5 things Heli-Skiing is not
Earlier this winter, Forbes.com ran an article titled “Why You Need To Try Heli-Skiing This Winter” that inspired me to compile this list of things that Heli-Skiing, at least with CMH Heli-Skiing in Western Canada, is most definitely not.
It isn’t that there is anything wrong with the article. The author, Larry Olmstead, is a genuine fan of skiing who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the Most Trails Skied in 8 Hours (a record he explains, humbly, is “begging to be broken”) after skiing 64 different runs in 8 hours at Crested Butte in Colorado.
What inspired me to do a little myth-busting is that the first photo in the article is perhaps the most misleading photo ever published in an article about Heli-Skiing. It shows a group of guys braced against the wind on a dirt ridge next to a helicopter. There is no ski terrain, not even a pair of skis, and hardly any snow in sight. I’m sure they went on to have a great run, but the photo hardly does justice to one of the most exciting forms of recreation ever invented.
So here’s my short list of what Heli-Skiing is not:
I know there are a lot of other experienced Heli-Skiers reading this. What else is Heli-Skiing not?
- Heli-Skiing is not about groveling on dirty ridges while the helicopter spits gravel in your face. Most of the time, the helicopter lands in the snow with flags placed to mark the landing spot amidst a winter wonderland of alpine peaks or snow-cloaked old-growth forest.
- Heli-Skiing is not about jumping out of the helicopter. Last month I was interviewed by a journalist from Yahoo Travel who wrote a fantastic article titled “Take the kids Heli-Skiing”. The author, Deborah Hopewell, is a skilled journalist and she asked the kind of questions people are curious about - including whether or not Heli-Skiing involves jumping out of helicopters. Anyone who has used a helicopter for a ski lift knows the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. The helicopter lands and everyone gets out with no rush (and without wearing skis). When the helicopter leaves, we put on our skis and snowboards. Heli-Skiers are about as likely to jump out of the helicopter as we are to jump out of a commercial jet.
- Heli-Skiing is not only for super-fit, expert skiers. Families with children as young as 12, intermediate skiers, older skiers, skiers with average fitness and skiers who live nowhere near a ski area all have a great time with CMH Heli-Skiing. Sure, some of our areas, like the Monashees and Galena, are famous for challenging terrain, but anyone who can ski a blue run with confidence can enjoy Heli-Skiing with CMH. In fact, our Powder 101 program was designed by a Level 4 Austrian ski instructor with specific curriculum for intermediate skiers who want to learn to ski powder.
- Heli-Skiing in Canada is not limited to low-angled glaciers. There is a persistent myth in Heli-Skiing that Canadian Heli-Skiing all happens on low angled, glaciated terrain. Sure, there are a lot of great low-angle glaciers to ski, which are perfect for learning to ski powder, but we also have a wonderland of steep skiing, both in the trees and in the alpine – and we get after it.
- Heli-Skiing is not for people who like ski touring. In fact, CMH Heli-Skiing’s first guests, 48 years ago, were ski touring guests of Hans Gmoser, the founder of Canadian Mountain Holidays. And recently, the CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Touring program has become one of our most popular programs, selling out every season. Form many people, the recipe is the best of both the Heli-Skiing and ski touring worlds: stay in a comfortable CMH Lodge, take a flight each morning to the ideal touring location, tour all day using skins for uphill travel and skiing down runs that sometimes even Heli-Skiers can’t reach, and then catch a return flight to the lodge for après ski massage, dining and CMH camaraderie.
Photos of steep tree skiing at CMH Galena and a Heli-Ski pickup, Powder 101 terrain and Steep Week terrain at CMH Cariboos by Topher Donahue.