I’ll preface with this: I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.
On Thursday night, upwards of 600 die-hard Heli-Ski fans descended on Battery 621 to attend the blowout CMH Heli-Skiing 2012 promotional tour.
When I arrived, the Red Bull truck was projecting ski footage on the wall of Battery 621, caterers were passing out champagne, stuffed mushrooms, crispy shrimp and Canadian beers, CMH guides and staff were regaling skiers and snowboarders with tales of epic storm cycles and enormous snow pillows. Through it all, there was a taller-than-I-ever-imagined Sasquatch roaming around causing trouble and pilfering entire trays of food from the caterers.
The event began with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock taking the stage to recognize how skiing is such a core element of Colorado’s culture - and upon finishing received a huge bear hug from Sasquatch. Yup, Sasquatch hugged the Mayor of Denver! If that doesn't show you just how cool skiing is, then I don't know what does.
After the Mayor, Joel Gratz, the now famous ski-bum-turned-meteorologist and founder of the powder forecasting website, Opensnow, gave a presentation on how to predict powder events - including a humorous tutorial on El Niño, La Niña and the lesser-known, but frequently experienced, La Nada (When nobody has a clue what the weather is gonna do).
After Joel shared his secrets, CMH Revelstoke area manager and recent Colorado resident Steve Chambers took the stage and took the audience through a visual tour of the world of CMH Heli-Skiing, from the origins of the sport of Heli-Skiing, to Powder 101, to the modern high-speed powder bonanza on K2’s cutting-edge skis.
When Steve finished sharing a few secrets of his own, which I won’t give away here for those of you who are planning to attend a CMH Heli-Skiing promo, they played the latest CMH video, titled Ascension, which features Andy Mahre and Johnny Mosley pushing their considerable limits in choker CMH pow - as well as some incredible skiing and snowboarding footage that us mortals can aspire to.
Then came the event everyone was waiting for. A drawing for K2 skis and the ultimate prize - a free CMH Heli-Ski trip.
Afterwards, everyone walked out into a warm Denver evening, with visions of deep British Columbian powder dancing in their heads.
One lady walked up to me as she was leaving and said, “I moved to Colorado to ski and I’ve done it all. I’ve jumped cornices, skied sick deep pow, and all that, but what I haven't done is pillows. Are there good pillows up there?”
Are there good pillows...I think she came to the right place.
Tap into an unforgettable evening with CMH Heli-Skiing in a city near you...
Photo of CMH Cariboos Area Manager John Mellis catching some Z's by Topher Donahue. All others coutesy The Public Works.
There are a lot of Heli-Skiing options out there, from Chile to Russia, Alaska to Nevada, but not all are created equal - so how do you know what’s the right Heli-Ski trip for you?
Since Canadian Mountain Holidays invented the sport of Heli-Skiing, we’ve pretty much answered every Heli-Ski question you can imagine. To get an idea of the most important questions that any skier or snowboarder should ask before booking a Heli-Ski trip, I spoke with Becky Champion at CMH Heli-Skiing Reservations.
Becky said, “At CMH Heli-Skiing we’re transparent about these kinds of things, but maybe not everyone else is...”
She then gave me this list of questions that you should ask any Heli-Ski operator before you book:
How do you charge for vertical?
- Some operators will have lower price tags, but then you'll usually ski less vertical or get less of some other part of the Heli-Ski package.
- Others offer “unlimited vertical”, but then limit their vertical in other ways, by "calling it a day" early, etc., or else by charging a high rate that covers a full day of helicotper time no matter how much you ski.
- Flying a helicopter is so expensive that "unlimited vertical" is not the fairest way to charge. At CMH Heli-Skiing we have a base charge for a set amount of vertical, and then charge extra above the guarantee. Many other reputable operators use this system, and it has proven to be the fairest way to charge for Heli-Skiing. When conditions are great, you can opt to ski more and pay more, but if you decide to take a day off, or if flying or skiing conditions are limiting the program, you’re not paying for “unlimited vertical” when you're not skiing.
How much vertical do you end up skiing on average? A lot can be learned here. One-day Heli-Skiing is often squeezed by the safety practice, equipment setup and other things, so the best value is often a multi-day trip.
What’s included and what’s not included? For comparison, CMH Heli-Skiing includes:
- Radio for each guest
- Avalanche rescue equipment (shovel, probe, transceiver)
- Excellent food
- Comfortable lodging
- Skis and poles
- Snowboards (limited availability and style - please call to reserve)
- Transportation to and from Calgary for most trips
Am I a good enough skier?
All Heli-Skiing requires a solid intermediate-level resort ability, but some areas are better suited for first timers. Just ask and be honest with your abilities. Typically, many women tend to underestimate their abilities while many men tend to overestimate their abilities.
What kind of terrain do you ski?
Some areas, like those in Alaska, only ski above treeline and are unable to ski during storms but are famous for steep skiing in the springtime. Other areas, like CMH Heli-Skiing and other areas in BC, are most famous for deep powder skiing in both the alpine and in the trees from December through April.
What kind of equipment and clothing is needed?
CMH Heli-Skiing has comprehensive Heli-Skiing equipment suggestions online. While our equipment suggestions are optimized for deep powder Heli-Skiing, these pages contain valuable information no matter what kind of skiing you’re planning to do.
What is the cancellation policy?
Hopefully, you’ll never have to cancel a Heli-Ski trip, but impossible weather or your own schedule complications do arise, so it’s good to know what will happen if you cancel as well as what happens if your operator cancels your trip.
Becky concluded with the biggest question: What will the weather be like? And then answered with a laugh, “If we could predict the weather, we’d be charging a heck of a lot more!”
While knowing for sure what the weather will be like is impossible, there are weather and conditions tendencies within each area and Heli-Ski region during a particular time or season. Your operator should be able to give you at least an approximate idea of what kind of skiing conditions are possible in their area during a particular time of the year.
The CMH Heli-Skiing Reservations agents are a wealth of information, and with the widest range of Heli-Ski options on the planet, our agents work magic when it comes to matching skiers and snowboarders with the right Heli-Ski trip for their tastes, abilities, time and budget. Give ‘em a call at 1-(800) 661-0252.
Photo of CMH Gothics by Topher Donahue.
CMH Heli-Skiing + K2 Skis = CMH K2 Rotor Lodge
What happens when two of the coolest ski industry icons get together over a few beers in Nakusp, BC? CMH K2, that's what. CMH K2 is a revolutionary Heli-Skiing operation that accesses the deep powder stashes of British Columbia’s famed Kootenay region. With a revamped lodge aptly named the CMH K2 Rotor Lodge in Nakusp, BC, CMH K2 offers passionate skiers great skiing combined with K2's legendary mad-cap style of fun and excitement. What's more, every CMH K2 skier will get a free pair of their favourite K2's. Sign me up, you say? Read on!
Destined to join legendary names like the Bugaboos, Cariboos and Monashees as a world renowned heli-ski destination, CMH K2 will have heli-ski programs to suit any skier starting with K2 athlete hosted trips and ski testing with K2's in-house design team.
Kicking off in January, K2’s top athletes will host individual heli-ski trips, including:*
Steep Shots and Pillow Drops- Learn from the best, in the best conditions.
• Jan.3-7 with Collin Collins
• Feb. 18-23 with Andy Mahre
Athlete Ski Trips- Perfectly sized groups for optimal group dynamics and plenty of fresh lines and fun to be had by all.
• Jan.7-12 - athlete to be announced
• Jan. 12-17 with Reggie Crist and Zach Crist<
Film School- Fine tune photo and film skills while capturing the most adrenaline-filled face shots to share with jealous friends at home.
• Feb. 4-9 with Pep Fujas
Women’s Trip- Where girls can be girls and get after it.
• Jan. 21-26 with Kim Reichhelm
* Each professional skier is committed to the trips as listed, but sometimes injuries or other circumstances may prevent their appearance on the trip. Should that occur, CMH K2 will do the very best to have another prominent K2 athlete attend the trip.
CMH K2 Demo Days Are Back!
In March CMH K2 Demo Days are back. These sessions provide heli-skiers a chance to test a variety of prototype K2 powder skis. K2 designers will be there to offer demos and receive feedback that they will use to fine-tune the final product. As with all Heli-Ski trips at CMH K2, guests will earn a free pair of 2013-14 K2 skis. Demo-Days are scheduled for March 4-7, March 7-10 and March 10-13.
“Partnering with CMH presents K2 with not only with a world-class winter playground to test powder skis in the most ideal waist-deep conditions and endless terrain, but also gives our athletes and us a chance to connect with a broad range of skiers,” said K2’s Mike Gutt. “Specifically during the Demo Days, the skier’s feedback is applied to the development of the our powder and softer snow oriented skis. It’s “Serious Fun,” the guests can focus on having “fun” and K2 focuses on the “serious” side of getting consumer feedback.”
“We're so excited about expanding our relationship with K2” said CMH's Marty von Neudegg. “The real beneficiaries will be our guests who are lucky enough to experience CMH K2 for themselves. K2 will bring their leading-the-way technology, fun people and genuine love of skiing to CMH K2.”
After dreamy days of skiing endless powder throughout the 1,155 sq km heli-ski terrain offered within the Selkirk and Monashee ranges, skiers return to the CMH K2 Rotor Lodge to chill or partake in some K2-influenced fun. With easy access from Calgary, Kelowna or Spokane, the CMH K2 Rotor Lodge is perfect for passionate skiers looking for a quick heli trip with great terrain and funky, retro accommodations.
And don't be surprised if you climb into the helicopter to find a Sasquatch stole your seat.
To learn more about CMH K2 and to book, check out www.cmhski.com/k2 or call 1-800-661-0252.
As skiers and snowboarders, our obsession with snow riding usually follows a similar trajectory. We start out bumbling, tumbling and eventually learning to ride; we fall in love with the thrill and freedom of gravity-driven bliss, but at first we don’t think beyond the prepared runs inside the ski resort.
Then, at some point, we see a ski track outside the ski area boundary. We stop. We stare. We dream - of skiing perfect powder without a crowd of other skiers racing for the same snow.
Eventually we work up the nerve to give it a try. If we’re not concerned with safety or rule-breaking, some of us eventually duck a rope without any avalanche gear, training, or experience and poach some of that beguiling out-of-bounds powder. If we’re lucky, we don’t get hurt, caught, or worse. If we're smart, we talk to a ski patrol or ski guide and learn when, where (and most importantly if) there is a recommended place to try a few sidecountry turns.
A decade or so ago, enough skiers started poaching the areas outside the resort that some savvy ski areas decided to allow access in places where leaving the resort was appropriate and those resorts installed gates in where skiers could legally leave the ski area. Some gates are even equipped with sensors that detect avalanche transceivers.
In recent years, the practice of leaving the resort has become extremely popular and, like all outdoor sports that evolve from fringe to mainstream, it was christened with its own name: SIDECOUNTRY.
Not quite backcountry, but not inside the ski area either. The best sidecountry resorts have access to get out of the ski area at the top, and then access back into the ski area at the bottom so we can ride the lift again - an excellent combination. Recently, sidecountry skiing has blown wide open. Now some outdoor apparel companies like Outdoor Research have reported that sidecountry gear is their fastest growing product category.
The inevitable result of sidecountry's burgeoning popularity is that the area around some ski areas is now getting skied heavily, which has two effects:
- First, the skier compaction of the layers in the snow reduces avalanche hazard in some cases, but not always, so we are tempted into skiing without partners, avalanche equipment, or training. Often we get away with it. Sometimes we don’t.
- Second, the fresh snow gets skied quickly and the good terrain around the resorts sporting the best sidecountry access ends up almost as tracked as the in-bounds runs.
After a few rounds of sidecountry fun, we start to look further away from the ski resort, into the backcountry. For many skiers and snowboarders, the backcountry is the ultimate place to play, but there is a steep learning curve required before we can play with reasonable safety in the backcountry.
Before banking the years of experience required to be competent in the backcountry, hiring a guide is the best way to experience the wild, pristine world of backcountry skiing. If the guide comes with a helicopter, even better.
So if we can, we eventually book a heli-ski trip and get to live the snowrider’s dream: endless fresh snow, a guide, and a helicopter. We get to see snow professionals at work, making decisions about terrain, weather, and timing. We learn more about skiing in a single week than we imagined possible, but most importantly we learn that we don’t know very much about safety in the backcountry.
If we’re keen to work towards our own backcountry competence, perhaps the best heliski trip is the CMH Avalanche Skills heli-ski trip, Avi Skills 201: Backcountry, where the helicopter allows access to more terrain in a week than most skiers could cover in an entire winter of ski touring. A perfect balance of avalanche education and tons of skiing, the course is the ultimate fast-forward start towards backcounty competency.
By the end of the week of heliskiing and avalanche education, you’ll have a vastly better understanding risk assessment in the backcountry, and have earned graduate equivalent of Canadian Avalanche Association's Avalanche Skills Level One.
For many of us, we don’t want to make backcountry decisions on our own, and just the experience of heliskiing with a guide is enough. We can go back to our resort knowing that we’ve experienced the greatest skiing on earth.
Surprisingly, most of us who finally experience the world’s greatest skiing don’t become powder snobs. Instead, we find that after heli-skiing we love all kinds of skiing even more and develop a vastly greater respect for our ski areas, the sidecountry, and of course the backcountry domain of ski touring and heli-skiing.
Are you a sidecountry skier curious about the next step? Give us a call at 1 (800) 661-0252.
Photo of heliskiiing the Bugaboos, where heli-skiing began, and CMH guides sharing snowpack wisdom with CMH staff during the setup for the Nomads South private heliskiing program by Topher Donahue.
This is a guest post by Ellen Slaughter, host of CMH's Bodacious in the Bugaboos and Girl's School.
Last year a lifelong dream of mine came true. My sister, Cari, and I heli-skied together. It was mid-February when we were counting down the days until we would jump into the chopper together to rip it up in the powder.
Separated by a few thousand miles, Cari and I cherish the time we spend together. We are “soul sisters”, sharing a huge passion for the mountains. We spent summers working at Lake O’Hara Lodge and at Whistler and since then, we’ve hiked and skied together whenever possible. Number 1 on our Bucket List? Heli-Skiing!
Last winter, we did it! We made it happen. For four glorious days we checked out from our real lives and lived our dream. We arrived at the Regent Hotel in Revelstoke giddy with excitement. Over cocktails and dinner the first night we met our ski group – a “motley” and very fun crew. We became instant friends and quickly named ourselves the AWESOME PERFECT GREAT GROUP.
Over the next few days, we were “on top of the world” literally supporting one another, telling our stories and sharing the pure joy of playing outside in the powder. Our après-ski dinners were loud and raucous – thanks to some vodka lemon drops and the special bond of having pushed our limits together. When it came time to bid each other farewell, the hugs were tight and heartfelt!
Tomorrow I’ll be back in the chopper to co-host CMH's first ever POWDER 101: Girl's School. Although Cari won’t be joining me this year, she’ll be there in spirit! When I’m once again on top of the world with my new ski girlfriends, I’ll remember her huge smile and hear her whoops of joy as she took off into the powder.
For us, two girls who grew up on the Prairies loving the mountains, heli-skiing together was a trip of a lifetime. It was our time – a few days when we completely checked out from the responsibilities and demands of our regular lives. A time we will always treasure.
What about you? When will you make your dream of heli-skiing come true? If we can do it, you can do it. I encourage you to treat yourself. Bring your girlfriend, your “soul sister” and make memories I guarantee you’ll treasure forever!
CMH will offer three Women's Heli-Ski vacations for 2013: two Powder 101: Intro to Powder Skiing programs and one Signature Heli-Skiing week for those comfortable in the powder and ready to roll. Call CMH Reservations at 1.800.661.0252 to learn more.
Lounging on the beach for spring break is an institution; heli-skiing for spring break is an inspiration.
The trouble with the beach holiday is that it sounds so good from home, but then you get there and there and it's surprisingly boring. One year, during my family's quintessential beach spring break, my sister got so bored that she decided to write her boyfriend’s name on her bum with sunscreen every day. It was all well and good until the toasted skin around the name began to peel - that, and the sunburn lasted longer than the boyfriend.
Then there are the pleasures of visiting the most popular spring break destinations during one of the most popular travel times of the year. First there are the crowds, the over-the-top parties just outside your hotel window, the waiting lines at restaurants and the traffic - all compounded by your kids high expectations. You know how it goes. When you get home and you feel like you need a vacation.
Or you can take your family heliskiing and blow their expectations out of the galaxy. Everyone expects you to come back from spring break with tan lines; nobody expects you and your family to show up Monday morning after spring break with ear-to-ear grins and that far away look in your eyes that says, “I just had the best family spring break of my entire life!”
With the growing popularity of parents heliskiing with their children, CMH Heli-Skiing has designed the Next Generation heliski program to fit the ski endurance of younger skiers - and the pocketbooks of their parents.
The bottom line is that Next Generation Heli-Skiing trips are half price for the younger skiers. The trip is open to any skier but if you have someone between the ages of 12-25 who wants to join you, they get the trip for half price, and that includes half the guaranteed vertical and the entire week's world-class CMH hospitality and accomodation.
Over the next few weeks, CMH Lodges will be welcoming a number of families who have decided to skip the sandy toes and sunburned shoulders in favor of snowboards, powder skis, face shots and rosy cheeks.
And the big news: there are still a few spaces left on the in CMH Monashees March 10-17 and March 17-24 for this season, and next year as well if you’re already committed to the bikini option this time around.
This January, CMH Heli-Skiing is placing a 7-day Signature Heli-Ski trip (2013 season) up for online auction in support of ALS and our amazing friend & colleague Fred Noble.
Over 38 years ago, Fred Noble began his career with CMH Heli-Skiing as the original North American Sales Rep. He joined the CMH team solely because of his passion for the sport and his personal drive to share this amazing experience with as many friends as possible. Fred has heli-skied throughout all of CMH's areas, dug snow pits with the guides, loaded luggage into the helicopter, helped out in the kitchen, and skied amazing amounts of vertical with his friends and family. More importantly, Fred has made literally thousands of friends from around the globe and inspired even more with his tenacious view of the world and his ability to overcome any obstacle thrown his way.
On December 12, 2010, Fred was given the diagnosis of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Upon this diagnosis, he was introduced to The ALS Association Oregon and SW Washington Chapter. The chapter's amazing team of experts have come on board to offer both Fred and his family support in dealing with the myriad of issues that arise when dealing and learning to live with ALS.
Fred Noble is an important part of the colourful fabric that makes up CMH. Since his diagnosis he has embraced his life even more fully, travelling to Turkey last May and South America in August. This coming March he will be celebrating his 75th birthday with a lodge full of friends and family in the Bugaboos.
Recently, Fred has worked hard to organize a fundraising campaign with The Ski To Defeat ALS, an event taking place at Mount Hood Meadows in April, in honour of The ALS Association Oregon and SW Washington Chapter and its vital mission. CMH is pleased to support this initiative by placing a 7-day Signature trip up for online auction with all funds raised going directly to this campaign.
PLACE YOUR BID, between Jan 1 - 13, 2012 and help further the mission of fighting Lou Gehrig's Disease! All proceeds will be donated directly to The Ski to Defeat ALS in honour of Fred Noble and CMH's partnership with The ALS Association.
This trip is valued at $10,770 CAD - and can be used to book any 7-day Signature Heli-Ski space for one person during the 2013 season (subject to availability).
Auction Opens: Sunday, January 1, 2012 @ 10:00 MST
Auction Closes: Friday, January 13, 2012 @ 10:00 MST
To PLACE A BID go to http://cmh.auctionanything.com
Need help placing a bid? Just contact us at CMH and we can help. 1-800-661-0252 or email email@example.com Please be generous - all proceeds support the fight against ALS!
*Update, January 13: The auction is now closed and we are excited to announce that the winning bid was $11,000 for ALS. Thank you to all of you who bid on the space and shared word of the auction. Thanks for showing your support for Fred Noble and the Fight Against ALS.