Among Heli-Skiing areas, Bobbie Burns is memorable in many ways: the fast-paced skiing and snowboarding, the diverse terrain that includes parts of both the Purcell and Selkirk ranges, the summer program with a headline-grabbing via ferrata and now a one-of-a-kind adventure hike (story in the Robb Report) past waterfalls and glaciers.
But there is also the name. With its CMH siblings sporting an entirely different flavor of nomenclature - Bugaboos, Galena, K2, Revelstoke, Galena, Gothics, Monashees, Adamants, Cariboos and Valemount – just how did the Bobbie Burns get its name?
Well, my research first took me to Sun Valley Idaho where a lifer ski bum and ski legend by the name of Bobbie Burns changed the way the world skis moguls with his SFD (Straight $%!& Down) approach to bump runs, and in the 1970s he invented The Ski, which was the freestyle ski of choice for years. In 2013 The Ski was resurrected by Scott (with a rocker) and took this year’s Ski of the Year award at Fall Line Magazine.
Next, I came across an 18th century Scottish poet and lyricist with the same name. In 2009 the poet Robert Burns was chosen in a vote run by a Scottish television channel as “the greatest Scot.” His most famous poem, Auld Lang Syne, is a staple of New Year’s celebrations in English speaking countries for it’s theme of paying respect to times gone by.
Third, I found myself researching a Swedish footwear brand, Bobbie Burns, that in their words was “inspired by the early rock-and-roll, skate and punk scene." Their website is complete with images of parkour athletes throwing huge tricks against graffiti-strewn concrete walls.
Finally, I came across a book, “Canadian Mountain Place Names: The Rockies and the Columbia Mountains” by Glen W. Boles, William Lowell Putnam and Roger W. Laurilla. Roger Laurilla? That name brings to mind epic tree skiing in one of the world’s most legendary of ski destinations: The Monashees. For indeed, Roger and I shared a week of epic skiing at CMH Monashees during his tenure as the CMH Monashees area manager. We didn’t see much of each other, however – it snowed nearly two metres during the week we skied together. According to his book, the Robert E. Burns is an old mining claim in the Vowell group on the eastern side of the Columbia Mountains, which is named in honour of the Scottish Poet.
So which one was it that inspired the name of the CMH Lodge? As a disciple of the ski bum lifestyle, I threw out a silent vote for the Sun Valley bump master being the inspiration for the Bobbie Burns Lodge. Also, the rock-and-roll, skate and punk footwear theme does share some aspects of the ski and snowboard culture - especially on a Friday night at the Bobbie Burns Lodge - but the Bobbie Burns footwear brand is 30 years younger than the CMH Bobbie Burns Heli-Skiing area.
As it turns out, the CMH Bobbie Burns Lodge is located next to the Bobbie Burns Creek, which was named after the mining claim. So while our current snowsport and Heli-Skiing culture may share more commonalities with punk footwear and legendary ski bums than with 200-year-old poets, the CMH Bobbie Burns Lodge's namesake is the 18th Century Scottish Poet, Robert E. Burns.
Photo: Approaching Mach 1 while Heli-Snowboarding at CMH Bobbie Burns by Topher Donahue.
We experimented with one-day heliskiing too. In fact, the world’s very first attempt at commercial Heli-Skiing in 1963, exactly 50 years ago this spring, was a one-day trip. It was led by CMH Heli-Skiing's founder Hans Gmoser, so we know a thing or two about how it happened. On our very first day, we strapped a car's ski rack onto the skids of a helicopter and flew out of Canmore, Alberta, onto the nearby Old Goat Glacier, to try using a helicopter as a ski lift.
Granted, there were a few problems. First, we were using a Bell 47 helicopter, which could only carry 2 skiers at a time. Second, we tried Heli-Skiing in one of the driest areas in the Canadian Rockies so the snow was terrible. And third, everyone was wearing long, skinny, straight skis which made the terrible snow really difficult to ski.
It cost 20 bucks a person to be one of the world’s first Heli-Skiers.
Two years later, in 1965, we finally got it right in the Bugaboos. While the helicopter was still too small and the skis to skinny, we were in the right place - and we spent a week Heli-Skiing instead of just a single day.
Fast-forward 50 years, and Heli-Skiing has become a mature industry, but the problems with one-day Heli-Skiing have remained. We experimented again with one-day Heli-Skiing just a few years ago, and the problems are as plentiful now as they were that fateful day on the Old Goat Glacier in 1963.
At first glance, considering the expense of Heli-Skiing, the one-day idea seems like a good one. But when you dig in a little more, the reality tells a different story. Here are the five big problems with one-day heli-skiing trips, and the reasons that CMH Heli-Skiing does not offer one day trips:
- Training: Every Heli-Ski operator worth their googles trains guests in helicopter, avalanche, and skiing safety. A minimal training session takes an hour, and a good training session takes closer to two hours. In a three-day ski trip, spending an hour or two learning safety protocol doesn’t eat into much of your skiing time. In a one day trip, especially during the short winter days, the training cuts into your ski time dramatically.
- Burn per turn: How much money you spend per glorious, choker, blower, over the head powder turn goes down significantly the more days you can afford to ski. The best value heli-ski vacations are more than one day. No exceptions. If you are considering a trip with a “cheap” Heli-Ski outfit, do the math. For dollars per face shot, “cheap” Heli-Skiing is often the most expensive. Check out this article about one-day trips and other myths about Heli-Skiing.
- Conditions: No mountaineer travels to a mountain destination with only a single-day window to bag the ultimate mountain goal. In one day, you’re more than at the mercy of the mountain’s conditions – you’re a slave to them. CMH Heli-Skiing’s weeklong Signature trips were designed to take into account the fickle nature of mountain weather and conditions, as well as give people time to adjust to the rhythms of the wilderness.
- Friendships: For the guides and staff of CMH Heli-Skiing, this is the biggest reason we don’t offer one day heli-skiing. We don’t want to meet new people every day and then watch them leave before we even get a chance to become friends. And our guests don’t want to leave either. Everyone has more fun in the mountains after we get to know each other.
- Life: One day of surfing. One day of golf. One day of sailing. All one day does is get you ready for the second day. Even the best skiers amongst us have more fun Heli-Skiing the second day. If you’re going to throw down for the ultimate ski experience, you owe it to yourself to make it worth the cost, the time, the travel and the potential of Heli-Skiing.
CMH Heli-Skiing’s spring trips are some of the highest value options in the entire recreation industry. Join us this spring for a three to seven day trip that you’ll never regret.
Photo of one of the world's first commercial Heli-Ski flights from the CMH archives. Photo of the rewards of multi-day Heli-Skiing at CMH Gothics by Topher Donahue.