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5 Things that Prevent a Great Heliski Photo


Almost everyone carries a camera heliskiing or snowboarding these days, even if it's just a camera phone.  Of the hundreds or thousands of photos taken by a heliskier or snowboarder during a heliski week with Canadian Mountain Holidays, there will be a couple of great photos, a lot of mediocre photos, a few really bad ones, and one or two that were almost great except for one problem.  Those can be some of the most fun.  Here are five of my favourite shots that best exemplify the almost-great heliski photo:

timingTiming: When you’re just about to snap that shot of your friend with snow up to his waist, right in the middle of a sunlit pocket in the trees, in perfect control, another powder hound cartwheels out of control across the photo.

snowing too hardSnowing too hard: There is a good reason the Columbia Mountains in interior British Columbia were the birthplace of heliskiing – it’s one of the snowiest places on earth - but sometimes it can dump too hard to see, ski, or fly and even the best cameras finally succumb to the elements.   You’re probably thinking, “Show me!”   This was the last run of the day at CMH Bobbie Burns.

grabbed 2 snowboards out of the heliToo many boards: Snowboarding zenmaster Rob Stevens decides to try heli-noboarding, a snowboard without bindings, at CMH Gothics, but accidentally ends up on the summit with both his boards.  Rob rides the entire 1200-metre run with no bindings and his regular snowboard strapped to his back.  It was a great display of skill, but a weird photo.

trick goes sourTrick goes sour:  Needs no explanation.  Approaching lunchtime at CMH Bugaboos.

funToo much fun for fashion: Heliskiers are usually having such a raging good time that they forget to dress for the camera.  They also tend to forget about life’s pressures for a while, forget what day of the week it is, and forget to use their smartphones - except for taking pictures.

Ready to go heliskiing already?  During early season the powder is often as good as it gets - and it's cheaper.

5 Best Skiing Websites


The best ski website in the world is a no brainer.  It’s the snow report for the nearest ski area.

The second is an easy pick too.  It’s the avalanche information centre for the mountains where you are going, or planning to go, skiing and snowboarding.  

From there, online snow riding information gets a lot more nebulous.   Some sites work well for booking the most common ski holidays, others review equipment, endless sites sell equipment and highlight the sport, but a few seem to give skiers something different.  Surprisingly, a few of the sites I came across, including my Number One choice, are only partially developed sites that I chose in hopes of encouraging the next generation of ski websites.  Here are my top five - after the obvious:

#1 SaveOurSnow This site wins because it addresses the most important issue future skiers will likely face – climate change.   This incomplete site reveals how the environment affects winter sports as well as how winter sports affect the environment.   It includes everything from news on which ski resorts utilize clean energy systems, to how to make ski travel less environmentally damaging.

#2 Colorado Powder Forecast   A quirky meteorologist, with a knack for forecasting sick days, er, I mean ski conditions, put together this unique site that does the work of predicting where the best snow will be in the region - a week or so out - so you can plan accordingly.   Check out one of his highly educational slideshows:How To Forecast Your Next Powder Day

The concept would be a good addition to any ski community.   Are there any other hybrid weather/snow riding gurus out there in other regions who could do this for other mountain ranges?

#3 PisteHors  This site is the gold standard of backcountry news websites. The French-based website's recent news includes detailed information on matters as close to the heart as the current developments in avalanche safety equipment to things as far out as a photograph of a recent dirt avalanche on Mars’ biggest mountain, Olympus Mons - and everything in between.   

#4 DogLotion  The most apt blend of skiing seriousness and skiing silliness on the web.  Of course. It’s Canadian.  A vast collection of everything from features on ski superstars to hair-brained stunts like skiing rocks with no snow at all, to unbiased gear reviews, resort info, and a comprehensive guide to Canada’s backcountry huts. 

#5 Kootenay Mountain Culture   The website for the magazine by the same name.  They claim, “Our goal is to motivate readers to interact with mountainous landscapes and their associated cultures. “   I haven't come across a site that makes me want to get outside more than this one.

Of course we like Canadian Mountain Holidays but really it’s the epic heli-skiing and helicopter snowboarding we do that deserves accolades, not our website.

Bugaboos heliskiing photo by Topher Donahue

The Warmest Heli-Ski Winter Ever


In February, I rolled into the CMH Gothics expecting the worst.  There was no snow on the ground in Revelstoke except for the few dirty, slushy piles left by snowplows.   According to the locals it had not snowed in 3 weeks.  12 hours later we were riding powder and I was blown away.  It was still good!  Here'a hilarious shot I snapped that day of a skier and snowboarder getting some Gothics pow after a 3 week drought:

Three weeks later it had still not snowed any significant amount and powder was hard to find even in the Columbias.  One ski guide told me she was thinking about wearing jeans for guiding.  It was a weird winter.  In fact, as far back as records go, 2009-2010 was the warmest winter ever in Canada.  

There was some great skiing this winter.  Steve Chambers, manager of CMH Revelstoke, called January 5th, “The single best day of heli-skiing I’ve ever had.”    But overall, it was strangely warm and dry. Here are a few "lowlights" from the warmest winter ever:

  • In BC, the weather between January 8 and February 9 set a record for the warmest of the period according to records going as far back as 1896.
  • It was not only warmest winter in ski country, but also in the Arctic.  Experts blame a combination of El Nino and the shrinking polar ice caps for the heat. 
  • Precipitation was 22 percent below average in Canada.
  • Average temperature was 4 degrees C warmer than normal in Canada. 
  • Parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario had 60 percent less precipitation than average.
  • Trucks were used to haul snow for the Olympics in Vancouver.  However, statistically, Vancouver is the warmest city to ever host the winter Olympics.
  • It was said that the Vancouver Olympics could "be the first winter Olympics you can attend in shorts and tees."
  • After an unusual blizzard in Washington DC, a headline on the FanHouse website covering the Olympics read, “More snow in DC than BC.”

Here'a a shocking clip of a snowpack report for the Cascade Range, an area across the US border that shared our winter that didn't happen:

So, as a heli-skier or heli snowboarder, what conclusion should you draw from this winter?

If you’re a pessimist, you’ll expect things to get lots worse.  In which case you'd better ski every chance you get before there is no snow at all on planet Earth.

If you’re a statistician, you’ll go skiing every chance you get because that gives you the best chance of getting good snow.

If you’re a gambler, you’ll go skiing every chance you get in December and January betting on the short days giving the best chance of the deep fluff.

If you’re a realist, you’ll go skiing every chance you get and just book your trip around your life, as always, knowing that the Columbia Mountains give you the best chance of epic powder skiing

TransWorld Snowboarding & CMH Shred the Monashees


Tom Burt by Nicholas HamiltonLast 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

New Years Resolutions from the Team at CMH


It's that time of year...everyone feels the pressure to come up with a New Year's Resolution.  I thought that before I committed this year, I'd survey my fellow CMH-ers and see what they were promising to do.  Here's where we're at:

Mike Aucoin by Jorg WilzWalter Bruns, President: I resolve to get into better shape BEFORE skiing hard rather than BY skiing hard!

Marty von Neudegg, Director of Corporate Services:  To get to at least 4 CMH Heli-Ski areas this winter!

Mark  Piquette, VP Business Development: To have more days heli-skiing and ski touring than resort skiing.

Bob Lutz, Software Systems Analyst: Take advantage of our multi-lingual work environment to re-learn French and German and take up ski touring.

Dawn Howard, Operations Coordinator: Don't sweat the small stuff, Go SKI (big and lots!) and have fun.

Bob Krysak, Retail Services Manager: Listen more, talk less and be as supportive as possible.

Hmmm, I see a common theme here because the resolution I've been tossing around is to ski more often in 2010.   It would seem to me that we've all chosen the right career path...

What about you?  What's your new year's resolution? If you resolutions look anything like ours look no further than CMH's selection of awesome Heli-Ski trips.  Whether you are considering heli-skiing for the first time, looking for a small group heli-ski experience, if you want to shred with the Transworld pros, or looking to combine ski touring and heliskiing look no further than  Overwhelmed by the options?  Then call our Heli-Ski experts at 1.800.661.0252 and they will guide you in the right direction.

See you in the trees!

Splitboarding - The Way to Ride on a Heli-Assisted Ski Tour!


To access backcountry powder stashes, snowboarders first used snowshoes or tiny skis, but modern splitboards allow riders to tour uphill like skiers and then clip their two halves into a single board for the ride down.  For some tricks in how to efficiently use a splitboard, I tracked down Theresa Clinton, Sales Manager for Prior Skis and Snowbards.  Her splitboarding experience includes tours to areas such as the remote Brian Waddington Hut on the eastern slopes of British Columbia's Coast Range.

TD: Can splitboarders keep up with skiers during the uphill/downhill transitions?

TC: I find that splitboarders can do the changeover as quickly as the skiers as long as they have had a bit of practice and have a systematic way of doing the switch.  You need to have a 'routine' way that you do it every time and you just become more time efficient with each transition.

TD: Are there tricks for changing uphill/downhill modes easily?

TC: A couple of things that make life easier:

  • Make sure the setup is in good working order (pucks mounted properly with screws tightened down, slider tracks go on and off easily, etc) the night BEFORE you go out on a trip.
  • Make sure the wire of the pin is attached to your binding properly so you don't lose it!
  • Put some wax in the grooves of the slider track so that it glides on and off easily.
  • Stand your board up on its side when putting binding/slider tracks on/off pucks for better leverage.
  • Keep your de-icing tool handy (comes with the Voile hardware kit) in case you need to remove ice from inside edges when reconnecting the board.
  • Use plastic 'cheat sheets' between your skins for easier/faster separation.
  • Mark your collapsible poles at the height you like.

TD: Are splitboards better than using tiny skis or snowshoes for the uphill?

TC: Splitboards are better than small skis or snowshoes since:

  1. Your board is under your feet, not on your back when skinning uphill and you don't have to carry the snowshoes/skis on your back when snowboarding down.
  2. You have more surface area with the splitboard for better purchase/traction and floatation on the ascent.

TD: What kind of skins would you recommend for a splitboard?

TC: Voile skins are specially made for splitboards - they are wide enough and don't have the tail clip which is not required for splitboards.

TD: I see Prior just launched the world's first freestyle splitboard. That should shake up the backcoutry a bit!  Are there things to consider with what splitboard is best?

TC: Of course I'm biased and believe that Prior splitboards are the best, but there are several models to choose from and the best one depends on the individual rider and their riding style.  My personal favourite is the Khyber split with the Hybrid Rocker since it has a wider nose for extra floatation and the taper allows it to turn on a dime in trees and chutes.  The All Mountain Freestyle split has a twin shape for easy switch riding and landings.

TD: Are there any tools you take with you in the backcountry? 

TC: Philips screwdriver and plyers (small Leatherman is great since it has these among other things), but more importantly, carry some extra parts:

  • Slider pin
  • T-nuts 
  • Bolts 

TD: Wow,  Theresa, you've obviously had some awesome times riding in the backcountry.  Any other suggestions?

TC: Here are two:

  1. For ski mode, switch the board halves so that the sidecut is on the inside and the straight edge is on the outside so they behave more like skis while touring. 
  2. If you are riding in undulating terrain, don't put your poles in your pack, just ride with them in your hand since they can come in handy when you need to push along the flats!

No snowboarder has yet done a CMH heli-assisted ski touring week in the Bugaboos, Monashees or the Adamants.  Now that would be a fun first!  Better yet, rock the boat, enter a splitboarding video in the What Inspires You to Ski Tour contest and win a week of heli-assisted ski touring in the Adamants next April!

Looking Forward to Heli-Ski Season


It would seem that Old Man Winter is slowly taking over the BC interior.  I’ve received photos from almost every CMH Heli-Ski area this week and it is starting to look familiar again to our skiers and boarders.  The flowers are gone.  No more green grass. Lots and lots of white space! If you are a CMH Kootenay skiier, this pic here likely looks more familiar to you now than it would have 6 weeks ago!

It also means wrapping up the maintenance projects.  Putting away the paint cans and putting the finishing touches on the long list of things to do to get the lodges ready to receive guests again.

Staff has been hired, training sessions are planned, pre-season meetings have been scheduled, the food (and wine!) has been sent up to the lodges and the shops are almost set up.

How many days until you climb into a 212?

And how many of you are looking ahead to Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding in 2011already?  Next Thursday, November 12 marks the start of our 2011 selling season.  Yes, that’s right.  For those of you after specific weeks and lodges, you need to pick up the phone at 8:30AM MST on November 12.

I asked CMH Reservations Manager, Nicole Koester if she has any tips for skiers and boarders for November 12.  Besides the obvious of have your credit card ready, as a deposit is due at the time of booking, her number one piece of advice – have more than once choice of dates to avoid disappointment.

So it’s time to start working on your Heli-Ski & Heli-Boarding Wish List for 2011. Before you do, you’ll need to download the 2011 CMH pricelist.

5 Tips for Heli-Boarding in Deep Pow


Last week I had a beer with everybody's favourite CMH Shop Guy, Bruce Rainer and we chatted about how to get the best out of a Heli-Boarding trip.

Bruce had some great suggestions on little things that will make a big difference.Shredding with CMH

  1. If you are using your own board, set your bindings as far back on the deck as possible to keep your nose/tip high out of the pow.  This will save your front leg muscles.
  2. Bring a binding tool and check every screw and bolt on your board every morning, once at lunch and at the end of the day.
  3. Have a spare parts kit with you out on the hill for your board and bindings.  Make sure you have one of every screw, bolt, buckle, ratchet, ladder and strap.
  4. In deep pow, though it is tempting, stay within one or two turns of another ski or board track so if you hit a flat spot you can duck into it and maintain your speed.
  5. The secret to having fun in the pow is terrain recognition.  At all times be aware and look far ahead for terrain traps and potential traverse areas.  Stay near the back of your group and if you see your guide breaking trail, stop immediately, stay as high upslope as possible and let the group make a trail.  When they are done, and hopefully off the traverse, jet.  This will help you from having to unstrap and posthole and/ or walk and exhausting yourself.

Like everything in life, don't be afraid to ask questions.  Ask the shop manager and your guide for other hints, tips and suggestions that will improve your Heli-Boarding experience. 

What else would you like to learn from Bruce?  Who else would you like to hear from?  Drop us a line and let us know what you'd like us to investigate.

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