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The best powder skiing in North America. Right now.

  
  
  

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.

Revelstoke ski conditionsPhoto: 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.

Galena powderPhoto: 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:

Powder Skiing Revelstoke

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.

CMH K2 powder skiing

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.

CMH Heli-Skiing 2.0 launches tomorrow!

  
  
  

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!

revelstoke powder early season

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.

CMH Heli-Skiing Wins Powder Highway Award

  
  
  

This fall, CMH Heli-Skiing was honoured to receive the 2012 Gordon Wilder Memorial Award. The award, dedicated to the former president of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, is presented annually by Kootenay Rockies Tourism in recognition of achievements in the mountain tourism culture of British Columbia’s Kootenay region.

powder highway

The Kootenay Rockies have become legendary the world over as the ultimate powder riding destination, and CMH is proud to have been one of the first to put the Powder Highway on the map.

To put the Kootenay region's ski resources in perspective, CMH Heli-Skiing is the biggest Heli-Ski operator on earth, but only operates in a small fraction of the vast ski terrain in the Kootenay Rockies. Each winter journalists travel the Powder Highway trying to capture the dream-like snow, terrain, and mountain culture for the world’s skiers; but even the best of them only see, ski, shred, film, write about or photograph a small slice of the area’s potential.

And that’s a big part of why we’re so honoured to receive this year’s Gordon Wilder Memorial award.

An article on this year’s award in Kootenay Business reads: “ CMH was recognized for the pioneering of heli-skiing in the Rockies and their world-wide promotion of the sport. Their innovation and vision has made the Kootenay Rockies not only the birthplace of heli-skiing but also the world's premiere heli-skiing destination.”

kootenay rockies

CMH Bugaboos manager and mountain guide Dave Cochrane received the award at the Kimberley Conference Centre from Annie Pigeon, the marketing director of the Whitewater ski area. It was an emotional moment as Dave represented the entire CMH family, going back to the early 60s when CMH Heli-Skiing's founder, Hans Gmoser, began exploring the potential for deep powder skiing in the Kootenay region.

Today, the Kootenay Rockies are famous for unbounded ski terrain with 40 to 50 feet of annual snowfall blanketing newer ski resorts near Golden and Revelstoke, as well as the area’s charismatic and much-loved areas near Fernie, Nelson and Rossland. In between lies a vast wonderland of backcountry skiing, an area that now boasts over 25 snowcat and helicopter skiing operators as well as more than 40 backcountry ski lodges.

In many ways, each Kootenay backcountry operation shares its bloodline with Hans Gmoser and his perseverance in helping to make this mecca of backcountry ski destinations accessible to so many happy skiers and snowboarders.  For CMH Heli-Skiing to receive this award is a coming of age of backcountry skiing in the region and a nod to CMH Heli-Skiing as both a forefather of the area’s deep powder skiing and a contemporary leader among backcountry operators who, while competitors in one sense, are at heart collaborators in the common goal of providing comfortable, safe and exciting access to what is, without a doubt, the world’s greatest skiing.

Fat ski technique for Heli-Skiing

  
  
  

Ski technology is red hot. It allows the pros to ski big mountain lines like tow in surfing helps surfers to charge the biggest waves. It gives old-timers (and their knees) an extra ten years of skiing. It made skiing a sexy game in the terrain park and turned skiing cool again.

But in the world of deep powder heli-skiing, is the modern ski technology always better? And are there ways to ski better and safer on the fat, rockered skis that are so much fun, but tend to go so fast?

fat ski riding

To find out, I tracked down Dave Gauley, the Assistant Manager at CMH Cariboos and a former ski pro famous for making smooth, casual turns on outrageously steep lines. Here’s what he had to say:

“Fat skis are a bit of a double edged sword, especially for the beginner to intermediate skier. They make it easier to float through almost all snow conditions  - except for a few. Most notably in Heli-Skiing is the snow you run into when several lines converge to a shared pickup. Hard packed,  bumps, chopped up snow, etc. You are cruising along easily in the pow... then whabam! It's suddenly a bit of an epic to control those big skis in the chop. Strained knees, back etc. are possible if you’re not ready for it.

“This kind of snow on fat skis requires a different approach. What I do is when I see a section like that coming up, is to realize the run is over and I just eat up the vertical by skiing slow with big round turns.

"The other problem with fat skis is the increased speed they generate. Skinnier skis sink more, so the snow pushing off your body slows you down. Not so with the fats.

“For beginner powder skiers, you need to vary the shape of your turn to keep your speed managable. To slow down, let your skis come around a bit more in the turns and come up with a way to dump speed if need be. I use a scrub technique of a quickly throwing the skis sideways like a partial hockey stop to loose a lot of speed quickly - not always easy in the trees. Try to anticipate, and always looking ahead will really help out. Many times in the trees I will straight line sections to get to an open area where i can then dump some speed.

"Another consideration is the weight of these new skis. A pair of K2 Pontoons is pretty darn heavy, probably almost twice the weight of a pair of the Heli Daddy's we were using ten years ago. Combine that with the increased speed, you have quite a bit of potential torque on the knees.

"Overall, you can't just saddle up and rock a pair of fatties. A completely different approach, and set of eyes for the terrain is required to do it effectively."

fat ski technique

For another perspective on the double-edged sword of fat skis, I talked with Lyle Grisedale, the shop tech at CMH Revelstoke. Lyle had this to add:

Fat Skis - I have mixed views on the really big fat skis especially for weaker skiers. They are an asset for weaker skiers in that they are not as deep in the snow and can be turned more easily. On the other hand, when you are not so deep in the snow you also go faster - not good for a weak skier on a steep tree run. Because of the speed, these skiers have to work the ski harder in order to slow down, which is tiring.

If guests are struggling on the fat skis, I often take them off of the fat guys and put them back onto the Heli Daddys or another mid-fat, which are easy to turn and easier to control speed. On big wide open slopes and glaciers, the big fats are fun to rip on, doing fast big turns with little effort involved to turn them.

Rockered Skis - I am not a fan of rockers for weaker skiers. Sure they make skiing easier, but for weaker skiers the rocker causes them to be back on their heels, which is hard on the quads. Also, for skiers who learned to ski 20 or 30 years ago ( a majority of our guests) they where taught to use tip pressure and other skills, and it is really hard to get any tip pressure on rocker tips and this is frustrating for carvers. Technique must be adjusted to a more swivelling or smearing of the ski type of attack. This works well, but is a big adjustment for a carver.

Interestingly, when CMH moved to mid-fat skis, staff spaces decreased as the guests could stay out longer before getting tired. Last winter I found that people were getting tired because they are going too fast on the fattys and are working too hard to control speed and to turn using techniques that are not the same as the techniques that they use on groomed runs.

The people who most enjoy the big fats are the younger skiers who are stronger, fitter, and less fearful of going fast."

Lyle offered these tips to help enjoy the pleasures of a fat ski while minimizing the work and leg strain:

  • On steeper treed terrain, make lots of turns to keep speed comfortable.
  • Use a good athletic stance with the hips above the feet for quick reactions to changes in terrain and snow texture. 
  • Upper body should be facing down hill most of the time, but don’t over rotate your shoulders or hips or the fat skis will run away on you. 
  • Avoid the back seat, otherwise the skis can't be controlled and manoeuvred optimally. 
  • Equal weight on both skis with a little more pressure to the outside ski produces the best results.

For skiers of all abilities who want to improve and would like their CMH Heli-Ski week to include both epic amounts of powder skiing as well as customized instruction in powder skiing technique, the CMH Powder University programs offer a new-school curriculum for all types of skiers and snowboarders.

Photos of fat ski powder harvest by Topher Donahue.

CMH Freeriding - Dreamtime or Reality?

  
  
  

Yesterday, I received a note from Mike Aucoin, a mountain guide from CMH Revelstoke and co-host of the latest CMH Powder U Program, Powder 405: Freeride Camp based in the legendary powder epicentre of Revelstoke, BC.

First, he asked the obvious question: "How can I best characterize Freeride as a ‘new’ concept in Heli-Skiing and why now?"

freeride revelstoke

Then he answered his own question, brilliantly putting to words the intangible magic the new crop of rockered skis from our friends at K2, a Bell 212 Helicopter, the snowiest mountains in Canada, a team of experienced mountain guides, and the desire to ride the mountain like we ride in our dreams - CMH Heli-Freeriding: 

"Helicopter skiing has always had a uniquely ‘free’ component to it because of the swift access to an unbelievable selection of deeply snow-covered mountains. Then there’s the unparalleled feeling you get looking back at your signature in the powder after an exhilarating and awe-inspiring run. For me, the most relevant motivation to promote CMH freeriding began with the occasional skier or boarder in the group who would ask, 'Can we do some freeriding today?'

"This simple request always made me smile, and every time someone asks for freeriding, I understand the root of the question.  The comment would often come from someone relatively new to heli-skiing, an individual who may have been experiencing this feeling of freedom on skis for the first time, away from the lifts of a resort, far from a line of people waiting for one part of their local mountain to open up after a snowfall. This is the time and place to demonstrate what you’ve envisioned for so long.

"It only makes sense since ‘Freeriding’ has become an established part of the skiers’ and boarders’ vocabulary. It’s how you see a feature on the mountain and imagine just how you would soar through it. For one skier it could mean laying out a deep carve in a long untracked field, while others see themselves riding up on a rib or shoulder and slashing a big plume of powder in the air before accelerating down the next steep roll. It could mean picking your way through a narrow gully to ride a unique part of the mountain, or just letting those dogs run on a remote mountainside.

"I have always looked at these mountains through those eyes. Constantly evaluating how fun it would be to ride a particular feature on the mountain in my own fashion. Until recent changes have surfaced in ski design and technique, the reality rarely mirrored the vision. Today, many strong skiers can now enjoy the sensation of expanding the arc of the turn in powder like never before, and still dump speed with a quick brake check while flying through knee deep powder. The concept of a specific ‘freeride Heli-Skiing’ trip is to provide the opportunity to those who want to feel the mountain in a new way and truly express their will on the hill.

"Your guides have spent years working in these mountains and recognize when it is appropriate to access the terrain that is suitable for this kind of skiing. While skiing, we will discuss hazards specific to particular features while evaluating changes in snow quality and stability. As in everything we do, safety is our chief concern. We have two guides dedicated to the group each day to allow flexibility in the group. Not only will the guide provide the terrain decision and safety management, but they will also provide instruction and video analysis - and of course large doses of fun skiing in big mountains.

"If you are a strong skier who knows what rocker is, come ride with us and we’ll show you why rocker is.  It’s sure to be a blast."

freeride canada

CMH Freeriding in Revelstoke? Can't think of anything better in the galaxy? Think you've already done it? Never been Heli-Skiing but this is what you've been waiting for? For questions about the new CMH Freeride Camp taking place March 23-28, 2013, contact CMH reservations at 1.800.661.0252.

Dreamtime - 5 photos for wintersick snow riders

  
  
  

It must be summertime.  I dreamt of skiing last night, which for some reason doesn't happen in the winter. A couple of days ago my daughter asked me when we could go skiing again. My wife came into my office this morning while I was looking through winter photos from Revelstoke. She stopped and stared.  Then said wistfully, “I’m already sick of summer.”

It's clear that I'm not the only one beginning to dream about frosty mornings, cold face shots, blinding white alpine vistas, and the exhilarating rush of downhill speed in deep snow. 

So I went through my collection and put together these 5 dream-like ski photos to help us all through the longest days of the year. 

Just a cool December lift ride, like here at the Sunshine ski resort near Banff, at minus 30C sounds refreshing right now:

ski dreams

But full-body powder immersion like this snowboarder at CMH Galena sounds even better:

snowboard dreams

Here’s the shot that sent my wife into fits of wintersickness, a lone ski track in the Revelstoke high country:

revelstoke ski dreams

Dreamtime in the Bugaboos - where heliskiing began:

heliski dreams

And finally, a dreamscape at CMH Monashees, one of several CMH areas known worldwide for the most exciting tree skiing on the planet:

tree skiing dreams

If these photos are too painful to look at right now, my apologies. If these photos get you inspired for a bike ride to keep the legs in shape, or to plan a ski trip, you’re welcome.

Photos by Topher Donahue.


Revelstoke and CMH on Matador TV

  
  
  

“I want to live in Revelstoke, British Columbia.” is how Ross Borden, one of the founding members of Matador, began an online article describing his experience heliskiing with CMH Revelstoke

The article, and this accompanying video, Powder Highway Part 3: Heli-Skiing in Revelstoke, is the crown jewel of a three part series chronicling the Matador crew’s adventures along what they call the Powder Highway, with stops at Fernie and Kicking Horse along the way.

Locals might argue about what constitutes the real powder highway, but everyone would likely agree that Revelstoke would have to be part of it.  The article compares Revelstoke to what Jackson Hole might have been like in the 60s, and with a taste of full-throttle sledding, lift service at the legendary Revelstoke Mountain Resort, and helicopter access to the world's greatest skiing, the Matador boys did get enough flavors to have some authority on the full Revelstoke fun factor.

Borden goes on to be blown away by the CMH Heli-Skiing experience, and doesn’t hold back on giving us some nice compliments that we just gotta share:

“I’ve flown with a handful of heli outfits in Nevada and Alaska; I can say with confidence that CMH is the most professional heli operator I’ve ever come across”

“First of all, they have all the non-skiing logistics down to a science. From group trainings in snow and avalanche safety to the lodge where you stay, from equipment to 5-star dinners, everything is convenient and you are getting the very best.”

revelstoke canada helisking

Borden concludes by saying that CMH Revelstoke had some of the most spectacular ski terrain he’s seen in 25 years of skiing, and then suggests booking at least a week to really get the most out of the experience.  We couldn’t agree more!

The only thing that would have been better, would be if the Matador team had arrived for some truly blower powder!  While their visit looked fun, most of us who have skied or snowboarded with CMH know that the powder is often way, way, way deeper than what the video shows!

Thanks for the good work, Ross!

The ski season is fantastic - But where are the skiers?

  
  
  

It always seemed to me that when conditions were bad in a particular region of the climbing or surfing world, the sport’s aficionados load up the van, or buy a plane ticket, and go somewhere else. 

But when ski conditions are bad in a particular region of the ski world, the sport’s aficionados seem to complain loudly and forget that even a short trip can reap dividends in face shots, big lines, and save your ski season.

I always kept this observation to myself, but then I read a Powder Magazine article that confirmed my theory in a most dramatic way.  The author, Ryan Dunfree, loudly states that skiing conditions are terrible everywhere in North America except Alaska.  He writes:  “...2012 has been about confronting record periods of high pressure, rain, April temps and instability in the backcountry. That is of course unless you live in Alaska, Europe, or Japan.”

where is the powder

Strangely, he left out the vast ski paradise that sits precisely north of the US border, Between Whistler, British Columbia and Calgary, Alberta lies some of the most sublime ski terrain on the planet, which just so happens to be having an incredibly snowy winter. 

While the legendary deep powder of the Columbia Mountains near Revelstoke is often excellent,  and has bee truly epic this season, even the more easterly areas near Calgary are starting the spring ski season with massive snowfalls.

“This is definitely one of the top ten March snowfalls on record,” said Mike Moynihan of The Lake Louise Ski Area in a press release from the Banff National Park. “We’ve seen a metre of snowfall this week and with the storm cycle finally clearing and giving way to clear blue skies, skiers and boarders are simply lapping it up.”

Sunshine Village reported 118 centimetres of new snow in the past seven days with Mount Norquay pulling down 50 centimetres of fresh dry powder just in the last 24 hours.  The Powder Magazine article reads: “Unless your name is Klaus and you live in St. Anton, there’s hardly been a faceshot to be found within five hundred miles.”  Hardly.

The author of the Powder article seems to forget that if you live anywhere in the northwestern US, you’re a weekend road trip away from what has been deep powder central almost all winter long.  If you consider air travel, it’s just 2 hours from Denver to Calgary and any skier in North America is just a long weekend from this winter’s plentiful powder harvest in Western Canada.

The guests of CMH Heli-Skiing know just how good the skiing has been at the CMH Lodges lately, but you certainly don’t need to go heliskiing to take advantage of the easy access to world class skiing just to the north of the US border.

Somehow, the entire ski epicentre of Revelstoke of is overlooked by this article in Powder Magazine, one of the continents most respected ski publications, and by many skiers who must not quite realize just how easy it is to go deep powder skiing in Western Canada.  

If California surfers were watching calm seas, and the North Shore of Hawaii was as accessible and vast as Western Canada, there would hardly be a surfer left in the state.  If it were rained out in Yosemite, but the Bugaboos and Squamish was dry, hundreds of climbers would be packing up to head north.  C’mon skiers and snowboarders, learn from your adventure brethren and pack the bags!

Photo of deep powder skiing 2012 - just north of the US border - by Topher Donahue.  

How Halcyon Hot Springs became private heliskiing paradise

  
  
  

halcyon |ˈhalsēən|
adjective: denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
noun:
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.

halcyon hot springs pools

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.

steep trees nomadsOne 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.

halcyon chalet snow

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.

Photo Essay: The World’s Greatest Ski Terrain

  
  
  

Even if the Columbia Mountains surrounding Revelstoke, British Columbia, in Western Canada didn’t get dumped on to the tune of around 20 metres of snow each winter, the terrain alone would make it a world class ski destination

heli ski terrain trees

The best I can explain the Columbia Mountains is that they are like two mountain ranges - a high alpine range and a steep forested range - sitting on top of each other. 

heliski terrain alpine

Quite frequently a storm rolls in and obscures the high peaks for days on end.  In these conditions, heliskiing would be impossible in mountain ranges without trees.  The trees give the helicopter pilots enough visual contrast to allow them to fly in all but the heaviest snow, lowest visibility, and strongest winds.  It is during these storms that heli-skiing near Revelstoke really comes into its own.  The deepest powder clings to the steepest faces, and the same trees that give the helicopter pilots enough visibility to fly, also give the skiers and snowboarders enough visibility to shred. 

heliski terrain galena glades

Some of the forests have been logged, and the regrowth is often thick and difficult to ski through, but many ski runs pass though old growth forests with ancient cedar trees the diameter of an automobile.  While the alpine terrain is what drew heliskiers to the Columbias in the first place, it is the tree skiing that made the Revelstoke area a heavyweight contender for the world’s greatest skiing

heliski terrain treeline

Then, when the storm clears above the forests, the sublime alpine peaks of the Columbias reveal themselves.  A few lucky skiers have learned to ski here from day one, learning to turn on low-angled glaciers where there is nothing to hit for a kilometre in every direction.  Many lucky skiers and snowboarders have ripped steep lines off the pointy summits and through the varied forests of the Cariboos, Selkirks, Monashees, and the Purcells - the subranges of the Columbias. 

heliski terrain trees and alpine

Ski film makers have been shooting the more popular areas in the Columbia Mountains for years now but, in my opinion, the most spectacular ski lines in the Columbia Mountains have yet to be shown on the big screen.  There are thin couloirs dropping into glades filled with over-the-head powder, steep faces that rival the wildest Alaskan terrain, mellow meadows where even beginners feel comfortable, and everything in between.

heliski terrain trees monashees

There are some places where the hype is greater than the real thing.  In this case, no amount of hype could really do justice to the skiing in the Columbia Mountains of Interior British Columbia.  If you’re a skier or snowboarder, and you haven’t yet visited Revelstoke or the Columbia Mountains, do it.  Soon.  Heli-skiTourFusion.  Ride lifts.  The method doesn’t matter.  Just make it happen.

Columbia Mountains ski terrain photos by Topher Donahue.

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