The most unusual thing about heli-skiing with CMH might not be the skiing. Sure, CMH is essentially the biggest ski area in the world, positioned in some of the snowiest mountains with idyllic ski terrain stretching every direction for as far as the eye can see. But there is a lot of other good skiing outside of CMH. The most unusual thing might be the mountain hospitality that greets everyone who has joined CMH for a mountain adventure during the last 45 years.
Skiers travel from all over the world to arrive at an intimate lodge in a remote mountain valley choked with snow-cloaked forest and no other sign of human habitation for many kilometers. It is a world for moose, caribou, rabbits and goats; yet minutes after arriving you are greeted by a smiling, fellow snow rider who shows you the way to your room and the spa. For as long as you stay, the juxtaposition of feeling as comfortable as you ever have while surrounded by the harsh environment of snow and mountains gives you the sense that you are extremely fortunate. To get an idea how CMH manages to deliver such hospitality in these outrageous locations, I tracked down Danny Stoffel a guide and manager from CMH Valemount.
TD: How does mountain hospitality differ from, say, 4-star hotel hospitality?
DS: Mountain hospitality faces additional challenges that are not encountered by 4-star hotel operations. It is a significant challenge to provide top-rate customer service from a remote location; however it is also this challenge that makes the job interesting. We try to pamper our guests to the same standards as would be seen from an urban location, this means anticipating guest demands before they are even made, as we do not have the access to satisfy every request on demand. Our main goal at CMH is to offer refined service in a family atmosphere. The personal touch is everything. It is by doing this that we hope our guests will feel as though they are coming to a home away from home year after year. Ultimately, we want our guests to feel as though they have traveled from one home to another; however the home we provide comes with a great mountain atmosphere and unsurpassed service - plus the ultimate snowboarding and skiing.
TD: Do you continue hospitality while out skiing in the wilderness? How?
DS: Absolutely! Our guests are here to ride and they spend the majority of each day outside, therefore we make every effort to make this part of their trip very special. We ensure that all aspects of our field operations are at their best. Everything from the safety and snow conditions, to the outstanding food and the passionate staff, has an element of sincere hospitality with it. We strive to offer our guests memorable and unique experiences. This means making every effort to find the best snow and the most suitable terrain for the skiing ability of both first timers and veterans. Finally, the safety of our guests is always a priority; therefore we also utilize the best avalanche transceivers and safety equipment on the market.
TD: How do you train staff to give the unique friendly flavor of CMH hospitality?
DS: It all starts with selecting the right talent. I look for bright individuals who share a passion for skiing and the mountains. I then try to pass on the philosophy, spirit and passion of our founding father, Hans Gmoser. I train my staff to be professional, but I also encourage them to connect with our guests on a personal level. I hope that by doing this the staff will be able to anticipate guest requests before they are even made.
TD: If you have advice learned in the mountains that you could share with the hospitality industry, what would it be?
DS: Passionate staff is the foundation to a successful business. Ultimately, it is CMH’s staff that has created the unique atmosphere the company is famous for. Employees are able to fulfill their individual aspirations to connect with the backcountry by working for CMH. Passion for the industry is the foundation of a great staff member, but training the staff and empowering them to conduct their jobs is arguably just as important. I place great emphasis on training my staff, knowing that it will translate into superior guest service. Most importantly, the staff shares the passion for the mountains and therefore they bring an electric energy to the lodge that you don't find in even a five-star hotel.
As the area manager of CMH Valemount, Danny Stoffel practices mountain hospitality all winter long while hosting 10 skiers and riders for intimate, private, week-long helicopter snowboarding and skiing adventures in the Columbia Mountains.