacular mountains – but the specific demands of snowboarding are very different than skiing.  This article gives specific exercises as well as a potential training schedule to ride your best this winter.
  3. Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle: There may be no group of professionals who have a more intimate perspective on skiing injuries than orthopedic surgeons. This website caught my eye, not so much because of their specific training suggestions for preventing injury, but because of their overall way of presenting both training and injury prevention. They give a smorgasbord of potential activities for you to choose from, and a suggested a conditioning program to go with your activity of choice.
  4. Adventure Sports Online: If you’re like me, the thought of following a specific training program is about as appealing as going on a raw food diet. To each their own, and for some a training program is the ticket to both health and inspiration. Of all the websites I’ve seen that were most in line with my approach to fitness, this one is prefaced with, “Perceptions of preseason conditioning stem from Hollywood's depiction of Rocky's training regime.” And goes on to say how “What we all really want to know is how can we get back into skiing shape with as little trouble as possible.” This article by Chris Fellows is both highly entertaining (this is important) and also suggests enrollment in the North American Ski Training Center program for skiers and snowboarders who want to receive professional coaching and training without being a professional athlete.
  5. Ski and Snowboard Inspiration: Lastly, my favourite website for snowriding fitness training is this one. Why? Because the inspiration to stay healthy and chase your skiing and snowboarding dreams is the most important training element of all.

Photo of a group of Heli-Skiers about to put their pre-season training to the test at CMH Cariboos by Topher Donahue.

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