A lot of people ask me if the skiing and snowboarding in the Revelstoke area really lives up to all the hype, and if it does, why?
Well, it does, and the precipitation phenomenon is a big part of the reason why:
- During the winter months, the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Haida Gwaii Islands receive the most rainfall in North America. These storms turn to snow when they hit the coastal mountains.
- The driest locations in British Columbia are just inland from the coastal ranges where a series of huge valleys run north and south including the South Thompson and Okanagan. These are some of the driest and warmest locations in British Columbia, since the storms lose much of their moisture passing over the coastal ranges and warm air is funneled up from the south.
- The warming of the air over these valleys allows the atmosphere to pickup more moisture as the storms pass over the rivers and lakes of these Interior valleys, one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water. The air in these valleys is warm enough that the lakes and rivers remain largely unfrozen, allowing evaporation to continue through the coldest winter months.
- When the storms reach the Columbia Mountains on the eastern edge of these warm valleys, they are again saturated with moisture. Most of the moisture in the Columbia Mountains, which feeds North America’s 4th largest river by volume, falls during the winter months, in the form of snow – usually the light, fluffy champagne kind.
- To the north the Polar High, a shallow dome of high pressure and frigid air that moves south during the winter months, feeds cold air into the northern reaches of the north-south valley systems including the North Thompson and the Columbia River valley.
Super-saturated storms simultaneously slam into a huge mountain range and a wall of frigid arctic air directly on top of the CMH Heli-Skiing areas. Bingo - Take Flight!
This phenomenon is what makes the Mt. Fidelity weather recording station near Revelstoke, some 400 kilometres from the coast, the snowiest weather station in Canada. On average, the Mt. Fidelity station receives almost 15 metres (49 feet) of snow, and during one epic season the station recorded 23 metres (75 feet) of snow!
Any ski guide will tell you that while the Mt. Fidelity weather station gets a lot of snow, there are pockets in the region receive even more. Those spots just don’t have a weather station to record the totals, but we can go Heli-Skiing there…
Photo of the Gothics Lodge and a happy Heli-Skier, with a view out the window worth writing home about, by Topher Donahue.
Last week I had a chat with Joel Gratz, the legendary meteorologist who has turned the ski conditions forecasting world on its head with his snow-rider-centric websites, Colorado Powder Forecast and Open Snow. We were at the Denver showing of Take Flight, the latest visual treat from CMH Heli-Skiing where he shared some interesting (and exciting for powder hounds) trends in Colorado precipitation after the record-breaking Colorado floods.
Joel told me he’d been looking at historical weather data from the Mica Dam, just up the road from the CMH Monashees lodge and an area known for extraordinarily deep snow (and steep tree skiing) but that his results weren’t quite ready for prime time. Since then he dialed it in and this week he sent me a summary of his results.
To begin with, this year the water in the central Pacific is about average temperature, creating what Joel calls La Nada, as opposed to El Niño (warmer than average waters in the central Pacific) or La Niña (cooler than average waters in the central Pacific).
Joel found the following trends in snowfall at the Mica Dam:
- During El Niño years, snowfall is 92% of average, and is twice as likely to have a below normal snow year than a normal year or an above average year.
- During La Niña, snowfall is 111% of average, with almost no “normal” years and is twice as likely to have an above average year than a below average year.
- During La Nada (which we have this year) snow is 100% of average, with equal chances of having an above average or a below average year.
By crushing more of the Mica Dam data into statistics, Joel found a few more interesting things:
- In December, it snows an average of 61% of the days, with 13% of the days having at least 15cm (6 inches) and 3% having at least 30cm (12 inches).
- In January, it snows an average of 56% of the days, with the same percentage of 15cm and 30cm days as December.
- In February, it snows and average of 44% of the days, with 7% of the days getting 15cm and 1% getting at least 30cm.
Joel noted that Mica Dam is at the lowest altitude of any Heli-Skiing pickups and explained that “Even though it's at a low elevation, the snowfall trends should be similar to higher elevations, but the amounts at the dam are far lower.”
In his research, Joel came up with a couple of other interesting tidbits:
First, he learned that there is no trend in snowfall over the past 30 years, but that the late 60s and early 70s had average snowfall that was about 25% more than the snowfall during the past 30 years. This supports the observations made by some of the old-timers that I interviewed while writing Bugaboo Dreams, the book that chronicles CMH and the invention of Heli-Skiing, who said that in the early years it snowed more. They’ll be happy to learn that it wasn’t just the passing of the years that made the snow seem deeper – it really was deeper.
Second, and perhaps most fascinating to CMH and Revelstoke area skiers and snowboarders, is that about 75% of the maximum base (which occurs from February 1 to March 1) is accumulated by December 31. This may come as no surprise to fans of the cold smoke of early season Heli-Skiing, but it is a fascinating statistic considering how much it snows in the Columbia Mountains from January through April. Perhaps the part we forget to consider is that right now the snow is already accumulating in the Columbias…
If anyone knows when to plan a ski trip, it’s Joel Gratz himself, and he’s planning a trip to the tree skiing nirvana of CMH Monashees this winter from December 28 to January 2 where he will share some secrets of the art of forecasting powder – as well as schralp a bunch of the white stuff. Want to join him? Contact Brad Nichols, CMH Rep at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (303) 378-9106.
Photo of early season snow in the Columbias by Dani Lowenstein.
A staggering amount of the 15,000 square kilometres that makes up CMH Heli-Skiing is ski and snowboard terrain. However, thick forests, massive cliffs, broken icefalls, and summits guarded by all forms of alpine barriers keep us from carving turns down some of it.
But every millimetre of those 15,000 square kilometres makes for a great view. For me, as a photographer, the incredible visuals provided by the CMH terrain are as fascinating, thrilling, and memorable as the deep powder itself.
Surprisingly, however, it is hard to capture that vastness and diversity of terrain with a photograph. Only a few photos manage to bring home a little taste of that crisp alpine air, those deep valleys, the tenacious clouds, and the enormous snow riding potential and limitless beauty of CMH terrain.
These photos are five of my best efforts at turning this wilderness the size of a small country into a postcard-sized matrix of pixels.
CMH Adamants is named after this collection of summits; summits so rugged and remote that mountaineers have only recently begun to explore the steepest faces. Even fewer professional skiers have visited the areas steep couloirs and plunging faces:
The Bugaboos was the first, and is the most famous of the CMH Heli-Skiing areas, yet it remains one of the least-known of North America’s natural wonders. Here, the prisitine wilderness of East Ereek dances with mists during a CMH Summer Adventure:
Many people have said that the Cariboos are made for skiing, and metre by metre, the Cariboos may be the most versatile ski mountains in North America. In this photo, the steep couloirs that lace the range’s biggest peaks are begging to be ripped:
Even ski guides call the Monashees, when conditions are right, the best skiing in the universe. Thousand-metre slots through the trees can be found by the hundreds dropping into the range’s deep valleys and many of the area’s hard-core Heli-Ski fans have decide there is nowhere else they’d rather ride:
The Gothics, just north of the now famous powder epicenter of Revelstoke, is one of those areas where you can ride 2000-metre alpine runs one day, and steep trees the next. The views into the Monashee and Selkirk mountains are stunning enough to give pause to even the most agro powder hounds:
Maybe it’s Thanksgiving break. Maybe it’s pre-season marketing. Maybe it is the Forest Service permitting system for ski resorts. Maybe it’s the insatiable human psyche to move on to the next thing. Whatever it is, for some reason most skiers and snowboarders don’t ride when the snow is at its best.
I’m not talking about ski bums who live to ski, and chase the last scraps of snow in the springtime before going to the southern hemisphere for the southern winter. I'm not talking about backcountry skiers who wait all year for the big alpine descents to come into condition in the springtime. I’m not talking about the CMH Heli-Skiing guests who plan their dream ski trip a year in advance.
I’m talking about the skiers and snowboarders who are chomping at the bit to make some turns in October and November and risk their knees and teeth riding thin snow when there are still elk grazing on the ski runs. I’m talking about the ski areas that blast artificial snow all over the hills in November, but then close in early April when snowpacks are at their deepest.
This year in Colorado was an exceptional demonstration of this phenomenon. The skiing was marginal most of the year. Yeah, we know, Revelstoke got dumped on the entire winter and Jackson Hole and the Pacific Northwest had snowy winters. But that’s not what I’m talking about. In November, it was hardly cold enough to even make snow in Colorado but areas jousted to open first and bag the precious Thanksgiving skiers at the end of November. It was March before the backcountry was really worth skiing in much of the state.
Then in April, on almost the exact weekend that most of Colorado’s ski areas closed, it started dumping, and snowed in the high country for the next month straight. It was painful to watch. Some people were actually complaining that it was snowing because they wanted to go ride their bikes, go climbing, hiking or other warm weather activities. But aside from our calendar-based expectations, it was winter!
I drove by the ski area to take my kids backcountry skiing (photo above) in a kiddie sort of way. The lifts stood silent, base lodge buried in deep snow, trees cloaked in storm after storm of fantastic powder.
My daughter asked me, “Papa, can we go turn on the lifts and go powder skiing?”
How I wanted to. We had a blast, it was great for the kids to suffer a bit boot packing and earning our turns on a little hill, but even the 6-year-olds saw the irony in it.
This year in Colorado was unusual, but not unusual to the extreme. We quite often have our best snow after the ski areas have closed. The best skiing in Colorado is typically from March through May, but most ski areas have limited permits from the National Forest Service; however, I don’t think that’s the biggest reason ski areas close when the skiing gets good.
I think the biggest reason is that like any business, ski areas are beholden to the whims of their customers. Snow doesn’t matter nearly as much as people buying lift tickets and booking ski holidays. I think we cause the problem ourselves by jones-ing for the winter long before winter even gets going, and then being over it before winter even ends; for taking our families on ski trips at Christmas when really we should be taking our ski holiday during spring break; for even buying lift tickets in November when some years there is not a single natural snowflake to be found anywhere south of the Canadian border. Ok, maybe it's not that bad, but you get my point.
If we all just stopped visiting ski resorts before Christmas unless the snow was great, and then packed the ski areas in April, maybe we could change the ski season to match the snow season. What do you think?
Any list of the world’s 5 best ski towns doomed to be unfair. In many ways, the best ski town in the world is the one you’re in. But some, like my number one choice (shown in this photo), are the kind of ski towns where ski dreams meet reality.
To make this list for the Heli-Ski Blog, I considered the conversations I’ve had with the most experienced group of skiers I know: the guests of CMH Heli-Skiing. As a group, CMH Heli-Skiers have skied everywhere and know a thing or two about the best the world has to offer. At aprés ski in a CMH Lodge, waiting for a heli-pickup, or riding the bus from Calgary to the Revelstoke region, CMH guests talk about skiing. These are the ski towns that I’ve heard spoken of with the most reverence. To pick this list, I weighed the skiing heavily, followed by the culture and lifestyle of the area, and limited my list to no more than one ski town in a given country.
Number 5: Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
There’s nowhere in the United States where you get a more American skiing experience than Jackson Hole. Think cowboys and National Parks, big trucks, wolves and moose before even stepping into your skis. From Teton Pass, where a car shuttle and boot pack trail give access to world-class powder skiing, to the endless backcountry runs in Grand Teton National Park (photo right), to the progressive Jackson Hole ski resort where out-of-bounds skiing (with the right safety gear and training) is considered standard fare; the skiing during good snow cycles is about as good as snowriding gets.
Number 4: The Arlberg, Austria
It’s hard to pick one area in the Northern Alps. From Garmisch Partenkirchen in Southern Germany, to Innsbruck, Austria, a town many consider the winter sports capital of the world, there may be no region on the planet with better ski infrastructure or more ski-soaked culture.
I had to pick the Arlberg. Considered the birthplace of modern Alpine skiing, the Arlberg was also one of the places where skiers experimented with using a helicopter as a ski lift before CMH opened the world’s first Heli-Skiing business in 1965.
Number 3: La Grave–La Meije, France
Much of Europe is famous for impeccably groomed pistes, comfortable lodging, and well thought-out transportation. A few European areas, including the legendary Verbier in Switzerland, are known for out-of-bounds skiing and would be worthy of inclusion in this list. I had to give the love to a little lesser-known jewel of the off-piste lifestyle: La Grave, described here in an Outside Magazine article, is an almost mythical area famous for one thing, and one thing only. Skiing.
Home to the biggest lift-accessed off-piste skiing in the world, La Grave offers 2150 metres (7000 feet) of vertical and unrestricted backcountry access. There are no luxury hotels in La Grave, and only a single tram and a couple of surface lifts, but the town's classical stone construction and epic skiing make it a ski town unlike any other. If you go to La Grave, hire a guide, and get ready for the most thrilling lift-serviced skiing you’ve ever done.
Number 2: Akakura Onsen, Japan
The Revelstoke of Asia, this ski region surrounding Nagano was blown wide open by the 1998 winter Olympics. I remember having a hard time focusing on the races in Nagano because of the surrounding steep mountains coated in a generous blanket of powder snow kept catching my eye.
Akakura Onsen is known as the most central village to the best skiing, with access to several ski resorts. One area, Myoko Kogen, also allows off-piste skiing, while many of the other Japanese ski resorts do not. Add Japanese Onsen (hot springs) and cuisine to the equation, and you’ve got a recipe for what could be the world’s healthiest ski destination.
Number 1: Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada
Let’s see. North America’s tallest lift-serviced ski area. Canada’s snowiest mountains. Arguably the world’s most diverse and vast backcountry ski terrain. The spiritual centre of CMH Heli-Skiing, the world’s first Heli-Ski service. Well-managed backcountry hut systems. A world-class avalanche forecasting service. Industry-leading ski guide culture. Canadians. Need I say more?
While I hummed and hawed over the other four, it was easy to choose the number one ski town in the world. For some reason, similar to Akakura Onsen, much of the ski world just recently learned about Revelstoke. But the word is out, and the combination of Revelstoke’s easy-going-yet-go-for-it-safely Canadian ski culture, the endless terrain, the epic snowfall and diverse ski options are taking the ski world by storm.
Solo travellers, consider these options:
Option one: Travel to a huge and famous resort. Check into a hotel room on the 6th floor. Go out looking for a place to have dinner. Eat at a table by yourself. Go to a bar in hopes of finding someone to talk to. The next day, ski alone and try to be social on the lift. Channel Jason Bourne strategies to get a few fresh tracks.
Option two: Take a trip with CMH Heli-Skiing. From the moment you meet the CMH concierge in Calgary or wherever your trip begins, you’re warmly welcomed into the fold of CMH Heli-Skiing. Every aspect is taken care of for you. Go to a remote and cozy lodge where you’re immersed in ski paradise with people having the best days of their lives. Request a private room or let us find you a roomie. Dine with snow riders from all over the world who quickly become your friends. Use the world’s safest helicopters for a ski lift. Channel Scooby-do appetite to devour thousands of vertical metres of untouched powder.
Which would you choose?
For some reason, there’s a common myth among snow riders that you have to be part of a group to book a trip with CMH Heli-Skiing.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Among CMH Heli-Skiing’s 11 ski tenures in the Revelstoke region, two of them are private lodges that are (mostly) booked by groups; the rest are filled with singles, couples, families, small groups, and every combination of powder enthusiasts imaginable.
Not only are single Heli-Skiers allowed at CMH, there are numerous return guests at CMH Heli-Skiing who book trips with their friends and family for the shared experience – and then return for a trip alone for the full-throttle experience of snow-riding without friends and family.
For solo travellers who want to socialize outside of the CMH Lodges, CMH Revelstoke and CMH K2 are based in the charismatic Canadian mountain towns of Revelstoke and Nakusp where nightlife and a ski bum scene can be found between days of Heli-Skiing in the legendary mountains of the Selkirks and the Monashees.
For the unique combination of camaraderie and comfort that makes you feel like you’d rather be nowhere else on earth - a feeling known in the German alpine culture as huttenzauber, or hut magic – a Heli-Ski trip to one of the nine remote CMH Lodges would be a solo travellers dream trip.
Whatever you choose, CMH has been hosting solo travellers (and groups) for 48 years, and there may be no other place on the planet where you’ll feel more welcome or have more friends more quickly than CMH Heli-Skiing.
Photo of a solo traveller making friends with a few snow mushrooms, CMH Adamants, and huttenzauber at CMH Gothics by Topher Donahue.
When we spend a day with a CMH Heli-Skiing Guide, it is impossible not to be in awe of their profession. It appears that every waking hour they are committed to the safety and quality experience of their skiing and snowboarding guests.
But every single one of them has a life outside of guiding.
A couple of years ago I went Heli-Skiing with Liliane Lambert in the epic tree runs and scenic alpine terrain of CMH Revelstoke. At that time she had a toddling daughter at home and a son on the horizon.
Liliane’s blossoming home life and commitment to her profession begs the simple question: How does she do it?
So I tracked her down between guiding ecstatic guests through the epic storm cycles of the 2012-2013 winter to find out.
TD: How old are your kids now?
LL: Thomas is almost two and Emilie is four.
TD: How did you meet your partner?
LL: I have a great husband (Dominic). I met Dominic in the Bugaboos during the spring of 2002! He was the chef. Three months later we moved to Revelstoke and bought a house.
TD: What do your little ones do while you are working?
LL: They are with Dominic. Dominic takes them skiing (alpine and x-country), swimming, skating, Strong Start (a drop in no-charge preschool for kids in British Columbia), Mother Goose (a story telling program), the train museum, long hikes with the dog (Texas), and riding bikes (when the snow is not too deep). They go to day care twice a week so they get their social time and Dominic can go ski touring. During the four month winter season Dominic does not work to be with the kids, and during the 8 month summer season Dominic goes to work and I stay home with the kids. Dominic is the owner of Indigo Landscaping in Revelstoke.
TD: Have you taken Emilie Heli-Skiing yet?
LL: Yes and no. I was guiding until I was 5.5 month pregnant with Emilie. She has been on 6 helicopter flights. When she was 4 months old we took her to a backcountry lodge. I was guiding and Dominic was the chef and Emilie came along. Dominic was cooking and taking care of her during the day. I am planning to take her out Heli-Skiing in the spring during the staff day.
TD: Has having kids changed your approach to managing risk in the mountains?
LL: My approach to managing risk has not changed that much. I would say that I think twice when I make a decision about managing risk.
TD: Does CMH Heli-Skiing do anything differently from the old days (when guides worked for a month or more straight) to make it easier for parents who are guides to be with their kids?
LL: The schedule is 2 weeks on, 1 week off. CMH has been really good about accommodating time off so we can spend more time with the kids.
TD: How does winter season affect Dominic's relationship with the kids?
LL: They spend a lots of time together so their bond is getting stronger. Dominic is extremely comfortable spending all day with the kids, keeping them busy and entertained - and he has fun has well.
TD: During the winter, what does your workday look like?
LL: I leave the house at 4:45am to get a bit of a work out. The guide’s meeting is at 6:00am until 7:00am, then breakfast and go skiing from 8:00am until 4:00pm. Between 4:30pm and 5:00pm I go home to see how Dom and the kids are doing. Them I’m back at the guide's office from 5:00pm till 6:00pm for guides meeting. I go back home from 6:00pm till 6:30pm and then go back to be with the CMH guests from 6:45pm until 9:15pm. I’m in bed buy 9:30pm.
TD: How long have you been guiding and how old are you?
LL: I have been guiding since 2000 and am 41 year old. I was born in Rimouski , Quebec and I never lost my accent...
TD: How did you get into the mountain sports?
LL: My family was into skiing. My Mom put me on skis at 2 years old. I grew up in Rimouski (near the Val Neigette ski area), ski racing and teaching skiing and telemark ski racing. At 16 I started ski touring in the Chic Choc in Gaspe (1.5 hours from Rimouski). In my early 20's I moved to Banff to go skiing. Then I really got involved in telemark ski racing on the Canadian National Team as well as ski touring and mountaineering. I did my ACMG Assistant Ski Guide Training in 2000 then got hired at CMH for the winter 2000-2001.
TD: On the scale of 1-10, how happy are you with the life of a guide and parent?
LL: 9 out of 10. I am super happy. The minus 1 point is because I get tired. I get tired from not sleeping all night (kids waking up!!). I feel very lucky to have a great partner, 2 great kids and to be able to guide. Life is good.
TD: How do you reconnect with your kids after working such long days?
LL: Emilie and Thomas are use to having one of us away. When I get back I make sure that I spent time a lots of time playing hide and seek and then doing puzzles to get back in the groove. It seems that if I play a game that both them can be involved it seems to be the trick.
Every CMH ski guide has a story like Liliane's, so next time you’re out with them in the snow-laden woods, in awe of their professionalism and mountain savvy, remember to ask them what they do when they’re not guiding. It’s always a great conversation that follows.
Photo of Liliane Lambert in her big office, the Selkirk Range of CMH Revelstoke, by Topher Donahue.
This coming weekend, February 2-4, the acclaimed Boarding for Breast Cancer (B4BC) is hosting a new event, ReTreat Yourself, at Red Mountain Resort, near Rossland, British Columbia. Rossland is just over two hours north of Spokane, Washington, and four hours south of the powder epicentre of Revelstoke, BC. Lead by a star-studded cast of inspiring women, ReTreat Yourself is a celebration of breast cancer survivors and all other women who find medicine in the mountains.
The ReTreat Yourself weekend is a healthful bonanza of skiing, snowboarding, yoga, meditation, music, discussions and journaling - with a couple of surprises thrown in here and there. The event leaders, shown clockwise from top left, include Linda Kennoy, a life councelor from Colorado, ski legend Kasha Rigby, pro snowboarder Megan Pischke, professional chef Marianne Abrahams, yoga instructor extraordinaire Kristin Campbell and pro snowboarder/Doctor of Chinese medicine, Kendra Starr:
To find out a bit more about the event, part of B4BC's Shred the Love Tour, I talked to Megan Pischke, the spiritual leader of ReTreat Yourself.
TD: How you take these things that most people view as sports and turn them into medicine?
MP: It’s definitely one of the most valuable lessons I took from my sport of snowboarding- it healed me, and it continues to do so. From my experience, nature is healing, the air, the trees, being in “Gods” space if that’s what you want to call it. Its where I can disconnect to anything that doesn’t serve me, and connect into what I really am and where I came from and where I will go- my belief is that this in everyone, if they could just let go of what maybe their mind is telling them (especially about trying new things, not having time for it, etc.) , and FEEL the connection to their true selves within nature, and THEN adding a sport is a bonus, As there is no time for lists, phone calls, even worries, and your focus becomes in the moment. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, or even an hour from now, pure concentration on the NOW. This is where the mind/body connection comes in, and this is where I believe all healing begins. And then of course the endorphins, the excitement, the overcoming fears. Gosh, the list goes on…
TD: Rossland, one of the favourite stops on the Powder Highway, seems like a great place to hold this event. Where are the 10 "survivors" from in general? Are they travelling far to attend?
MP: Rossland is amazing - its off the beaten path and “out there” compared to other places I have held these retreats. And love it for the adventure! We have gals coming from Squamish and Vancouver, BC, Jasper, Alberta, as well as Kansas, and even from as far as Tennessee.
TD: When you've done these events before at both surf and ski destinations, how does the dynamic of the group change over the weekend?
MP: You know, honestly women are great at making friends, being open to the experience, and very comforting to eachother. Interestingly enough, I have not seen a group that doesn’t start off powerful - really, every time I am humbled and blown away from the beginning. And I would say, there are beautiful lifelong friendships and camaraderie formed by the time it comes around to goodbyes.
TD: How good of a rider do you need to be to really reap the rewards of this program? I see you suggest intermediate to advanced, but where is the sweet spot in ability level - if there is one?
MP: The suggestion this time around was based on the fact that Red Mountain is known for its intermediate/advanced terrain (this place really does kick ass!), and really this was more for the general public who we also invite to attend. We of course welcome all and any levels - and appreciate the fact some gals want to take advantage of the fact that we have fully certified mountain instructors to help them try snowboarding vs. skiing and vice versa. We have never-evers, and I love it that some want to just go for it - regardless of their age or ability. And of course, we always have intermediates/advanced who want to take it to the next level, and also why I bring my pro athletes in (and because they are amazing in their own rights!), to inspire these gals, and encourage the push.
I shared the news of ReTreat Yourself wth a close friend of mine who on Friday underwent an operation to remove breast cancer. With the wounds from the operation not yet healed, she will not be able to attend this weekend, but upon learning of the event she replied: "I would do it this weekend if they'd let me! It's important. Not just for fun, but to meet other people who are going through it and do something together that is good for you in this life."
She'll be there next time.
The B4BC Scholarship Fund, sponsored by The North Face, is providing 10 fully-paid ReTreat Yourself spaces for breast cancer survivors. While the 10 sponsored spaces are already spoken for, there are still ReTreat Yourself spaces available for paying guests. For more information, contact Megan Pischke at email@example.com, or to support the cause, contribute to B4BC.
Last week, I posted a collection of recent photos showing just how exceptional the skiing conditions are around Revelstoke.
Then that night it snowed...
...50cm of low density champagne fluff on top of deep, soft powder.
Steve Chambers, the Manager of CMH Revelstoke, posted a comment to the article with a link to a video his team shot last Friday, a day they’re calling Big Friday. The combination of inspired powder skiers, creative camera work, and dreamy snow make "Big Friday" about the most fun two minutes of powder skiing I’ve ever seen:
Big Friday from Global Powder Guides on Vimeo.
Peter "PA" Arbic, guiding at CMH Galena, added this comment to last week's post after coming in for the day on Friday: "...and today was even better...we had to turn the amp up to 11" That's saying something; PA has spent decades dancing with snowflakes in the Canadian Rockies.
Today I talked to a writer in British Columbia who brought up this question: “Is it the best skiing ever?”
The best skiing ever? Them're fightin' words in some bars, and anywhere it's the kind of question that is hard to answer with certainty about something as ephemeral as powder skiing. Regardless of what truly defines the best, the fact that those are the kinds of questions being thrown around speaks volumes to the kind of snow riding going down in Revelstoke this winter.
Here’s what two veteran CMH Heli-Skiing guests had to say about it:
Eugene R. (Over 2 million vertical feet with CMH Heli-Skiing) “Had the best powder skiing ever!!! Can barely walk now –Great fun!”
Ed C. (Over 5 million vertical feet with CMH Heli-Skiing) “Couldn’t be any better – Epic Skiing!”
Stay tuned. More snow last night and nothing but snow in the 5-day forecast. It’s shaping up to be a white Christmas like no other at CMH. There's already more snow in Revelstoke than any December in the last decade. Bring it on!
Photo from CMH Valemount, Decempow 2012.
There’s 10 feet of snow at treeline in the Columbia Mountains around Revelstoke right now, but numbers don't tell the story. Perhaps the legendary storm machine of Interior BC makes this seem like standard fare, but even for Revelstoke conditions are exceptional.
Photo: CMH Revelstoke December 2, 2012.
Part of the reason for the powder phenomenon is because of a little known secret of early and mid winter skiing near Revelstoke: at our latitude, during the shortest days of the year, the sun is high enough in the sky to provide a full day of skiing, but so low that it hardly affects the surface of the snow, leaving snow on all aspects that cappuccino fluff, champagne powder that we all dream of.
But even a bigger part of the current powder bonanza is the freak-of-nature storm cycle we've been getting for the last month.
The result? Ski quality is approaching mythical.
This is when the emotions of guides, guests, and staff at CMH Heli-Skiing meld into a common buzz; a euphoria of deep powder. There’s nothing quite like experiencing a CMH Heli-Skiing Lodge when conditions are like this. It’s hard to tell who’s a veteran and who’s a first timer, who’s staff and who’s a guest; everyone is blown away.
Photo: CMH Galena, December 3, 2012.
This is when CMH guides who have been skiing the Columbia’s for a lifetime say they’ve never seen anything like it. I just got off the phone with Bernie Wiatzka, Peter “PA” Arbic, and Bruce Rainer at CMH Galena - between the three of them that's about 60 years of experience with CMH Heli-Skiing. Here’s what they had to say about the conditions:
PA: “Speaking for Bernie and I, this is the best first week we’ve ever had.”
Bruce: “One of the better early seasons I’ve ever seen."
Bernie: “Remember that photo you took (of Bernie in February) last winter? It’s been like that every run, every turn, all day long.”
Here’s the photo Bernie is talking about:
Yup, surf's up, WAY UP, at CMH Heli-Skiing - to the point we’re quite confident in saying that we have the best powder snow in North America right now. It’s so over the top that it begs the question: why don’t modern snow riders treat powder skiing with the same conditions-oriented mentality as surfers? Go where the waves are; don’t wait for them to come to you.
Back in the day we used to settle in and “ski bum” an area, bagging the powder days when they came along and riding out the droughts. These days, with the real-time access to ski conditions all over the globe, and extreme weather conditions that have provided both exceptional skiing and exceptional dry spells, it makes more sense than ever to chase deep powder with the meteorological instinct of big wave surfers. Check the report, hit the road, buy a plane ticket, and get a piece of the best this planet has to offer.
Photo: CMH K2, November 28, 2012.
We’re genuinely sorry for the skiers and snowboarders whose home mountains have been getting short-changed this season, as many areas have only just begun to receive winter storms, but we just couldn’t help but share our current deep powder phenomenon. When your area gets the goods, we’ll come join you, but with prime spaces available at CMH Heli-Skiing, you really should join us.
If you can't afford Heli-Skiing, take a trip to any resort on the Powder Highway. If you can't afford resort skiing, pack your touring gear and hit the Revelstoke backcountry. It's shaping up to be the kind of season you'll tell your grandkids about.
And here's the last straw: we have space. Call your boss, call your kids, give your wife or husband a nice massage, call CMH Reservations at 1 (800) 661-0252 - and pack your bags for the best ski trip of your life. Right now.