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National Geographic’s skiing Top 10 forgot about the skiing


A recent article in National Geographic on the world’s Top 10 Ski Runs and Lodges brings to mind snow-laden luxury accommodations below mountains laced with fantastical ski lines.  We’re proud that Western Canada’s very own Whistler/Blackcomb and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler tops the list, and even closer to home, Banff/Lake Louise and the Fairmont Banff Springs (though not exactly slope-side) is number five.

Interestingly, the article, while it contains “ski runs” in the title, doesn’t mention a single ski run, nor does it include heli-ski areas.   The reader can only surmise that the writer intended “ski runs” in the most general sense, and not singular spectacular ski runs.  Which for me, as a skier, was a bit of a disappointment.  I was truly curious what the iconic National Geographic's list of the world’s top 10 ski runs would include. 

monashees heliski lodge

Photo of the CMH Monashee Lodge and behind it the kilometre-tall ski run known as Elevator - a ski lodge and ski run that many have called the best in the world.  Maybe next time National Geographic will include heli-skiing in their selection...

It's obvious why the article didn't include heli-skiing - heliskiing is so much better than resort skiing as to make comparisons seem absurd.  What can compare with the CMH tenture?  It is bigger than the rest of North America's ski areas combined!

Also, I can see why the writer chose to weight the article towards lodging rather than skiing.  It’s much harder to give both lodging and skiing equal weight in such a selection.  Even within CMH there are sometimes heated conversations, especially among the 3,921 guests who have skied over a million vertical feet with CMH, debating which is the best CMH area.  Most understand that the whole discussion is subjective, and many ski at different areas every time, but each CMH area has its committed fans who have skied millions of vertical feet exclusively at their favourite CMH area. 

So, if you asked CMH heli-skiers and snowboarders to pick their favourite ski run and lodge, which would they choose?  The skiing is great everywhere, so some pick their favourite area based partly on the view from the lodge, and pick the Bugaboos or Adamants; others choose based entirely on the volume of steep tree skiing they can shred in a week, and might vote for Galena, Kootenay, or the Monashees; still others choose based on the variety of terrain they can encounter and might pick the Cariboos, Gothics, Bobbie Burns or Revelstoke; some like the most private luxury and mountain experience and would pick the private heli-skiing areas of McBride or Valemount

Really, such a thing is utterly impossible to judge fairly.

But it’s fun to consider.    So, just for the fun of it, what is your favourite CMH ski run and lodge?


Heli-Skiing Along the Powder Highway


In every skier's imagination there is a place on earth that is seemingly crafted for their art.  Mountain range after mountain range of terrain screaming to be skied or ridden. Ski resorts in one valley, cat skiing in another and heliskiing in yet another. A place to feed your addiction winter, after winter, after winter.

Powder Highway, CMH Revelstoke by Roger LaurillaSuch a place does exist and you can find it in the interior ranges of British Columbia, Canada.  Find the town of Revelstoke, BC on a map and move your finger (or your mouse) south all the way to the US border and across to the Alberta border.  This, my friends, is the Powder Highway.

The interior of BC is like Mecca for skiers and that's why Heli-Skiing was invented right here along the Powder Highway: Mountains legendary for epic snowfall, trees perfectly spaced for skiing, air that is dense, cool and dry (a combination that makes helicopters and helicopter pilots, happy) and massive expanses of undeveloped, uninhabited land available for skiers and riders looking to rip it up.  Not completely uninhabited, the Powder Highway is sprinkled with some charasmatic ski towns populated with friendly folk who share your passion for the powder.

While the best places are often difficult to get to, the Powder Highway is not completely in nowheresville.  Major airports in Spokane, WA; Castlegar, Cranbrook, Kelowna and Kamloops, BC; Calgary, AB and others make the area easy to get to for a ski weekend, a ski week or an entire winter.

How do you like your powder?  Along the Powder Highway you have plenty of options. Over 60 of them, in fact! You will find:

-8 Alpine Ski Resorts

-9 Heli-Ski Operators (some with multiple areas like CMH Heli-Skiing)

-10 Nordic Ski Resorts

-16 Catskiing Operators

-21 Backcountry lodges that cater to ski-tourers.

Enough to keep you busy for a few winters?  Likely.

Apres-Ski?  Oh yeah, you'll find that too.  Skiers enjoying the alpine and nordic resorts and cat- and heli- operations based in-town can choose from lively bars and local pubs to ice-fishing, hotsprings, dogsledding or curling.  No, there's no shortage of things to do on a day off from skiing or in the evenings. For those choosing backcountry options for heliskiing, cat-skiing or ski touring there is a special sort of magic to be found in these lodges that is hard to replicate in town.

In the words of Anne Pigeon from Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC, one of the Alpine Resort gems of the Powder Highway "For those that are new to the area, they are blown away when they see the concentration of ski operations in the area. It clearly shows where to go for snow - or we wouldn't all be here!"

So what are you waiting for?  Take a ride on the Powder Highway this winter. 

Photo: Skiing along the Powder Highway at CMH Revelstoke by Roger Laurilla. CMH has 6 heli-ski areas along the Powder Highway: Kootenay, Nomads, Galena, Revelstoke, Bobbie Burns and CMH Bugaboos (the birthplace of Heli-Skiing).

Mountain Guide Bob Geber Retires at 77 Years Young


What would the ultimate mountain guiding career look like?  Well, CMH guide Bob Geber demonstrated one variation on the theme when he announced his retirement this spring.  It was his 44th season of guiding with CMH Heliskiing

He summed it up: "I’m mostly proud that I was the oldest heliski guide, and if I had a second life I would do it all over again.”

bob geber ski guide retires
Let’s put 44 years of heliski guiding into perspective:

  • Bob’s first winter guiding with CMH was in the Bugaboos in 1966. 
  • It was CMH’s second season of operation and the Bugaboos was the only place in the world offering commercial heliskiing. 
  • Bob was skiing on 215 cm skis for making quick turns during the powder season, and 220cm downhill skis for the corn season in the spring. 
  • The helicopter could hold 3 people – including the pilot. 
  • There were no avalanche transceivers. 
  • The terms “snow” and “science” had yet to be used in the same sentence. 
  • There were no mountain weather forecasts. 
  • There were no Run Lists to give guides a team-oriented approach to safety and decision-making. 
Also, there were no comfortable heliski lodges. Instead, the skiers stayed in plywood shacks built for a summertime sawmill camp just downriver from the site of the current Bugaboo Lodge.  Every morning the guides would go around and start a fire in each shack so the skiers could get dressed next to a warm potbelly stove.  The guides would then go to the river, chop through the ice and fill buckets with water for the day’s cooking and drinking.

I asked Bob about the changes he’s seen over those 44 years, and he was quick to reply:  “When the fat skis came out it was like a new lease on life.  Fat skis were the biggest change in the history of heliskiing.  Before fat skis, when the snow was bad, even the guides were working hard to make 10 turns before landing on our heads.  At the end of the day we were just kaput.  But we didn’t know any better.”

While fat skis may have been the highest-profile change, many incremental changes have made modern heliskiing possible - and much safer.  Bob shared a story about a helicopter crash in the days before landing flags and long-range radios.  In the early 70s, he was guiding a trip for a heliski operation south of the Bugaboos that at had a partnership with CMH.

Without landing flags for reference, the pilot misjudged the landing and crashed.  Aside from some cuts and bruises, everyone was unhurt, so they pulled their skis, lunch, and wine (in those days it was standard to bring a couple of bottles of wine for lunch) out of the helicopter and proceeded to wait for a rescue.  Without long-range radios or emergency locator beacons, there was no way to call for help, but at some point people would realize they were missing. 

The group sat around until they’d eaten all their lunch and drank all their wine, and with no rescue yet forthcoming, they decided they would escape faster if they just skied out.  The pilot had no skis, so they pulled the cowling off the helicopter where the rotor enters the fuselage, and used it like a sled. 

The system worked well for a while, with the pilot sliding down the steep sections and the skiers pulling him across the flat sections.  When the sled bogged down in soft snow on flat terrain, Bob and one of the stronger skiers each gave the pilot, who had zero skiing experience, one of their skis so he could ski on two skis.

That worked well, until the pilot started having fun and decided he wanted to ski down a hill.  Bob remembers: “He went about 50 feet, fell over, and started squealing like a pig.  We couldn’t figure out what he’d done to himself in such a sort distance and insignificant fall, but I skied up to him and he was holding his leg.  Immediately I could see he had somehow gotten a compound fracture.  The bone was obviously sticking out against his pants.”

Not long afterwards, a second helicopter found the team, but Bob’s story of the helicopter crashing, and then the pilot breaking his leg while skiing, goes down as one of the wildest days in heliski history.

At 77, Bob still plans to spend as much time as possible in his beloved mountains.  When I talked to him a few days ago at his home in Banff, he told me he had just returned from the Lake Louise ski area and he excitedly said, “It was some of the best corn snow I’ve ever skied!”

Bob considers CMH to be his second family and he’s not ready to leave completely, but it is time for him to stop ski guiding.   Bob explains his reason for retirement: “When you can’t keep up with the fast skiers anymore, it’s time to hang it up.  The most important thing now is that I keep doing the same things – but that I do it on my time.”

From the thousands of skiers you've shared the powder with, and from all of us at CMH: It's been an awesome ride - thanks for everything, Bob!

Have a Bob Geber story you'd like to share?   

Heliskiing’s Best Kept Secrets: Why Riding in the Back is Better


When a group of young or inexperienced skiers or snowboarders goes heliskiing together, everyone usually prefers to ride as close to the front as possible.  Indeed, riding just behind the guide is pretty awesome.  The guide sets a nice consistent pace, the tight sections have the most fresh snow, and the expanse of untracked snow around you is beautiful.

However, when a group of experienced skiers, snowboarders or CMH staff (that should tell you something) goes heliskiing together, everyone often jockeys to stay in the back of the group.

Why, you may ask?  That means you don’t get as many fresh tracks, right?  Hardly.  In the front you may get 110 fresh turns on a run, and in the back you might get 104 - making your last six turns before the pickup in other ski tracks.  That's hardly enough difference to fret about; besides, there are a number of reasons why many veterans prefer to ride in the back:

  1. Elbow room.  In the back of the group, the others have left a wide swath of tracks, so the remaining skiers can ski farther apart while still skiing safely, in great snow, near the other tracks.  Here’s a photo of two skiers jockeying for the number two position behind the guide at CMH Revelstoke:heliski technique distance speed powder
  2. Gettin' Jiggy.  If you’re in the back, there are more chances to have someone stop below to scope a landing for a jump or technical line.  Here’s a photo of skier spotting a snowboarder ripping a wind roll in CMH Bugaboos:skiing heliski technique snowboarding
  3. Picking a Line.  You always need to stay near the guide’s track, but after several people ski ahead, you have more freedom to play on terrain features that the first skiers missed with only a single track ahead of them for guidance.   
  4. Speed.  If you’re into riding fast, the back is way better.  (That's why the CMH staff mostly prefer to ride in the back.) You can let slower skiers go ahead for a bit, you can look ahead to see where the guide is heading far below, and then you can open the throttle without worrying about missing a traverse or getting too far from the guide’s line.
  5. Visibility.  In flat light, the other tracks give definition to the snow and allow for far easier and more agressive skiing.
  6. The Vibe.  It’s just more relaxing at the back.  That’s where the CMH staff always rides, and they laugh and smile and get as sweet of lines as anyone out there.

CMH Heliskiing uses Bell 212 helicopters for our Signature Heliskiing, accomodating groups of 11 skiers or riders, and with Bell 407 helicopters for Small Group Heliskiing, accomodating groups of five skiers or riders.  These back of the group benefits are applicable to any group size; however, if you are a weaker skier, you'll find skiing right behind the guide is the easiest position.

Best Heli-Skiing Pictures of April, 2011


Exceptional. Epic. Dreamy. Phenomenal. Stonking. Brilliant. Wow. Phat. And in the words of Dave Cochrane, "Dynoooomite."

We heard a lot of adjectives used to describe the 2010/2011 Heli-Ski season here at CMH and saw a lot of amazing ski pictures to prove it.

The season wrapped up for us here at CMH on Saturday, April 30 (which, coincidentally was the last day to take advantage of the 2011/2012 booking incentive and the phone was ringing off the hook here in Banff!) but not for lack of spectacular skiing!  Our guests in the Bugaboos last week had another typically fantastic week of spring skiing.

Here's our top 5 skiing pictures from the month of April at CMH Heli-Skiing:

1)We saw smiles like this from December to April from McBride to Kootenay and this day in early April in McBride was no different!Heli Skiing Pictures from McBride, Big Smiles all season

2) Steve Chambers and the team at CMH Revelstoke were almost speechless in early April.  This was April 8, the last day of their season and Steve said that he had never skied snow like that in April before in his life!Heli Skiing pictures from Revelstoke   I%27ve never skied snow like this in April

3) Ok, so just how epic was it?  460 cm in the Crystalline at CMH Bobbie Burns as of April 14.Heli Skiing Pictures from the Bobbie Burns, 460 cms in the Crystalline

4) Second last day of the season at CMH Bugaboos. Spring skiing anyone?

Heli Skiing Pictures from the Bugaboos, Air Time Apr 28

5)  This is what it all resulted in: Face Shots on April 28, CMH Bugaboos.Heli Skiing Pictures from the Bugaboos, Face shots to the end Apr 28

And you?  What was the highlight of your month?  Tell us here in the comments, or post a photo of it on the CMH Facebook page.

Want to see more pics of the 2011 season from CMH?  Check out CMH's online photo gallery and be sure to bookmark it for next year!

The Democracy of Heliskiing


Watching the events unfolding in Egypt recently made my own obsessions and little victories feel insignificant – but it also made me look into the nooks and crannies around me where the people’s voice is heard.  The will of the human spirit is staggering.  Even something as obscure and hedonistic as heliskiing was due to the adventurous spirit of North American skiers, not because some investor decided to create a heliski business.

helicoper vintage democracy heliskiing

While writing Bugaboo Dreams, the book that tells the story of Canadian Mountain Holidays and the invention of heliskiing, I was struck by a common thread throughout the now 46-year history of the sport: the skiers were the inspiration.

The first big change was in the early 60s, at MIT, when the first American Olympic ski racer, Brooks Dodge, approached CMH founder Hans Gmoser after a slideshow promoting Hans' ski touring business.  Brooks was enamoured with the idea of using a helicopter for a ski lift in some remote, snowy mountains like those of Western Canada.  Hans wasn’t crazy about the idea.  Being a mountain guide, the complications of taking people skiing by helicopter must have been daunting. 

But Brooks made Hans an offer he couldn’t refuse.  Brooks would bring enough skiers to pay for the helicopter to leave the ground - and if it didn’t work out Hans could keep the money.  Needless to say, it worked.

The second big change was when CMH opened the Cariboo Lodge in the early seventies.  From the short sighted perspective of modern business, it would have been more profitable to expand the Bugaboo Lodge and pack more customers into the already established area – but the people wouldn’t have been as happy.

People wanted to go heliskiing because it landed them squarely in a vast expanse of wilderness with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of untouched powder snow.  Hans knew that bringing more people into the Bugaboos would have reduced the quality of the experience for the people who mattered most – his guests.  So instead of expanding the Bugaboos he built a lodge 300-kilometres to the north in the Cariboos.

snowboarding future bobbie burnsThe third big change was in the mid-eighties when a French ski guide named Ary Dedet suggested that skiing in small, private groups would be worth the additional expense.  Again, if the decision had been made from a purely profit-based perspective, Ary would have been denied.   Why not open another full-sized lodge to bring in more people?

Instead, the decision to try Private Group Heliskiing was based on the dreamy concept of skiing, dining and living for a week with just you and a few close friends - and a helicopter at your service – in some of the most epic ski mountains and snowpack on the planet.  CMH opened Valemount and then McBride to cater to this more intimate heliskiing experience and the result remains one of the most popular CMH trips.  

More recently, CMH introduced Small Group Heliskiing for the most addicted powder fiends, Powder Intro because intermediate skiers wanted to learn to ski the legendary powder of the Columbia Mountains, Nomads because skiers asked about skiing in more than one CMH area during the same trip, and Family Trips because veteran heliskiers wanted to share the magical experience with their families.

However - just like in a country where the people want change - there are the twin limitations of safety and sustainability.  What the future of heliskiing holds is largely based on these two limitations balanced against the desires of the skiers and snowboarders who have shaped Canadian Mountain Holidays for nearly half a century.   

Considering these all-powerful limitations of safety and sustainability, what do you want heliskiing to be like in another decade?

CMH archive photo of the birth of heliskiing, Bugaboos, April 1965.  And a snowboarder ripping steep terrain in the Bobbie Burns, March 2008.

A Family Heliskiing Vacation - From a Father's Perspective


“The opportunity to be truly together as a family during a holiday without the distractions of obligations, friends, cell phones, laptops, television and play stations.” 

Family Heli-Skiing Collage It is hard to imagine a better family experience than a family heliskiing vacation; however, unless you’ve done it, it is hard to imagine what heliskiing with your family would be like in the first place.  To find out, I tracked down Matt Autterson, a skier who took his family to the Bugaboos for a CMH Family Heliskiing Vacation last season.  He shared some great insights - and great pictures from the week - and is planning to return with the whole family for more heliskiing fun this season.

topher2TD: Can you tell me a bit about your family and their skiing? 

MA: We ski with a family of eight.  The first year the children were ages 10(2), 12, 14, 16, 18.  My wife is 44 and I’m 53.  All of the children have ski racing backgrounds, were well-conditioned and ski Vail 30-40 times per year including cat skiing.

TD: What were the highlights of the trip for you and your kids? 

MA: The opportunity to be truly together as a family during a holiday without the distractions of obligations, friends, cell phones, laptops, television and play stations.  Borrowing a pine tree from the hallway, which we decorated on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas morning, skiing started an hour later to let us enjoy a relaxed Christmas morning together with just the family.

TD: What was the most surprising part for you and your kids? 

MA: How well orchestrated the entire trip was - almost choreographed. Every one of the staff made us feel like family (not in-laws!).  One of the children’s favorite memories was skiing with the chef, who wore his chef hat while skiing.

TD: How would you describe the fun factor of the trip?

MA: The entire family would rather spend Christmas with CMH than at our home in Vail.  Over the holidays in Vail, we have endless lift lines and hike for 30-60 minutes to find good snow.  The smiles on the faces of the children after every run confirmed that CMH was the right holiday decision.

TD: What does CMH do to make heliskiing work with kids? 

MA: During CMH family weeks, they provide each group with an extra guide to help out with equipment issues, falls and navigation. On many nights, dinners included the children’s favorite food - the chef would ask the kids in advance what they would like him to make for them.  The lodge has a designated person to organize after-ski activities for the kids of all ages.

TD: Do you have any advice for parents considering such a trip?  

MA: Conditioning is big.  We work out as a family for 8-12 weeks on cardio to prepare ourselves for full days of skiing.  Buy the right clothing for the children make sure they have worn their boots before the trip.  Of course, the guides offer many opportunities for tired kids (and tired parents) to return to the lodge.

TD: Were there some great moments with your kids that you’d like to share?

MA: Sitting shotgun in the helicopter on the ride back to the lodge, hockey night on the pond outside the Bugaboos Lodge, playing ping pong against the guides, meeting families from around the world – being together as a family is a remarkably rare experience and maybe one of the most important aspects of the trip with CMH


TD: Anything you’d like to add?  

MA: The staff, without exception, truly wants to be doing what they are doing – it is a passion that shows in everything they do.

A note on skiing ability: The Auttersons are all exceptional skiers.  Many families, most of who ski much less than the Auttersons, join CMH for family heliski weeks and have a great time.  If you're wondering if your family is ready for it, please call CMH Reservations to speak with a knowledgable agent who will consider your exact family situation and skiing abilities.

Wanna go heliskiing with your family? Learn more.

One Heliski Guide's Idea of a Holiday


When my fingers slipped from the crack in the rock, I flew through the air for ten stomach-lifting metres until the impossibly strong, and comfortably stretchy climbing rope caught my fall. At the other end of the rope Gery Unterasinger, the Assistant Area Manager of the CMH Bobbie Burns Lodge, looked up at me quietly.

Gery has climbed Cerro Torre, one of the most difficult mountains in the world, can lead guide heli-skiers or snowboarders for 17,000-metre day after 17,000-metre day, and is the kind of guy you want holding your rope when you’re dangling on a rock face, high above a drooling crevasse, after a long fall.


Photos, from left: Gery approaching Snowpatch Spire, Topher practicing geometry, Gery at play, and Gery at work.

We were trying to climb a route called Sendero Norte the East Face of Snowpatch Spire, a dark granite tower that looks like a 700-metre high gemstone stuck in the ice of Bugaboo Glacier. Our strategy for the day was made of one part the demands of fatherhood, one part ambition, and one part experience tempered with laziness. To climb in the Bugaboo Spires, most climbers carry heavy packs into the Kain Hut or Applebee Campground and sleep before climbing. With limited time, and with too many heavy packs in our muscle memories, Gery and I opted to avoid camping entirely and go car to car with light packs.

After my fall, we made steady progress up thin, vertical cracks to a corner so geometrically perfect it seems to defy the chaos of erosion. High on the face, we followed the wrong crack and had to rappel to get back onto the right line. Then we couldn’t find an important anchor. Happy with our day, we opted to turn around and rappel to the glacier, 400 meters below us.

Later on, over a cold beer, we talked about what makes success and failure in the mountains. We didn’t make the summit and I took a big fall, but we both felt that the day was a success. If you compare it to heli-skiing, is success in the mountains about skiing from the very top to the very bottom and climbing to the highest bit of rock? Is success in the mountains about numbers, like climbing difficulty grades or metres skied?

Or is success in the mountains about safely getting into the best snow available for as many great turns as possible? On Snowpatch, we got eight hours of the rock climber’s equivalent of over the head powder. On Snowpatch, it really didn’t seem so different from the days I’ve spent with Gery, just a few kilometres away from Snowpatch Spire, skiing powder at the Bobbie Burns. There was no do-or-die attitude, no stress, a large margin for safety, just the right amount of suffering, great turns, lots of face shots, and a little bit of crud to keep us honest.

The funny thing is that in the few weeks since the climb, we’re already talking about going back next year – such is the addiction of the mountain holiday.

What Does Climbing Have to do With Heliskiing Anyway?


D BCAD09 0680Behind the coffee machine in the CMH Gothics Lodge hang drawings of early climbers in the Alps navigating glacial crevasses and arresting falls.  Photos of climbers from 5 different decades adorn the CMH Bugaboo Lodge.  Most CMH lodges are equipped with some kind of climbing wall.  Ski guides are often overheard talking about climbing adventures.  But the two sports are so different.  So what’s up with all the climbing culture in heliskiing? 

If you look at the hard skills side of guiding, the rope techniques that are learned while climbing give skiers a powerful tool for exploring technical terrain.  And of course, if someone falls in a crevasse or gets stranded on a cliff, climbing skills become an important part of the rescue.

However, these days, the two sports have diversified so radically that many ski guides can work competently and safely without studying the climbing part of the guide certification process.  Basic rope skills are taught during ski guide courses and heliskiing is so specialized in its system, and intimate knowledge of the local mountains so important, that any guide must work for several seasons in an area before taking on the responsibilities of a lead heliski guide.  So is the climbing, hiking and mountaineering really all that important?

To become a full mountain guide, the top certification in the UIAGM, a guide must show competence as both a skier and mountaineer.  From the view through your goggles or out the window of a helicopter or gondola, this might seem unnecessary; but in the bigger mountaineering picture, skis, climbing boots, ropes, and carabiners are all just tools for exploring different parts of the same thing - the mountains. 

Exploring the mountains as a climber, hiker or mountaineer teaches guides about subtleties of the mountains that you don’t see while exploring on skis.  Mountaineers gain intimate knowledge of things the vast majority of skiers will never experience such as:

  • The way ice and snow bonds to rock in different conditions.
  • The invisible transitions from snow to ice that happen on big peaks.
  • Travelling on snow types that are rarely encountered on skis - like rime, penitentes, and glacial ice.
  • Vertical and overhanging snow formations a skier will rarely touch.
  • Rock quality and the terrain features that hide under the winter snows.
Perhaps the best answer lies in the perspective a guide gets while climbing up or skiing down mountains.  To put a really complicated thing very simply: skiing teaches guides how to look down the mountain and climbing teaches them how to look up.  For the past 45 years CMH has watched the sport change, but one thing has remained the same: the mountains are the best teachers - and the guides, climbers and skiers who explore the mountains in all seasons are the best students.

It's not only our guides who benefit from all season mountain adventures.  If you want to add to your perspective of the mountains, check out the CMH Summer Adventures.  It's more than you think...

Photo of skiing below the biggest peak in the Selkirks, Sir Sanford, in the CMH Adamants by Topher Donahue.

Skiing Between Meals


Sometimes we have guests who are unable to ski for various reasons, but who still make their annual trip to CMH.  Nobody is surprised to find the skiing incomparable and highly addictive, but why go back if you can’t ski?  The answer lies in the trifecta of the CMH Lodge Experience:  One part remote alpine hut, one part mountain expedition, and one part luxury retreat. 

The cornerstone around which this beguiling recipe is built is the CMH mealtime.  Inspired during the mid-1900s by Elisabeth “Lizzie” von Rummel’s Assiniboine Lodge methodology of intimate mealtimes after long days together in the mountains, dinner with CMH is like nothing else. For a glimpse into how the CMH staff makes their mealtime magic happen, I asked Lianne Marquis, the Hospitality Services Manager and veteran of many years in CMH lodges, epic ski trips, and big grins.

TD: Your team provides some of the most remote fine dining on the planet.  What do you tell your staff-in-training to get them ready for dinnertime at CMH?

LM: We tell the staff that dinner is just as important as the skiing and hiking programs - if not more! You never know what the mountains will bring, but one thing we know for sure, is that we can create a great dining experience every evening for our guests.

TD: Why do people eat at big tables instead of little restaurant-style tables?

LM: It's all about the family-style service that we offer.  There are always two staff who sit at the head of each table and welcome our guests to their table and dine with them for the evening – often after skiing and snowboarding together during the day.  Like a good family, all of our staff serves dinner; our guest service staff, guides, managers, maintenance, and our massage practitioners.

Guests can ask for serving requests and can even get up and help themselves to seconds if they would like.  It's a very casual setting conducive to storytelling and laughter - with fine dining cuisine.

TD: What kinds of conversations does the setting encourage?

LM: It's very common to see an entire table toasting another table after a great day in the mountains.  Glasses of wine are being raised in celebration of the day’s events.  It's all about getting to know people from all over the world, what brought them to CMH, and how they found the mountains in the first place.  But it’s much more than that.  You usually get into some great conversations about everything and anything!!!
There are so many languages being spoken around the tables, you might not understand everyone, but you sure know when someone has had an epic day.  It's pretty easy to see by their ear-to-ear grin!

TD: How much has the magical ambiance at alpine huts, what the hüttenzauber, influenced the CMH mealtime?

LM: I believe that Hans Gmoser mirrored the hut dining experience that he was used to on his own mountain adventures when he first opened the Bugaboo Lodge.  It was a far cry from the comfort of our lodges today, but it was all about the family atmosphere, enjoying each other’s company at mealtime, sharing stories and getting to know one another in such an incredible and unique setting.

Join us for mealtime at one of the 11 CMH areas and we’ll go helicopter skiing and helicopter snowboarding together during our spare time!

Snowboard and Sushi photo by Topher Donahue


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