My neighbor told me recently that he had a friend who was a helicopter pilot, and he was thinking of getting a group of skiers together for some recreational heli-skiing that would be a lot cheaper than this professional, guided stuff.
Here in North America, mountain guiding is sometimes seen by self-proclaimed experts, like my neighbor, as an excellent resource for beginners and peak baggers, but not a service for real climbers or skiers. In many cases, people learn backcountry skiing and climbing from friends with various experience levels rather than being taught by professional guides. Inevitably, learning from friends involves a lot of trial and error, and with more people realizing the benefits of wilderness recreation more people are asking the question: Do I really need a guide?
The simple answer is no. Thousands of people ski off-piste (outside prepared ski runs) and climb mountains without ever hiring a guide. The more complex answer is that it depends how much time you can afford to put into the experience you want to have.
Let’s take a downhill skier for example. If you want to experience skiing in the legendary deep snow on the wild peaks outside of a ski resort, then doing it alone, with reasonable safety, requires several years of learning and practice. Doing this without a guide can be a reasonable undertaking if you have the time to put into the learning. Going heli-skiing on your own, however, is a really bad idea.
For a professional opinion of what this might look like, I asked Marc Piché, a long-time CMH Bugaboos guide and the author of The Bugaboos, One of the World’s Great Alpine Rock Climbing Centres. Marc is a well-rounded mountain guide trained by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and one of the few guides who splits professional time relatively equally between ski touring, heli-skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing and mountaineering.
TD: If a group of skiers, first time or experieced heli-skiers, hired a helicopter and went skiing without a guide,
what would happen?
MP: I think they would quickly realize why people hire a guide. No other means can deliver you to so much complex terrain so fast. It is one of the most demanding and rewarding forms of guiding but trying to go it alone in a new area with no experience would be a recipe for disaster. To an experienced recreational backcountry skier, heli-skiing may seem pretty simple but what they probably don’t recognize is how much experience it takes to safely manage the fast paced logistics and multiple hazards of heli-skiing in big mountains.
I told my neighbor that I would want nothing to do with an unprofessional heli-ski adventure, but that if it ever happens to let me know so I can write a story about it.
Would you go heli-skiing without a guide?
When you show up at the airport these days, just getting on the plane is an adventure. It reminds me of travel in parts of the third world where you need a pocket full of bribe money, extra time to get anywhere, the mental fortitude to patiently handle whatever you encounter - and a sense of humor.
Remember when air travel was fun?
First they ding you for your checked luggage. Ok, if we all travel lighter, the airplanes use less fuel. It also gives the marketing department at airlines like Southwest endless advantage over the other carriers: they just advertise NOT doing what the other airlines are doing. Now Southwest advertises, “Your 1st and 2nd checked bags are free only with Southwest Airlines!”
More recently, Spirit Airlines unveiled a plan to charge for carry-on bags. Anything that goes in the overhead bin will cost passengers $45, almost double the cost of a checked bag. Some items will be exempt from the rule including “umbrellas, coats, cameras, car seats, strollers, medicine, reading material and food for immediate consumption. “ I can just see the new travel luggage that looks like a Burger King go-bag but is actually a high-quality roller bag, hair driers that look like Nikon cameras, and jackets with pocket capacity for a 2-day trip.
Now Ryanair, a low-cost European carrier is taking the next step: charging passengers to use the toilet! And they are trying to convince aviation authorities to allow them to redesign the cabin with only one toilet to make room for more seats. If passed, the new ratio will be 189 seats for one toilet! In an article in Business Week, the Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary rationalizes: "The purpose of charging for the toilets is to change peoples' behaviour," he said. The company sees profit in the theory that by giving people incentive to use airport toilets before they depart, it would be able to remove two out of the three toilets on each plane, making space for six additional seats. Seats they can sell.
Who are they kidding? Changing people's bodily functions? Everyone I know already tries to avoid using the cramped cabin toilets by using the airport toilets just before boarding. I don't know of anybody who waits to get ON the plane to use the toilet. I can just see Southwest Airline’s next slogan: “Use the toilet for free!”
Do you think this family is waiting until they board to use the toilet?
The nice thing for us at CMH is that these trends in the air travel industry make our all-inclusive approach and helicopter travel seem that much more refreshing. Just show up for a CMH Heli-Ski trip and we’ll take care of the rest. Sure, we charge additional for massages and alcohol, but everything else is part of our award-winning
adventure travel package. We’re not about to start charging for the spa, nor do we charge rental fees for our fleet of powder skis and guest packs - and we certainly don't charge you for using the toilet.
Photos by Topher Donahue
I would like to start this week off with an apology. Last week the intern blog was not posted. There is however, a good reason for this lack of posting. You see, last Saturday both myself (John) and Frances were competing in the Canadian National Powder 8 competitions at Lake Louise Ski Resort.
When we signed up, we had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into. All we knew was that we could both ski and the first and second place teams were going heli skiing with CMH. We were told that there were only three teams registered so there was a very high chance of doing well. We were almost guaranteed a spot in the top three! Almost... When we showed up to the day lodge early on Saturday morning, we found out that people who are good at powder 8 competitions generally do not sign up until the last minute. We were then sitting there in the Sitzmark lodge, surrounded by people in matching uniforms and touring boots. Turns out that in the end, there were 13 teams that we would be battling with to claim the top prizes.
Now to say that we were unprepared for this event would be a massive understatement. To give you an idea of just how unprepared we were, I will give you a quick list of the top events of the day:
Frances picked me up at 7:30: I had been up and ready to go since 6:30. This was because she had emailed me after I had gone home on Friday night accepting my suggestion to leave at 7:30 rather than 6:30. I missed the memo on that one...
We arrived at check in: It took us a good 15 minutes to come up with a team name... We finally settled on L'amateur... I later realized we should have had the team name "The Inturns".
We boarded the gondola: This was the first time that we had ever been on any form of ski lift together.
We skied down to the larch chair: This was the first ever "run" that we had skied together. Yes the very first... I am starting to think that wasn't such a good plan.
We boarded the larch chair: It was at this point that Frances asked me what we do for the powder 8 competition. My answer was simple: We ski down and make 8's in the snow. I mean... how hard can it be... We then determined that Frances would lead and I would follow. We are still not sure which the easier position is.
We started hiking: At the top of the larch chair, Frances saw the purple bowl for the first time. This was the large bowl that we would be hiking up for the competition. I thought she was going to hit me for a while.
We hiked: It turns out that sitting on the computer writing blogs and updating social media all day isn't a great workout. Frances was definitely the superior hiker. To be fair though, I did have to carry her water, helmet, and food in my backpack.
We got to the top: This is when the competition actually began. Luckily we were the 12th team to go so we had some time to watch teams and mentally practice. Then we watched the first team go... Turns out that powder 8 competitions were nothing like I had thought. I did not realize you had to be synchronized with your partner... I just thought you went and made 8's in the snow. So Frances asked me what we were supposed to do again and we adjusted our game plan.
We did our first run: Just a reminder that this was the second run we had EVER done together. We started out and it went terribly for the first 4 turns. We then got in to a rhythm and the bottom part was not bad. All things considered... The top 8 teams were moving on to the next round. Which of course meant that you had to hike up the god forsaken purple bowl once again (something that we didn't really want to do)
Of course we qualified: 8th!!! We were 8th... 4 measly points from not having to hike again...
So we hiked again: This hike really sucked. The snow was like sand and it was nearly waist deep. For every step up you went down half a step. And when we got to the top they told us we had to go right away!
We did our second run: Our second run started off well, we then did some synchronized falling half way down, and continued to do some decent turns to the finish. We unfortunately had to compete head to head with the 1st place qualifying team... So clearly, we lost. We had enough points to put us in 6th, but not enough to advance to the next round. We were happy because this meant that we didn't have to hike again!
We went to the after party: The after party consisted of beer, nachos, jagermeister, and the jagerettes...and some stories that might not be safe for the internet. It was quite the party. We then returned home where I slept for 14 hours (woke up just in time to watch Canada win the gold medal game!)
It was a great event and a big thank you must go out to the Lake Louise Ski Resort for hosting as well as CMH and The Skoki Lodge for supplying the amazing prizes!
And as they say in the Olympics... We didn't lose the gold. We won 6th place!
Last month we had the pleasure of hosting snowboarding legend Tom Burt at the Monashees for a 5 day TransWorld Snowboarding Shred Session. I caught up with TransWorld's Photography Director Nick Hamilton this week to get the skinny on what went down at the lodge.
JC: Hey Nick, how did you land a cool job like Photo Director for TransWorld Snowboarding Magazine?
NH: I have been shooting for TransWorld for 15 years now. 8 years ago I took the job as Photo Editor at TransWorld and moved to California. 2 Years ago I was promoted Photography Director when TransWorld started really expanding from a print magazine (largest circulation Snowboard Magazine in the world) to a fully multi media company now making Snowboard Videos, TV Shows, Major Events, and also our huge online presence.
JC: Who was you’re hero that inspired you to ride and has your career with TransWorld enabled you to meet him/ her?
NH:I grew up on the US East Coast (Ice Coast) riding New Hampshire and Vermont. I was skiing and then switched to snowboarding but I also got interested in photography as a hobby so have always looked up to pro snowboarders and photographers alike. One of my first days working for TransWorld I went to the TransWorld Industry Conference in Alaska and ended up at the bar having a whiskey with Craig Kelly, Jake Burton, and Jon Foster (legendary snowboard photographer that worked for TransWorld), that was one of those heavy moments where I got totally blown away by my company.
JC: You have travelled the world covering snowboarding for TransWorld, how do the Shred Sessions differ from a normal magazine trips?
NH: The Shred Sessions are so much fun! They are the only time I really get to go out and ride with some everyday snowboarders. All of my other shoots are with a group of Pro’s and our only goal is travelling and shooting photos which can be pretty slow setting up shots. The Shred Trips are a blast as we are all there to have fun and get tons of powder runs in.
JC: You recently returned from CMH Monashees with Tom Burt and Shred Session I. How did it go up there?
NH: We had a great time up at the Monashees. It was the first time to that lodge for all of us so we were blown away by the place and totally had a blast. Unfortunately it snowed too much (?!) while we were there and we got grounded for 2 days but Tom kept us entertained and we even hiked some little powder runs off the road behind the lodge to get some turns in during the storm. I have heard great things about the Monashees terrain so we hope to redo the trip in March and really get some runs in. I still think Galena is the best place I have ever been for snowboarding and hear the Monashees is on par with Galena so can’t wait to get out there and ride some more.
JC: What were some of the career highlights that Tom shared with the group?
NH: We watched a couple videos from Tom. He was one of the guys that pioneered snowboarding all over Alaska so hearing about “Cordova Peak” and some of his other first descents was really cool.
JC: There’s still space left on the March 20 – 25 Shred Session II in the Monashees. Why is this an opportunity that serious riders shouldn’t miss?
NH: If you are passionate about Snowboarding and Heli boarding this is the session to come along on. Everyone in the group feels the same way. The idea is just to fill a group with Snowboarders and have a Pro to shred with and get some tips from, and a Pro Photographer along to get some shots to send home. Everyone in our group talked about a trip where they were the only Snowboarder on a Heli trip and it’s just not the same camaraderie as when you are a group of Snowboarders together sessioning the mountain and riding the terrain differently.
JC: Any hints on who your pro will be on that trip?!
NH:HAHA not sure yet. Every pro that has come has asked to come back so our options are always open. The idea is that people come on the trip for the session and not get too hung up on riding with one specific pro, especially as their plans can change last minute (that’s the nature of being a Pro these days). However, I saw Gretchen Bleiler the other day after she was announced on the US Snowboarding Team going to the Vancouver Olympics. She was our first Guest Pro the Shred Trips and wants back after the Olympics are out of the way too!
Thanks Nick, See you in March at the Monashees!
Check out Nick's photos from the January session here. To secure your spot on what promises to be a great ride with CMH & TransWorld in March, contact Maria in reservations at 1.800.661.0252 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week Canadian Mountain Holidays will release Volume III of “Moving Towards Sustainability", its regular corporate sustainability report. I sat down with Dave Butler, CMH’s Director of Sustainability to chat about a few things, including the work and stories that lead to the completion of this latest report.
JC: Dave, what exactly does it mean to be the Director of Sustainability for a Heli-Ski and Heli-Hiking company?
DB: What an amazing opportunity! In short, it means keeping both eyes firmly on the far horizon, ensuring that we can keep sharing these mountains with our guests for many years to come. On the one hand, we face many challenges as the world becomes more complex so it keeps me hopping to try to stay one step ahead of those challenges. But on the other, I’m working with a group of colleagues who all feel deeply passionate about these incredible places we share with our guests. With that as a strong foundation, I rarely see any resistance to finding new and innovative ways to take advantage of our fiscal, social and environmental opportunities.
JC: Congratulations on Volume III of Moving Towards Sustainability. This third volume represents a significant amount of work on not only your part, but of the Second Nature Committee and all the staff at CMH. Is it a relief now that it’s done or have you already got a task list started for Volume IV?
DB: For all of us who have worked on this, it’s a real pleasure to be in a position to share it with everyone connected with CMH. But it’s not unlike pausing to enjoy the view during an amazing hike, looking at where we’ve come from and where we’ve yet to go. There are many, many more steps ahead of us, which is both daunting and exciting. In our case, it’s becoming clearer to me that this incredible hike has no end-point.
JC: What do you see as the major accomplishment for CMH since releasing Vol II in 2007?
DB: There are three, Jane. The first is the amazing innovative attitude that I see on the part of many of our staff. We’ve featured many of those stories in the report. The commitment of individual employees, and groups of employees to continued improvement and personal initiative is a constant source of inspiration for me. The second is the focus we’ve put on working with, and influencing our suppliers to change their behaviours and practices for the better. To me, that’s an unanticipated and very positive result from our own efforts. And third, we’ve come out of the closet, so to speak, about how we’re dealing with energy use and climate change. It’s an issue globally, and I’m pleased that we have begun to talk openly about our efforts.
JC: Sustainability at CMH is something that we all believe in and it seems from your latest report a number of the new, successful initiatives that have made a difference have come from the team ‘on the ground’. Can you tell me one of those stories that really sticks out?
DB: The work that Rick Carswell has been doing to investigate the background of some of our suppliers is a great example, Jane. His efforts to research and understand the realities of beef and fish production, to go beyond emotion or marketing hype, is the kind of thing we should be doing more often. It also reinforces the fact that there rarely any black and white answers to complex issues, and it reinforces the value of publicly reporting on the reasons for our decisions.
JC: Climate change is a complex and emotional issue. Why has CMH decided to talk about it in this report?
DB: It’s an issue that has grabbed the public’s attention like no other that I’ve seen. I feel that it’s important for us not to wade into the debate about climate change, but instead to be clear on what it is we are doing about our use of energy. That’s what we’ve done in the report. We talk about how we measure our use of energy, and most importantly, we’re open about what it is we’re doing about that and where our challenges lie from a business perspective.
JC: What would you like readers to do after they’ve digested the report?
DB: Two things. One: I would really like feed-back from readers. Tell me what you think about what we’ve chosen to do, and how we’re doing it. Give me your suggestions for us to move forward, or let me know what questions might remain unanswered for you.
Second, I ask you to take a look at your own business or life, and give some thought to changes you might make to begin your own journey toward sustainability. I would be grateful if you would share those with me.
JC: How can our readers contact you and where can they find the full report?
DB: Feel free to leave comments right here on the blog and let's get the conversation going. Share your feedback with others. Alternatively, email me at DaveB@cmhinc.com or call me at 1.250.426.3599. To read the overview or the complete report, visit the Sustainability Report secton on our website.
What questions or comments do you have for Dave Butler and the CMH team about our commitment to Sustainability?
In the world of Helicopter Skiing there are some pretty common misperceptions:
1) Guests jump out of a hovering helicopter with their skis on and race off down near-vertical ski runs as fast as lightning.
2) Heli-Skiing is ‘Extreme Skiing” where everyone is jumping off cliffs and racing through trees.
3) Heli-Skiers are typically uber-fit male millionaires.
4) Heli-Skiing is for experts only
Like I said…Misperceptions.
In the world of heli-skiing, guests do not jump out of helicopters. Our pilots find wide ridges where there is enough space to comfortably land and unload the helicopter and no one gets out until the guide's two feet are on the ground. There’s no need to rush when the pilot drops the group off and you have the chance to enjoy the view before clicking into your bindings and heading off.
Helicopter Skiing is not extreme skiing and safety is the #1 priority at CMH. The Columbia mountains, where we ski, are vast and varied. There is an excellent selection of steep tree runs, wide open glacier skiing and everything in between. We have enough terrain to ensure that each group of skiers is skiing the kind of terrain they are comfortable in. If you want to jump off cliffs – Go For It!
Well it is true that you need to have a certain level of fitness, uber-fitness is not required. If you ski frequently you will be OK, but if you are looking for some extra pointers on how to get tuned up to get the most from your heliski vacation, visit this blog often. We’ve teamed up with Exercise Physiologist Delia Roberts to bring you some ‘Fit Tips’ to keep you skiing happily for the duration of your trip.
And no, not all heli-skers are Male. Last year at CMH over 20% of our guest were female. Over the last 45 years we have hosted hundreds of female heli-skiers so we’ve come up with a list of Q&A for Women Heli-Skiers to help you overcome any hesitation.
Millionaires? Great if you are, but you don’t have to be to ski with CMH. We offer Heli-Skiing from $1175/day and while that seems to be more than a day at Vail we suggest you read this article from G.D. Maxwell (see pages 2 & 3) that initially ran in Skipressworld.com in January of 2005.
Experts only? I asked Marty von Neudegg, who has worked here at CMH for more than 20 years, about this one and here’s what he had to say:
“If you are a strong intermediate skier you are good enough to come Heli-Skiing. By “strong intermediate” we mean that you must be good enough to handle the terrain at your home area in control in various snow conditions. You do not need to have had any powder skiing experience at all. Skiing in powder is the easy part and you do not need to worry about that! If you are reasonably fit, have a good understanding of how your skis and body work together, know how it feels to ski on various pitches and you are comfortable committing to the fall line of a ski run, ski 15-20 days a year or more, then you are most likely ready to come heli-skiing.”
Still unsure. I have two more resources for you. The First Timers section on our website will answer a few more questions for you. But if you are serious, and curious, then I suggest you call and talk to one of our Heli-Ski Experts. Our Reservations team will give you the best advice for you to make an informed decision. My guess? In the end, you’ll come heli-skiing. Because you can.
Every few years a new avalanche rescue transceiver, or beacon, becomes the new standard, and as with every generation of beacons the best one is the one that never gets used in an avalanche. To get an idea of the changes with the new equipment this year, I questioned Kevin Christakos, Assistant Manager at CMH McBride, transceiver expert for CMH guide training, member of the CMH Mountain Safety Advisory Group, and a fan of all varieties of snow toys ranging from little kids sleds to big kid sleds and whatever skis are on his feet.
TD: Are all 12 CMH lodges using new transceivers this year?
KC: Starting this winter all CMH areas will be using the Mammut Barryvox Pulse transceiver. The guides have been using it for the past two years and it was used in McBride, Valemount and Bobbie Burns last winter. During this time we have been giving feedback to manufacturer, which has then been incorporated into the development of the latest version.
TD: What are the advantages of the new generation of beacons?
KC: These new beacons are great, they are very easy to use, have a significantly larger range (you find them sooner), and they are able to separate the signals so if there is more than one signal to be found it is much easier; this is a very big change.
TD: Will they be much better for novice users or just better for guides and experienced users?
KC: The transceiver is now a small computer and is programmed differently for the two user groups. For novice users the transceiver does all the work and the user is simply giving it legs to get around. For guides more options are available so they can take control of automated functions in certain situations and wring the maximum performance from the transceiver.
TD: Any problems (like tripping the switch from search to send while searching) with the new beacons?
KC: All modern transceivers are designed in a way that the user can quickly change from searching to sending a signal in the event of another avalanche. This means the user must take precautions not to accidentally switch over to send during a rescue and confuse the other rescuers. To avoid this, when you are not actively searching the transceiver is placed back into the harness. Don't let it dangle from the retention cord this is a sure way to accidentally switch from search to send. The Pulse beacon also emits a warning signal when it is switched back to send so if it is accidentally bumped you will hear it.
TD: Other transceiver advice for heli-skiers?
KC: Transceivers are part of a rescue package that also includes radios, probes and shovels - all part of the CMH Guest Pack. It is equally important to train in the use of all of them. Interestingly, we tend to focus on beacons but the longest and most difficult phase of rescue is the shoveling. Having a plan for how you will dig someone out and training with it makes a world of difference when the clock is ticking.
There is also some great information available online. The Canadian Avalanche Centre is an excellent resource and even has an intro course you can do online for free. Mammut, the maker of the Barryvox Pulse, has a good educational and technical section of their website as well.
Every heli-skier is required to train in use the radio, shovel, probe, and transceiver before going heli-skiing with CMH. Thanks to decades of collective experience by snow scientists, mountain guides, ski patrol, other snow professionals and the CMH Snow Safety program, the vast majority of heli-skiers never use avalanche rescue equipment in an avalanche scenario, but this training is an essential time to switch out of holiday mode and pay attention to a system that is not difficult to learn and does save lives.
"Heli-assisted ski touring is really the best combination of exercise and skiing."
When CMH invented heli-skiing in the mid-60s in the remote peaks of the Bugaboos, the original idea was to extend the ski tours using the power of the helicopter. As it turned out, the helicopter was so effective for accessing downhill ski terrain that the potential for ski touring with daily helicopter support was all but forgotten for 45 years. Then, in the spring of 2009, two groups of skiers went ski touring from the comforts of the Bugaboo Lodge with a helicopter to place them on top of an idyllic ski run to begin each day. The skiers toured in a different, stunning, mountain valley every day, and dined and relaxed, were massaged and spoiled, at the Bugaboo Lodge every night. The result was such a hit that this season CMH is offering tours in the Monashees and Adamants as well as the Bugaboos with several weeks already sold out. Chantal Jennings, a skier from Maine with 35 years of skiing experience, and one of the skiers lucky enough to tour in the Bugaboos last spring, took the time to tell us about it:
TD: Have you been backcountry skiing before this year?
CJ: The only backcountry skiing we have done is out the back door of our home in Maine. We go out for only a few hours at a time. It certainly isn't rugged or mountainous, just hilly.
TD: Are you preparing any differently for your next trip to the Adamants in April?
CJ: Probably not much. We were in reasonably good physical shape to hold up to the physical exercise in April 2009. I believe we'll be as well-conditioned, if not a bit better, by April 2010.We'll take our time and definitely stay at the slow and steady pace set by the guides. Listening to the guides is all one needs. After one day on the mountains, one can be ready to handle the subsequent days. The guides are very perceptive to the needs of the skiers and share all their knowledge to make our experience the best.
TD: Do you have any tips for skiers booked this season?
CJ: Here’s what I learned:
- Wear layers.
- Have boots that will be comfortable all day.
- Bring a brimmed hat.
- Share with fellow skiers.
- Help fellow skiers.
- Take turns in different positions on the trail.
- Leave your egos at home.
TD: How did the helicopter enhance and/or detract from the experience of ski touring?
CJ: The helicopter enhanced, and certainly didn't detract from, the touring experience. The helicopter allowed us to access areas we would have never reached in a single day. We would have had to spend at least one night - or a week - on the mountain. (Not my idea of fun!) Once the helicopter dropped us off, it left, and we never saw or heard it until we were picked up at the end of the day for our return trip to the lodge. We skied areas far from those used by the heli-skiers so we didn't hear them or know what they were skiing except on the radio. We always had the best conditions, too!
TD: What was it like being in the lodge with heli-skiers while you were heli-ski touring?
CJ: Not much different from when all guests are heli-skiers. Except for Nostalgia Week where skiers interact a lot, skiers tend to stay with either their skiing group or the group of people they enjoy the company of. We were the first CMH touring group in recent history, so we stuck together even in the evenings. The heli-skiers didn't quite understand what our experiences were. A few heli-skiers did join our touring group for a day if we had an opening and they thoroughly enjoyed it - afterwards wanting to join us again.
TD: Other thoughts on heli-assisted ski touring?
CJ: It is both relaxing and exhilarating. The pace is slow, there is no mental stress, the quiet is deafening, the views fabulous with time to enjoy them, and the exercise is the best. It is perfect for those who love exploring, exercise, friends, quiet, and a slower pace. We access summits and couloirs the heli-skiers can't get to and don't have time for. There is never a deadline to catch a helicopter. The downhill runs are so appreciated. Every turn has to be a work of art since we know we have to work hard to get up the mountain again before heading down easy street. The bottom line is:
Heli-assisted ski touring is really the best combination of exercise and skiing.
There are still limited spaces available on our heli-assisted ski touring weeks in February, March and April in the Adamants and Monashees. If you are feeling lucky and creative, enter our What Inspires YOU to Ski Tour contest and you could win one of those few remaining spaces!
CMH Heli-Skiing, in partnership with Arc’teryx and Greg Hill, launches a “What Inspires You to Ski Tour” video contest. The grand prize? 7 days of Heli-Assisted Ski Touring for 2 based from CMH’s Adamant Lodge. Our friends at Arc’teryx will provide the winner with $4,500CDN worth of gear and will send uber-ski tourer, Greg Hill along for some inspiration and conversation.
I sat down with Greg and asked him a few questions about ski touring. Here’s what he had to say:
Jane: Greg, You’ve spent a lot of time in these mountains of BC, what makes it special for you?
Greg: These mountains are spectacular, especially covered in snow. An ocean of skiable summits that will challenge and reward anyone willing to venture out into them. They are virtually empty of people, and most days feel like explorations to places people may have not been before. There are few places on earth where you can really feel that emptiness, and BC happens to be one of them.
JC: How did you get interested in the sport to begin with – what or who is it that inspires YOU to ski tour?
GH: I always enjoyed exploring and was a ski racer from an early age, it simply took the right opportunity to mix the two passions and voila! As kids we would do these huge cross-country epics that were similar to ski touring except now we get deep powder turns as the reward.
I have been inspired by many different people over the years, these last few winters I have been blown away by the passion of some of my older clients. At 70+ and even 82 these people have shown me that regardless of levels of ability the backcountry is still just as amazing. If I get to be that age and enjoying it as much as they are then I have succeeded.
I am also inspired by the mountains and their limitless potential. For years they have been challenging me and rewarding me. I can look around and see that there will always be new and exciting adventures awaiting.
JC: What makes this particular ski tour so great?
GH: This will be as good as it gets. You get the best of the backcountry combined with the luxury of CMH. Take out all the grueling parts of ski touring and add in more of the amazing moments. Heli access, right to the goods, no long valley approaches or heinous creek bashes. Just up and dropped off where the skiing is epic and the rewards are everywhere. Helicopter access to remote hard-to-access areas, where the skiing is untracked all day. After every incredible day, the helicopter will pick us up and fly us directly back to the hot tub and great food. Imagine how great that week is going to be!
JC: What are you looking for in the winning video?
GH: People with passion. Great footage is a plus but more importantly - a great story.
Do you have a story to tell? We want to hear it! Put together a short video telling us What Inspires you to Ski Tour (under 2 minutes, please) and post it to YouTube. If we like the story you tell, you get to come Heli-Assisted Ski Touring at CMH's Adamant Lodge. So what are you waiting for? There's no reason not to enter!
Are you saying to yourself, “This is finally the year that I get to go Heli-Skiing”?
Getting to that point comes with a few pre-requisites: you recognize that you have the time, the ability, the fitness and the money to take a trip that possibly holds the key to all of your skiing dreams. Great! Maybe you have spoken with someone who has been Heli-Skiing or maybe you haven’t, but inevitably you want to know more. Then you find your way to the myriad of options that pop up in your on-line search. Each company has a nice web site with enticing descriptions, beautiful photos of perfect snow, and an array of offerings that could easily leave you frustrated and bewildered.
Are there a few simple questions that will help to elevate your confidence about the choice you are about to make? We think so and have come up with a few we recommend you put to those Heli-Ski companies that made the cut:
EXPERTISE & TRACK-RECORD
LEVEL OF SERVICE
- How many years have you been in business? In your history, how many skiers have you taken out skiing?
- Does your company belong to the governing body of Heli-Cat Canada?
- What is your record of safety and what processes do you undertake daily to keep your skiers safe?
- What are the qualifications of your guides? Are they certified and what does that certification mean? How many years, on average, have they worked for your company?
- Which Helicopter company do you use? How long have they been in business? How long have they flown for your company? What is their safety record?
- What is included in my trip? What are the extras I have to pay for?
- Some companies charge for extra metres above a guaranteed amount and others do not. What do you do? What is the difference?
- What types of helicopters do you use and why?
- How many skiers do you have on any given day at your area?
- What is your refund policy if the weather is bad?
- What types of ski trips does your company offer? Do you offer anything other than Heli-Skiing?
- What trip do you recommend for me at my level of skiing?
- Does your company offer custom trips and pre/post trip extension services?
- What types of accommodations and meals do you provide?
- What other amenities do you have where we will be staying?
So, do your search and then pick up the phone. We'd be honoured if CMH
made the short list. Our Reservations team is available is at 1.800.661.0252 Monday to Saturday from 8:30 to 5pm Mountain Time to answer your questions.