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The New CMH Guest Radio System


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CMH invented heliskiing, and for the past 45 years we’ve been fine-tuning the system to make it work better for the guides and pilots, to make it more fun for the skiers and snowboarders, and to make it safer for everyone involved.

For the 2010/2011 season, one big change is that there will be five radios for each group of 11 skiers.  This increase will allow guides and skiers separated by trees or obstacles to communicate easily, making the guide’s job less stressful and the skier’s job more fun.   

Veteran heliskiers will be quick to realize that this change will allow each “ski buddy” team to have a radio.  While skiing in the trees, which we do extensively, we ski in teams of two so every skier has a ski buddy to help in case of a fall, losing gear, or getting stuck in a tree well.  Now, each ski buddy team can easily communicate with the guides.  This will make skiing more fun, because there will be no specific “radio team” always forced to stay at the back of the ski group. Instead, everyone will be part of a radio team.

It will be more important than ever for ski buddies to stay together, so in case of a delay the skier with the radio can quickly tell the guide what is happening.  Colani Bezzola, CMH Safety Manager, hopes the new system will encourage skiers to be more committed to their ski buddy.  In the past, a radio team of two skiers stayed at the back and radioed ahead to the guide if there was a delay.   Now the responsibility of staying together and communicating in case of a delay or the need for help will fall squarely on each “ski buddy” team. 

Over the past few years, when some groups arrived with their own radios, the guides realized that having more radios in the group improved communications dramatically.  This may seem like an obvious improvement to the system, but the increase in radios is not without issues.  Sometimes a guest will climb into the helicopter and sit on the push-to-talk button on their radio.  This effectively shuts down all communications on the primary channel, sometimes for the entire helicopter ride.  To manage this inevitable issue, the guides have a secondary frequency they can use that can only be accessed from the guide and pilot radios.  Colani explained that guides and pilots have become accustomed to quickly switching to the second frequency when the main channel gets locked open, so the benefits of adding radios to each group now outweigh the problems. 

The CMH guest radios will all be Motorolla CP200 radios programmed so two channels are operational.  As before, the two channels will be the direct channel, used to communicate in the same valley, and the repeater channel, directed through a repeater station on a high mountaintop, that can be used to communicate with the main lodge, helicopter, or guides in a different valley.   

The final carrying system for the radios is still under consideration, but skiers can expect either a small leash to clip the radio in while it rides in a jacket pocket, or a simple chest harness to hold the radio.

As with any element of the heliski system, there will be a benefit and a responsibility that goes with it.  Guests will need to be aware that when they are using the radio, the rest of the guides, guests, and pilot will be listening and waiting to make further communications. 

This means you should feel free to inform your guide if you are delayed while looking for a lost ski, but that there is no need to use the radio to tell your friends that you just got the most epic face shot of your life!

Photo of CMH Gothics by Topher Donahue

Heli-Skiing Early Booking Incentive Ends Friday!


Passionate skiers are often obsessed with being organized so they can be out the door early and first on the slopes. Booking a heli-ski vacation is no different. It takes advanced planning to ensure you secure the dates, trip type, and lodge space you really want.

We just wanted to share a friendly reminder about an important deadline coming this week.


Early Booking Incentive - May 7, 2010. This is your last chance to book your 2010/11 heli-ski space and receive the CMH Early Booking Incentive (EBI). For each day of heli-skiing you book (with deposit) you will receive a $100/day credit to be used at the lodge during your trip. Seven day heli-ski trip equals $700. Think of the fun you can have with an extra $700! Extra heli-ski footage beyond your trip guarantee; a fine bottle of wine from our well-stocked cellar; an extra massage to rejuvenate those muscles after an epic day of powder skiing; or that new Arc'teryx jacket you have been eyeing. Seven hundred dollars can go a very long way.

Remember - book early and save. And one other bonus reason for booking early - you have a full year to commit to your fitness regime that will ensure you are in prime heli-ski shape come winter.

 We look forward to seeing you next winter!


CMH Heli-Skiing rolls back 2011 prices to 2010 levels!


2011 and 2012 prices will remain UNCHANGED from 2010.

> See full details on Special Pricing Announcement


Sometimes the Crystal Ball is cloudy…
especially when it comes to pricing

Trying to make decisions about the future is tough. Even tougher when the crystal ball you’re staring into is filled with clouds and snow. The last two years have seen a huge worldwide economic transformation. Early 2008 was a very different world than what we see and know today. We set prices then for the 2010-11 season. Fuel and the cost of doing business were skyrocketing. Later that year, the worldwide economy began to come apart. We made price adjustments through the implementation of the EBI (early booking incentive) and a myriad of trip options, all in an effort to respond to the changing economic landscape.

Perfect solution? Not entirely.CMH Heli-Skiing

We asked, you told us…

The early booking credit helped take the price down but the question remained for us; what to do in the coming years?

We began asking more questions in earnest. Firstly, we wanted to thank those of you who were subjected to our many price value questions, surveys; phone calls and e mails. Our CMH world is filled with strong opinions (you know who you are.) Most importantly, and to our tremendous benefit, an overwhelming majority of our guests have the strong desire to see us be successful into the future. We have read every comment card from this season to date, thanks for taking the time to tell us what you really think.

We set a price two years ago (for the future that is today) in anticipation of where the world might be. As with any move that jumps through time, we got some things right and totally missed on some others.

Where are we going?

We’re not very good at marketing gimmicks and complicated promotions. We are pretty good at offering great skiing and riding all combined with our own unique CMH hospitality. Your many suggestions and creative ideas have helped a lot. We’ve looked at lots of different options; frankly, it all kept coming back to the simplest and most straightforward decision.

  • CMH is holding heli-skiing prices flat for the coming 2011 and 2012 seasons, maintaining the published 2010 rates. No increase, no gimmicks, no fine print.      
  • We will continue our 46 year tradition of staying out of the last minute discount game. "Price assurance" may be a new phrase in travel, it’s always been our way. Rest assured that the skier sitting next to you in the helicopter didn’t pay less than you by booking at the last minute.      
  • The Early Booking Incentive will continue for the coming season on all trips booked (with deposit) by the new date of May 7th, 2010 for the 10/11 season.
If this seems a bit too good to be true, call our Heli-Ski Experts at 1.800.661.0252 or send an email and we can walk you through all the details…We’ve always tried to be fair and transparent.

Best wishes to all of you for the coming summer season, thanks for your continued support and enthusiasm for CMH.


David Barry, CEO


The 5th Helicopter Skiing Misperception as Identified by Conan O'Brien

"Bring a shovel for when you get buried alive"

For those of you that missed it, actor Rob Lowe was on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien Thursday night (Jan 14, 2010). O'Brien asked Lowe about his love of heli-skiing and the conversation took a turn that  Lowe clearly had not intended.

In light of this, I thought I would expand upon my January 8th post on the 4 Helicopter Skiing Misperceptions and clarify a few things for Mr. O'Brien.

Rob Lowe describes heli-skiing as a sport where you wear an avalanche beeper so you can get found if you get buried and you carry a shovel so you can dig out your buddy if he gets buried. 

This, Mr. O'Brien,is true.  But it is important to put this all in perspective.  So, I asked Rob Rohn, CMH's Director of Mountain Operations about it and he said that "having tranciever, probe and shovel is similar to having an airbag in your car. You may never use it in the time you own the car, but if you do, you'll sure be glad it's there."

O'Brien goes on to mock the idea of taking a core sample of the snow to predict the stability of the surrounding terrain. Those of us who have heli-skied know how detailed and specific a science snow safety really is.  For more on CMH's Safety program, Mr. O'Brien, I urge you to check out this page and then consider the accumulated experience of our mountain guides.

If you still have questions about CMH's Snow Safety program, please call us, and not Conan O'Brien.  Our Snow Safety Manager, Colani Bezzola would be happy to answer any questions. Safety is his passion...something that he shares with all of us at CMH. You can reach Colani at 1-800-661-0252 or by e-mail

Heli-skiing mourns the passing of Ethan Compton


My favorite portrait I’ve ever taken is this one:  Ethan and Joan Compton on the eve of Ethan's 88th birthday in the CMH Bugaboos Lodge, as he intently describes the turning of a ski.  His hands angling like a pair of skis, his eyes blazing like a kid’s, his wife Joan looking over his shoulder with a look of attention and love.

With Ethan's passing on December 21st at age 92, the ski world lost one of its greatest and most unsung icons.  His generosity and enthusiasm for people and skiing inspired him to invest much of his prodigious energy and spirit into the sport. 

In 1962, Ethan founded the Herald Ski School at the small Paskapoo ski area on the outskirts of Calgary.  At the time, it cost $20 for a season pass and $2.50 for a lift ticket. Through the school, and while working as an instructor in other ski areas, he introduced thousands of children to the sport of skiing.

As owner of Calgary’s Premier Cycle and Sport, Ethan was generous with young mountaineers and skiers, and at one time helped an Austrian immigrant named Hans Gmoser with ski equipment.  Later, Ethan recommended Hans as the guide for the first endeavors to use a helicopter for ski access, and inadvertantly combined the right ingredients for the recipe of heli-skiing.   By providing Hans with skis, Ethan unknowingly became the first investor in what was soon to be Canadian Mountain Holidays and the sport that became known as heli-skiing.   

In 2005, Hans showed his gratitude to dozens of people who helped create heli-skiing and Canadian Mountain Holidays by throwing a two-week heli-ski party in the Bugaboos.  Even amongst a lodge full of legendary guides, and investors who risked money and reputation to make heli-skiing happen, Ethan received from Hans a special kind of thanks.  Each day Hans helped the guides organize his friends into groups that would have the most fun skiing together, and then left with Ethan in a small helicopter on a private heli-ski tour of the Bugaboos. I remember watching the two friends, Hans in his 70s and Ethan in his 80s, laying perfect tracks, side-by-side, down the most spectacular ski runs in the area.   

“Whose tracks are those?” somebody would ask, seeing the two sets on some big mountain face.  
“Oh, that’s Hans and Ethan.” Another skier would answer.  

One day they skied up to the lunch area after linking perhaps 150 turns down a sublime ridge cloaked in dreamy powder.  Ethan took off his skis and promptly fell right into the lunch bucket, grinning from ear to ear.   I’ll always remember Ethan for that look in his eye - whether talking about skiing at dinner or falling into a lunch bucket after skiing 150 turns with Hans Gmoser - a look of enthusiasm for life that few people seem to keep into their final chapters.   

Even in his eighties Ethan entered ski races, often winning his age group.  I interviewed Ethan during the writing of Bugaboo Dreams, a book about the invention and state of the art of heli-skiing, at his house in Calgary.  At one point, he looked out the window with a faraway look in his eyes and described his last trip to the top of Mt. Norquay, the steep ski hill just outside Banff.  He said, “I looked out at the Rockies and knew it would be my last time to stand there on top, but it was just as wonderful to be there for my last time as it had been my first time.”

 A full obituary can be seen here, and a service for Ethan will be held tomorrow, January 12, at St. Barnabas church in Calgary.    

Avalanche Flotation Devices - Keeping Things In Perspective


By Jeff Boyd, UIAGM ACMG CCFPEM ABEM, Mountain Guide, Emergency Physician.

As a mountain guide, an emergency physician and a member of the CMH Operations Team I have been working with the International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR) on an array of different projects. ICAR is the forum for rescue organizations from 56 countries, has been in the game for 61 years and incorporates 4 specialty commissions - Alpine Medicine, Avalanche Rescue, Air Rescue and Terrestrial Rescue. As the official Canadian delegate to the commission for Alpine Medicine - aka the ICAR MedCom - I work on a spectrum of research on avalanche safety, rescue and resuscitation.

In 2007 we completed and published a study examining for benefit from avalanche safety devices and found that transceivers and airbags reduced mortality in the European population analyzed.(1) The author group did, however, identify the limitation that “this study reflects the specific situation of avalanche accidents in the European Alps and should not simply be transferred to other regions, where a different set of risk factors may operate”. One of those factors would be a difference in the relative risk of mortality from asphyxia versus other causes such as trauma, as the airbag used in our study only protects against asphyxia by reducing complete burials.

Therefore, we put together a highly-qualified Canadian research team to determine, as a primary objective, the relative contributions of trauma and asphyxia to avalanche mortality in our setting. We were blessed with a very comprehensive database of avalanche details from the Canadian Avalanche Centre and I ploughed painstakingly through boxes of files at the BC Coroners Service and the Alberta Medical Examiners Office for mortality data. In the 21 years considered we found 204 fatalities, a series 4 times larger than any previous study and very robust for meaningful conclusions. We found trauma was the cause of death in 24% of fatalities but another 10% of supposed asphyxia deaths suffered lethal trauma bringing the total proportion of trauma to 34%. This is 6 times greater than the reported rate of trauma in Europe. Trauma victims hit trees in 68% of cases and single-system trauma is inflicted on the chest in 46% and the head in 42% of cases. Surprisingly, only 48% of trauma fatalities are buried while, of course, all asphyxia victims are buried.

Helicat (helicopter and snowcat) skiers and snowboarders are 7 times more likely to suffer trauma as we spend a substantial amount of time in treed terrain and the proportion of asphyxia is reduced by rapidity of rescue. Conversely, snowmobilers suffer less trauma due to their preference for open terrain.

Our study(2) was published in March 2009 and in an accompanying editorial Professor Hermann Brugger, the president of the ICAR MedCom, recommended an airbag design that protected the chest, neck and head and additionally the wearing of helmets.(3)

We presented our data to the ICAR General Assembly in Zermatt in September 2009 and received considerable interest from countries, such as Norway, where recreationists spend time skiing and boarding in the trees. Professor Brugger then presented an international overview and concluded “safety devices should aim to prevent asphyxiation, but also should be designed to avoid traumatic injuries”.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre has initiated a prospective study examining for benefit from all varieties of safety devices but this study will take some time to accrue sufficient data to make statistically significant conclusions. Our study on European data took 14 years of reporting to come to reliable findings.

The evidence to date, indirect as it is, indicates that the airbag design should incorporate protection from trauma if they are to be effective in our setting, specifically helicat skiing using treed terrain in Western Canada. Considering all this we should proceed thoughtfully in the adoption of technologies such as airbags.

In the end, no energy should be diverted from the sophisticated CMH avalanche safety program that minimizes avalanche involvement in the first place.

Have a very enjoyable heliski season!


1. Brugger H, Etter HJ, Zweifel B, et al. The impact of avalanche rescue devices on survival. Resuscitation. 2007 Dec;75(3):476-83.

2. Boyd J, Haegeli P, Abu-Laban RB, Shuster M, Butt JC. Patterns of death among avalanche fatalities: a 21-year review. CMAJ. 2009 Mar 3;180(5):507-12.

3. Brugger H. Should strategies for care of avalanche victims change? CMAJ. 2009 Mar 3;180(5):491-2.

(The full-text versions of both our study and the editorial by Professor Brugger can be found on the open-access Canadian Medical Association Journal by searching with the term “avalanche”)

Looking Forward to Heli-Ski Season


It would seem that Old Man Winter is slowly taking over the BC interior.  I’ve received photos from almost every CMH Heli-Ski area this week and it is starting to look familiar again to our skiers and boarders.  The flowers are gone.  No more green grass. Lots and lots of white space! If you are a CMH Kootenay skiier, this pic here likely looks more familiar to you now than it would have 6 weeks ago!

It also means wrapping up the maintenance projects.  Putting away the paint cans and putting the finishing touches on the long list of things to do to get the lodges ready to receive guests again.

Staff has been hired, training sessions are planned, pre-season meetings have been scheduled, the food (and wine!) has been sent up to the lodges and the shops are almost set up.

How many days until you climb into a 212?

And how many of you are looking ahead to Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding in 2011already?  Next Thursday, November 12 marks the start of our 2011 selling season.  Yes, that’s right.  For those of you after specific weeks and lodges, you need to pick up the phone at 8:30AM MST on November 12.

I asked CMH Reservations Manager, Nicole Koester if she has any tips for skiers and boarders for November 12.  Besides the obvious of have your credit card ready, as a deposit is due at the time of booking, her number one piece of advice – have more than once choice of dates to avoid disappointment.

So it’s time to start working on your Heli-Ski & Heli-Boarding Wish List for 2011. Before you do, you’ll need to download the 2011 CMH pricelist.

Welcome to the CMH Heli-Ski Blog


by Marty von Neudegg

The name says a lot about what you will find here but definitely not everything. Heli-Skiing is founded on a strong base of winter mountaineering. In our collective DNA is a passion to discuss all the aspects of winter in the mountains…not just how great the skiing was today. This is the same passion that you will find when you are sitting around a fire in the evening at any ski lodge or hut where serious mountaineers convene. CMH Heli-Skiing, GalenaThose types of discussions are driven by people of strong opinions who believe deeply in what they are saying. These discussions can be intimate, contemplative or raucous. Many times the participants will find that there are one or two true experts in the group, who know a lot about the topic at hand and the conversation will become less about hyperbole and more about everyone else finding that this is a great chance to learn something, perhaps look at issues from a different perspective and maybe even have some fun while they are at it! It is our expectation that this blog will be that virtual fireside discussion: a forum with passionate experts who are questioned by those who are hungry to know more.

Here you will find a variety of discussions on topics that matter to everyone who travels in the backcountry during the winter such as: ski-touring; mountain guiding; mountain and avalanche safety; hazard evaluation; the ethics of sport and travel in the mountains; ski tips for all levels of skiers and many other topics that are part of the wonderful tapestry of skiing and mountain life.

To learn more about CMH Heli-Skiing visit our website at, join our fanclub at or follow us on Twitter @cmhinc.

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