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:
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.
After a season of unbelievable skiing and riding and awesome snowfall, we're itching for a summer of great climbing, hiking and via-feratte-ing in the Columbia Mountains of western Canada. But before we get to all that, let's take a moment to reflect on the great ski photos our guides, guests and staff submitted from the CMH Heli-Skiing 2011/12 season.
We've compiled a full on-line gallery of ski images to amuse you, but wanted to single out a few of the more spectacular images from the past heli-ski season to keep your dreams alive until the snow flies this coming fall.
Skiers and riders at CMH Monashees reveled in the fresh powder all winter long:
The Bobbie Burns team had epic skiing conditions this winter and both Bruce Howatt and Carl Tresher shared their perspectives on the Bobbie Burns Facebook page (if you're not a fan, you should be!)
Further south in the Bugaboos, the birthplace of Heli-Skiing, our 407 pilot, Alex Edwards, used his keen eye to capture the great skiing there:
This is how CMH Galena began their season in mid-December, 2011:
The team down at CMH Kootenay played host to the K2 Skis design team and hosted 3 demo sessions in March with CMH guests skiing on protype skis and providing feedback to the designers:
How about you? We'd love it if you share your best skiing photos from the past season on our Facebook page. We've been known to randomly mail gifts to people who post photos on our page. Wink, wink.
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.
I used to think that the face shot, that blissful moment of deep powder skiing when the snow pours around your head, was purely a phenomenon of snow quality. But shooting photos of CMH Heli-Skiing guides and guests has taught me that face shots can be controlled by the skier, and that some skiers have taken the face shot to an art form. These photos, taken over the last couple of weeks in the deep powder nirvana around Revelstoke, BC, where snow depths are near record levels for this time of year, reveal the art of the face shot.
Quite often I’ll get photos of two skiers descending the same pitch. One skier will disappear into the powder on every turn, while the other will seemingly never get the snow higher than his or her waist.
I spoke with a guide about the phenomenon, and he explained one of the reasons ski guides sometimes avoid the face shots is so they can maintain the best visibility when making route-finding decisions.
With today’s fat skis, the face shot has become even more voluntary. For those of us not making the route-finding decisions, getting huge face shots is a big part of the fun of deep powder skiing. John Mellis, the manager of CMH Cariboos and one of the best face shot artists I’ve skied with, explains that there are 3 parts to making face shots happen:
- You gotta make something happen to get the snow to really fly.
- Try to move your skis or snowboard like a dolphin swimming playfully - diving under and then popping out of the snow between turns.
- Get out of the back seat - when you lean back, fat skis float to the surface and you don’t get the penetration needed for a good face shot.
Any of you powder hounds out there have any other tips for the ultimate face shot?
I talked to a professional snowboarder last week who said that the conditions in the Columbia Mountains were creating the deepest snow he had ever ridden - then it snowed for the next week straight...
Over the last 2 weeks, the Columbia Mountains’ snow machine has dumped nearly two metres of low-density snow at treeline in the CMH Heli-Skiing tenures.
Shooting photos in these conditions resulted in some exceptional images of the deep powder heliskiing experience, some of which I shared last week, but some of the best face shot photos have yet to see the light of day. It seems only fitting that the loyal readers of the Heli-Ski Blog should see them first.
This first shot shows CMH Galena guide Bernie Wiatzka, the ski guide with by far the most experience at the tree skiing paradise of Galena, doing what he does best - disappearing in a cloud of cold, white smoke.
It snowed between 10cm and 30cm every night, and the CMH Galena Lodge was as fascinating in these conditions as the skiing itself:
While much of the time, the snow was so deep that it was impossible to tell if the CMH Heli-Skiing guests were on skis or snowboards, occasionally everything would ride to the surface and the deep powder travel tool of choice would be revealed:
Conditions were ideal for big air, and the CMH guides were in good form suggesting the best pillow drops, not to mention the mandatory air on some of the runs. Here, the co-owner of The Source snowboard shop demonstrates one method of choking on a mushroom:
The CMH Ski Guides wear bright orange jackets to make them easier to follow, but in these conditions much of the time they were nearly invisible in a cloud of snow. Luckily, CMH Ski Guides, one shown here up to his earlobes in low-density powder, are exceptionally good at giving directions and nobody had any issues following them down run after run of the deepest snow imaginable:
Even the Bell 212 helicopter, known to be the safest helicopter ever made, seemed to enjoy the mind-blowing storm cycle:
Yesterday, the CMH Heli-Skiing area's snow reports showed up to half a metre of new snow over the last 24 hours - on top of what you see here. If you haven't booked a heli-ski trip yet this year, call your boss, your partner, and CMH Reservations at 1 (800) 661-0252. Not necessarily in that order!
C’mon, skiers and riders, we know you've got some rad pics from last season or even last weekend, from the resort, the backcountry or even on the grass/sand/water. We want to see them! And so do a lot of other people.
Introducing #SkiFotos on Twitter. Following in the footsteps of those who created #FriFotos, CMH Heli-Skiing (@CMH_heli) has partnered with our friends at Banff Lake Louise Tourism (@Real_Banff and @Banff_Squirrel) to launch #SkiFotos: A forum for you, the skiing community to post and share your best/funniest/worst/ photos of your skiing and riding addiction.
How to get in on the action?
Every Monday, post your ski photos on twitter using the hashtag #SkiFotos. Skiers and riders from Aspen to Verbier will be able to check out your pictures, like them and retweet them.
Didn’t take the photo yourself but have always drawn inspiration from it? That’s cool. Just be sure to credit the photographer who took it or the website where you found the photo.
Not a pro shooter yourself? Hey, don’t sweat it. Whether you took the photo with your iPhone or your Daddy’s Nikon SLR, it still qualifies for #SkiFotos. It’s all about sharing the passion for the powder.
See you on the slopes, and if we don’t meet there, let’s at least connect on Mondays, at #SkiFotos.
Today's #SkiFoto from CMH is from Heli-Ski Guide Craig McGee, Assistant Area Manager at CMH Adamant Lodge.