The Heli-Ski Blog

5 clothing tips for deep powder Heli-Skiing

Posted by Topher Donahue on Feb 28, 2013 9:20:00 AM

Heli-Skiing is different from other kinds of skiing in a number of ways. The obvious ones, like the volume of untracked powder you get to shred each day and the vast selection of ski terrain at your ski tips, speak for themselves.

Once you get out in these mountains, with a helicopter as your ski lift, a few other differences become obvious – like the clothes you wear in a ski resort aren’t necessarily optimal for Heli-Skiing. 

dress for heli-skiing

  1. Close the gap. I’m not talking about gap jumping.  I’m talking about the gap between your jacket and pants. While the low-riding pants and high-riding jackets look great in the lift line, there are no lift lines in Heli-Skiing. This fashion statement acts more as a snow-melting system in deep backcountry powder. Even if you don’t fall, the deep powder will quickly fill your pants, melt down your leg, and eventually make it’s way into your boots. You don't want that water in your boots - you never know where it's been.  Ski guides prefer high top pants with suspenders or snug belts and long shirts that will stay tucked in all day.
  2. Don’t wear white. Even if you’re extra attentive to staying close to your group, when skiing in the trees wearing white makes life more difficult for your tree skiing buddy.  We ski in pairs in the trees, and a flash of colour is easier to keep track of than a flash of white in a white world. In a worst-case scenario, if you do get separated from your group, the helicopter pilot will be called upon to find you from the air. I’m sure you can visualize what a white skier in the middle of some of the world’s snowiest mountains looks like from the air…
  3. Under-dress, then add a vest. The helicopter is heated, and there is usually not much waiting around, so you don’t need to dress like you would for a long, cold chairlift ride. However, Canadian winters can be quite cold and there are occasionally delays, so you want to dress warm enough.  What to wear is a debate every Heli-Skier has every day. My favourite piece of Heli-Skiing kit is a light vest with synthetic insulation.  I can wear it at the beginning of the day to stay warm, and then stick it in my pocket or in the tiny pack provided for each CMH guest. Wearing too much is a common mistake made by Heli-Skiers. This results in excess perspiration which fogs up your goggles, dehydrates you, and detracts from your enjoyment of the world’s greatest skiing.
  4. Monitor and adjust your temperature. If you feel that you are about to get cold, make sure you put on your hood, zip up your zippers, tuck in your sweater and loosen your boots at the pickup to increase circulation BEFORE YOU GET COLD. If you’re getting hot, take off your hat and vent your jacket BEFORE YOU OVERHEAT. 
  5. Wear a hard shell rather than a soft shell or an insulated jacket. While insulated jackets and soft shells are great at the ski area, they don’t allow enough versatility for a week of Heli-Skiing. In a typical week of Heli-Skiing in Interior British Columbia, you’ll see both brilliant sunshine and heavy snowfall - sometimes in the same day. Even the best soft shells tend to get wet easier and stay wet longer than hard shells. 
Finally, talk to your fellow Heli-Skiers. CMH Heli-Skiing guests are an experienced lot. It’s not uncommon to be at a CMH Lodge with guests who have as much Heli-Skiing experience as some guides. They are a wealth of wisdom in how to get the most out of your precious time in the unique world of deep powder heli-skiing.

Photo of a well-executed wet-sock-grab at CMH Bugaboos by Topher Donahue.

Topics: Bugaboos, Canada, Winter, Gear, Tricks of the Trade, British Columbia, helicopter snowboarding, Heli-Ski Tips

Goggle innovator Smith gave skiers the gift of vision

Posted by Topher Donahue on Jun 14, 2012 8:08:00 AM

A montage of deep powder skiing’s most influential innovations would have to include three things: Klaus Obermeyer fashioning the first down jacket out of a duvet in a cloud of feathers,  Shane McConkey mounting ski bindings on waterskis to prove that rockered ski technology was going to be part of the future of skiing, and orthodontist Bob Smith and his wife sitting at their kitchen table with dental tools making the world’s first double-lens ski goggles.

In April, Bob Smith passed away, leaving a legacy of happy powder skiers who can actually see while skiing in deep powder. In 1965, the same year CMH Heli-Skiing began offering the world’s first heliskiing in the Bugaboos, Bob Smith founded Smith Sport Optics

view through smith goggles

His double lens is now the standard in ski goggles, since the inner lens can stay warm with the heat from the skiers face, and the outer lens can remain at the temperature of the outside air, much reducing the fogging problem that was prevalent in single lens models. Airplane windows have a similar design to avoid fogging with the extreme temperature difference inside and outside the plane. 

While skiing in Utah’s legendary powder, Smith was frustrated by not being able to see, so he decided to make his own. His double lens solution worked wonders, and now Smith Sport Optics, which he sold in 1991, is North America’s biggest goggle manufacturer and the double lens design is copied worldwide. 

Like most ski innovators Bob was a ski bum at heart and he traded his first goggles for lift tickets. Bob Smith’s first goggles were vented between the lenses, which work well in moderately deep powder.

But in the bottomless, over-the-head powder of CMH Heli-Skiing and other backcountry areas, the vents tend to eventually let moisture creep between the lenses.  This moisture is then difficult to remove, so most ski guides recommend sealed double lenses, also built by Smith, for heli-skiing North America’s snowiest mountains around Revelstoke, BC. 

With so many innovations that make skiing so much more fun for so many more people, it begs the question: What will be next?

Photo of a pickup at CMH Kootenay through Smith goggles by Topher Donahue.

Topics: Ski Heroes, CMH Heli-Skiing, Technology, Gear, powder skiing

An Expert's Perspective on How to Fit a Ski Boot

Posted by Topher Donahue on Dec 20, 2011 8:20:00 AM

Buying ski boots seems like it should be easy, but for some reason when I start trying to decide which boots are the perfect fit, I always feel like Cinderella’s sister.

So for an expert’s opinion on how to fit ski boots, I tracked down Matt Carlson of Surefoot, the ski boot company that customizes Lange ski boots for the ideal fit and performance - a favourite brand among CMH Heli-Skiing guides.  Matt is a veteran moguls and aerials competitor who moved from the East Coast to Utah when he’d had enough of skiing on hard snow. 

custom ski boots heli skiing

He replied with what is certainly the best explanation I’ve ever heard on how to fit ski boots:

Generally, each level of skier ability requires a similar fit.  The goal should be to have a boot that is as snug as possible without being painful. Non-custom boots pack out very quickly, and will become much looser after just a few days of skiing.  Therefore, they need to be very snug at first.

Even though each level of skier needs a snug fit, there are a few different things each needs:

Beginner skiers needs a soft flexing ski boot.  Beginners do not have the balance of an expert, so the flex helps them stay centered in the middle of the ski.  A boot that is too stiff will result in the skier leaning back.  But there is a catch; often the softest boots are very poorly designed and are very wide.  Find a soft flexing boot that is not too wide, and not made out of poor quality plastic.  Typically the softest-flexing quality boot for men is about a 90 flex and for women is 75 to 80.

Intermediate skiers require a slightly stiffer boot to transfer energy quickly from the boot to the ski, but still soft enough to allow them some forward flex. Often the flex for guys will be 100 to 110 and women 80 to 90. The weight and height of this skier also helps to determine the flex.  The more leverage the skier has, the stiffer the boot the needs to be.  It is also more important for this skier to have a slightly narrower boot to transfer the energy quicker.

Advanced skiers have good balance and rely on their ability in order to stay centered over the skis.  Therefore, they can have a stiffer boot that will transfer the energy much faster and result in better performance.  This skier usually wants a narrower boot to transfer the energy faster.  Depending on the ability level, this guy will want a 110 to 140 flex and women 90 to 110.

For everyone: Ski boot companies save money by not making a 22-sized shell but just slide the 22 liner into the 23. If the shell is not the size of the liner, don’t buy the boot.  Most importantly the skier must not rent.  Rental boots are lowest quality of all ski boots and they do not help the skier improve or enjoy their hard earned vacation - plus they can be gross.

Custom orthotics:
If the customer is not getting a completely custom ski boot it is very important that they get a ski orthotic.

  • First of all, it must be specifically designed for skiing.  It will support the foot in the best position for skiing and result in more comfort and performance.
  • Ask the store what position they make the orthotic in.  All feet are different and one way of making the orthotic does not work for all.  Generally orthotics are made un-weighted, semi-weighted, or fully weighted.  If the store only makes them using one method, the skier should go somewhere else.
  • Find out if the ski orthotic will hold the foot in neutral - the best and strongest position for skiing.  If it does not hold the foot in neutral then they should not buy the insole.

Since all feet are different, the best ski boot is a custom ski boot.  But if that is not possible, then the skier must make sure the store has ski boots in several different widths.  Some examples are 98mm widths, 100mm widths, and 102mm widths.  If the ski shop does not have all these widths in various flexes than the skier should go somewhere else. The shop should also be taking very detailed measurements of the width and length of the feet to immediately narrow down the choices.

Ski racing –There are narrow and stiff boots available, but for children the flex still needs to be very soft.

Extreme cold – Some after-market liners like Intuition are great in the extreme cold, but they break down quicker and do not ski as well as other custom liners. Also find out what ski boot heaters are available.  The highest end boot heaters work very well - you get what you pay for.

Heat-molding a standard liner will improve the fit, but if heated the liner will break down faster.  Unless the liner is designed to be heat molded, it is usually best to just ski on it and it will mold to the foot the same amount heat molding will, but last longer.

The best is a custom ski boot with ski orthotic that holds the foot in neutral, a shell that is the proper stiffness and width, and a custom liner that fills in all the gaps between the foot and the shell.  A boot heater is always a nice way to top it off.

Of course the Surefoot Custom Boot is the ultimate for performance and comfort for everything from riding the lift at your local hill to a dream trip to the world's greatest skiing.

Photo of finding out if the boots fit in CMH Cariboos by Topher Donahue.


Topics: Product Information, Skiing, Gear, CMH Experts, Tricks of the Trade

The Heli-Skiing Christmas List: Ideas for the skier in your life

Posted by Mark Piquette on Dec 8, 2011 8:58:00 AM

Christmas is less than a month away. If you are in the USA hopefully you stayed away from any shopping that involved other shoppers wielding pepper-spray...but I digress.

The snow is piling up in the interior of British Columbia.  The early season reports and pictures look fantastic. I suggest this would be a good time to crawl up on Santa's lap and ask for a heli-skiing trip with CMH this year.

In case you are looking for Christmas ideas for the heli-skier in your life, I have put together some ideas that I think would make their (your?) heli-ski trip all that much better.

The Trip to the Lodge:

wireless glam

You have your ipad loaded up with the 5 best ski movies of all time.  Now you just need some cool headphones.  I suggest the wireless Beats by Dr. Dre.  I have the wired version of these headphones and I love them.  Plane ride, bus rides, chillin' in the lodge...these headphones will make your movies and music a whole lot better.

While out Skiing:

I never used to wear a helmet backcountry skiing or heli-skiing. Why?  For backcountry skiing it was always a weight thing (one less thing to carry while skinning) and for heli-skiing it was about not being able to wear my hearing protection.  Those two objections have been taken care of.  Check out the Smith Maze Helmet. I have been wearing this helmet for a year and it is fantastic. Super light and minimal. 

I like to wear hearingSmithMaze protection around the helicopter. I like the full over the ear kind from Peltor that we sell in the shop. With a helmet on I really could not wear them.  Problem solved. I took the ear pads out of my Smith Maze helmet and I wear a hat underneath my helmet (added benefit, my head stays warm when I take my helmet off at lunch). Throw on a pair of Peltor behind the head Ear Muff and you are good to go. Head safe, ears safe...give the gift of safety.

Photos, Photos, Photos

The iPhone 4s takes amazing pictures...but leave it in the lodge.  Here's why: One, it is easy to drop and never be seen again.  I was there when a certain multi-million footer dropped his in the Monashees and was not able to find it.

Two, in order to get out the iphone and use the camera quickly, you need to have the phone on.

Even if the phone is in airplane mode, I don't like having electronics that close to my avalanche beacon and risk interfering with the beacon's signal...bad risk/reward equation.


My suggestion:  Here are three cameras that will take amazing pictures (and HD video), fit nicely in your pocket and turn on in no time (but still, make sure your camera is away from your beacon).  Check out the Nikon Coolpix, the always classic Leicia D-Lux 5 and  for a full featured camera with inter-changable lens in a small package check out the Panasonic GF2.

Warm Feet

Christmas gifts for Heli-Skiers, 2011Finally, don't let the heli-skier in your life show up at the heli-pad in loafers. The venerable Canadian brand Sorel is making some super cool boots for men, ladies and kids.  Here are two cool styles that will keep your feet warm and look good too, The Liftline for women andthe Men's Mad Boot Lace.


So there you have it.  Some holiday gift ideas for the heli-skier in your life that will make their CMH Heli-Skiing trip even better. Have a fantastic holiday season!

Did we miss anything on this list?  Tell us what's on your wish list.



Topics: christmas, Gear

The Best Skis For The Best Skiing- 2011/2012

Posted by John Entwistle on Nov 9, 2011 3:10:00 PM

There is a saying in the ski world: "A skier without skis, is simply walking". Alright... I just made that up, but seriously! The most important piece of equipment for all skiers has to be the one thing that makes the sport what it is: skis. Here at CMH, we like to make sure that you have the best possible equipment for the job while navigating your first gladed run, getting your first face shot, hitting your first million foot milestone, or shralping the gnar with Dave Gauley out at the steep camps in the Cariboos.

Ski technology is coming pretty close to providing us with the perfect ski; the one that can do it all. But in reality, at CMH we don't care about ice, hard pack, or how perfect the ridges are in the corduroy (what happens between you and your après attire is none of our business!)... We only care about what will ultimately keep you somewhat afloat in the great sea of white. We are currently working with some engineers and ski designers from Atomic to create what is going to be deemed as "the ultimate heli-ski". Though details are limited as of right now, word from our  laboratory in a top secret location (The Monashees, 142Km North of Revelstoke in B.C., Canada) is that we can expect something by next year! For this year, we have a ROCKIN' lineup from K2 skis that gets us more excited than we've ever been before!

So you are excited about heli-skiing, you've booked your trip (or you better get on it!), and the snow is starting to fly. Here are some of the options you have to look forward to this winter:


K2 Coomback resized 600K2 COOMBAck  All-Terrain Rocker          135/102/121  Radius: 22m @ 174

Heli’s, cats, skinning or lifts, the Coomback  is equally versatile, balancing the lightweight attributes of a Back model with the confidence and performance characterized by many side models. This is the ski you’ll see a myriad of bindings on: alpine, tele, super light touring and more descent focused touring.

Performance: 50% Powder / 50% Variable                             

Sizes: 167, 174, 181cm                                   

Construction: Triaxial Braided, Cap, Fir/Aspen


SideStashK2 SideStash  All-Terrain Rocker           139/108/127  Radius: 25m @ 181

Whether tracking out your secret stash in bounds or heading out the backcountry gate to harvest week-old pow, the SideStash is the perfect ski. With a longer rise for 2011/12, the All-Terrain shovel rocker provides even more floatation and predictability to flash wide-open slopes and the nimbleness required to charge tight chutes. When the snow is all tracked out, the powerful metal-laminate construction delivers a smooth, damp, and stable ride as you confidently blast through leftover crud.

Performance: 70% Powder / 30% Variable                           

Sizes: 167, 174, 181, 188                                  

Construction: Metal TNC, Hybritech Sidewall, Aspen/Paulownia


pon2oonK2 Pon2oon  Powder Rocker                   157/132/122 @ 179cm   Radius: 30m @ 179

Designed with the same philosophy of slaying powder easier, faster and with less effort, the all-new 2011 / 2012 Pon2oon is rockered in the tip and tail and features a redesigned Powder tip and a non twin tip Progressive Powder tail. While the ski has similar pivot performance to it’s predecessor, it now comes with more predictable turn initiation and added breaking power in the tail. The dimensions on the Pon2oon increase as the ski gets longer in length, maxing out at a whopping 134mm underfoot in the 189cm size. Get out your snorkel!

Performance: 90% Powder / 10% Variable                           

Sizes: 159, 169, 179, 189                                        

Construction: Triaxial Braided, Cap, Fir/Aspen


Women’s specific skis:

k2 gotbackK2 GotBack  All-Terrain Rocker             135/102/121   Radius: 20m @ 167

If you thought big waists weren’t sexy, think again. The GotBack packs 102 mm under her belt and is proud of every millimeter. Though no longer the biggest gal in the neighborhood, the GotBack is clearly the most versatile. Lighter and more playful, she’s just as happy going for long walks in the backcountry as she is painting smooth arcs in an open bowl or dancing through tight trees . She says it’s due to her All-Terrain shovel rocker and Bioflex wood core, but I think she’s just being modest.

Performance: 50% Powder / 50% Variable                           

Sizes:  153, 160, 167                                                      

Construction: Triaxial Braided, Cap, Aspen/Paulownia/Bamboo - Bioflex 2

atomic centuryATOMIC  Century:  Powder Rocker          128.5/100/120.5 Radius: 18m @ 166cm

The Century is ATOMIC's premium powder ski for women and its extra Power Rocker 10 delivers an especially uplifting experience in powder snow. Its 100 mm waist width and Powder Rocker ensure optimum lift, while the Step Down 2L sidewall construction and tip-to-tail wood core cushion shocks and hard landings. But freeskiers can enjoy much more than just effortless powder forays: thanks to a pronounced camber in the binding area, the Century also delivers optimum edge grip and precision control on hard snow. The Century is ideal for female skiers looking for a ski which is both effortless and easy to manoeuver in powder snow.        

Sizes: 156, 166             






What's All This Rocker Talk About?

 All-Terrain Rocker : All-Terrain Rocker features an elevated tip for variable and soft snow performance, as well as camber underfoot for power, energy, and edge-hold in firmer conditions.
Simply put, All-Terrain Rocker offers versatility and ease in all snow conditions.

 Powder Rocker:  This tip has the most elevation and longest measurement of Rocker and offers skiers a “surfy” feel with enhanced soft-snow performance. The camber region still exists to ensure edge-hold on firmer conditions.                                                                                                                                  Simply put, Powder Rocker provides unmatched flotation in deep snow.



Topics: Skiing, Skis, Gear, Announcements

Heli-Skiers Test Out K2 Skis and Give Feedback to Rock Next Season

Posted by Jane Carswell on May 5, 2011 12:40:00 PM

By Mike Gutt, K2 Skis

CMH Heli Skiing and K2 Demo week at CMH Monashee LodgeIt’s hard to believe an entire year has gone by since the first K2 Test Week with CMH Heli-Skiing.  We walked away from that trip – the remarkable group of guests, staff and snow conditions -- with feedback to fuel the creation of an entirely new powder ski. We were also left with the feeling we had just experienced something totally unique with CMH Heli-Skiing.  They say lightning never strikes twice, yet as shocking as it seems, lightning struck at the Monashees Lodge again in 2011, creating an unforgettable 2nd annual K2 Test Week.

We loaded up 38 pairs of 2012/13 test skis and two prototype snowboards and made our journey from K2 headquarters in Seattle to CMH's Monashees Lodge. We were heading out in the midst of a La Nina storm cycle that had been pounding the northwest for over a week, dumping foot upon foot of snow in early March.  Needless to say, we were excited with updates on the fresh snowfall and stable avalanche forecasts.  But excitement levels peaked at the sight of 15-foot tall snow banks on both sides of the road as we headed into Revelstoke, B.C! 

We showed up at the lodge and met the guests, staff and K2 athletes who had arrived just before us.  This year K2 and CMH added an extra element to the test week by conducting a Warren Miller shoot at the same time.  K2 brought in Andy Mahre  --son of decorated US Olympian Steve Mahre -- and Tyler Ceccanti, an up-and-coming pro from the Pacific Northwest.  While the Warren Miller crew was out filming their movie segment, the rest of us were testing new powder skis with the CMH guests and staff.

Our goal was to get as much feedback on as many pairs of skis as we could.  We brought skis of various waist widths (from 102 to 132mm) and different sizes (from 159cm to 189cm) that contained differing amounts of Rocker.  In 2010, it took the guests three days to be convinced to even look at, let alone ski, anything over 105mm underfoot.  What a difference a year makes. On the very first day, every pair of skis over 128mm underfoot was being tested.  Every evening we would take down guest reactions and then set them up with a new ski for the next morning.

During those seven days we tested powder skis in the most ideal snow conditions for which they were designed: knee to waist-deep powder.  Every day we found fresh snow blanketing some of the most amazing pillow lines any of us had ever seen, let alone skied.  We gathered feedback from a broad range of skiers and walked away with more data than we ever could have asked for.  

The 2011/12 Pon2oon, a ski that was developed during the 2010 test week, once again rose to the top as a pure performance powder ski, with more confidence and stability than the original Pontoon.  Right alongside was the SideStash model --the most decorated ski in the 2010/11 magazine ski tests -- which again proved to be the most versatile, high performance and wider-waisted ski for those who seek the feel of a traditional ski, rather than something as surfy as the Pontoon. Based on the positive feedback from the tests, both of these skis will be added to the CMH Heli-Skiing fleet for the 2011/12 Season.

Thanks for helping us develop skis that make skiing easier and more fun for everyone.  For those of you that missed the session this year, we hope you'll join us for the K2 Demo Days at CMH Kootenay in 2012.


Photo:  K2's Mike Gutt testing the snow quality at CMH Monashees by Alex O'Brien.  See more killer pics from the week in our online photo gallery.

Topics: CMH Monashees, For Fun, Gear, K2 Demo Weeks

Cotton, Polypro or Merino Wool: What's your ski wear of choice?

Posted by Jane Carswell on Apr 11, 2011 12:05:00 PM

Icebreaker merino wool gear is perfect for Heli SkiingIn the past few winters CMH Heli-Skiing has been carrying Icebreaker apparel in our retail shops in each of our Heli-Ski & Heli-Hiking lodges.  After hearing guides raving about the stuff, claiming they never got cold or had to do laundry I figured I'd better get to the bottom of it.

I put a few questions to Kent Hawkins at Icebreaker and here's what I learned:

JC: Kent, I was skiing the other day at Mt. Norquay here in Banff and was surprised to notice the guy beside me at lunch was wearing a cotton t-shirt and a cotton sweatshirt under his gore-tex ski jacket.  It's been a while since I've seen much cotton at the ski hills.  What's the evolution we're seeing with polypro and merino wool?

KH: We do find that there is an important education about clothing fibre that needs to happen with consumers between cotton, polypro and merino wool.  Consumers are very familiar with cotton but do not often realize that the natural characteristics of cotton are for it to absorb moisture-and hold onto it.  When you are skiing you want a fibre that wicks/pulls moisture away from your body so you don’t over heat or don’t get the chills.  That is the great part about merino fibre.  Because it was born in the mountains on the backs of sheep it is the perfectly designed fibre for us as humans to wear when we are in the mountains.  It moves moisture from the body as a vapour and a liquid, keeps you warm in the cold and cool in the heat and most importantly (and different from polypro) is that it does not create a home for bacteria which cause odors.  That’s right, you can wear your Icebreaker baselayer on the ski hill all day long and then wear it in for a pint after and not scare away any snow bunnies.  The fibre was designed by nature to help the sheep survive in the hot of summer and the cool of winter.  At Icebreaker, we have adapted this fibre so we can use it for skiing, hiking, biking and more.

JC: What are the benefits of merino wool like Icebreaker uses, vs polypro?

KH: The two main differences in merino and polypro are breathability and odor control.  First off, the merino fibre is breathable, which allows moisture vapour to through the fibre itself.  This increases breathability, temperature regulation of the garment.  Polypro is a solid fibre, made from plastic, designed to move liquid moisture through the holes in the weave-this fibre cannot breathe.

Odor control is a noted characteristic of Icebreaker. The fibre is anti-bacterial which means that when you sweat, the bacteria that is released onto the clothes does not remain.  Hang up your Icebreaker after use and you will not notice any odor remaining.  Try that with a polypro top and that will be one stink test that will make you an immediate convert to Icebreaker.

JC: In heliskiing we don't need to worry about getting cold on the chairlift like at the ski hill.  What tips do you have for our readers for dressing for heli- and cat-skiing vs resort skiing?

KH: Merino sheep have a built in natural layering system which helps them stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  In the summer, they have a thin layer of merino wool, while in the winter they grow more layers of merino to keep them warm in cold weather. It insulates them against the cold with millions of tiny little air pockets that trap air to keep them warm in cold temperatures.  This goes the same for us as humans when we wear merino.  I would suggest wearing one of our baselayers right next to your skin for any type of skiing as Icebreaker performs best when it is right next to your skin.  Then, for those of you in a helicopter or ski-cat that get to warm up between runs, you are likely fine with either an Icebreaker mid-layer and a shell or even just your shell.  Don’t forget your extremities.  Icebreaker  is the perfect insulator for heads, hands and feet too.  If you can keep those parts warm, the rest of you will likely stay a lot warmer.  Icebreaker  beanies, glove liners and socks will keep you warm in any ski condition.

JC: And how effective is a garment like Icebreaker for ski touring - where the uphill is even warmer than in the heli but the chill can settle in quite quickly when you stop for a break or start your decent?

KH: Again, the moisture management and temperature control properties of Icebreaker make it a hands down decision for ski touring.  Icebreaker pulls moisture away from your body so you don’t get chills on your ski down.  It also insulates when it is wet so even if you get your shirt wet from working hard on the skin track, it will still keep you much warmer than a sythentic when you stop moving.  This is so true that we often find kayakers and even scuba divers wearing Icebreaker underneath their outer shells to help keep their skin and core warm. Also, because Icebreaker is a natural insulator, you don’t need to wear as many layers and thus you can reduce the bulk and weight of clothes that you wear, which can really make a difference in a sport like ski-touring.

Other benefits of Icebreaker merino for ski-touring is the design and cut of the clothing.  Icebreaker bodyfit has a close fit to the body which means that when you are doing an active sport like ski-touring the clothing is moving with you.  This reduces rubbing and chaffing and makes for a more enjoyable experience.

Bottom line, the merino sheep in New Zealand have survived in the harsh cold and raging heat of the southern alps for thousands of years. Their wool is perfectly evolved to handle these rough climates and conditions. Merino wool was born in the mountains and Icebreaker just adapted it for humans. Give it a try and you definitely have a hard time going back to cotton or synthetic.

Have you had any experience yourself with merino wool vs polypro for a baselayer while heli-skiing or ski touring?  Give us your first hand testimonial here and we'll be sure to pass it on to our friends at Icebreaker!

Don't let bad gear run a perfect day of HeliSkiing!  Photo by CMH Revelstoke guide Kevin Boekholt.

Topics: Gear, CMH Experts

Wonder what CMH Ski Guides carry in their packs?

Posted by Topher Donahue on Jan 3, 2011 9:03:00 AM

Adamants guidepack

Back in the early days of heliskiing, the guide pack sometimes included a bottle of wine to share at lunch, skins for ski touring because the early guides were not confident that the helicopter would really be able to return, and other heavy gear that made the whole profession harder on the knees and backs of the ski guides.

Today, the CMH guide pack is much lighter and more streamlined - and don’t bother looking for that bottle of wine from 1969.  For a view into the guide pack, I tracked down Erich Unterberger, the Manager of Guiding Operations for CMH, who took the time between a few days of guiding in the Monashees to share with us the guts of the guide pack:

"The guide pack got a bit lighter over the years with newer materials being used for lots of our tools. But essentially, the contents are not much different from what we used a quarter century ago when I first started with CMH."

  • The shovel and probe only weigh a fraction of the first generation of their kind.
  • The rope kit (for crevasse or cliff rescue scenarios) is small and still very strong.
  • The headlamp is another tool that is much smaller and still provides better function than the older versions.
  • Some guides use their probes as the ruler for the snow observation kit. The other Snow Observation tools remain the same. 
Guide's Pack Contents:    

    1 medical kit
    1 headlamp or light
    1 improvised splinting materials
    1 collapsible avalanche probe
    1 snow shovel
    1 bivouac bag
    1 jacket
    1 pair of spare gloves
    1 warm hat
    1 multi-purpose tool
    1 metal container for melting snow
    1 altimeter
    1 compass
    1 bush saw
    1 snow observation kit:     
        - folding ruler
        - crystal screen
        - magnifying glass
        - field book, waterproof
        - thermometer
        - pencil
    1 rope kit:  may be carried separately    
        1  min. 25m / 8-9mm rope or equivalent
        2  locking carabiners
        2  carabiners
        3  5m slings

Photo of Erich Unterberger and his guide pack getting up to speed in the CMH Adamants by Topher Donahue.

Topics: CMH Monashees, CMH Guides, Gear, Guides, Adamants

CMH Heli-Skiing Staff: Letter to Santa

Posted by Jane Carswell on Dec 22, 2010 9:21:00 AM

heli ski blog christmas wish list from cmh staff

Dear Santa

All of us here at CMH Heli-Skiing have been very good girls and boys this year.  We have shown great respect for Mother Nature and the power that she holds here in the Columbia Mountains.  We have opened the doors of our lodges and our hearts to guests from around the world for both Heli-Skiing and Heli-Hiking. We have tuned skis, guided skiers, introduced the awesomeness of backcountry skiing to those who have only known resort-skiing to the best of our ability. In hopes that we have made it onto your 'Good' list, we have compiled our Christmas Wish List for you here:

James Vickers, Assistant Area Manager, CMH Gothics: Santa, I'm a big fan of the OR Guides Glove.  They are tough and durable though fit well and make it easy to work!

Katie Coccimiglio, Reservations Agent, CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures: Santa, I know that every year I wish for a heli-skiing trip but this year I have an extra special wish.  This year, I'm hoping for a spot on the K2 Demo Week at the Monashees.

Peter MacPherson, Assistant Area Manager, CMH Bugaboos: Black Diamond Factor ski boots are at the top of my list.

Carl Trescher, Assistant Area Manager, CMH Adamants: 1 Million Dollars. But Santa, if this is not possible then I would settle for a new Snowboard - possibly the Salomon Sick Stick or the Salomon Burner. I'm not picky one or the other would be fine. I can't wait to see them under the tree.!!!

Topher Donahue, writer, CMH's Heli-Ski Blog, skier and climber: I'd have to say Scarpa's Hurricane freeride ski boots for me please, Santa.

Rick Carswell, Food & Beverage Manager, CMH: In addition to a new knee brace so I can heliski this winter, I would really make good use of Jamie Oliver's cookbook, Jamie's Italy.

Steve Chambers, Area Manager, CMH Revelstoke: I've been having fun creating heliskiing videos over the last couple of years so I'd really like a small handheld HD camera that has great zoom features to compliment the Go-Pro.  Any suggestions from your elves?

Bob Krysak, Manger, CMH Retail: My feet get colder skiing now so a set of Ther-mic foot warmers with remote control would top my list please, St. Nick.

Me: I've been eyeing up a new pair of K2 Pay-Backs.  I'm anxious to try the new rocker technology and honestly, Santa, you can't expect me to ski another winter on those other things....

Santa, some of us will be at home for the holidays but many of us will be at one of the lodges for the holidays.  We are hosting Christmas in the Bugaboos and Christmas at the Cariboo Lodge this year.  We hope to see you there!  Milk, cookies and other yummy treats from our chefs will be waiting for you!

What about you?  What is on your wish list this holiday season?

Topics: For Fun, Gear

Outdoor Research: Creators of the New CMH Guide Glove

Posted by Jane Carswell on Dec 17, 2010 1:11:00 PM

In a typical Heliskiing season a CMH Heli-Ski Guide will go through at least one pair of top-quality ski gloves.  For the rest of us a good pair lasts several seasons and is often retired with reluctance.  Designing a pair of gloves to meet the demands of our guides takes some ingenuity, technical wherewithal and dedication to a quality product.  So when Bob Krysak and Andy Anderson from CMH's retail division were on the quest for a new guide glove they were looking for a company that would not shy away from the challenge.  The obvious answer: Outdoor Research (OR).

OR has an enviable reputation for producing products that, quite simply, work in the outdoors.  A company born of a passion for human powered adventure they are committed to producing gear that keeps you comfortable in extreme environments.  

One of the creators of the CMH Heli-Ski Guide Glove is Ammi Borenstein.  I had a chance to chat with Ammi about the challenges and opportunities of creating this product and the design process he and his team went through to make the best glove for your guides.

CMH Heli Ski Guide Unloading Skis from Helicopter Ski BasketJC:  Ammi, a heli-ski guide doesn’t just need to keep his or her hands warm while skiing.  What are some of the usage anomalies you needed to consider when designing this glove?
AB: We worked closely with the folks at CMH to consider all of the unique requirements of heli-ski guides.  Mainly these considerations centered around durability and dexterity, keeping in mind the guide loads skis in and out of the ski basket multiple times a day.  Oftentimes these 2 requirements work in opposition.  But in the CMH glove we were able to add durability in all the right places while still maintaing an acceptable level of dexterity.

JC: Is there an off-the-shelf model that you used as a template for the guide glove?
AB: We approached this product as a ground-up development.  We felt that with our glove design experience and guidance from the CMH team that we could solve the issues by starting out with a clean slate.

OR   CMH Guides GloveJC: Are there features you designed for the CMH Guide Glove that you imagine will spill over in to gear for the rest of us?
AB: We have already integrated many of the elements of the CMH glove into our current line.  Specifically you can see some of the features of the CMH glove in our new Remote Glove.  Things like the Pittard’s leather overlay come straight from our work with CMH.  In addition, many of our liner gloves feature a new cuff design inspired by the work with CMH.

JC: How would you describe the creative process you and your team go through when designing a new product such as this one? 
AB: As we always do, we met with core users of the product.  In this case we discussed the specific needs of the CMH guides with the team in Banff.  We used these brainstorm sessions to develop an initial prototype and then we refined based on CMH feedback and field usage. Ultimately we completed the task with 3 rounds of prototypes. We definitely spent some time on snow with these before finalizing. We have an active product development team that is constantly evaluating and using OR products.

JC: As a product designer for one of the coolest outdoor gear companies out there, what is on your Christmas wish list?  
AB: My favorite thing in the world is to get out skiing/ snowboarding with my wife and 2 daughters.  I’m looking forward to some good days out on the hill over the holidays and through the rest of the winter.

Of course, we wouldn't deprive our guests of the opportunity to be comfortable either.  To that end, the CMH Guide Glove will be available in our retail shops in each CMH Heli-Ski lodge this winter.  Chat with your shop manager to find the best gloves and gear for your heliskiing trip.

What are your favourite gloves or ski gear that you simply wouldn't ski without? Share your story here!

Topics: CMH Guides, Gear