While heliskiing, there are inevitably a few delays; at the pickup, when someone is looking for a lost ski, while the helicopter that has gone for fuel, or waiting for a fog bank to pass so the helicopter can fly again. To pass the time, telling jokes has become a big part of the heliski culture.
To give you committed Heliski Blog readers an edge-up on the other heliskiers next season, here are 10 ski and snowboard jokes for next season that might even make the helicopter smile:
On the first day of her vacation, a woman fell and broke her leg. As the doctor examined her, she moaned, "Why couldn't this have happened on my last day of skiing?" He looked up. "This IS your last day of skiing."
From the Sports Joke Cafe:
A woman and her husband decided to go on a skiing trip one weekend. They rode the ski lift to the top of the mountain, and were preparing to go down. The woman suddenly announced that she needed to use the restroom, and NOW. Her husband told her that since the coast was clear, she could just hide behind a tree and go. Well, the woman had her pants down around her ankles when she suddenly began going down the mountain. She hit a tree on the way down and broke her leg and her arm and had several other bumps and bruises. When she awoke at the hospital, she was surprised to see another man who was dressed in a skiing outfit and also looked as if he had been in a skiing accident. The woman was very curious about this man, so she asked him what happen. You'll never believe it, he told her. I was just skiing down the mountain, and a woman went by with her pants around her ankles, and I crashed into a bush.
Q: What's the difference between a government bond and a ski bum?
A: government bond will eventually mature and make money.
Q: A car has five snowboarders in the back seat; what do you call the driver? A: Sheriff
Q: How do you become a millionaire as a professional skier?
A: Start out a billionaire.
From Ski My Best:
Q: Why are most snowboard jokes one-liners?
A: So the skiers can understand them!
Q: What do you say to a ski instructor in a three piece suit? A: "Will the defendant please rise...."!
Q: On a date, what does a ski instructor say after the first hour? A: "That's enough talk about me; now let's talk about skiing."
This skier walks into a bar at the ski area and says "Hey, you guys wanna hear a snowboarder joke?"
The bartender says, "Well, I'm a snowboarder, the guy on your left is a snowboarder, same with the guy on your right, and a couple of folks behind you as well!"
So the skier says "Ok, I'll tell it a little more slowly then."
Q: How do you know there’s a Mountain Guide at the bar? A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.
Anyone out there have another one to add to the list of heliski jokes?
Back in the early days of heliskiing, the guide pack sometimes included a bottle of wine to share at lunch, skins for ski touring because the early guides were not confident that the helicopter would really be able to return, and other heavy gear that made the whole profession harder on the knees and backs of the ski guides.
Today, the CMH guide pack is much lighter and more streamlined - and don’t bother looking for that bottle of wine from 1969. For a view into the guide pack, I tracked down Erich Unterberger, the Manager of Guiding Operations for CMH, who took the time between a few days of guiding in the Monashees to share with us the guts of the guide pack:
"The guide pack got a bit lighter over the years with newer materials being used for lots of our tools. But essentially, the contents are not much different from what we used a quarter century ago when I first started with CMH."
- The shovel and probe only weigh a fraction of the first generation of their kind.
- The rope kit (for crevasse or cliff rescue scenarios) is small and still very strong.
- The headlamp is another tool that is much smaller and still provides better function than the older versions.
- Some guides use their probes as the ruler for the snow observation kit. The other Snow Observation tools remain the same.
Guide's Pack Contents:
1 medical kit
1 headlamp or light
1 improvised splinting materials
1 collapsible avalanche probe
1 snow shovel
1 bivouac bag
1 pair of spare gloves
1 warm hat
1 multi-purpose tool
1 metal container for melting snow
1 bush saw
1 snow observation kit:
- folding ruler
- crystal screen
- magnifying glass
- field book, waterproof
1 rope kit: may be carried separately
1 min. 25m / 8-9mm rope or equivalent
2 locking carabiners
3 5m slings
Photo of Erich Unterberger and his guide pack getting up to speed in the CMH Adamants by Topher Donahue.
Although you spend a lot of time on your heli-ski trips with a few guides, there is one guide that you may never ski with. This guide, even though he or she may never ski with your group, has a job that affects you more than you might think.
The snow safety guide plays a huge role in the safety, and smooth running, at each of our heli-ski areas. Mike Welch, area manager of Galena, gave me some insight as to what the snow safety guide might do to make our day out in the mountains better.
Snow Safety- Digging snow pits, checking stability, and explosives control are all part of the snow safety guides day. They might be doing all of the above on runs that are going to be skied later that day, or ensuring more consistent stability for later in the season. Once a run has been deemed safe, the snow safety guide may also check for snow quality. We all know how a thick sun crust can kill a great run, the snow safety guide will relay information back to the lead guide so their group can successfully avoid any poor snow conditions.
Helicopter Safety- We love skiing in deep snow, so what happens if it snows a couple of feet overnight and the landings are no longer accessible? This is where the snow safety guide may quickly become your best friend… They might be out early in the morning digging out landings, replacing landing flags, or clearing brush all so that your pilot can land safely and you can start skiing.
Refueling- When it comes time to refuel, the helicopter will often head to one of our remote fuel caches to avoid the long flight back to the lodge. Generally at the lodge, the helicopter engineer will refuel and avoid the need to turn off the engines, saving you a lot of time. Because our remote fuel caches are so remote, it often becomes the job of the snow safety guide to meet your helicopter at the fuel cache so that refueling happens quickly and efficiently.
Finding the perfect lunch spot- Did you ever wonder how that amazing lunch gets set up in the middle of nowhere? Although the guides may often have an idea of where a good lunch spot would be, the snow safety guide will pinpoint a spot where there is maximum sun, minimal wind, and you aren’t sinking up to your chin in snow. Lunch is one time where deep snow isn’t optimal conditions!
Balancing the groups-
What happens when you or someone in your group gets tired and starts slowing down your group? Often, the snow safety guide will be called in so that the faster parts of the group can do a lap while the slower group members take a break or slow down their pace. This keeps everyone skiing, and everyone happy!
Anyone who has been heliskiing with CMH knows there are two seats in the helicopter that are always taken: the pilot’s and the guide’s seats. Nobody questions the pilot’s choice, but why does the guide always get the best views?
To find out what goes on up there, I asked Peter Macpherson, the assistant area manager of CMH Bugaboos. Here’s what he revealed about the coveted front seat:
Why do we ride shotgun? Primarily sitting up front is for safety. It allows you to gain a lot of information about recent avalanche activity, not only on the run you are skiing, but also the adjacent runs and even whole creek drainages.
You can view the hazards on the ski line, like crevasses and cliffs, just minutes before skiing it.
Also, if there is an accident, the guide up front can get an aerial overview of the site or the injured skier’s exact location and then radio pertinent information to the guides on the ground and the pilot.
Second to safety is skiing quality. You get a relatively unobstructed view of the run from the air. You can loosely assess skiing quality by getting a look at the snow surfaces. You can determine if there is a lot of wind affected snow and sun crusts, as well as how soft it may look. Skiing all winter on the same terrain gives you a good eye for these subtle changes.
You can also determine which lines have been skied by other groups, adjust accordingly, and take your group to a fresh line or a line that best suits your group’s ability. It provides an opportunity to have an overview of the run and the all-important pick up.
While lead guiding (each day, one guide is designated lead guide) I make a great number of decisions from the front seat. Particularly, if weather and snow conditions are changing or if we're skiing in an area that we have not been to recently. Many times lead guides will decide to ski, or not to ski, a run based on what they have observed from the air.
You can’t learn everything from the air however. Decisions made from the air are generally macro terrain decisions where as on the ground they are micro terrain decisions. For example, I may choose the ski line from the air, but while on the ground I may ultimately ski around certain features on the intended ski line.
With the pilot, all experienced heliski pilots from Alpine Helicopters, we mostly talk about the logistics of the day. Things like flying conditions, landings that will work with which loads, pick ups that will work with which loads, which runs are going to be skied, fuel flights, and how the other guides and groups are doing.
Then there is also the “office water cooler” conversations that occur between people who work together a great deal: sports, music, politics, gossip - the usual.
Because you get in and out of the helicopter 8-15 times a day, you learn things about other guides. How do they wear their seatbelts? Who needs to turn the headset to max volume to hear and who is deafened by max volume? Who drinks water during the day and who does not?
Sitting up front holds a great deal of responsibility, but it is perhaps the best seat in the house.
Photo at the "water cooler" in CMH Adamants by Topher Donahue.
If you’ve ever wondered how the CMH guides agree on what is safe enough to ski, or noticed that piece of paper (just right of the guide's elbow in this photo), covered with red, green and yellow words and taped to the inside of the helicopter in front of the guide seat in every Alpine heliski helicopter, you need to know about the CMH Run List.
For 28 years, the little piece of paper has been as much a part of the CMH heliskiing experience as good food and deep powder. To get an insider’s perspective on the CMH Run List, I caught up with Thierry Cardon, a French ex-pat who is working on his fourth decade of guiding for CMH.
TD: What exactly is the CMH Run List?
TC: It is the printed, color-coded outcome of the terrain hazard evaluation done at every morning guide's meeting.
TD: When did CMH start using a Run List?
TC: In 1982, in the immediate aftermath of the "69" avalanche in the Bugaboos.
TD: What does each color indicate?
TC: In theory:
- Green: No particular concern other than specific terrain features
- Red: Enough uncertainty to warrant closure of the run or specific line and terrain feature for the day. Can only be re-opened with thorough discussion, significant snow stability change and/or additional observations. (In other words, stability must improve dramatically for a Red run to be changed to Green.)
- Yellow: Enough uncertainty to warrant further information such as natural avalanche activity removing the hazard or unknown new snow amount or wind effect which can be way less than anticipated. A Yellow run can be changed to Green in the field by unanimous consensus of the guide team and documented. Yellow coding is NOT used with persistent weak layers and buried facets or mid-pack surface hoar conditions (Avalanche factors that are best assessed through long-term trends rather than last minute decision-making or observations in the field). Last winter (a season with unusually poor snow stability in the Columbia Mountains) taught us that reloaded avalanche bed surfaces should be given the same cautious treatment.
TD: How did guides make decisions differently before the Run List?
TC: There was only a general, cursory discussion on the snow stability but no terrain discussion or specific hazard evaluation. This was up to each guide's evaluation and that, of course, varied greatly due to experience, personality and operational pressure.
TD: How does the Run List help the guides?
TC: It prompts systematic, focused discussion at the guide meeting (accompanied by photos of every run in the Snowbase database) and the printed copy sits in front of the guide on the helicopter instrument panel. It is a binding product of the collective hazard evaluation process. Each guide has a power of veto to make a run Red if he feels that it is warranted. (In other words, every guide has the power close runs they are not comfortable with at any time.)
TD: How quickly does the Run List change?
TC: Typically the Run List is established every day at the morning guide’s meeting but it can be re-evaluated and changed if conditions change rapidly or are way different from what they were assessed at the morning meeting. To change runs from Yellow to Green, a guide's meeting in the field is required. However, to change from Green to Red, the power of veto exercised by one guide in the field is enough.
The CMH Run List is just one element of the standard-setting CMH safety program. Besides area-specific systems, CMH guide teams share observations between areas in a daily conference call; and snow professionals from ski resorts, other guide services, and road maintenance crews publish daily observations that are studied by ski guides across the region and used by avalanche forecasting services for public bulletins. This cooperative information network is a big reason for the increased popularity and safety of helicopter, snowcat, lift, and touring access to the thrilling world of backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
Photo of CMH Adamants from the helicopter by Topher Donahue.
Last winter I was standing on the rim of the Canoe River drainage, stunned by the view across some of the biggest glaciers left in British Columbia. Above us, the 3516-metre bulk of Mt. Sir Wilfrid Laurier dominated the sky. I turned to ask Dave Gauley, our heliski guide and assistant manager of CMH Cariboos, about skiing from the big peak’s summit. He told me that it used to be a CMH ski run, but that a big crevasse opening had effectively killed it.
With ten years experience as a professional freeskier, Gauley is not one to be easily deterred by terrain challenges. He mentioned something about trying the descent, not doing it, climbing out of a big crevasse - and then skied away and dropped into the Canoe. Distracted by big terrain and stellar heliskiing, I forgot about his unfinished story.
Earlier this week I was daydreaming about big mountains, remembered Dave’s story, and caught up with him – he’s easier to catch in the summer - and here’s what he had to say:
If you skied it (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) from the summit to the valley (which they used to do) it would be 2500 metres vertical. I’m not sure how that ranks with other CMH runs, but it's pretty frickin’ long. I tried to ski off the summit, but there is a big, melted-out crevasse a few hundred metres below the summit you have to climb out of.
The North Canoe Glacier (which would be the lower part of the run) also has huge crevasses, and an icefall that it did not used to have. I think when they built the Cariboo Lodge in 1974, it was in the middle of the biggest snow decade in the area. From talking to oldtimers like Kiwi (Gallagher) and Ernst (Buhler), as well as (people) who grew up in the area - that's kind of their memory.
So I think the changing of the glaciers is a combination of back then they were really lucky with a huge snowpack to fill the crevasses, and glacier recession is now coupled with less snowfall. Bingo - less terrain to ski.
Other runs in the Cariboos are changing quickly too, like pretty much everything at the apex of the Premier Range on all the big ice (“big ice” is guide speak for glaciers) is becoming trickier to ski. Crazy Horse, Little Matterhorn, Penny, Ned's Moon, Thompson Glacier, Jerry's Perch, The Zipper… These are just a few runs that are becoming difficult, or are no longer possible to ski.
Another thing that has changed is that they were much more aggressive on glaciers in the old days as well. Those first Euro guides did not know anything about tree skiing, so they almost exclusively skied on glaciers. What was acceptable risk then would in no way fly today.
I heard, maybe from Bob Geber, that the Bugaboos has lost 30-50% of their glacier skiing from the original area over the last 40 years. Just look at the S&S Glacier. I skied it on a guide exam in 1997 - we were roped up shitting our pants - and they used to take heliski groups down there!
Sounds like a good reason to book a heliski trip now before we lose more ski terrain! Are there any of you lifelong heliskiers out there who can remember the natural closures of ski runs being a sad day?
Photo of skiing Ned's Moon in 2010 by Topher Donahue.
Behind 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.
In some areas, a big part of the game is skiing out of bounds. Heli, backcountry and cross-country skiing all occur outside of a ski area. Millions of skier days each year are logged outside ski areas, but the relationship between ski resorts and the ski terrain outside the resorts varies dramatically. To get a perspective on how different ski cultures and resorts around the world view skiing out-of-bounds, I asked Joe Vallone, a mountain guide with experience in the US and Europe, and Jorg Wilz, a CMH Revelstoke guide with experience in Canada and Europe. Here are their surprising responses:
JW: The terrain/options are vast in Europe whereas in North America it's a lot more limited with the treelines going up to 10,000 feet and the natural forest being close to unskiable. Consequently, the out-of-bounds skier numbers in Europe are huge - it's tough to find untracked terrain that is easy to reach in many places just hours after the lift opens. The popularity/easy access lures EVERYONE with the consequences often dire.
- Europeans have little tolerance for getting locked out of public lands.
- Permanent closures are rare and "backcountry gates" virtually unknown.
- Area boundaries are there to indicate the controlled area but for most part everyone is free to venture into the uncontrolled.
In short, like in so many ways, it's Europe that has become the land of the free.
Jackson Hole, Mt. Baker, Whistler and Blackcomb, and some other areas have a very liberal open boundary policy. It is amazing to see what goes on there. I guess what I am most impressed with in these areas is the ski patrol knows folks are gonna go out-of-bounds and ski, so they tend to educate rather than try to keep people within the fence.
In areas where ski areas allow out-of-bounds skiing, the community is embracing the culture of the mountain and its dangers. But at the same time the community is very proactive at educating, so the people tend to recognize the risks and respect the terrain more than in areas where out-of-bounds skiing is not allowed.
TD: How much do you use ski resorts while skiing out-of-bounds in Europe?
JV: Almost every day. The trams in Europe are amazing. You can rise 2500 meters in a single lift and be instantly time warped into a glaciated canvas of complexities and difficult route finding. I use lifts all over Europe to gain access to endless landscapes of untracked goods. It is possible to ski huge runs with no marked runs, no trail maps, no ski patrol, no avalanche control and navigate glaciers with giant seracs, crevasses, couloirs and cliffs with an average pitch of 40 degrees.
TD: As a ski guide, are ski areas in the States part of your profession or are you pretty much required to avoid ski areas because of their out of bounds policies?
JV: It is so difficult to make an honest living as a ski guide in the States. I have tried so many ways and so many times to work with resorts locally. No one is interested, I put a bunch of time into launching a guide service out of a Colorado ski area, and I did huge presentations working with the head of patrol and the head ski instructor to get a program started. In the end it was so much energy and so much red tape. I gave up.
Do you feel backcountry access is a valuable element for ski areas to offer?
Out-of-bounds North American style: CMH Bobbie Burns photo by Topher Donahue.
The most unusual thing about heli-skiing with CMH might not be the skiing. Sure, CMH is essentially the biggest ski area in the world, positioned in some of the snowiest mountains with idyllic ski terrain stretching every direction for as far as the eye can see. But there is a lot of other good skiing outside of CMH. The most unusual thing might be the mountain hospitality that greets everyone who has joined CMH for a mountain adventure during the last 45 years.
Skiers travel from all over the world to arrive at an intimate lodge in a remote mountain valley choked with snow-cloaked forest and no other sign of human habitation for many kilometers. It is a world for moose, caribou, rabbits and goats; yet minutes after arriving you are greeted by a smiling, fellow snow rider who shows you the way to your room and the spa. For as long as you stay, the juxtaposition of feeling as comfortable as you ever have while surrounded by the harsh environment of snow and mountains gives you the sense that you are extremely fortunate. To get an idea how CMH manages to deliver such hospitality in these outrageous locations, I tracked down Danny Stoffel a guide and manager from CMH Valemount.
TD: How does mountain hospitality differ from, say, 4-star hotel hospitality?
DS: Mountain hospitality faces additional challenges that are not encountered by 4-star hotel operations. It is a significant challenge to provide top-rate customer service from a remote location; however it is also this challenge that makes the job interesting. We try to pamper our guests to the same standards as would be seen from an urban location, this means anticipating guest demands before they are even made, as we do not have the access to satisfy every request on demand. Our main goal at CMH is to offer refined service in a family atmosphere. The personal touch is everything. It is by doing this that we hope our guests will feel as though they are coming to a home away from home year after year. Ultimately, we want our guests to feel as though they have traveled from one home to another; however the home we provide comes with a great mountain atmosphere and unsurpassed service - plus the ultimate snowboarding and skiing.
TD: Do you continue hospitality while out skiing in the wilderness? How?
DS: Absolutely! Our guests are here to ride and they spend the majority of each day outside, therefore we make every effort to make this part of their trip very special. We ensure that all aspects of our field operations are at their best. Everything from the safety and snow conditions, to the outstanding food and the passionate staff, has an element of sincere hospitality with it. We strive to offer our guests memorable and unique experiences. This means making every effort to find the best snow and the most suitable terrain for the skiing ability of both first timers and veterans. Finally, the safety of our guests is always a priority; therefore we also utilize the best avalanche transceivers and safety equipment on the market.
TD: How do you train staff to give the unique friendly flavor of CMH hospitality?
DS: It all starts with selecting the right talent. I look for bright individuals who share a passion for skiing and the mountains. I then try to pass on the philosophy, spirit and passion of our founding father, Hans Gmoser. I train my staff to be professional, but I also encourage them to connect with our guests on a personal level. I hope that by doing this the staff will be able to anticipate guest requests before they are even made.
TD: If you have advice learned in the mountains that you could share with the hospitality industry, what would it be?
DS: Passionate staff is the foundation to a successful business. Ultimately, it is CMH’s staff that has created the unique atmosphere the company is famous for. Employees are able to fulfill their individual aspirations to connect with the backcountry by working for CMH. Passion for the industry is the foundation of a great staff member, but training the staff and empowering them to conduct their jobs is arguably just as important. I place great emphasis on training my staff, knowing that it will translate into superior guest service. Most importantly, the staff shares the passion for the mountains and therefore they bring an electric energy to the lodge that you don't find in even a five-star hotel.
As the area manager of CMH Valemount, Danny Stoffel practices mountain hospitality all winter long while hosting 10 skiers and riders for intimate, private, week-long helicopter snowboarding and skiing adventures in the Columbia Mountains.
Sometimes we are out playing in the snow with ski guides, and they seem to be having at least as much fun as the rest of the skiers. Other times, it seems like they are about as stressed out as long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs.
I thought it would help if we skiers knew better the things we do that make guides nervous, so I caught up with Gery Unterasinger, Assistant Area Manager of CMH Bobbie Burns, (and a gifted athlete on all things rocky, snowy and icy) to find out the kind of things we do that make him nervous, and how we could make heli-skiing more fun for the guides as well as for us skiers.
TD: What do we do near the helicopter that makes you nervous?
- Heli Huddle: Go down on one knee or at least bend over – I have a hard time understanding why this simple safety measure is so hard to achieve for active people who can heli-ski hard all day.
- Pick up: Always watch the helicopter as it is coming in to land for the pick up – this one is not hard to achieve either, and you get a free face shot as a bonus.
- Seat belts: From the front seat we can hear the “clicking” noise of seatbelts unbuckling just before the helicopter lands. This is totally unnecessary, and dangerous for you and the rest of the passengers, since this is probably the time with the most risk involved during flight operation. Wait until the door opens. Nobody has ever skied an extra turn because they took off their seatbelt quickly.
TD: What do we do in the alpine terrain that makes you nervous?
- Passing guests from behind at high speed: With all the space we have available in the alpine areas of our heli-skiing tenures, there is no reason to have collisions between two skiers.
- Taking shortcuts: There is usually a reason why a guide tells you to follow his traverse. There can be plenty of hidden hazards like avalanches, crevasses, glide cracks, creek beds with open water, cliffs or wind scoops - to name a few.
- Stopping too close, and out of control, above the guide or group: Numerous times I have witnessed skiers crashing into the waiting group or guide. Please slow down with your last few turns - your legs are tired and don’t always perform at their best anymore.
- Stopping below the guide: In open terrain where you can see the guide from miles away, this should be a no brainer. Your guide stopped for a reason. (See also hidden hazards above)
TD: What do we do in the tress that make you nervous?
GU: Since I can't see through the trees, I can only judge from my experiences at a regroup spot, which offers a limited view. My number one complaint is probably that too often skiers show up without their partner, which makes me, and everyone else in the group, quite nervous. Please make an effort to stay within visual or shouting distance of your partner. The second skier is the safety monitor - he or she keeps an eye on the first skier and hoots or yodels frequently so the first skier knows you are there. This method has already proven to be a life saver in many tree well incidents. With an attentive partner, these stories end with a good laugh over beers at the lodge instead of with a serious accident. As a bonus you get to share your great turns with a like-minded powder friend.
TD: Anything else?
GU: I would like to add that most of our heli-skiing guests ski very responsibly and are a great pleasure to guide, and a great pleasure for first-timers to ski with in any terrain. With my points above I am just trying to reinforce a few simple rules which most of you follow really well, but which consistently get violated by a few skiers for no apparent reason.
It’s snowing right now here in the Columbias. Fluffy powder unpatiently awaiting fresh tracks. So let’s get out, have fun and play as a team together. I'm soooo psyched!
Heli-skiing is not the only place where Gery's suggestions and critique are valid. Check out this website, Tree Well and Deep Snow Safety, that reveals some shocking facts about these hazards. (For example, in one test using volunteers placed in tree wells, under careful supervision, 90% could not extricate themselves without help!)