Today, CMH Guide Training is fully underway at CMH K2, preparing our team for the season and getting everyone in tune with the latest developments in safety, technology and method.
Tomorrow, the first CMH Heli-Skiing trip of the season takes flight from CMH Valemount into the Cariboo Mountains where two metres of snow have already accumulated at treeline.
Last week, the run checks in Revelstoke and CMH K2 revealed fluff enough. The Revelstoke guides shot this video of the team having a bit of fun between the full-throttle preparations it takes to open 11 areas and 15,000 square kilometres of ski terrain.
In other words: CMH Heli-Ski Season is on!
In many ways it seems the same as it ever was; the generous storm machine of Interior BC is pounding the Columbia Mountains with incessant storms, CMH Heli-Ski lodges are being stocked for a winter of hosting skiers and snowboarders in powder paradise, and snow riders the world over are either planning a trip to the powder epicentre of Revelstoke - or they’re wising they were.
But in other ways this winter is different. Very different. CMH Heli-Skiing has rewritten our own playbook; this is quite a feat considering that we’ve been playing the game for almost half a century.
While regrouping on an old-growth tree run, or sitting around the fire aprés ski, you and our other guests have been telling us you’d like to see some changes. So we listened. Here’s what we heard:
- You want more small group Heli-Skiing options, so we’ve made the Adamants a small group program where groups of 5 skiers are supported by Bell 407 helicopters.
- You want more new school Heli-Skiing options, so we joined forces with K2 Skis and this season will be the inaugural winter for CMH K2 and the CMH K2 Rotor Lodge in Nakusp where K2 athletes will be joining CMH Heli-Skiing groups for the Southern Selkirks pillows and powder harvest.
- You want to experience Private Heliskiing, so we’ve opened McBride to individual bookings so you don’t need to put together an entire group to indulge in the ultimate Heli-Skiing - one group of experienced skiers and the biggest tenure in CMH.
- You want to help make your own heli-ski plan each day, so we opened two Nomads programs, one in the north, based out of the Gothics Lodge with access to the Monashees, Adamants and Gothics areas, and one in the South, based out of the lakefront Hot Springs Resort and private chalets of Halcyon with access to Revelstoke, Galena, CMH K2 and the Bugaboos.
So next time we’re standing around in the old growth forest, up to our waists in BC pow, catching our breath and talking, be careful what you ask for - you just might get it!
If you have further questions about what is the right Heli-Ski trip for you, be it a Powder Intro with custom powder skiing instruction, or Steep Shots and Pillow Drops with a K2 athlete, give us a call at 1 (800) 661-0252 to speak with one of our knowledgable reservations agents. After all, the definition of the world’s greatest skiing is not the same for everyone, so we’ve made sure your Heli-Ski vacation is The World’s Greatest Skiing - for you!
Photo and video courtesy of CMH Revelstoke guides, November 22, 2012.
Wow, another month of sweet lines, happy guests and great ski photos is behind us. We were happy that we got an extra day in the month of February to enjoy all the fresh snow that's been falling along the Powder Highway in BC, Canada.
Here's how we saw the world at CMH Heli-Skiing in the last month, in no particular order:
1. Mid-February in the Bobbie Burns and Area Manager Bruce Howatt was able to capture poetry in motion early one morning.
2.In the Bugaboos the pilot of our Bell 407, aka "The Small Ship", Alex Edwards captured the theme of the month - deep, deep snow!
3. CMH Kootenay hosted our first ever Powder 401: Steep Shots & Pillow Drops program which was introduced as part of the new Powder U cirriculum for 2012. They are also hosting the K2 Demo Days starting this Saturday, March 3/12 - 2 spaces remain!
4. Up in the Monashees skiers and riders on our Private, Small Group Heli-Skiing program took advantage of the great conditions and skied 111,650 metres in the first week of February.
5. At the Cariboos skiers and riders on the Signature 7-day Heli-Ski trips skied sweet lines all week and enjoyed classic CMH hospitality back at the lodge. One group of 14 skiers who have been skiing together with CMH for over 20 years enjoyed the 75 centimetres of new snow, the three million foot suits that were awarded and the copious amounts of champagne consumed!
If moving pictures are more your thing you'll love this new video from the team at the Bobbie Burns.
And in the words of Rob Rohn, CMH's Director of Mountain Operations, 'the recent abundant snowfall and cold temperatures with minimal wind have made for really great skiing. A group of Swiss skiers in the Gothics told me that today was the best day of skiing they have had, ever!" So, if you're looking to end your ski season on a high note, contact CMH reservations at 1.800.661.0252 - some great space still remains for March and April here in the heli-skiing Mecca of BC, Canada!
For more ski photos from the month of February, check out CMH's online photo gallery.
This summer I ran into mountain guide Andi Kraus during a CMH Summer Adventure in the Bobbie Burns, a program that rivals the early days of heliskiing in terms of excitement and unprecedented adventure innovation. We flew on ziplines, hiked on ice, and explored the tundra. One sunny day, Andi turns to me and says, “You know, Topher, McBride is the best secret in heli-skiing.”
I had to find out a little more, so I tracked down Andi this fall. Andi knows a thing or two about skiing secrets. He was born in the German Alps, in a town where Olympic gold medalists have learned to ski. He began skiing at age three and eventually worked as director of the local ski school and coach for the racing club.
Later, mountain guiding took Andi to places far from his Bavarian home, including the Himalaya and Canada. Fifteen years ago Andi began guiding for CMH and has never really looked back. He has guided skiers in most of the CMH Heliskiing areas, but considers himself a McBride guide.
TD: What impresses you most about the mountains in McBride?
AK: I really like the roughness of the mountains in McBride - the massive alpine faces combined with long avalanche paths. There are no roads or logging - just pure nature all the way from the high alpine down to below treeline.
The Cariboo Mountain Range in general is just made for skiing. The U shape of the valley's give you endless opportunities to find routes and pickups along the way. I like the complexity of the terrain from open glaciated alpine down into awesome tree skiing below treeline. The variety in terrain and incline gives you an endless ski playground.
TD: From where you are heli-skiing on most days, how far is it to the nearest ski tracks beside your own?
AK: McBride is the biggest area within CMH and since we are a private area we only see our own tracks most of times. McBride is located in the North Columbia north of CMH Valemount and Cariboo lodges. Sometimes we hear their helicopter but we never see their tracks.
TD: How is guiding in MB different from the other CMH areas?
AK: Since we are the only group operating in this massive area, we have the possibility to pick and choose without worrying about conserving snow for other skiers on any particular day. We have great terrain knowledge like the other CMH heliskiing guide teams, but a bit more flexibility, and easy communication and understanding within the guiding team since there are only two of us and the pilot.
Also, Kevin Christakos, the McBride manager, and I work really well together. The other CMH operations have great guiding teams with great communication skills as well, but a small team makes everything simpler.
TD: For more relaxed skiers, is it hard to keep up with the pace of private groups, or is it easy for individuals to take their time on a run?
AK: It is easy to for different skill levels to fit in. This is the beauty in the private groups, you pick and choose your own pace and terrain.
TD: For aggressive skiers, do you have more latitude to play around than with typical heliski groups? Provided you stay under the guide’s watchful eye, of course.
AK: Yes, absolutely. For example, we have a group that has come to McBride many times, and they are all fast skiers, so in a week we ski between 90,000 to 100,000 meters, 24-25 runs a day. Of course weather and snow changes things, but those numbers are an average what we ski with those guys. They ski steep and deep, fast and slow - what ever they want.
TD: Anything you’d like to add?
AK: CMH McBride is a hidden gem - lots of people don't know about it or ignore it. I think McBride has a great skiing future. There is no other area in CMH where you can still establish so many new ski runs as in McBride - and this is what I love about it: looking at terrain and seeing a ski line and when conditions are right, to go and ski it.
The biggest tenure in CMH. Just one group of skiers. Private luxury lodge with a private chef. Andi might be right: private heli-skiing with CMH in McBride could be the best kept secret in heli-skiing.
Photos of CMH McBride heli-ski terrain by Andi Kraus.
Recently here on The Heli-Ski Blog we have been spreading the news about some changes we've made to our heli-ski trip offerings for the 2011/12 season. There's still more to come with today's post covering the CMH Nomads trips.
CMH NOMADS Apparently skiers dig skiing multiple awesome mountain ranges in one trip. Who knew?
Only CMH Heli-Skiing can offer you the chance to ski through multiple heli-ski areas and across both the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges in search of the most stellar skiing available on any given day. These trips are the very essence of Heli-Skiing – exploring the remote reaches of huge mountain ranges and finding the best snow, just you and a few close friends and two very experienced guides. Everybody who tries it knows how ridiculously fun “Nomads” can be! Thus, in 2012 we will offer more Nomads departures than ever before
Nomads North: Based in the Gothics Lodge you will have your own 407, 4 skiers and 2 dedicated senior guides. In 2011 the average amount skied by all Nomads North skiers was an astounding 52,000 vertical metres with many going well past 60,000 vertical metres on a 7 day trip! You can join Nomads North for 4, 5, or 7 days, explore the far flung reaches of the Gothics, the Monashees and the Adamants, and ski as much as you want!
Nomads South: If you want choice, flexibility and luxury, look no further than Nomads South. Your home base is the beautiful lakefront property of Halcyon Hot Springs Resort. From here you can choose to ski with a Bell 407 with 4 or fewer skiers, or choose a Bell 212 for 5-9 skiers. Each group is led by two senior CMH guides. You can then decide if you want a ski program with unlimited metres or a trip with a guaranteed number of metres. And then there is the skiing! On top of all of that choice, your group has a wonderland of skiing options; from Galena to Kootenay to Revelstoke to the Bugaboos…always depending upon where the best skiing can be found.
Curious? To learn more, contact the Heli-Skiing Experts at CMH Reservations: 1.800.661.0252. Once word gets out, spaces won't last long.
And don't forget: Book your 2012 Heli-Skiing space by April 30 to qualify for CMH Heli-Skiing's Early Booking Incentive.
Watching the events unfolding in Egypt recently made my own obsessions and little victories feel insignificant – but it also made me look into the nooks and crannies around me where the people’s voice is heard. The will of the human spirit is staggering. Even something as obscure and hedonistic as heliskiing was due to the adventurous spirit of North American skiers, not because some investor decided to create a heliski business.
While writing Bugaboo Dreams, the book that tells the story of Canadian Mountain Holidays and the invention of heliskiing, I was struck by a common thread throughout the now 46-year history of the sport: the skiers were the inspiration.
The first big change was in the early 60s, at MIT, when the first American Olympic ski racer, Brooks Dodge, approached CMH founder Hans Gmoser after a slideshow promoting Hans' ski touring business. Brooks was enamoured with the idea of using a helicopter for a ski lift in some remote, snowy mountains like those of Western Canada. Hans wasn’t crazy about the idea. Being a mountain guide, the complications of taking people skiing by helicopter must have been daunting.
But Brooks made Hans an offer he couldn’t refuse. Brooks would bring enough skiers to pay for the helicopter to leave the ground - and if it didn’t work out Hans could keep the money. Needless to say, it worked.
The second big change was when CMH opened the Cariboo Lodge in the early seventies. From the short sighted perspective of modern business, it would have been more profitable to expand the Bugaboo Lodge and pack more customers into the already established area – but the people wouldn’t have been as happy.
People wanted to go heliskiing because it landed them squarely in a vast expanse of wilderness with easy access to a nearly limitless supply of untouched powder snow. Hans knew that bringing more people into the Bugaboos would have reduced the quality of the experience for the people who mattered most – his guests. So instead of expanding the Bugaboos he built a lodge 300-kilometres to the north in the Cariboos.
The third big change was in the mid-eighties when a French ski guide named Ary Dedet suggested that skiing in small, private groups would be worth the additional expense. Again, if the decision had been made from a purely profit-based perspective, Ary would have been denied. Why not open another full-sized lodge to bring in more people?
Instead, the decision to try Private Group Heliskiing was based on the dreamy concept of skiing, dining and living for a week with just you and a few close friends - and a helicopter at your service – in some of the most epic ski mountains and snowpack on the planet. CMH opened Valemount and then McBride to cater to this more intimate heliskiing experience and the result remains one of the most popular CMH trips.
More recently, CMH introduced Small Group Heliskiing for the most addicted powder fiends, Powder Intro because intermediate skiers wanted to learn to ski the legendary powder of the Columbia Mountains, Nomads because skiers asked about skiing in more than one CMH area during the same trip, and Family Trips because veteran heliskiers wanted to share the magical experience with their families.
However - just like in a country where the people want change - there are the twin limitations of safety and sustainability. What the future of heliskiing holds is largely based on these two limitations balanced against the desires of the skiers and snowboarders who have shaped Canadian Mountain Holidays for nearly half a century.
Considering these all-powerful limitations of safety and sustainability, what do you want heliskiing to be like in another decade?
CMH archive photo of the birth of heliskiing, Bugaboos, April 1965. And a snowboarder ripping steep terrain in the Bobbie Burns, March 2008.
CMH has three lodges for private helicopter skiing in BC that are available for groups of 1 to 10 heli-skiiers- Valemount, McBride and Silvertip. To get a feel for the true advantages of a Private Lodge experience at CMH Heli-Skiing, I asked Greg Yavorsky, Area Manager of CMH McBride to share some of his guests’ reasons for booking an exclusive lodge.
JC: Greg, how did you come to be the manager of CMH McBride?
GY: I had worked if quite a few CMH areas and had been the Assistant Manager in Revelstoke. One summer, when I was mountain guiding in Switzerland, Walter Bruns called and asked if I’d like to go to McBride. I hadn’t been there or even heard of the town, so I said yes right away. That first winter, Dave Cochrane and I guided all the weeks together and in the spring, Dave went over to manage the Bugaboo operation. Kevin Christakos and I have been tearing up the skiing in the Robson Valley since then.
JC:What’s all the buzz around private group heli-skiing? What is the big advantage?
GY: In a private lodge, the ski program for your group is totally flexible. Some of our guests are still running their businesses on their ski holiday, so if you have a morning conference call, we can start skiing at 10 instead of 9 o’clock if necessary. Also, the chef and pastry chef are at your disposal so you can work with them to design the menu for your ski week, if that is of interest to you. With a staff to guest ratio of nearly 1:1, the level of service is very personal. Around the lodge, you create the atmosphere with your group of friends, family or business colleagues. It’s a great way to connect. In the context of skiing, you can split up the group to ski different lines
JC: What about the pace of private group skiing?
GY: Because the helicopter is yours you can go at your own pace. We can rocket or… we can take the time to take photos, build a jump, have a conversation, work on technique… There’s no pressure to get to the pick up, and it’s quiet because the helicopter is shut down at the bottom waiting for you.
JC: And guest to guide ratio?
GY: For 10 skiers or riders we have two guides. This doubles the expertise so if you want some ski tips you’ve got a guide to ski with. The 2nd guide also adds to the element of safety. In the multi-group area, you’ve got another group behind you on the run, or at least nearby and the guide for that group is your back-up. In the private group that back-up is part of your group.
JC: Is there one magical element that makes Private Group skiing the be-all and end-all of Heli-Skiing?
GY: Being a heli-skier in a private group is like being a kid in a candy store. There’s nothing quite like flying into a valley and seeing no tracks, all that those clean lines just waiting. Silvertip & McBride are unique operations in that they don’t share their terrain with a multi-group operation. In McBride when you see tracks, they’re usually made by your group, and the area is so big that the character of the skiing changes from valley to valley and the view between your ski tips is rarely the same. The Cariboo mountains are truly magical for skiing and we’ve got a big chunk of that terrain. For comparison, Vail Mountain has 5,289 skiable acres, at McBride, we have 399,569 skiable acres! For 10 guests!
JC: Greg, anything new at McBride this year?
GY: There are quite a few people who don’t realize what a great experience Private Lodge skiing is so at McBride we’ve just announced some shorter trips for the 2010 season. This will allow groups to try it out and see if this Private Lodge thing is for them. We’ve got three five-day trips throughout the winter that are currently available. Jan 25-30, Feb 15-20 and Mar 27- Apr 1. There’s been strong interest in the dates so if any of your readers are keen, they should contact Erin in reservations.
JC: Thanks for sharing this insight with me, Greg. Any New Years Resolutions for 2010?
GY: That’s easy….more skiing!!
Do you have a small group that would like to book a lodge for their very own? Want to custom-design your own Heli-Ski trip. Call Erin, one of our Heli-Ski experts at 1-800-661-0252 or drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll start working on a quote for your group.