One summer day in the late 80s, the CMH Heli-Skiing office in Banff received a call explaining that a young mountain guide named Rob Rohn had been hit by an ice avalanche in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. With a fractured spine and a broken leg, Rob needed helicopter evacuation - but the Peruvian government would not initiate the rescue without $17,000 up front to cover the cost.
Marty Von Neudegg, who was in the CMH office when the call came in, remembers the day. Hans Gmoser, CMH founder, and Mark Kingsbury, the charismatic president of CMH Heli-Skiing at the time who helped develop the close relationships CMH Heli-Skiing enjoys with international skiers and agents, were both in the office to decide what, if anything, could be done to help Rob - who was a seasonal ski guide for CMH, and off-duty, at the time of the accident.
In Bugaboo Dreams, the book about CMH and the invention of heli-skiing, I wrote about Rob's accident:
“There was little discussion,” remembers Marty, “Hans and Mark just said to send the money right away.” The helicopter rescue was initiated as soon as the money was wired to Peru. CMH recovered the money through Rob’s insurance, but at the time the decision was made to pay for the rescue, recouping the money was not even mentioned.
Rob explained the caring demonstrated by Hans and Mark in a way many modern executives would do well to take to heart: “The commitment the company had towards me strengthened my commitment to the company.”
Rob began guiding for CMH in 1984, in 1991 he began managing CMH Bobbie Burns, and in 2001 took over as Director of Mountain Operations.
As of May 2012, Rob’s commitment to CMH Heli-Skiing has opened a new chapter with his promotion to General Manager of CMH Heli-Skiing and CMH Summer Adventures. Rob follows in the footsteps of Hans, Mark, and most recently Walter Bruns - three other mountain guides who have directed the day-to-day operations of CMH Heli-Skiing with heart and soul for the last 47 years.
Nearly half a century of leadership by experienced mountain guides has, in no small part, helped CMH Heli-Skiing to remain highly respected as a professional, community and industry leader worldwide. Rob is also the current president of HeliCat Canada and a former board member of the Canadian Avalanche Association.
Photos of Peru's Cordillera Blanca and Rob Rohn skiing near Revelstoke in January, 2012, while helping to setup the new CMH private heliski program, Nomads South, by Topher Donahue.
adjective: denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
1. a tropical Asian and African kingfisher with brightly colored plumage.
2. a mythical bird said by ancient writers to breed in a nest floating at sea at the winter solstice, charming the wind and waves into calm.
That’s how the New Oxford American Dictionary defines Halcyon, the name given to the hot springs and the base area for CMH Heli-Skiing’s newest private heliski program, Nomads South, located on the shore of Arrow Lake, just south of Revelstoke, British Columbia.
One legend says the first nations people avoided the springs, calling them “mesachie”, their word for evil. Another says the native tribes fought over the springs.
After soaking in the waters of the legendary healing springs - between days of deep powder skiing in the Monashees, the Selkirks, and the Kootenays - I buy the second legend. Anyone living in the area, in ancient times or recently, who came across the warm, clean water would hardly refer to it as evil.
Whatever legend you believe, the Halcyon Hot Springs have been a part of the fabric of Interior BC culture since before the first ski turn was ever made. The waters themselves, once science was able to detect such things, became known for having the highest lithium content of any natural spring. The mental and physical health benefits of lithium are now well understood. (The combined elixir of deep powder skiing and daily lithium baths has yet to be scientifically supported.)
The springs were first developed as a destination in the late 1800s by a steamboat captain named Robert Sanderson. Surprisingly, it wasn’t his navigational skills that led him to the springs, but rather his linguistic skills in the languages spoken by the native tribes. According to Milton Parent, who wrote a history on the hot springs, Sanderson spoke the dialect of various tribes and it was his close relationship with the First Nations people that resulted in them showing him the location of the springs.
Through the 19th century, the hot springs resort functioned intermittently as a party place, a sanitarium that prohibited alcohol and claimed efficacy at curing rheumatism and driving metallic poisons such as lead from the body. In modern times as a holiday retreat complete with private chalets (shown below in heavy snow), fine dining, and clean pools of different temperatures.
In the new millennium, the Halcyon Hot Springs has opened a new chapter - as a base area for CMH Heli-Skiing’s Nomads program. The private ski program, where a single group of skiers takes daily excursions into the legendary ski terrain of the Southern Monashees near CMH Revelstoke, the world-class technical skiing in the Selkirks of CMH Galena, and the famed tree skiing of CMH Kootenay.
Check out the Heli-Ski Blog for more photos and a glimpse into the CMH Nomads and the Halcyon Hot Springs utopia of private heliskiing in the deep powder of Revelstoke, BC.
Photos by Topher Donahue.
Why do we ski? Sure, it's about the decent. But it's also about who we share the days with. While we may consider ourselves naturally born to try something as close to flying as humans can get without power, it's always a lot more fun to do it with folks we are close to.
Whether you've got nine buddies, three kids, four friends or a small gang you want to celebrate with, nothing says FUN! like private heli-skiing. Just you, your friends and your guides deciding on how many runs, how fast to ski and even when and what to eat. When nothing but the best will do, a custom-designed heli-ski trip is what you deserve.
At CMH Heli-Skiing we offer a myriad of options to do just that. Here's a breakdown of how you can make your dreams reality:
Program: Revelstoke or Monashee Private
Group Size: 4 skiers/riders & 2 guides
At the end of your ski days you share lodge life (or hotel life, in the case of Revelstoke) with the other heli-skiers, but each day the choice of timing and terrain are between you, your guides and your Bell 407 pilot.
Limited availability for 2013.
Program: Nomads North
Group Size: 4 skiers/ riders & 2 guides
You'll toast your day with the other skiers at CMH Gothics lodge at night but by day you'll roam like the nomads you are through the Selkirk and Monashee Mountain ranges. Your guides and Bell 407 pilot will choose the best lines to suit your group, given the days' snow and weather conditions with access to the vast areas of the Adamants, Monashees and Gothics terrain. Your gateway for Nomads North is Kelowna where you will spend one night at the Grand Okanagan Resort before flying, by helicopter, to the Gothics Lodge (Sweet!).
Limited weeks available in 2012 & 2013.
Program: Nomads South
Group Size: 9 skiers/riders & 2 guides
If roaming is your thing then Nomads South has got that covered for you and 8 of your closest ski pals. With access to Revelstoke, Bugaboo, Galena and Kootenay terrain for the duration of your stay you can definitely find the perfect lines to suit your group.
Your Nomads South home base is the plush Halcyon Hot Springs Village & Spa. Take to the healing waters each night to prepare your legs to attack the snow each morning.
Your gateway for Nomads South is also Kelowna and your trip begins with a wonderful helicopter flight from Kelowna to the resort on the shores of Arrow Lakes between Revelstoke and Nakusp.
Space still remaining for 2012 & 2013.
Program: CMH McBride
Group Size: Up to 10 Skiers/ Riders & 2 guides
If your own helicopter and guides sound nice, but you want to have your own private lodge too, then Kevin Christakos and his team at McBride are ready for you.
CMH McBride is the home to CMH's largest tenure with 399,569 skiable acres. For comparison, Vail has 5,289. (And by the way, McBride is limited to only 10 guests! How many at Vail?) This is an awesome playground full of long glacier runs and steep tree lines. McBride's got it all for veterans and first-timers alike.
Having the lodge to yourselves allows you to dictate the schedule. Breakfast at 9 and first flight at 10? No problem. Tenderloin and lobster for dinner with champagne and caviar to start? Ask and you shall receive.
With easy access from the International Airport in Prince George, a scenic two-hour drive gets you to the lodge in time for transceiver training and tea goodie.
Space still remaining for 2012 & 2013.
Program: CMH Valemount
Group Size: Up to 10 Skiers/Riders & 2 guides.
When Hans Gmoser started into this business he began in the Bugaboos in the Southern Columbia Mountains of BC. But the Cariboo Mountains was where he ventured next.
Valemount is the home of private group skiing! It all began here in 1987 with the first private groups exploring an entire heli-ski area. The word spread quickly and today, groups book Valemount for the ultimate private group experience year after year. With an airstrip only a few kilometers up the road, CMH Valemount guests fly by private plane from Calgary and are warmly met by host and Area Manager Danny Stoffel and driven quickly to the lodge to be pampered by the attentive staff.
Skiers and Riders in Valemount have full access to both the Valemount and Cariboo areas with over 3000 square kilometres to play in.
As in McBride, the daily program is set by you and your guides. The culinary team in the open kitchen will be thrilled to work with you to design the menu for your week.
Two weeks available in the 2012 season! This is your chance!
Program: CMH Summer Adventures
Perhaps those you wish to share your milestone celebration with aren't quite as bullish about skiing as you are, but they have a craving for something special too. During the summer months the Bobbie Burns and Bugaboo Lodges can accommodate groups for hiking, walking and High Flying Adventures beneath sunny blue skies, amid flower-filled meadows.
Regardless of whether it is a birthday, anniversary, Christmas Holidays, a graduation, gathering of friends or a business deal, CMH can help you make your celebration fun, thrilling and memorable.
Give us a call, we'd love to help you plan your next mountain adventure!
CMH Nomads South offers a custom-designed heli-ski vacation in which guests can design a trip that allows them to ski in multiple CMH Heli-Skiing areas over the course of their trip. Working with our Nomads concierge, skiers custom-design a trip each group essentially mixing-and-matching daily skiing from the Revelstoke, Galena, Kootenay and Bugaboos ski terrain using the beautiful Halcyon Hot Springs Village and Spa in Nakusp as home base.
This week the CMH Nomads program kick into gear and Jeff Bodnarchuck and his nomadic team will welcome their first heli-skiing guests of the season. I caught Jeff before he gathered the team together to begin preparations for guest arrivals to ask him about the heli-ski experience that tops people's bucket list!
JC: Jeff, you guys are getting ready for another season of Nomads. Tell me what is involved with set up?
JB: This is the fourth season of Nomads. The program has continued to evolve and grow, so each season the set up is a little more involved. We do the usual operations set up, snowpack investigations and establishing clear protocols with the other CMH areas. We have been skiing around in all three mountain ranges this season, so have a good handle on what the ski program will look like. That is subject to change if we get a lot of new snow, which we always do! This week we will go to as many areas as we can and put in landing flags and establish pick up areas. We have some new terrain in the Selkirks and Monashees that is quite remote and we plan to explore and get some first descents. The team is really excited about that!
Because each Nomads South trip is a custom-designed heli-ski trip, we have been working with our first group over the past few weeks. This one is going to be quite special and I look forward to sharing the details afterwards!
JC: What sort of an experience can guests expect on a CMH Nomads trip?
JB: The groups can expect the very best skiing that conditions allow. We have epic long runs in the Monashee range, seldom visited as part of our regular heli-ski program. It’s a range of big wild mountains right at our doorstep. Then the Selkirks supply us with some of the most inspiring tree skiing anywhere on the planet. Anyone who has skied the big runs in Revelstoke, Galena and Kootenay will understand what I am talking about. If that wasn’t enough, we also ski the Purcell’s long, long glaciated terrain with views that are world renowned. There’s not another ski program in the world that can offer more variety and opportunity.
JC: Who are the guides working with you this winter and what is their experience with CMH and in the Nomads terrain?
JB: This season will see some new faces to the program, but they are all long-time CMH'ers.
John Newsome will return for his third season. I’ve worked with John for about twenty years. Geez, that seems like a big number. John is as solid as they come.
Georg Dempfle will join us. Georg has been guiding in CMH Valemount for last few years. Before that, he pioneered the program in CMH Silvertip along with Willi Trinker. If you wanted to go way back in time, Georg was the assistant manager at CMH Bugaboos. He’s been around the block and back but has spent the last few years working exclusively with our private heli-skiing guests.
Our flight crew is even more experienced. Mike McKenzie will be our man in the sky. “Sluggo” as he is known, was the first pilot to heli ski in CMH Galena. The past few seasons he’s been the Bell-212 pilot in CMH Kootenay. The guy is a legend!
Larry Hepple is our engineer, aka 'Uncle Larry'. A great guy and excellent motivational speaker!
Our concierge this season is Sarah Watts. Sarah was the lodge manager at CMH Bugaboos for the past four years. She will anchor the entire operation with her strong organizational skills and experience. Plus she is a really hot skier!
That’s our team, 2012,, a real power team!!
JC: What kind of skier does a Nomads trip appeal to?
JB: We get about 25% first time heli skiers and the rest are generally long time CMHers who are looking for something different. Skiers that have a strong emotional bond with the mountains, not content to just look at the far away places, skiers who want to go there, ski that chute. Explorers at heart. We also get the hardcore powder pigs.
JC: For you, what’s the number 1, best thing about Nomads?
JB: I used to think it was the idea of not having boundaries on my skiing, on where I could go and where I could not. Having a limit based on a line on a map. Skiing Nomads takes those limits and boundaries away. I still like that.
Its interesting, as I mentioned this is season number four, and this season the energy of the team and the guests who are coming seems even higher. Maybe I forget over the summer months, but everyone is super keen to get out, and make it happen. That really motivates me to elevate my game. How many people feel like that every day they go to work? That’s my new favorite thing,
Thanks Jeff! Have a great season!
To learn more about Nomads South Private Heli-Ski excursions with CMH, contact CMH Reservations at 1.800.661.0252 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: CMH Guide John Newsome enjoying some epic ski conditions in the Selkirks on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 and Halcyon Hot Springs Village & Spa.
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.
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 email@example.com and she’ll start working on a quote for your group.