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:
But full-body powder immersion like this snowboarder at CMH Galena sounds even better:
Here’s the shot that sent my wife into fits of wintersickness, a lone ski track in the Revelstoke high country:
Dreamtime in the Bugaboos - where heliskiing began:
And finally, a dreamscape at CMH Monashees, one of several CMH areas known worldwide for the most exciting tree skiing on the planet:
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.
“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.”
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-ski. Tour. Fusion. Ride lifts. The method doesn’t matter. Just make it happen.
Columbia Mountains ski terrain photos by Topher Donahue.
For the first 47 years of heli-skiing, it was all about how much deep powder could be shredded using a helicopter for a ski lift. Maybe we’re slow learners, or maybe deep powder is just so much fun that it took this long to see the forest through the snow-cloaked trees, but enter CMH Heli-Skiing 2012 and we’re finally starting to realize that there is more to heli-skiing than just insane amounts of vertical in the most sublime snow imaginable.
Along with a handful of exciting alternative heli-skiing programs now being offered by CMH Heli-Skiing, Steep Shots and Pillow Drops is 5 days of skiing designed around finding the most exciting and technical lines possible within the bounds of safety and professional ski guiding oversight. The idea is the brain child of Pat Baird, a ski guide at CMH Kootenay, who got tired of looking at gobsmacking lines, but not having the time to ski them within the traditional maximum-vertical oriented heli-ski program.
“I gotta admit, the inspiration was partly selfish,” Pat told me last night. “It was partly the agony of seeing all these great lines that either half the group couldn’t ski, or the constraints of the heli-ski program wouldn’t allow.”
CMH Kootenay is located at the southern edge of the CMH ski paradise, and the mountains are unique. In Bugaboo Dreams, the book that chronicles the invention of help-skiing, I wrote this about CMH Kootenay:
“The Kootenay region is a maze of ridges with few taller peaks reminiscent of Utah’s Wasatch Range - on steroids. Hundreds of pointed summits dot the horizon with steep faces on all sides. Daniel Zimmerman, a guide from Switzerland, describes the Kootenay Selkirks as, ‘the kind of mountains shaped like children would draw.’
“In my opinion,” says Pat, an 18 year veteran ski guide, “there is no CMH area that has as much available ski terrain - virtually everything you look at is skiable.”
Steep Shots and Pillow Drops is a program Pat designed to take advantage of this remarkable area. “The focus is not to do huge airs, but to do more technical lines that take a little longer to ski.” explains Pat. “Sure, if we have a guy capable of big air who wants to do it, we’ll accommodate it, but Steep Shots and Pillow Drops is more about technical skiing.”
While an average day at CMH Kootenay may include 10 to 14 runs, Pat anticipates a Steep Shots and Pillow Drops day might have eight or nine runs. “We want to be able to do an extra flight here and there, and skip a flight sometimes. This way we can ski a run once, and say ‘I missed that hit to the left of my tracks - lets go back and ski that again!’”
According to Pat, the program should offer a special treat to families with teenagers and young adults. “There are a lot of parents with kids who rip,” explained Pat. “In this program, the parents could ski an easier line, and then get to watch their kids rip the pillow drops.”
Part of the guide’s approach to Steep Shots and Pillow Drops is to video the more technical lines, partly for the educational value, and partly so the skiers and snowboarders can see footage of themselves ripping such incredible lines in blower pow.
Perhaps the most exciting thing is that this program has yet to be tried. In late February, a group of Norwegians, reputedly including a professional free skier who might just blow the lid off the program, will join Pat and the CMH Kootenay guides for the inaugural week of Steep Shots and Pillow Drops.
Following a long tradition of CMH guests getting to both participate in, as well as help design, the heli-skiing experience, Pat foresees guests getting to name technical lines and help build a photographic album of wild lines that can then be passed around the fire for inspiration and planning on future trips.
Steep Shots and Pillow Drops is part of the new Powder University at CMH, a smorgasbord of self-explanatory offerings from CMH that give everyone who can ski an ideal program where they can push their own limits, learn the skills they need to have more fun, and feel comfortable enjoying the world’s greatest skiing.
This season, Steep Shots and Pillow Drops is offered in CMH Kootenay as well as CMH Revelstoke. The Kootenay trip sold out immediately, but there is still space in Revelstoke. Contact CMH Reservations at 1 (800) 661-0252.
Photo of CMH Kootenay anticipation and ski terrain by Topher Donahue.
Just to the east of the small town of Revelstoke, at the edge of Glacier National Park in Interior British Columbia, is a peak called Mt. Fidelity. On that peak is a weather station - the snowiest weather station in Canada. It records an average of 1471 cm (48 feet) of snow each year. The Mt. Fidelity weather station also receives more days of snow than anywhere else in the country, averaging 144 days of snowfall each year.
It’s no wonder Revelstoke and the surrounding Columbia Mountains have become known as the ultimate destination for powder skiing on planet earth. It’s about time.
The opening of Revelstoke Mountain Resort in 2007 opened the eyes of the world to the skiing and snowboarding potential in the area, but heliskiers and backcountry skiers had been shredding Canada’s deepest snow for many years before recent ski films like "Attack of La Niña" and "Rev" revealed the deep powder fantasy land that is Revelstoke.
For nearly half a century, CMH Heli-Skiing has had the lion’s share of the heli-ski terrain in the Revelstoke area, and it has been really fun watching the ski and snowboard world realize that our slogan, "The World’s Greatest Skiing," is no hype.
In the mid 60s, mountain guides Hans Gmoser and Leo Grillmair were looking for the right place to try using a helicopter for a ski lift. With no small amount of luck and vision, the two friends stumbled into ski paradise in the Columbia Mountains surrounding Revelstoke and started CMH Heli-Skiing, the world’s first heli-ski business.
At that time, Hans and Leo had their pick of which areas to use for helicopter skiing, but by the 70s other helicopter skiing operations opened doors and a sort of white gold rush began. Over the next 20 years, CMH was able to secure 11 different tenures for a staggering total of 15,000 square kilometres, giving CMH guests exclusive helicopter skiing access to more of the Revelstoke area than any other skiing service.
While writing Bugaboo Dreams, a book on the invention and state-of-the-art of heliskiing, I made this observation: Historically, every two decades another recreational user group discovers Revelstoke. Backcountry skiers in the 50s, heli-skiers in the 70s, sledders (or snowmobilers) in the 90s, and now, with the ski resort opening, Revelstoke is quickly gaining international recognition as perhaps the best, most consistently high quality powder skiing in the world.
In many ways, even though our administrative offices are in Banff, Revelstoke is the beating heart of the vast ski and snowboard playground that makes up CMH Heli-Skiing. From the northern CMH areas of the Cariboos and Mcbride, to the southern areas of Kootenay and the Bugaboos, Revelstoke forms both a geographical and spiritual hub of CMH Heli-Skiing.
In some ways it feels like our baby has finally grown up, and the rest of the world is realizing just how sweet it is skiing and snowboarding in the mountains around Revelstoke. If you’re like most of the skiing world, and just now figuring this out, buy some fatty powder boards, book a trip to Revelstoke, and hold on - you’re in for a wild ride!
Photos of the world's greatest skiing by Topher Donahue.
CMH Heli-Skiing Guides took to the mountains at the Monashee Lodge just north of Revelstoke, BC on Friday, November 25. According to Thia and the team there, snow conditions are "excellent with 260cm of settled snowpack at treeline and 160cm at the pick ups at 1000m". Late January conditions in late November? La Nina, we love you. Sorry Colorado, sorry Europe, but the weather report for the Monashees shows more snow coming in the next 48 hrs. Even local Banff ski areas are happy with the resort snowpack: 108 cm at Sunshine Village and 113cm at Lake Louise where the World Cup race was held over the weekend. Revelstoke Mountain Resort is reporting a base of 142cm and will be open for skiing and riding this weekend.
But back to the Monashees where Thia and Paul are grinning ear to ear. After a great day of skiing in Soards Creek on Saturday, the guides sent in a handful of photos. Here are a few to get you going:
To see more photos from this past weekend, check out CMH's online photo gallery.
As the CMH Heli-Skiing areas gear up for the season we promise to provide you with more and more reasons to ski in Revelstoke this winter.
Have you been out skiing yet? Share your pics with CMH on Facebook or Twitter for #SkiFotos and your stories here in the comments.
The snow is piling up in the legendary ski paradise of the Columbia Mountains - another La Niña winter in the making.
Last winter I was fortunate enough to sample three different CMH areas during photography projects. It was also the best winter anyone could remember since the 70s; a La Niña winter - the same climate phenomenon meteorologists are predicting for this coming winter.
I know it is almost cruel and unusual punishment to post these photos right now, when most of us haven’t yet even buckled a ski boot, but I couldn’t resist. Not only do these photos illustrate a La Niña winter of heliskiing in Canada, they also reveal the quality of the snow that brings skiers from all over the planet to taste the world’s greatest skiing.
February 28, 2011, CMH Cariboos:
A short break between storms in the Cariboos had left a carve-able surface on solar aspects, but then another 30cm of low-density snow fell on the crust. Combined with -20C temperatures, the result was fast skiing and a swirling powder cloud that would twist and dance hypnotically after the skier had passed. I tried a few shots from below, but this one, looking down at the skier, best revealed the snow dance.
March 7, 2011, CMH Gothics:
Then it snowed for another week. Our first day in the Gothics dawned crystal clear. Even the most veteran guides and skiers were giddy at the breakfast table. Good stability, deep snow, and the massive Gothics terrain in the southern Monashees awaited. The day was like a dream. Not only did we ski CMH’s longest run, Thierry’s Journey, we skied it three times. After weeks of low visibility flying, the pilot was having a blast too. He dropped us off on tiny summits, plucked us from the deepest valleys, and was grinning as widely as anyone on the mountain. Here, the Gothics chef gets a few hours of dreamtime before going back to the lodge to prepare a gourmet dinner to give the rest of us the perfect ending to a perfect day.
April 12, 2011, CMH Adamants:
An assignment from Skiing Magazine, to tell the story of the the unprecedented CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Touring program, gave me another week in ski-topia. While we all anticipated spring conditions and corn snow, it was not to be. Instead, La Niña delivered deep powder conditions until well after the last week of the CMH season. I didn’t hear anyone in the group whining about skiiing in the Adamants during the winter that wouldn’t end.
At CMH Revelstoke, there is already a skiable base in the backcountry, and check out today’s 5-day Revelstoke weather forecast! S-N-O-W!