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!)
1983. Scot Schmidt launched off the Palisades at Squaw in Warren Miller's Ski Time. It changed how I thought about skiing forever. I remember sitting in the audience in Billings, Montana with my jaw on the floor as Scot skied the line with an ease I could not have imagined until then.
Fast forward to today. Friday the crew and equipment begins to arrive in Calgary as CMH and Warren Miller Entertainment (WME) prepare to spent a week filming based out the Gothics. I am excited. Are you going to see something as new as Scot Schmidt skiing the Palisades in 1983? Don't know. I do know you will see some incredible skiing and some of the most spectacular terrain on captured on film. We have two cameraman shooting on the ground and from the air, we have a still photographer capturing the action, we have a cineflex mounted to a 407 and one of the best ariel camera operators at the controls.
Olympian Jonny Moseley, K2 Factory Team member Andy Mahre and CMH Guides Lindsay Anderson and Craig McGee will be doing the skiing in front of the camera. We have some of the best helicopter pilots in the world from Alpine Helicopters. Claude and Geoff will be handling guiding and snow safety for the shoot.
We will be posting behind-the-scenes updates during the week we are filming. Come back to the CMH blog and check out photos, videos and other assorted items from the film shoot. Got questions for any of the film crew, athletes, guides or pilots about making ski movies? Post them here and I will get you answers.
"On the surface it looks like the most fun job in the world - and it is - first tracks in the most beautiful ski mountains anywhere with a team of passionate powder skiers on your tail."
-Rob Rohn, CMH Director of Mountain Operations
To get the lowdown on how mountain guiding compares to other jobs, I talked to Rob Rohn, veteran guide, climber, and the Director of Mountain Operations for CMH. There are few people in the world with as wide of a scope of understanding of the guiding profession as Rob. He oversees:
• A hundred mountain guides.
• Eleven heli-ski areas.
• Technical climbing on the big spires of the Bugaboos.
• Via Ferrate in the Bobbie Burns and Bugaboos.
• Heli-assisted ski touring programs in the Monashees. Adamants, and Bugaboos.
• Hiking adventures in the Bugaboos and Bobbie Burns.
Here’s what Rob had to say about guiding relative to other careers:
TD: Compared to other jobs, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the challenge of ski guiding? Why?
RR: Ten-minus. As with all challenging jobs, when it's going well it appears to be effortless. On the surface it looks like the most fun job in the world - and it is - first tracks in the most beautiful ski mountains anywhere with a team of passionate powder skiers on your tail; evenings spent reliving the day's adventures over a fine meal and enjoying the unique camaraderie that you'll only find at a CMH lodge; next day do it all over again.
But behind the scenes it's serious business. The potential pitfalls are ever-present. The only reason we can operate as safely as we do is that CMH has the most highly skilled and experienced team of guides anywhere. Guides are able to lead the program and our guests safely through the maze we encounter in the mountains, and make it a fun-filled, exhilarating experience. A guide can only achieve this by remaining perpetually vigilant and situationally aware every moment of the day. When the conditions are really tricky we all get grey hairs and are consumed with the task at hand - ensuring everyone remains safe, and has an amazing experience at the same time.
TD: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the rewards (not specifically financial) of ski guiding? Why?
RR: Ten-plus. We all got into this game because it's our passion - passion for the mountains, passion for the skiing, passion for the lifestyle, passion for the people. We get to live the dream. After 25 years I still find myself awestruck that we get to do the things we do, and go where we go.
TD: For someone who has not yet begun guide training, but wants to get into the system, what advice would you give them?
RR: Don't under estimate the hard work and commitment involved. If you're just in it for the first tracks and the glamour - forget it! There aren't any short cuts to getting the experience you'll need to become a successful mountain guide, and to gain the wisdom that only comes after many, many miles in the mountains and a healthy dose of misadventure and misery that forms the foundation for good judgment. Be humble - the minute you think you've got this game figured out, you tend to get slapped and put in your place. If the little voice in your head says you shouldn't go there, don't. And never consider pursuing guiding unless you love people. The true and lasting reward of guiding is in creating and sharing life-altering experiences that people can't get anywhere else. That's what it's all about.
Getting the basic mountain guide certification requires a similar level of time, money and commitment as a college education. If you're interested in guiding, there are training programs in Canada, the USA, and in several European countries.
By Marc Piche
One of the most valuable aspects of our annual winter guides training is the review of incidents that occurred in the field the previous year. Most of these case studies are avalanche-related and are presented by one of the guides from the area involved. The goal is to offer an opportunity to all CMH guides to learn from the experience of those who were there, and also to determine if any operational changes need to be made to either prevent or reduce the chance of a similar occurrence in the future.
In the fall of 2008 during guides training, we reviewed an incident where a guest was caught in a very small avalanche but buried very deeply in a wind scoop near a boulder. Although the buried person was successfully dug out without serious injury, both the guides and guests involved in the rescue felt strongly that it would have been beneficial to have more shovels on hand immediately.
It’s not the first time we’ve discussed this at CMH, but this incident prompted our decision to have all guests carry a shovel and probe in a small pack while heli-skiing and heli-boarding starting this coming season.
Last winter we tested several different brands of packs, shovels and probes in an effort to come up with a package that is as low profile, easy-to-use, and lightweight as possible. We worked with Arc’Teryx, who custom-designed our new pack to fit the probe and shovel we chose from Black Diamond. As you can see from the photo above, the sleek design does not impede a skier or riders ability.
We were encouraged by the positive response of all guests who tested the new packs last year. We see this as an important step toward being even better prepared in case of a mishap.
While out skiing, all guests will still be expected to take turns carrying a two-way radio, and to ski at the rear or middle of the group while doing so. As we have stated many times at CMH, overall safety is the responsibility of every skier.
For those skiers and riders who bring your own radios, please contact our Operations Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need information about programming them with the correct frequencies and tones.
Have you booked your 2010 Heli-Ski vacation yet? If you are still sitting on the fence, we encourage you to read this article before you book your Heli-Ski trip in BC.
"FACE SHOTS – How can that not be the first thing on your mind?"
I recently exchanged emails with Lilla Molnar, a mountain guide who splits her time between climbing granite cracks and skiing deep powder, both heli-skiing and backcountry touring. She finished her last email with this line: “We are set up to have an awesome winter – can’t wait to go to work!”
This got me wondering what it is like to be a heli-ski guide going to work during the snowiest early season in 11 years. The helicopter pilots at CMH Galena are already using pickups at the valley bottoms and the snowpack at treeline all across the Columbias could be easily mistaken for mid-season. Every year is different, but this year the difference is the kind that makes skiers - and guides –drool in anticipation. Here’s what Lilla had to say about it:
TD: I’m curious what it feels like to be a ski guide going into a big snow period. When you’re driving the Trans Canada highway with a cup of coffee in your lap on your first commute to the Bugaboos this year, and you know there is this kind of snowpack out there, what kinds of things will you think about in anticipation?
LM: FACE SHOTS – how can that not be the first thing on your mind? A good snowpack and lots of snow leads to great psyche amongst the guiding team, which is then contagious for the rest of the staff. This great morale gets passed along to the guests and as a result you get a lodge full of super amped people who are totally passionate about skiing. It’s very satisfying and motivating to work or play in such a positive environment.
TD: Everyone dreams of skiing the deepest powder, but being in truly bottomless snow is a wild place to spend the day. Do you have any favorite guide advice for not only the skiing, but for simply moving around - like making it to pickups without wallowing - and staying comfortable in the all-day powder bath?
LM: It takes some getting used to, but most people find it a dreamy place to spend the day. Here's some deep powder tips. Unless you make the mistake of breaking trail for the lead guide on the flats, he or she will be the only person wallowing in fresh deep powder to break trail to the pickup. On flat sections, hold up and give the skier ahead of you lots of space. Save yourself the agony of having to walk along the flats by giving them lots of time to get ahead, that way you can just cruise along in their tracks. Keep in mind that as the second person you will be sliding slower than the 11th person in the group. Let the snowboarders go last so they can get across without having to step off their boards.
TD: What about gear for the deep stuff?
LM: Make sure you have the appropriate equipment.
- Low rider pants may look good, on some, but they certainly won’t keep the powder out, bib pants with high waists are the ticket.
- Same goes for gloves which barely cover the wrists. Puffy, warm, gloves or mitts with long powder cuffs are what you want to be wearing.
- A Buff, balaclava, or neck gaitor will also prevent you from freezing your face and choking on the powder.
- Goggles – a very important piece of equipment. Make sure they ventilate well. Keep the foam above the top rim free of snow. In the helicopter, keep your goggles over your eyes, if you put them on your forehead they will fog up.
TD: A month ago I wrote an entry about winter weather preditions, and it's starting to look like the Old Farmer's Almanac might be right with big snow for interior BC. Comparing this year to the average early season in the Columbias, how much more terrain would you guess is going to be skiable by Christmas?
LM: I am sure we are way ahead of average in most areas for this time of year. All I know is that last year we had an awesome Christmas week with a below average snowpack, so this Christmas’ skiing will be unsurpassed!
Join Lilla for Christmas in the Bugaboos and see how much snow Santa brings this year!