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Prepping for Heli-Assisted Ski Touring


If you've been following along, you'll know that our What Inspires You to Ski Tour contest winner is Tim Oliphant.  I caught up with Tim when he was back home in Missouri getting ready for his trip to CMH's Adamant Lodge to see what he was doing to prepare fort his upcoming ski tour.
Inside the heli at CMH
JC: Hey Tim. When I talked to you to let you know you’d won the trip, you sounded like you were jumping up and down in your office.  Tell me honestly, how excited are you about this opportunity and what went through your mind when you found out you’d won?

TO:  I WAS jumping up and down in my office, I just couldn’t believe it!   I mean, I had just won the opportunity to do a Heli assisted ski tour for 7 days along side Greg Hill with new gear from ARC’TERYX!  I couldn't hold still.  As a matter of fact, I was so excited that after I got off the phone with you I ventured outside and took in a 4 mile run just to calm myself down and put things in perspective.  It was very humbling to think that I been chosen as the winner of such an incredible opportunity.  So, with that in mind, I decided that I would approach this trip with the respect it deserves. It is my desire to gain every possible thing I can from this “chance of a lifetime” experience.  The more I think about this trip the more excited I get because every aspect of what I will be doing resonates deeply to the core of who I am. If there were a perfect adventure for me, this would be it!   

JC: So, you’ve never ski toured before, but are a keen skier and strong athlete.  What are you doing specifically to prepare for this trip both mentally and physically?

TO:  The Fit to Heli-Ski tips on this blog are a great read and I have used them as inspiration for my daily workouts. As for the other facets of my training, I was fortunate to graduate from college with a degree in Exercise Physiology. Although I did not pursue a career in this field after college, I do apply this knowledge everyday as I train. When I won this trip I changed my workout to focus on strengthening the parts of my body that I will specifically be using when ski touring.   In addition to my regular running routine I've been incorporating plyometrics, core workouts, stair sprints and such.

Needless to say, I believe that endurance, strong legs and core, as well as, developing my bodies ability to recover quickly from quick bouts of exertion will be key to the enjoyment of this adventure. Make no mistake, I’m expecting this ski tour to be extremely physically demanding, especially for a newbie like myself, and that is why I am doing all I can to get ready.

The mental aspect of my training requires lots of reading…since I am new to ski touring I feel the more I learn about it the more prepared I will be for all of it’s challenges. Finally, I’ve also been taking in lots of ski videos for some inspiration via YouTube, Greg Hill's website and, of course, Warren Miller films.  

JC: Since announcing yours as the winning entry, we’ve learned that you have entered a number of video contests as you are pretty handy with a video camera.  What made this contest different from the others?
TO:  No doubt I’ve had a life long love for video and I take my video camera everywhere I go. Telling stories by making movies is as much apart of my life as adventuring and athletics. In fact, if I were to sum myself up into 3 characteristics this is what they would be…Adventurer, Athlete, Entertainer.  Everything I do typically evolves around at least one of these attributes. So, when I discovered that there were all kinds of video contests online they became a natural outlet for the entertainer side of me.  I saw the  “What Inspires you to Ski Tour” video contest and I had to do a double take… Wow, this one was really different.  Different because it wasn’t asking me to brand, package or sell anything it was simply asking me share my personal reason for wanting to ski tour.  It was also different because the prize offered appealed to not just 1 or 2 of my core characteristics, it appealed to all 3!  Nature, Skiing, climbing, shooting video, blogging, helicopters, snow, mountains, adventure, athletics…it’s all there, I knew had to enter it.  In my eyes, what CMH was asking and what they were awarding was better than any other contest I had ever entered. Therefore, I poured myself and all my resources into the project.  The video I entered is me using all 3 of my core characteristics to share that those same 3 characteristics are what inspire me to ski tour.  The CMH “What Inspires you to Ski Tour” contest was different because it was personal to me and no other contest even gets close to that level.  

JC: Thanks Tim. Obviously we loved your video and were inspired by your passion to get out and try something new.  We're pretty sure that after this trip you, too, will become addicted to ski touring!

We'll be posting a couple of updates from Tim during his trip to the Admants next week so...stay tuned! 

Have you booked your 2011 Heli-Assisted Ski Tour with CMH yet?  New dates just announced and early booking credits and tax rebates apply for all those who pay in full by April 30, 2010

What Inspires TIM to Ski Tour?


Friday afternoon I had the great pleasure of speaking with Tim Oliphant to share some exciting news.  Tim, you see, submitted an entry into our What Inspires You to Ski Tour video contest.  After much deliberation by our panel of six judges, Tim was chosen as our winner.

Now, I can't say it was an easy decision as 25+ impassioned men and women from Canada and the US submitted inspiring entries into the contest. Our judges unanimously agreed on two entries and after much deliberation awarded the Grand Prize to Tim for this  video piece:


Coming in a very close second to Tim was Beau Chevassus with this submission:


We look forward to meeting Tim and his touring partner on April 2 when he arrives in Calgary, AB to collect his $4500 of Arc'teryx equipment and sets off for 7 days of Heli-Assisted Ski Touring at the Adamant Lodge (valued at $7000 CDN) with CMH and Greg Hill, Mr. Vertical himself.

Congratulations, Tim.  See you in April!

CMH Heli-Skiing and Arc'teryx Equipment would like to thank all those who prepared entries for the contest.  You truly are an amazing group of passionate men and women and we enjoyed watching all of the compilations. To view all of the entries search for CMH, Arc'teryx on YouTube.


Thinking of Becoming a Mountain Guide?


"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.

Heli-Assisted Ski Touring Unplugged


"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!

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