“Quality.” Replied Joe Flannery, the new President of CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures, when I asked him what CMH is all about. “Quality of snow. Quality of experience. Quality of guides and staff. Quality of helicopters. Quality of lodges. Quality of the alpine ethic.”
Last month I had breakfast with Joe in Denver, Colorado where he was attending the SIA trade show. I was thinking he might give me a laundry list of the changes he was planning with CMH, but before the waiter even poured coffee, Joe made it clear that his role was not to make a laundry list of changes, but rather to get educated about the complex workings and then to ensure the future vitality of one of the world’s most established and respected mountain tourism companies.
He did explain that there were some things he saw no need to change, including CMH operations in the field. “The product doesn’t need to be reinvigorated,” he explained. “The product is the best in the world.”
And Joe knows something about quality. In the three years after he finished undergraduate studies at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, he went from a financial analyst, to a startup employee, to a product director for Nike. He then spent a decade working for Adidas in Bavaria, the mountainous region in southern Germany, where he headed Adidas’ billion-dollar sports heritage division. After returning to the United States, Joe landed a job as the Global VP of The North Face, and helped the company to grow 300% during his tenure.
During his free time in Europe, the United States, and now Canada, Joe picked up a wide range of outdoor sports including skiing, snowboarding, surfing, rock climbing, mountaineering and cycling. As he puts it, humbly: “I’m a participant in all. Expert in none.”
To lead CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures, Joe moved his wife and six-month-old child from San Francisco, California to Banff, Alberta, to be close to the heart and soul of CMH. “There is so much energy in this company,” he said, explaining his reason for immigrating to take the job, “it doesn’t make sense to be the leader and not be there.”
After a second cup of coffee, he shared a simple three-part plan for, as he put it, “making sure CMH is as successful in the future as it has been in the past.” First, learn as much as possible about the legacy, the present state, and the future potential of CMH; second, dial in the CMH business model to a contemporary, nimble form to match the company’s strong legacy as it moves into the future; and finally, bring greater awareness to the world’s greatest skiing. Joe explained, “We have such a diverse range of guests that we need to customize our voice so it is right for all of them.”
He shared an example of his own learning about the current state of CMH: At the SIA trade show he chatted with Chris Davenport, the visionary skier who has won extreme skiing competitions and skied all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in a single year. Chris joined CMH Heli-Skiing for a week earlier this season and explained to Joe that before the trip he didn’t think skiing with CMH was his kind of thing. Chris went on to explain that the experience had exceeded even his expectations: “I was blown away. It was one of the best skiing experiences I’ve ever had in my life!”
“Even a skier as well-traveled as Chris Davenport didn’t realize what CMH was really all about,” explained Joe, “that means we need to tailor our message a bit better.”
By the time we finished breakfast, I had the strong sense of Joe Flannery’s ultimate goal as President of CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures – to tell the world what CMH is really all about.
Joe concluded with a big smile: “It’s going to be a lot of fun!”
Photo: Joe Flannery (on the right) with CMH General Manager, Rob Rohn, checking out the dreamy ski conditions of this season at CMH Galena. Photo by Mike Welch.
Last week, I posted a collection of recent photos showing just how exceptional the skiing conditions are around Revelstoke.
Then that night it snowed...
...50cm of low density champagne fluff on top of deep, soft powder.
Steve Chambers, the Manager of CMH Revelstoke, posted a comment to the article with a link to a video his team shot last Friday, a day they’re calling Big Friday. The combination of inspired powder skiers, creative camera work, and dreamy snow make "Big Friday" about the most fun two minutes of powder skiing I’ve ever seen:
Big Friday from Global Powder Guides on Vimeo.
Peter "PA" Arbic, guiding at CMH Galena, added this comment to last week's post after coming in for the day on Friday: "...and today was even better...we had to turn the amp up to 11" That's saying something; PA has spent decades dancing with snowflakes in the Canadian Rockies.
Today I talked to a writer in British Columbia who brought up this question: “Is it the best skiing ever?”
The best skiing ever? Them're fightin' words in some bars, and anywhere it's the kind of question that is hard to answer with certainty about something as ephemeral as powder skiing. Regardless of what truly defines the best, the fact that those are the kinds of questions being thrown around speaks volumes to the kind of snow riding going down in Revelstoke this winter.
Here’s what two veteran CMH Heli-Skiing guests had to say about it:
Eugene R. (Over 2 million vertical feet with CMH Heli-Skiing) “Had the best powder skiing ever!!! Can barely walk now –Great fun!”
Ed C. (Over 5 million vertical feet with CMH Heli-Skiing) “Couldn’t be any better – Epic Skiing!”
Stay tuned. More snow last night and nothing but snow in the 5-day forecast. It’s shaping up to be a white Christmas like no other at CMH. There's already more snow in Revelstoke than any December in the last decade. Bring it on!
Photo from CMH Valemount, Decempow 2012.
adjective: denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
1. a tropical Asian and African kingfisher with brightly colored plumage.
2. a mythical bird said by ancient writers to breed in a nest floating at sea at the winter solstice, charming the wind and waves into calm.
That’s how the New Oxford American Dictionary defines Halcyon, the name given to the hot springs and the base area for CMH Heli-Skiing’s newest private heliski program, Nomads South, located on the shore of Arrow Lake, just south of Revelstoke, British Columbia.
One legend says the first nations people avoided the springs, calling them “mesachie”, their word for evil. Another says the native tribes fought over the springs.
After soaking in the waters of the legendary healing springs - between days of deep powder skiing in the Monashees, the Selkirks, and the Kootenays - I buy the second legend. Anyone living in the area, in ancient times or recently, who came across the warm, clean water would hardly refer to it as evil.
Whatever legend you believe, the Halcyon Hot Springs have been a part of the fabric of Interior BC culture since before the first ski turn was ever made. The waters themselves, once science was able to detect such things, became known for having the highest lithium content of any natural spring. The mental and physical health benefits of lithium are now well understood. (The combined elixir of deep powder skiing and daily lithium baths has yet to be scientifically supported.)
The springs were first developed as a destination in the late 1800s by a steamboat captain named Robert Sanderson. Surprisingly, it wasn’t his navigational skills that led him to the springs, but rather his linguistic skills in the languages spoken by the native tribes. According to Milton Parent, who wrote a history on the hot springs, Sanderson spoke the dialect of various tribes and it was his close relationship with the First Nations people that resulted in them showing him the location of the springs.
Through the 19th century, the hot springs resort functioned intermittently as a party place, a sanitarium that prohibited alcohol and claimed efficacy at curing rheumatism and driving metallic poisons such as lead from the body. In modern times as a holiday retreat complete with private chalets (shown below in heavy snow), fine dining, and clean pools of different temperatures.
In the new millennium, the Halcyon Hot Springs has opened a new chapter - as a base area for CMH Heli-Skiing’s Nomads program. The private ski program, where a single group of skiers takes daily excursions into the legendary ski terrain of the Southern Monashees near CMH Revelstoke, the world-class technical skiing in the Selkirks of CMH Galena, and the famed tree skiing of CMH Kootenay.
Check out the Heli-Ski Blog for more photos and a glimpse into the CMH Nomads and the Halcyon Hot Springs utopia of private heliskiing in the deep powder of Revelstoke, BC.
Photos by Topher Donahue.