The Heli-Ski Blog

The world’s 5 best ski towns

Posted by Topher Donahue on Mar 21, 2013 8:36:00 AM

Any list of the world’s 5 best ski towns doomed to be unfair. In many ways, the best ski town in the world is the one you’re in. But some, like my number one choice (shown in this photo), are the kind of ski towns where ski dreams meet reality.

revelstoke snow

To make this list for the Heli-Ski Blog, I considered the conversations I’ve had with the most experienced group of skiers I know: the guests of CMH Heli-Skiing. As a group, CMH Heli-Skiers have skied everywhere and know a thing or two about the best the world has to offer. At aprés ski in a CMH Lodge, waiting for a heli-pickup, or riding the bus from Calgary to the Revelstoke region, CMH guests talk about skiing.  These are the ski towns that I’ve heard spoken of with the most reverence. To pick this list, I weighed the skiing heavily, followed by the culture and lifestyle of the area, and limited my list to no more than one ski town in a given country.

Number 5: Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
Jackson Hole skiingThere’s nowhere in the United States where you get a more American skiing experience than Jackson Hole. Think cowboys and National Parks, big trucks, wolves and moose before even stepping into your skis. From Teton Pass, where a car shuttle and boot pack trail give access to world-class powder skiing, to the endless backcountry runs in Grand Teton National Park (photo right), to the progressive Jackson Hole ski resort where out-of-bounds skiing (with the right safety gear and training) is considered standard fare; the skiing during good snow cycles is about as good as snowriding gets.

Number 4: The Arlberg, Austria
It’s hard to pick one area in the Northern Alps.  From Garmisch Partenkirchen in Southern Germany, to Innsbruck, Austria, a town many consider the winter sports capital of the world, there may be no region on the planet with better ski infrastructure or more ski-soaked culture.

ski arlberg

I had to pick the Arlberg. Considered the birthplace of modern Alpine skiing, the Arlberg was also one of the places where skiers experimented with using a helicopter as a ski lift before CMH opened the world’s first Heli-Skiing business in 1965.

Number 3: La Grave–La Meije, France
Much of Europe is famous for impeccably groomed pistes, comfortable lodging, and well thought-out transportation. A few European areas, including the legendary Verbier in Switzerland, are known for out-of-bounds skiing and would be worthy of inclusion in this list. I had to give the love to a little lesser-known jewel of the off-piste lifestyle: La Grave, described here in an Outside Magazine article, is an almost mythical area famous for one thing, and one thing only.  Skiing.
Home to the biggest lift-accessed off-piste skiing in the world, La Grave offers 2150 metres (7000 feet) of vertical and unrestricted backcountry access. There are no luxury hotels in La Grave, and only a single tram and a couple of surface lifts, but the town's classical stone construction and epic skiing make it a ski town unlike any other.  If you go to La Grave, hire a guide, and get ready for the most thrilling lift-serviced skiing you’ve ever done.

Number 2: Akakura Onsen, Japan
The Revelstoke of Asia, this ski region surrounding Nagano was blown wide open by the 1998 winter Olympics.  I remember having a hard time focusing on the races in Nagano because of the surrounding steep mountains coated in a generous blanket of powder snow kept catching my eye.

Japanese powder skiing

Akakura Onsen is known as the most central village to the best skiing, with access to several ski resorts.  One area, Myoko Kogen, also allows off-piste skiing, while many of the other Japanese ski resorts do not. Add Japanese Onsen (hot springs) and cuisine to the equation, and you’ve got a recipe for what could be the world’s healthiest ski destination.

Number 1: Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada
Let’s see.  North America’s tallest lift-serviced ski area. Canada’s snowiest mountains. Arguably the world’s most diverse and vast backcountry ski terrain. The spiritual centre of CMH Heli-Skiing, the world’s first Heli-Ski service.  Well-managed backcountry hut systems. A world-class avalanche forecasting service. Industry-leading ski guide culture. Canadians. Need I say more?

worlds best ski town

While I hummed and hawed over the other four, it was easy to choose the number one ski town in the world. For some reason, similar to Akakura Onsen, much of the ski world just recently learned about Revelstoke. But the word is out, and the combination of Revelstoke’s easy-going-yet-go-for-it-safely Canadian ski culture, the endless terrain, the epic snowfall and diverse ski options are taking the ski world by storm.

Topics: Revelstoke, Canadian Rockies, Canada, Best of, CMH, British Columbia, heli-skiing, powder skiing, Million Footers

CMH Heli-Ski Movie 2013- Ascension

Posted by John Entwistle on Jan 31, 2013 8:55:00 AM

Did you miss our roadshow this year? One of the highlights is always CMH's yearly feature movie. So, in case you did miss us, here it is! Ascension, CMH's Heli-Ski movie for 2012/2013.


Featuring some of the best footage from the Monashees, Valemount, Revelstoke, Adamants, and more!




Want more CMH videos? Check out our youtube channel, here:

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Topics: CMH Monashees, CMH, CMH Revelstoke, Ski Movie

The night before Christmas at CMH

Posted by Topher Donahue on Dec 24, 2012 8:36:00 AM

christmas at CMH resized 600

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Every skier was dancing, a few were quite soused.
The fat skis were all standing outdoors in cold air,
In hopes of more powder, face shots and big air.

The guides were still scheming with runs in their heads,
Planning tomorrow and finding sweet shreds.
And mama in tight pants and I in my chaps,
Had just hit the shot ski and made up silly raps.

When out by the spa there arose such a clatter,
We all stopped dancing to see what was the matter.
Away to the hot tub we ran with a flash,
Threw on our jackets, ignored the boot rash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave luster to the good times and party below.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the Austrians, all naked, and drinking cold beer.

They were far from the hot tub, waist deep in snow,
Singing and shivering, putting on a good show.
Without words we all knew they were playing a game,
To see who could last longer and still ski the same.

At first we all wondered who these skiers could be,
until one raised his glass, and shouted “Prost! Pulverschnee!”
It was Gmoser and Grillmair poaching the spa,
Those two? The legends? We stood there in awe.

The next day they joined us as we took the first flight,
After not sleeping a wink - they had danced through the night.
They led the charge and we maxed out the fun,
From McBride to Galena we charged every run.

The Sasquatch was relaxing on a cornice to munch,
When we joined CMH K2 to share their fine lunch.
In the Bugs we held power and opened the hatch,
Clicked into our skis and carved the Snowpatch.

We skied every area, no one cared about vert,
We launched all the big cliffs and no one got hurt.
Back at the lodge, we were tired and sore,
But not Hans and Leo - they wanted some more.

They put on their touring gear, and skied into the night,
Yodeling, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Topics: Ski Heroes, CMH Guides, Skiing, For Fun, CMH, powder skiing

Galena micro hydropower investment pays off

Posted by Topher Donahue on Apr 19, 2012 7:44:00 AM

As of this ski season, the CMH Galena Lodge’s micro-hydro plant has fully paid for its installation cost - as well as saved about half-a-million litres of diesel fuel and nearly a thousand tonnes of carbon emissions over its seven years of operation.  Last February, Luke Crawford, the maintenance expert at Galena, gave me a tour of the hydro facility, a tiny structure shown in the photo below, nestled among snow mushrooms near a stream a few hundred metres from the Galena Lodge.

hydro plant galenaBetween keeping the Lodge and its energy systems in operation, and bagging as many pillow lines as possible, Luke took the time to answer a few questions:

TD: On average, how much of the lodge's power supply does the hydro provide?

LC: From end of ski season to start of ski season (April 1st- December 1st) it provides essentially 100% of our electrical power.  
During the season, it provides 100% electrical power needs from December 1st until usually sometime in early Febuary. From that point to the end of the ski season, we are running the diesel generator 15-18 hrs. each day.  However, even when the generator is running, 100% of the hydro power is dumped into heating our boiler loops.
The short answer would be about 80% for the year.

TD: How much did it cost?

LC: It was anticipated it would take 5-7 years for the hydro plant to pay for itself from the greatly diminished diesel bill. The installation of the plant itself cost about 450,000 dollars and saves between 45,000 and 50,000 litres of diesel annually (which translates into reduced carbon emissions to the tune of about 130 tonnes a year).

galena lodge pool table lighting 

TD: How has it changed the energy use/awareness by staff and guests?

LC: For staff I would say we are all much more aware of conserving power and to a certain extent greater awareness of what the power hogs in the lodge are eg. Hobart dishwasher, bathroom floor heat, the older style flourescent lighting.

With the guests I can't say I have really noticed much, however I have only worked here since the plant was installed. Every tour there are usually a couple of guests who take quite an interest in the hydro setup at the lodge.

micro hydro power plantTD: When was it installed?

LC: 2005

TD: Any issues with it?

LC: The biggest one is that we have a two-month period each year when the hydro plant cannot produce enough power to meet the Lodge's peak demand times which are in the morning when everyone is getting up, and then around dinner time.

The reason is that the run off from the creek always drops to a certain point that is just not enough for the lodge during those time periods of the day. The plant was designed with the goal of being able to meet all of our electrical requirements for the entire year, so it is unfortunate that this did not materialize into reality for the lodge.

Occasionally, something happens up at the hydro plant's weir that cuts off the water supply for the plant, forcing it to shut down. These can last from mere minutes very rare instances a couple of days, in which case we rely on the generator until the issue is resolved.

The Galena Lodge micro-hydro plant is just one element of CMH’s quest to be the leading sustainable tourism company in North America.  Visit the stewardship pages of our website for more information.

Topics: Galena Lodge, Adventure Travel, Sustainability, CMH Experts, CMH

CMH Timeline: The Social Story of Heli-Skiing

Posted by John Entwistle on Mar 29, 2012 2:59:00 PM

The CMH Facebook page has always been a source for the newest CMH pictures, videos, stories, and updates. And now, it has received a massive face lift.


CMH Facebook Timeline


If you are a fan of CMH on Facebook, you may have noticed that we have switched over to the new "Timeline" format. From the top you will still get the same photos, videos, updates, snow reports, and fun stuff as always, but we have backfilled our timeline with many of the dates and stories that were key in the evolution of CMH. You can now go back and see events such as the first heli-ski trip in the Bugaboos- April 4, 1965. The opening if each lodge is highlighted by a section from Topher Donahue's "Bugaboo Dreams". You can see, and scroll through, all of the major dates to the right-hand side of the timeline- Right back to the beginning of CMH! Stay tuned as we will be adding more and more!


CMH Start Timeline


 Do you have any historical CMH photos or stories you would like to see on our timeline? Feel free to send them our way at

Topics: Facebook, CMH, History

CMH Heli-Skiing is Coming to You!

Posted by John Entwistle on Oct 19, 2011 2:35:00 PM

Every year, CMH hosts a variety of events around North America. Current guests, past guests, future guests, and all skiers alike can experience a night of winter excitement. What better way to get excited about the upcoming ski season than ski movies, CMH guides, and food!

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Check out the list of all of our fall events for an event near you, and please RSVP 3 days prior to attending the event. We hope to see you there!


Oct 6
Washington DC
Naval Heritage Center
• • • • • • • • • • • •
6:30 - 9:00 pm
Oct 12
Kelowna, BC
Fresh Air Concept
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Oct 16
Women In Winter
Mt. Royal University
Ross Glen Hall
Calgary, AB
• • • • • • • • • • • •
1pm - 4pm
Oct 17
La Vie Sportive
600 Bouvier
Quebec City, QC
• • • • • • • • • • • •
6:30 pm
Oct 18
Paragon Sports
Union Square
New York, NY
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Oct 18
Altitude Sports
St Denis St.
Montreal, QC
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Oct 18
Tommy & Lefebve
Bank St
Ottawa, ON
• • • • • • • • • • • •
5:30- 8:00pm
Oct 20
Chez Leveque
Montreal, QC
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Oct 21/22/23
Minnesota Ski &
Snowboard Expo
Minneapolis, MN
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Oct 22
Jon Squire
Collingwood, ON
• • • • • • • • • • • •
6:30 - 9:00pm
Oct 25
• • • • • • • • • • • •
7:00 - 9:00pm
Oct 26
Battery 621
Denver, CO
• • • • • • • • • • • •
7:00 - 9:00pm
Oct 27
The Fainting Goat
Denver, CO
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Oct 28
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Oct 28 - 30
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Nov 4/5/6
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Nov 4
• • • • • • • • • • • •
5:00 - 9:00pm
Nov 5

• • • • • • • • • • • •
6:00pm & 9:00pm
Nov 8
The Bite Bar
Santa Monica
Los Angeles, CA
• • • • • • • • • • • •
7:00 - 9:00pm
Nov 9
SAX Chicago
Chicago, IL
• • • • • • • • • • • •
7:00 - 9:00pm
Nov 10
• • • • • • • • • • • •
7:00 - 9:00pm
Nov 19
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Nov 19
Warren Miller Ent.
"...Like There's No Tomorrow"

Centre in Vancouver
For Performing Arts
Vancouver, BC
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Dec 15
K2 Factory
Seattle, WA
• • • • • • • • • • • •
6:30 -9:30pm

Please RSVP no later than 3 days prior to each event. Thanks!

Topics: CMH, Roadshow

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Posted by John Entwistle on Oct 6, 2011 3:04:00 PM

"Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish"- Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)


March 17  2011 DSC 0135 135 resized 600These four words are possibly the most shared words in cyberspace this week. Trending on Twitter, popping up on everyone’s Facebook news feeds, and in the news everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Steve Jobs` Stanford commencement speech (see below). Certainly more times than I can count. Though maybe I would be able to, had I gone to Stanford… The first time I saw the speech, I was completely blown away. And those words… Stay hungry, stay foolish, have stuck with me ever since. I have tried to apply these to many different aspects of my life; on the ski hill, summiting a peak, just hanging out with friends, or at work. I seem to have lucked out by getting to work for a company that aligns with these values well. Although maybe sometimes more on the side of foolish than hungry (our chefs keep us pretty well fed), it seems as though we are all hungry for something. Just yesterday, I looked out my office window to see several members from our IS department doing what I could only imagine was a snow dance (though maybe they were just stretching for their bike ride). But sure enough, this morning we were greeted by freshly snow-capped peaks.

This time of year, it is easy to see what we are all hungry for- a great ski season filled with amazing turns, great runs, and epic pow days. And foolish, well that comes standard with CMH and what we do, just take a look at the picture of the Yeti skiing at The Monashees last winter! Heli-skiing… To anyone who doesn’t understand, it may seem foolish. But for those of us who get it, it’s not foolish… It’s a way of life. As the helicopter dives back down into the valley to pick up the next group, and all goes silent but the sound of boots clicking in to bindings, you are quickly reminded of what you were hungry for in the first place.

Though we never had a chance to host Steve Jobs here at CMH, he has had an impact on a large majority of us, and will be greatly missed. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.


Topics: For Fun, CMH

CMH Google Earth: Putting it All in Perspective

Posted by Topher Donahue on Oct 4, 2011 8:03:00 AM

It is hard to get a sense for just how remote the CMH Heliskiing areas really are.  Even when you fly into Calgary, Kelowna, or another nearby town, and then ride a bus and helicopter into one of the remote CMH lodges, it is hard to grasp the isolation of the ultimate ski and snowboard destination.  One of the best ways to get a sense of the area is with the almost magical world of Google Earth.

google earth adamants

There are few adventure travel destinations that are better suited to perusing with Google Earth than the vast wilderness playground that is CMH Heliskiing.  To access the CMH Google Earth Database, follow these steps:

  1. Download Google Earth (If you’ve never used it, check it out.  It is arguably the most amazing thing the internet has yet spawned.)
  2. Go to the Canadian Mountain Holidays website and click on the Multimedia tab.  In the pull down menu, select Google Earth, or click here.  
  3. On the CMH Google Earth page, there is a list of Heliskiing Google Earth maps.  You can select one area, but selecting the "Overview of CMH Heliskiing Areas" gives you all of the other maps in one click and gives a better sense of scale than any of the individual areas alone.  

Now, when you open Google Earth, you’ll see Canadian Mountain Holidays listed under your Places menu.  If you click the menu arrow next to Canadian Mountain Holidays, you’ll see the drop down menu of all of the CMH areas. 

To get an idea of why CMH operates what is by far the world’s biggest ski area, first don’t click on any of the areas, but instead double click on “Canadian Mountain Holidays”.  Google Earth will zoom into a view showing all the CMH areas with McBride in the far north, and Kootenay in the far south.  Next, slide the scale slider and zoom out until you can see the Pacific Ocean to the west.  You’ll see that suddenly the CMH terrain takes on truly massive proportions. 

The distance from the southern edge of the CMH tenures to the northernmost edge is over twice the distance from Seattle to Vancouver and slightly more than the entire north-south dimension of Washington state.

Now double click on a CMH area, the Adamants for example.  Google Earth will zoom to fill your screen with the Adamants area map.  You’ll see the map is highlighted greenish yellow. 

To turn off the yellow colouring so you can see more detail of the area, click the arrow next to the Adamants, and in the short drop down menu, uncheck the box that says “Adamants Area Map”.  From there you can zoom in and explore the Adamants terrain. 

Unfortunately, the Google Earth photos are mostly summertime images, so it doesn’t look much like what skiers see in the winter.  Also, from the default view, directly above, even the biggest mountains flatten out. By rotating the perspective, found above the scale slider in the Google Earth interface, you can view the mountains more as you would see them if you looked out the window of a helicopter or plane. This perspective suddenly reveals the long tree shots, wide open glacier runs, steep fall lines, massive vertical, and spectacular alpine scenery of CMH Heliskiing.

Any heliskiers out there who have a favourite Google Earth trick for viewing CMH terrain?

Topics: Adventure Travel, Tricks of the Trade, CMH, Adamants

Heliskiing's Big Questions: What's the Terrain Like?

Posted by Topher Donahue on May 11, 2011 2:56:00 PM

According to the foresters of Parks Canada there are three life zones in the Columbia Mountains: “Rainforest, Snowforest, and No Forest."

These life zones are where CMH Heliskiing happens.  Mountain guides and heliskiers divide the mountains a little differently, but the differences are largely semantics.  However you break it down, the wildly different life zones of the Columbia Mountains are fundamentally connected to the kind of terrain you’ll encounter on a heliskiing or helicopter snowboarding vacation.

Mountain guides break it down into Below Treeline, Treeline, and Alpine.  Each zone has features that appeal to both beginner and expert powder skiers.  Here is a photographic and descriptive tour of what skiers of differing ability levels can expect from each zone:

alpine heliskiing terrain heliskiingAlpine:  The original inspiration for heliskiing.  It’s all about stunning views, big vertical, leaving tracks on gorgeous peaks and oceans of snow, and skiing past glaciers and massive mountain walls of snow and rock. On a summit to valley run at CMH, the alpine is usually a 500- to 1500-metre elevation band.

  • Beginner Powder Skiers will enjoy the freedom to turn wherever they want, without the pressure of trees or terrain features.
  • Expert Powder Skiers will enjoy the high speed carving on steeper unbroken faces.


treeline skiing-CMH-powder skiingTreeline: Quentessential Canadian heliskiing terrain.   You get both views into the alpine, and technical tree skiing features like wind rolls and snow mushrooms - and the most massive snowpack in an already snowy region.  On a summit to valley run at CMH, treeline is usually a 200- to 400-metre elevation band. 

  • Powder skiers and snowboarders of all abilities will enjoy the diversity and beauty of the treeline zone.  Even within the safety limits of staying near the guide’s tracks, experts can ride over the jumps, drops and steeps formed by the tree islands and moraines, and beginner powder skiers and snowboarders can ride the lines of least resistance.


powder-treeskiing-CMHBelow Treeline: This is where the new school of heliskiing goes off.  When the CMH guides began exploring the steep tree runs of the Monashees, they stumbled onto one of mankind’s most amazing contrivances: floating effortlessly downward through a steep forest with snow pouring around every millimetre of your body - with a helicopter to take you up for another round.  On a summit to valley run at CMH, the Below Treeline zone is usually a 500- to 1500-metre elevation band.

  • Beginner Powder Skiers would be wise to choose an area with tree skiing that is suitable for weaker skiers.  The Cariboos, Bugaboos, Kootenay, Adamants, and Revelstoke have a plethora of tree skiing terrain that is great for weaker tree skiers.
  • Expert powder skiers and snowboarders will need no introduction to know that charging the deep powder through an old growth rainforest with CMH is pretty much as good as life gets.  Rippers will be happy at any CMH area, but the Monashees, Gothics, Cariboos, Revelstoke, Bobbie Burns, Galena and Kootenay are legendary for aggressive tree skiing.

Check out the rest of the most frequently asked questions about heliskiing.

Topics: Tree skiing, Heli-Boarding, CMH Heli-Skiing, CMH, Skiing Pictures

The Best Toast on Earth: The CMH Dinner Table

Posted by Topher Donahue on Mar 21, 2011 8:31:00 AM

When Hans Gmoser, the founder of Canadian Mountain Holidays, first arrived in Banff in the 1950s, he walked through town with a pack on his back, found a suitable patch of grass to pitch his tent, and went to sleep.  In the morning Hans awoke to someone kicking his feet from outside the tent.  After wriggling out of his sleeping bag, he found himself facing an irritated homeowner by the name of Elizabeth “Lizzie” von Rummel.  

After kicking Hans out of his sleeping bag for sleeping on her lawn, Lizzie quickly realized Hans was a foreigner struggling to make it in Canada.  Before Hans even finished packing his bags, she offered him a job assisting her with the operation of the alpine hut at Mt. Assiniboine.  

It was there, below one of the world’s most beautiful mountains, where Hans learned the importance of mealtimes in the mountains - a philosophy that continues to this day in every CMH lodge.  It is no coincidence that the biggest tables and biggest helicopters at CMH  accomodate about the same number of people.  The skiers who heliski together can dine together if they choose; thus carrying the skiing emotion throught the entire day and into friendships that reach beyond the holiday.

gothics cmh dinnertable ski hut

Lizzie’s guests didn’t just visit – it was their home for  a week.  The lodge was theirs and the hut keepers and fellow explorers were their family.  After a big day in the mountains, mealtimes were family affairs, with mouthwatering plates of hot food brought to the tables to be dished out in front of the hungry climbers and skiers.  After eating, everyone helped clear the tables before gathering around the wood stove to tell tales and build strong friendships as only crackling fires on cold nights can inspire.

Many things have changed since then, but CMH has held onto the belief that mealtimes in an intimate mountain lodge after a day of adventure are best eaten at tables big enough to accommodate a group of skiers - but small enough to allow common conversation and hearty laughter.

Sure, the skiing is where the friendships are born, but the CMH dinner table is where they mature.  And sort of like a climber visiting basecamp even when he or she is too old to climb, some life-long heliskiers, when they can no longer ski, still return to CMH for the rest of the CMH experience.  There is a lot of great skiing on this planet, but there is no hospitality company on earth that throws down the intimate, gourmet dining experience of CMH.

Do you have any CMH Dinner Table stories you'd like to share?

Photo of toasting to deep snow and fine friends in the CMH Gothics by Topher Donahue.

Topics: Gothics Lodge, For Fun, CMH, hospitality