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The New CMH Guest Radio System

  
  
  

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CMH invented heliskiing, and for the past 45 years we’ve been fine-tuning the system to make it work better for the guides and pilots, to make it more fun for the skiers and snowboarders, and to make it safer for everyone involved.

For the 2010/2011 season, one big change is that there will be five radios for each group of 11 skiers.  This increase will allow guides and skiers separated by trees or obstacles to communicate easily, making the guide’s job less stressful and the skier’s job more fun.   

Veteran heliskiers will be quick to realize that this change will allow each “ski buddy” team to have a radio.  While skiing in the trees, which we do extensively, we ski in teams of two so every skier has a ski buddy to help in case of a fall, losing gear, or getting stuck in a tree well.  Now, each ski buddy team can easily communicate with the guides.  This will make skiing more fun, because there will be no specific “radio team” always forced to stay at the back of the ski group. Instead, everyone will be part of a radio team.

It will be more important than ever for ski buddies to stay together, so in case of a delay the skier with the radio can quickly tell the guide what is happening.  Colani Bezzola, CMH Safety Manager, hopes the new system will encourage skiers to be more committed to their ski buddy.  In the past, a radio team of two skiers stayed at the back and radioed ahead to the guide if there was a delay.   Now the responsibility of staying together and communicating in case of a delay or the need for help will fall squarely on each “ski buddy” team. 

Over the past few years, when some groups arrived with their own radios, the guides realized that having more radios in the group improved communications dramatically.  This may seem like an obvious improvement to the system, but the increase in radios is not without issues.  Sometimes a guest will climb into the helicopter and sit on the push-to-talk button on their radio.  This effectively shuts down all communications on the primary channel, sometimes for the entire helicopter ride.  To manage this inevitable issue, the guides have a secondary frequency they can use that can only be accessed from the guide and pilot radios.  Colani explained that guides and pilots have become accustomed to quickly switching to the second frequency when the main channel gets locked open, so the benefits of adding radios to each group now outweigh the problems. 

The CMH guest radios will all be Motorolla CP200 radios programmed so two channels are operational.  As before, the two channels will be the direct channel, used to communicate in the same valley, and the repeater channel, directed through a repeater station on a high mountaintop, that can be used to communicate with the main lodge, helicopter, or guides in a different valley.   

The final carrying system for the radios is still under consideration, but skiers can expect either a small leash to clip the radio in while it rides in a jacket pocket, or a simple chest harness to hold the radio.

As with any element of the heliski system, there will be a benefit and a responsibility that goes with it.  Guests will need to be aware that when they are using the radio, the rest of the guides, guests, and pilot will be listening and waiting to make further communications. 

This means you should feel free to inform your guide if you are delayed while looking for a lost ski, but that there is no need to use the radio to tell your friends that you just got the most epic face shot of your life!

Photo of CMH Gothics by Topher Donahue

Comments

Great idea. Don't think you can error on having more safety in place. Our group has had many radios for years and many a time they have been extremely helpful.
Posted @ Wednesday, October 20, 2010 12:47 PM by Ted Ritota
I think this is a good idea, but it is important to stress that the guide radio should only be used only when necessary. 
My wife and I always heli-ski with small two-way radios that we use just to communicate with each other and that works well for us...
Posted @ Thursday, October 21, 2010 2:41 PM by Brad Nichols
Good point, Brad. It is pretty common for the CMH radios to just ride along in a pocket all day and never get used. But when you do use them in case of a delay it sure is helpful.
Posted @ Thursday, October 21, 2010 2:53 PM by Topher Donahue
Radio chatter can make a lonely skier feel like he is not alone. It also can add to the humor in a day: love listening to a lost skier describe where he is... "lets see, there is snow, trees and not a track in sight!
Posted @ Wednesday, January 19, 2011 4:50 PM by Hank Brandtjen
Great idea but everybody in the group should have a radio. I think it is imperative from a safety perspective since even with the buddy system one skier with the radio could go into the tree well. I was in a small group this year in the bobbie burns area and as a result we all had radios and we found that very important especially when in the trees.
Posted @ Thursday, January 20, 2011 11:15 AM by Chris Burley
Hey Chris, 
I felt the same way, but then in researching for this post I learned that there is a safety issue in giving all 44 skiers in a CMH area their own radio: with 44 radios potentially getting locked on talk accidentally in the helicopter, there ends up with many long periods where the guest radios cannot be used at all. The guides have to strike a balance between too many radios blocking the frequency, and giving people the means to communicate.
Posted @ Thursday, January 20, 2011 5:36 PM by Topher Donahue
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