Heliskiing is intimidating. Most skiers and snowboarders can do it, but until you’ve experienced it it’s intimidating for just about everyone. Everyone has questions about it. Some have questions about their own ability, some have questions about the logistics of the program, and then of course there are questions about the skiing itself. For the top 5 questions asked by heliskiers, I tracked down Natasha Wiebe, with CMH Reservations, who spends most of her time patiently and expertly answering these very questions.
1. How many runs per day and how long are they?
This depends largely on two things: snow conditions, and your skiing or riding endurance. Most days are spent skiing and snowboarding a dozen or more powder runs between 300- and 1200-metres long. With the helicopter and multiple guides to lead different skill levels, there are chances to rest or return to the Lodge so some guests ski significantly more than others.
But don’t be surprised if, even as a first-timer, you ski a lot more than you might expect. If you’re a strong intermediate skier, and you don’t mind a few fluffy tumbles while learning the bouncy rhythm of riding in powder, you end up skiing long runs with surprising ease. If you’re an expert, you’ll be in good company with our faster skiers and riders on our longer, steeper runs.
2. What will the snow be like?
Snow is always changing, but an average heliski day will be in snow deeper than your boot tops and often deeper than your waist. There are no grooming machines at CMH, and with up to 20 metres (or 65 feet) of annual snowfall, the base you are skiing on can be up to 5 metres deep.
It's not always perfect powder - wind, sun, temperature and time can conspire against us and create diabolical crusts, bulletproof hard pack, soupy slush (which can be really fun to ski too) and everything in between – but Interior British Columbia has the best odds for betting on deep powder skiing of anywhere in the world.
3. What happens on a down day?
Thanks to the great snow and ski terrain of the Columbia Mountains, and exceptional pilots with Alpine Helicopters, we average only half-a-day without skiing each week, so a lot of guests just rest, visit the spa, get a massage, dine, and appreciate a chance to recover and ski stronger the next day.
However, after 45 years of heli-skiing, we’ve passed a lot of days when it's dumping so hard the helicopter can’t fly, so we have cross-country skis and boots in every size, pool tables, exercise areas, weight rooms and climbing walls. On occasion, down days have been known to include broom hockey, snowball fights, and building kickers in the woods near the Lodge.
4. I am coming alone on this trip. Do you think this is ok?
Absolutely. Mountain sport is conducive to camaraderie. You won’t be alone for long. Most heliskiers leave after a week with CMH with more friends than they arrived with. Every week, we’ll have a mix of guests travelling alone, in groups and in couples. Quite often we have guests come alone for one week and meet a friend or their family for the next week.
5. What is there to do in our spare time at the Lodge?
Other than during down days when the helicopter can’t fly because of weather conditions, most guests find little spare time after the long days of memorable skiing, gourmet dining, and relaxation. Wireless Internet will let you connect - and the spa, dining room, bar, and the rest of the CMH heliski experience will let you disconnect.
Are you curious about the other quesitons our guests ask us about heliskiing? Check out the FAQ section of our website.
Photo of answering these questions the fun way at CMH Adamants by Topher Donahue.