Heli-Skiing made the front-page on CNN last weekend with a story about Heli-Ski exploration in Pakistan. The plot is irresistible. Brice Lequertier, an Everest veteran who has skied from the summit, leading a team of world-class snow riders on an exploratory Heli-Skiing expedition to Pakistan’s famed Karakoram Range, home to the highest concentration of 8000-metre peaks on earth:
We’re turning even the most severe environments in the world into a playground, and I guess the only limit to what a Heli-Skier can do is the altitude limit that a helicopter can fly and land safely. The sky isn’t the limit, but it’s close.
I cued up the video excitedly, ready for a new frontier of skiing, but I must admit, it isn’t what I expected. The journalist from Walkabout Films who narrates the story is enthusiastic and attractive, the mountains are beautiful, the filming is well done, and the scale of the mountains is mind-blowing, but for some reason the piece leaves something to be desired.
To begin with, the skiing shown in the video, while inarguably hardcore at extreme altitude, is hardly inspiring. The skiers and snowboarders, who I have no doubt are great riders, make easy terrain look really difficult.
Maybe it is the unusual high altitude snow that makes the skiers appear to be having difficulty making simple turns, or maybe it's the lack of oxygen in their legs, but for whatever reason it looks like a ski video from the world’s highest bunny hill.
Maybe it's the green army helicopter they use that made it all seem a bit more like a military exercise than having fun on skis and snowboards in the mountains.
Maybe it's just bad timing for snow quality, and at other times the region could deliver great powder skiing on the world’s highest mountains with the potential for insane vertical.
Maybe they're saving the sick footage for the feature film.
Whatever the reason, the video didn’t really make me want to book my next Heli-Ski vacation to the Karakoram; but it's still fun to see Heli-Skiing make the prime time.
Interviewing CMH Bobbie Burns guide Marty Schaffer would probably be best done on a pair of skis with a recorder taped to a ski pole – Marty was skiing in his mother’s womb before he was born, and hasn’t stopped since. In fact, the only reason I caught him on a down day was because he was at his 62-year-old mother’s house helping her recover from an injury that she sustained after a jump went awry while powder skiing.
You read that right - Marty's 62-year-old mother is still going big.
I’d heard about Marty, equally comfortable on a pair of skis, a splitboard or a snowboard, and already a legend and a full ski guide at 26 years old. He was profiled on the spirited website, GetRadRevelstoke.com, where the stories of him growing up with parents who ran a backcountry lodge convinced me I had to track him down for a few more tales.
And tales he had to share. When he was 3 years old, his parents were digging out the door to the Blanket Glacier Chalet while Marty played in the snow nearby. After digging for a while, his mom suddenly asked, “Where’s Marty?”
A minute of panic ensued while they looked frantically for their son – and for good reason. They found him deep in a nearby tree well! They got him out without incident, but a treewell is the kind of trap that can kill even a strong adult without help.
With childhood imprints like treewells and backcountry lodges, it’s no wonder Marty pursues the twin pillars of mountain life, fun and safety, with almost religious fervor. “I was sort of tricked into becoming a guide,” explains Marty between chuckles. “When I was 13 or so, my dad would be guiding a ski tour with a few faster skiers, and I would take the faster guys and ski laps around the rest of the group. I didn’t even realize I was guiding. We were just skiing and having fun. I was just showing my friends the good stashes.”
Coming from such a rich background in the ski world, I had to ask Marty about the changes he’d seen. His first answer was the same one everyone gives: ski technology. Ski technology has made everything more fun.
His second answer was more surprising: “The average weekend warrior is skiing things the pros were skiing 10 years ago. Backcountry education is cool now. It’s cool to be prepared.”
Marty adds a cautionary tale at this point. During a recent freeride camp organized by Marty’s private guiding service, CAPOW!, Canadian Powder Guiding, he took a group skiing with ski pro Chris Rubens. They were skiing on mellow terrain on Rogers Pass, looking up at tantalizing extreme terrain, when Chris turned to the group, “If it were just Marty and me skiing here today, we’d be skiing exactly this same terrain. Conditions have to be perfect to ski that stuff.”
The moral of the story is that while average backcountry skiers push into more serious terrain, the ski pros don’t always ski more aggressively. “My ski pro friends are some of the most conservative skiers I know,” explained Marty.
The Blanket Glacier Chalet works in the same area as the CMH Revelstoke Heli-Ski operation. Marty remembers slogging up a skin track with his dad and seeing the Heli-Ski helicopter fly overhead. He remembers saying, “Dad, when I grow up I’m going to do that!”
He did just that. And working with CMH Heli-Skiing has proven to be more than he could have even imagined: “I still have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure it’s real! There’s a great mentorship program at CMH. Even as a full ski guide I learn stuff every week.”
Talking with Marty was entertaining, and revealing of the cutting edge of both recreational and professional skiing, but as it should be, talking with Marty mostly just made me want to go skiing.
Showing wisdom beyond his years, Marty concluded: “I’d like to think things haven’t changed too much. It’s all about fun and safety, the same as it was when Hans (Gmoser, the founder of CMH Heli-Skiing) was taking people ski touring in these mountains all those years ago. It’s not just about powder snow – it’s the whole thing.”
It was a painful interview for Marty. He could scarcely contain his enthusiasm. “It’s totally bluebird in Revelstoke and the stability is great! I can’t believe I’m inside!”
Photos: Marty checking the air for the pilot in CMH Bobbie Burns by Carl Trescher, Marty dressed up as a mountain guide with his dad's old gear for Halloween from the Schaffer family archives, and waiting in the lift line at CMH Bobbie Burns by Ryan Bavin.
Photo: Andi Kraus
Boarder: Keaton Sullivan
Date: March 24, 2013
Area: CMH McBride
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or to support the cause, contribute to B4BC.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Photographer and writer Andrea Johnson got to live her dreams in the Bugaboos last winter. Here's what she had to say about the realization:
I’ve dreamt of the complete freedom and incomparable adrenalin rush of helicopter skiing & snowboarding for the past twenty years. My expectations were high, yet these visions were exceeded by my CMH Heli-Skiing experience in the most surprising ways.
I learned to ski at the age of 9 from my grandfather, Andy Hennig, who was an Austrian Ski instructor at Sun Valley, Idaho until the age of 77. He was a legend in his own right teaching the Hemingway family and countless celebrities while working with Warren Miller in the early days of the adventure ski films. This lifestyle made an unforgettable impression, so in my mid 20’s I took a job at a snowboard company, hired photographers for marketing campaigns, and watched endless ski and snowboard films to fuel the fire.
Fast forward 15 years and my dream had nearly slipped away. I used the same excuses of lacking time, money, and fitness that most of us justify in delaying such adventures. Additionally last summer I lost my snowboarding partner of 15 years, Dale Johnson, who died in a tragic accident before he had the chance to heli snowboard – #1 on his bucket list. As life teaches us through unexpected circumstances, I found my dream reignited through the inspiration of Fred Noble.
Fred has heli-skied over 7 million vertical feet with CMH as their North American Agent, choosing to use his commissions in trade for heli-ski time during the past 38 years. This trip was his most challenging yet – 18 months ago Fred was diagnosed with ALS and he has lost all mobility in his legs. He was determined to celebrate his 75th birthday at the Bugaboos with the first descent on a sit ski, and I was there to help capture the event for a documentary film on his life (see next blog entry for this story). The experience was bittersweet, his unquenchable spirit contagious, and by watching Fred overcome obstacles of this magnitude I realized my excuses were miniscule in comparison.
In reality all of my concerns vanished the minute the helicopter dropped us off besides the magnificent Bugaboo Spires. CMH invented heli-skiing at the Bugaboos over 45 years ago and they’ve perfected the experience. The first day our group of 10 women, one man, and two guides had countless fresh tracks on a perfect bluebird day offering unlimited access to the high alpine glaciers.
On the second afternoon when many guests opted for a rest I had the chance to join a group of guides, staff, and several skiers with over a million vertical feet at CMH. At first I was intimidated, but soon found that my level of riding rose to the occasion. Cannon Barrel run was in perfect condition to rip with unrestrained speed: In a few minutes our group traveled over 2,000 vertical feet, stopping only once for a brief rest. I can still hear the hoots and hollers of my fellow skiers, tele-markers, and riders – we made three epic runs that are seared in my mind as my most unforgettable riding experience.
My fellow skiers were fun and relaxed, and our camaraderie was always high. Though we had both expert and virgin heli-skiers, we were a very compatible and tight knit group. I enjoyed not having to fight for my turn to go first and the shouts of encouragement as everyone continued to gain confidence and improve. As a tomboy, I’ve been accustomed to fighting alpha males for position in adventure sports. I had honestly never considered the fact that I could have more fun joining a group of women who would push my limits – but in a joyful, non-competitive way.
Mid week a series of storms dumped 1-2 feet of fresh snow each day. These conditions were ideal for extensive tree runs with the lightest deepest powder I’ve ever encountered. One morning I rode with the chef, another snowboarder, enjoying the long easy lines through the trees. Each of us paired up with a buddy and made our own unique call to each other as we traveled; I can still hear the yodel of Seth, our Austrian guide, echoing through the forest.
Everything at CMH is world class, and after a long day on the mountain nothing beats a soak in the hot tub. This was my daily ritual, and on the days when my body gave out I indulged in a 45-minute deep tissue massage expertly applied to the areas most in need of recovery.
It’s tradition on the last evening of the week to dress up in costume, share stories and skits from the most entertaining parts of the trip, and join a dance party after dinner. My only regret from my experience was not conditioning better in advance – next time I’ll be prepared for the endless activity!
This trip broke nearly every stereotype and concern I had of heli-skiing. Groups ranged in age from 30 to 75 years old and from expert to first time heli-skiers of varying fitness levels and expertise. Over half our group were women, and though I was the lone snowboarder much of the time, the guides were careful to take me on alternative routes to avoid flats or let the group break the trail when traverses were unavoidable. The one thing we all shared was an unquenchable thirst for skiing or snowboarding; sharing the week with like-minded, passionate adventurers is an incredible experience I’m now addicted to relive as often as possible.
Photos and story by Andrea Johnson.
There’s nothing wrong with snow-riding as fast as possible into the water for fun, but if you think about other sports, there is no other momentum sport that has a tradition quite like pond skimming.
Imagine mountain bikers in high gear pedaling full power into a mud hole to see how far they can go before the inevitable face plant, surfers chattering onto a rocky shoreline to see how far inland they can make it, skateboarders riding onto ice to see how long they can keep it together - and then the sport’s aficionados going on to make a tradition out of it.
Squaw Valley claims the first organized pond skimming event, in 1990, on Lake Cushing, with a Ski Patrol party that included the brilliant idea of trying to ski across the lake. Today, the wild event is known as the Lake Cushing Classic, explained nicely here by a Transworld Snowboard writer, and it's the Tour de France of pond skimming events with life preservers and helmets as mandatory equipment.
Warren Miller popularized the pond skim in the vaudeville sections of his ski films, and the idea caught on. Now many ski resorts hold springtime pond skim parties - and in the process have risen the bar in both silliness and innovation. The double-pond shown in the clip below from last year’s Big Sky event has taken the pond-skim construction to terrain park levels of engineering.
This coming weekend, April 14-15, there’s a Pond Skimming Championship at Heavenly where contestants are judged on success (staying dry) and distance, as well as the more esoteric criteria of style and crowd appeal.
And crowd appeal it certainly has. The unpredictable nature of snowboards and skis moving at high speed on water creates a rodeo-like spectacle. The bull might throw the cowboy immediately, or he may hang on for a bit, but most of the time it all ends with a spectacular wreck.
The magnitude of the stunts reveal that people are taking their pond-skimming efforts to a higher level. Last year at Big Sky, on the kicker between the two pools, jibbers were pulling aerials, sometimes sticking the second pond, other times not...
The floatation of fat skis has changed pond skimming every bit as much as it has changed skiing; maybe for the next generation of the X-Games we’ll see skier- and boarder-cross courses with water sections and wave pools, but for now the fun factor of the pond skim still rules.
Photo by Topher Donahue of the Mt. Everest of pond-skimming potential: CMH Monashees...
Lounging on the beach for spring break is an institution; heli-skiing for spring break is an inspiration.
The trouble with the beach holiday is that it sounds so good from home, but then you get there and there and it's surprisingly boring. One year, during my family's quintessential beach spring break, my sister got so bored that she decided to write her boyfriend’s name on her bum with sunscreen every day. It was all well and good until the toasted skin around the name began to peel - that, and the sunburn lasted longer than the boyfriend.
Then there are the pleasures of visiting the most popular spring break destinations during one of the most popular travel times of the year. First there are the crowds, the over-the-top parties just outside your hotel window, the waiting lines at restaurants and the traffic - all compounded by your kids high expectations. You know how it goes. When you get home and you feel like you need a vacation.
Or you can take your family heliskiing and blow their expectations out of the galaxy. Everyone expects you to come back from spring break with tan lines; nobody expects you and your family to show up Monday morning after spring break with ear-to-ear grins and that far away look in your eyes that says, “I just had the best family spring break of my entire life!”
With the growing popularity of parents heliskiing with their children, CMH Heli-Skiing has designed the Next Generation heliski program to fit the ski endurance of younger skiers - and the pocketbooks of their parents.
The bottom line is that Next Generation Heli-Skiing trips are half price for the younger skiers. The trip is open to any skier but if you have someone between the ages of 12-25 who wants to join you, they get the trip for half price, and that includes half the guaranteed vertical and the entire week's world-class CMH hospitality and accomodation.
Over the next few weeks, CMH Lodges will be welcoming a number of families who have decided to skip the sandy toes and sunburned shoulders in favor of snowboards, powder skis, face shots and rosy cheeks.
And the big news: there are still a few spaces left on the in CMH Monashees March 10-17 and March 17-24 for this season, and next year as well if you’re already committed to the bikini option this time around.