The Heli-Ski Blog

Going where the helicopter cannot: Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

Posted by Topher Donahue on Jul 30, 2013 9:31:00 AM

Of all the questions that heli-skiers are asked about the sport of heli-skiing, they are never more inquisitive than when we talk about Heli-Assisted Ski Touring.

At first, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring seems like a contradiction in terms, and my friends give me the most confused look when I mention the idea. But the expression on their faces is priceless as they begin to visualize the potential.

It goes something like this:

Start the day with a helicopter flight out of the warmth and friendly comfort of a CMH Lodge to a lofty summit above a glorious morning ski run:

helicopter ski touring drop off

Begin the day with a frolicsome ride:

heli assisted ski touring

At the bottom of the run, click into touring mode, put climbing skins on your skis for uphill traction, and let your skilled guide take you on the tour of a lifetime.

ski touring uphill

Snowboarders with spliboards do just as well (and smile just as much) as skiers with backcountry gear:

heli snowboard touring with splitboard

By not having to deal with approach bushwhacking, camping, or making it to the car at the end of the day, we are able to spend the entire day in the kind of terrain that dreams are made of:

heli ski touring terrain

Between the healthful uphill exercise and the epic downhill fun, the ski touring buzz is one part endorphins and one part meditation. The smiles tell the story best:

ski touring smiles

At the end of the day, the helicopter returns and like magic lands us back at the lodge for massages, spa therapy on the tired legs, and an evening of that one-of-a-kind CMH alpine hospitality:

alpine lodge hospitality

The next day? Do it all over again.

One of the best parts of Heli-Assisted Ski Touring is that it is equally appropriate for experienced backcountry skiers as well as for newcomers to the backcountry scene. Groups often split into smaller groups (each group with its own guide) to seek out the right challenge and experience for the skiers and snowboarders.

With backcountry skiing being the fastest growing outdoor sport, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring is quickly gaining popularity. And for good reason: by using the helicopter and CMH know-how, we can ski and snowboard where backcountry touring groups never go; and by using ski touring gear we are able to go where Heli-Skiers cannot go.

ski touring bugaboos

This coming winter, CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Touring weeks are planned for the Admants, Cariboos and Bugaboos. In recent years, CMH has hosted Heli-Assisted Ski Touring groups in Galena, Revelstoke, Bobbie Burns, Bugaboos Adamants and the Monashees. While the scheduled weeks are great for individuals and small groups, CMH also hosts custom Heli-Assisted Ski Touring trips to any CMH area at any time provided that lodging space and guide availability can accommodate the trip.

Contact CMH Reservations at (800) 661-0252 to learn more about Heli-Assisted Ski Touring.

Photos courtesy CMH Ski Guides and archives.

Topics: Backcountry skiing, adventure, Guides, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring, helicopter snowboarding, ski touring

Backcountry, Slackcountry, Sidecountry, Frontcountry!

Posted by Topher Donahue on Oct 9, 2012 8:04:00 AM

We’re leaving the ski area. You can’t really blame us. The ungroomed, untouched and unbelievable terrain and snow outside the ski area boundary is the stuff of skier’s dreams.

Not only are the snow quality and the terrain of wilderness skiing dream-worthy, but today’s equipment makes deep powder skiing easier and more accessible than ever. According to Backcountry Magazine, backcountry skier visitation has risen 124% since 2009. But what's up with all the different words that are used to describe it?

backcountry skiing revelstoke

Europeans call it off-piste, and it's become so popular in Canada and the US that the different flavors of unbounded snow riding have developed their own North American nomenclature.

Here are the Heli-Ski Blog’s definitions of the backcountry bonanza:

Several leading outdoor gear companies have watched “sidecountry” become their fastest growing product category. For good reason. Sidecountry is generally defined as using ski lifts to get up the mountain, and then leaving the ski area through approved gates to access the goods.

European ski areas have allowed sidecountry skiing since the first ski lifts we installed, but it was slower to catch on in North America.  Areas like Washington's Mt. Baker were instrumental in making sidecountry skiing an acceptable part of this continent’s ski area management. Many ski areas now require skiers to carry avalache gear when leaving the resort.

This is easy-access backcountry skiing. Places such as the more user-friendly canyons of Utah’s famed Wasatch Range inspired the term frontcountry. This is where you have to ski or hike up to earn your turns, but if you break a ski you can fairly easily wallow down the hill to the car.

Good frontcountry destinations have become so popular that early-bird strategies can be necessary to get the freshies after a dump.

skiing teton pass

A slacker’s version of frontcountry. Teton Pass in Wyoming, Stevens Pass in Washington, and Berthoud Pass in Colorado are perfect slackcountry destinations. Drive to the pass, ski or hike as far up as you want, and then rip powder turns to meet the road far below your car. Hitch a ride back to the pass with an understanding ski bum. Repeat as often as possible.

Roger’s Pass, near North America’s powder skiing epicentre of Revelstoke, British Columbia, has roadside backcountry access that almost falls into the slackcountry category, but the size and complexity of the terrain make it suitable for only the more motivated and experienced slackers.

Whatever you call it, anywhere without ski patrol actively working must be treated as backcountry skiing, even skiing inside a ski area before or after the resort's open season. Just because you’re near your car, ski lifts, or other skier’s tracks doesn’t mean you’re safe from avalanches and other backcountry hazards. In fact, being around a lot of other skiers, tracks, cars and lifts can create a complacent attitude about risk. 

The remote wilderness skiing around Revelstoke in British Columbia’s Interior ranges, where CMH Heli-Skiing operates, has become known worldwide as the ultimate deep powder backcountry skiing destination.   

To go side, slack, front or back, here are a few starter tips:

  • Take basic avalanche training, then carry and know how to use a transceiver, shovel and probe.
  • Hire a ski guide.  Even experienced backcountry skiers find that hiring a guide is a great way to learn a new area and find the best terrain.
  • Ski with friends who are experienced but not overly aggressive.

    backcountry skiing dangers

  • Learn what safer ski lines look like, and stick to them - safe terrain choices are easier to get right than snowpack evaluations.
  • Always check the current local avalanche forecast, and then ski accordingly. 

At CMH, we’ve been exploring some of the snowiest, biggest backcountry on earth for over half a century. In 1965, we invented Heli-Skiing to show more people the wonders of British Columbia's backcountry, the place many people consider home to the world’s greatest skiing. Today, we continue to reinvent backcountry skiing with programs such as Heli-Assisted Ski Touring and Ski Fusion.

Photos by Topher Donahue.

Topics: Backcountry skiing, Guides, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring, Avalanche Safety

Photo memories of heliskiing in Canada during La Nina

Posted by Topher Donahue on Nov 16, 2011 11:40:00 AM

The snow is piling up in the legendary ski paradise of the Columbia Mountains - another La Niña winter in the making.

Last winter I was fortunate enough to sample three different CMH areas during photography projects.  It was also the best winter anyone could remember since the 70s; a La Niña winter - the same climate phenomenon meteorologists are predicting for this coming winter.

I know it is almost cruel and unusual punishment to post these photos right now, when most of us haven’t yet even buckled a ski boot, but I couldn’t resist.  Not only do these photos illustrate a La Niña winter of heliskiing in Canada, they also reveal the quality of the snow that brings skiers from all over the planet to taste the world’s greatest skiing.

February 28, 2011,  CMH Cariboos:
Cariboos lanina heliskiing powder

A short break between storms in the Cariboos had left a carve-able surface on solar aspects, but then another 30cm of low-density snow fell on the crust.  Combined with -20C temperatures, the result was fast skiing and a swirling powder cloud that would twist and dance hypnotically after the skier had passed.  I tried a few shots from below, but this one, looking down at the skier, best revealed the snow dance.

March 7, 2011,  CMH Gothics:
Gothics lanina helicopter snowboarding

Then it snowed for another week.  Our first day in the Gothics dawned crystal clear.  Even the most veteran guides and skiers were giddy at the breakfast table.  Good stability, deep snow, and the massive Gothics terrain in the southern Monashees awaited.  The day was like a dream.  Not only did we ski CMH’s longest run, Thierry’s Journey, we skied it three times.  After weeks of low visibility flying, the pilot was having a blast too.  He dropped us off on tiny summits, plucked us from the deepest valleys, and was grinning as widely as anyone on the mountain.  Here, the Gothics chef gets a few hours of dreamtime before going back to the lodge to prepare a gourmet dinner to give the rest of us the perfect ending to a perfect day. 

April 12, 2011, CMH Adamants:
Adamants LaNina heliskiing

An assignment from Skiing Magazine, to tell the story of the the unprecedented CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Touring program, gave me another week in ski-topia.  While we all anticipated spring conditions and corn snow, it was not to be.  Instead, La Niña delivered deep powder conditions until well after the last week of the CMH season.  I didn’t hear anyone in the group whining about skiiing in the Adamants during the winter that wouldn’t end. 

At CMH Revelstoke, there is already a skiable base in the backcountry, and check out today’s 5-day Revelstoke weather forecast!  S-N-O-W!

Topics: Gothics, Revelstoke, Cariboos, hospitality, Adamants, heli-skiing, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

Heli-assisted Ski Touring: The New Frontier?

Posted by Topher Donahue on Apr 22, 2011 8:30:00 AM

Last week I pointed my camera at the CMH Adamants during a CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Touring week for an article that will appear in Skiing Magazine next fall.  It is truly painful not to be able to share the photos with you right now – Skiing gets first choice – but the trip opened my eyes to a kind skiing that few people have ever seen, and may be a glimpse into the future of skiing.

adamants ski touring view

When Hans Gmoser and Leo Grillmair invented heliskiing almost half a century ago, they had no idea just how captivating the sport of heliskiing would become.  There was a similar sentiment in the air in the Adamants last week. 

I overheard one experienced heliskiing guest say something that reveals that the new Heli-assisted Ski Touring program is more powerful than even the guides who envisioned it in the first place could have imagined:

“I’m never going heliskiing again.  Just heli-ski touring.”

I don’t think CMH meant to turn heli-skiers into ski tourers when they created the Heli-assisted Ski Touring program three years ago, but they can’t stop now - the guests like it too much, and some skiers have come back to tour each of the last three seasons.

One ski guide said on the last day, “That was the best day of skiing all year!”

Another guide said, “ I guided 16 weeks this year, in some of the most epic powder, and this is definitely one of the best.” 

It’s not hard to see why the program is exploding in popularity.  Just imagine a day like this:

  • 7:15 – Skiing specific stretch class.
  • 8:00 – Deluxe buffet breakfast (think fruit bowls, eggs benedict, and espresso)
  • 9:05 – Step into the skis for a casual, photo-friendly lap down the best downhill run the ski guides can find (think 1300 meters of whipped cream).
  • 10:00 – Put on your skins and find the perfect aerobic output (not too hard and not too easy) while touring through old growth forests, along the edge of deep-blue glaciers and up serpentine ridges.
  • 11:30 – Buckle your skis on your pack to bootpack the final few metres onto a rime-frosted summit (makes you feel like you’re starring in your own ski film).
  • 12:00 – Eat lunch on the summit overlooking the kind of view only Everest summiteers and parachutists ever see (maybe don’t walk to the edge to pee).
  • 12:45 – Lock your skis into downhill mode (without accidentally kicking one over the edge) and rip turns right off the summit.
  • Repeat until you are ready for a 4-course gourmet meal CMH style and catch a lift back to the hot tub, sauna, massage therapist, and bar with a view of Mt. Downie, the Matterhorn of the Columbias.

Heli-assisted Ski-Touring with CMH feels a bit surreal, much like the first heliskiers must have felt as everyone on the team realized the potential of the program.  I don’t know if CMH realized just how much appeal there would be in cherry-picking the ideal conditions and sweetest lines in the heli-ski capital of the world with local heliski guides - at a price that is affordable for the average skier

Heli-assisted Ski Touring may be the best value in skiing right now, but for heli-skiers looking to save up to $700 on a regular heliskiing trip, book next year’s trip before our Early Booking Incentive expires on April 30!

Topics: Adamants, 2012 Heli-Skiing Trips, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

4 Questions - Shooting Ski Photos on a Heli-Assisted Ski Tour

Posted by Topher Donahue on Apr 6, 2011 8:39:00 AM

When I received a magazine assignment to photograph a Heli-Assisted Ski Touring next week in CMH Adamants, I realized I really have no idea what to expect.  I couldn’t decide which skis to take, what camera equipment would maximize the ski photography while minimizing weight, how much I should be prepared to ski uphill versus downhill, or if my lack of cardio training was going to come back to haunt me. 

To answer some of my questions, I tracked down Gery Unterasinger, assistant manager of the CMH Bobbie Burns and one of the guides from last year’s Adamants ski touring program.

adamants ski tour questions

My first question was the big one: “How much will we ski each day?”

GU: How much we ski depends largely on the group.  We put two guides in each group so the group can split up to accomodate different fitness levels.  Last year we skied 1200 to 1500 metres each day - after the initial run.  Some skiers did significantly less, and a strong group could do significantly more.  If the heliskiers are nearby, there may be a chance to go in early, or catch a lift to a different valley to find optimal ski conditions, but we’ll be prepared to stay out all day.

My second question was a little embarrassing, but I had to ask: “What does a day of Heli-Assisted Ski Touring look like?”

GU: The idea is to get in the helicopter each morning and fly to an area where the heliskiers will not be skiing, so we’ll have an entire valley and a variety of terrain to ourselves.  If the conditions are good, the helicopter will leave us on top and we’ll ski a long downhill run to start the day.  Then we’ll ski tour from there.  We’ll carry our lunches with us, and if all goes well we’ll see the helicopter at the end of the day for a ride back to the Adamants Lodge.  We’ll be ski touring for seven days, so we’ll pace ourselves moderately each day.

I began to get a clearer picture, but Gery’s answers left a lot of room for variation.  So I asked, “Why would we not be able to start on top some days?”

GU: If we're looking for corn conditions, and we get a solid freeze at night, then the snow will be too hard and icy to start with a downhill run, so we might start with a mellow glacier cruise to start the day and save the downhill for later when the corn snow is perfect.  If it is powder conditions (which is quite likely at the rate of this snowy season)  we'll almost surely do a long downhill run to start each day.

By this point I was getting bit excited, so had to ask, “Will we be able to ski features that might never be skied with the heliski program?"

GU: There’s a good chance.  With ski touring we can get to places the helicopter can’t land, and we can take the time to ski lines that don’t work well with the heliskiing program.

My conclusion was that there is no reason to be uncomfortable:  It wouldn’t really matter which skis I brought – Gery isn't going to take us down some bulletproof alpine face where the right edges would be essential to prevent a big fall.  I can expect as much of a workout as I can handle, but there is no reason to sweat my dismal VO2 max

The camera question still looms.  I guess I’ll start with a full kit and leave more things behind each day until the end of the week, when my legs are butter, I’ll be shooting with my cell phone.

Anyone else have questions about the Heli-Assisted Ski Touring Program?  Post them here and we’ll get someone to answer so we can all benefit.

Photo of CMH Adamants epic ski touring terrain by Topher Donahue.

Topics: Backcountry skiing, CMH Experts, Adamants Lodge, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

5 things to ask before booking a Heli-Assisted Ski Touring Trip

Posted by Jane Carswell on Jan 7, 2011 12:17:00 PM

by Jorg Wilz, CMH Heli-Skiing Guide

Heli Assisted Ski Touring with CMH Heli Skiing by Jorg Wilz

1)    Am I booking a Heli-Assisted Ski Touring trip for the right reason?
Heli-Assisted ski touring is a great way to sample lots of incredible terrain in little time and gives you two to three times more downhill skiing than a conventional ski touring trip. BUT: If you don’t like walking uphill on skis and skins with the associated physical exercise and fatigue and if you don’t feel the magic of the winter mountain landscape and the cold wind in your face you might want to think twice. Even more so, if you choose heli-ski touring largely because it’s cheaper than heli-skiing, odds are, you’re better off booking a regular heli-skiing trip and spending the extra money.

2)    I like hiking. Will I like heli-ski touring?
For ski touring beginners, if you like challenging hikes in the mountains and climbing peaks AND you love skiing, heli-assisted ski touring will be for you! It’s similar to hiking, only that the downhill part is a lot more fun and the mountains tend to be even more serene, quiet and overwhelmingly impressive than during the summer.

3)    Am I fit enough?
Commonly, 6 hours of your average 8 hour day outside will be spend walking uphill on your skis and skins. It compares to hiking in the mountains, only that the incline is more regular than most hiking trails and it’s easier to dial into an economic walking rhythm. But in order to have fun, good cardio fitness is imperative. Train by doing runs that are at least 1 hour long, extended stair master sessions and long hikes with lots of uphill on the weekends. Or better: Go ski touring, if you live in the mountains.

4)    Do I have enough stamina:
With the ski touring group, we commonly try to stay as far away from the heli-skiing program as possible in order to enjoy the quiet and ski a particular area just by ourselves. Many days, the “early return to the lodge” option that we commonly offer in heli-ski weeks does not exist and we’re out for the full day….regardless the weather.

5)    Who else could I bring?
Ski touring with a group of friends is even more fun! The camaraderie being out there all day with just your own group and facing the challenges of a ski touring day together is hard to beat…….bring your friends!

So, are you ready? If so, contact CMH Reservations today to secure your space on a Heli-Assisted Ski Touring trip this spring!

Photo: Skinning Up Amid the Spires by Jorg Wilz

Topics: Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

Late Season Skiing - It's better than you think.

Posted by Topher Donahue on May 20, 2010 4:04:00 PM

Our local ski area closed over a month ago – and it’s been snowing ever since.  I shot this photo a few days ago while skiing at 4000 meters in Colorado's Wild Basin.  It felt like mid-winter up there. 

For any skier who has the psyche after six months of winter, this is the best time of year to tick many of the big lines.  All over the northern hemisphere, snowpacks are fat, the steeper faces are generally more stable, and the long days give us more daylight than our legs can handle.  Many coveted lines get skied this time of year including the testpieces of North Peak’s steep north couloir at the edge of California’s Yosemite National Park, the high-altutude ski descents like the Messner Couloir and the Orient Express on Denali, the iconic ski run from the summit of Mt. Blanc, the big faces of the Alps, and countless mellower runs.

Most years I’m like most skiers, and watch the snow melt from a distance while pursuing warmer weather sports.  This year, a spring storm cycle inspired me to put my skis on again, and to ski a mountain feature that I would always remember.  My ski partner and I wanted to avoid a descent where a fall would be fatal, and instead find the kind of line that was simply fun and thrilling on a beautiful alpine peak.

For the majority of us in the backcountry, it’s not about skiing the aforementioned hair-raising ski lines, but instead about finding our own dream lines that are within our ability – and a lot of stellar ski and snowboard descents are easily accessible in the high country right now.

By this time of year, most of us have put away our skis until next season, but the roads over the mountains passes across western US and Canada offer easy access to great skiing and every year more downhill skiers and snowboarders are realizing the rewards of hiking up for a few turns in the late season. Hotspots for easy access late spring/early summer backcountry skiing include Teton Pass in Wyoming, Stevens Pass in Washington and Loveland Pass in Colorado.  If you’ve never ventured out of the ski area without a guide, these are good places for a first step and this is a good time of year to try it, but keep these things in mind:

  • Time your run so the sun has softened the surface but not turned it to slush.
  • Start on something really mellow – spring snow is super fast.
  • Climb up the ski line first so you'll know if the snow is skiable for you and avoid nasty surprises.
  • There is no ski patrol - ski with a huge margin of control. 
  • Ski or snowboard with somebody who has backcountry experience.
  • Carry shovel, beacon and probe and know how to use them - avalanches happen every month of the year in North America.
  • Most avalanche forecasting services have either closed or reduced their staff and reporting. 
Roadside is great, but the CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Touring program is the ultimate way for skiers and snowboarders interested in learning the backcountry to cut their teeth.  There is no better way to try the backcountry than with world-class guides in world-class mountains based out of world-class alpine lodges and a helicopter to get you to the best possible conditions every day.


Topics: Ski/Snowboard Tips, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

A Heli-Assisted Ski Touring Dream Come True, Part 3

Posted by Jane Carswell on Apr 29, 2010 9:03:00 AM

This is the final installment from What Inspires You to Ski Tour video contest winner, Tim Oliphant.

 CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

The last day came way too soon I was not ready leave these mountains, these people, or this experience.  Luckily, we had a few more hours to spend touring in the backcountry.  So we packed up and headed out. This day was perfect!  The skies, clear; the powder, fresh; the temperature, warm; and the view, stunning! It was as if the folks at CMH had saved the best for last.  

Another aspect that made this day even more enjoyable was that Greg Hill was able to accompany us on our final runs.  He initially had planned on going home and skip the final day, but some pesky troublesome birds flew away with his truck keys…I’m not making this up…some birds actually found the spot where he had hid his keys and took them.  His keys are now probably the prized centerpiece of some sparrows’ nest way up in the mountains. It was very inconvenient for Greg to not be able to leave as planned.  But while someone drove his extra set of keys from his house to the lodge, we were able to enjoy an extra day of touring with our “Personal Professional Guide” or “PPG”, as I liked to call him.  Greg’s presence on this tour was instrumental in helping me understand the incredible adventure of ski touring.   He also had a profound impact on our group through his personality, knowledge, and abilities. This is why we were excited to have him around for our last day.

This day was also special because my friend Pat unfurled Joseph Chonko’s flag for a tribute run. Joseph and Pat were roommates several years ago.  Joseph was a well-respected backcountry boarder and enjoyed attaching a large flag to his backpack and ripping down the mountains with the flag flapping behind him.  One day while boarding in the backcountry alone, Joseph had an accident and tragically died.  After the funeral, Pat received this flag from Joseph’s parents.  Since then, Pat has been waiting for the pportune time to take the flag back into backcountry in memory of Joseph. Today was that day!  Pat attached the flag to his pack and shredded down the mountain as an amazing tribute for an amazing friend.  Joseph was honored and it was beautiful!

I took my time on the skin track hoping that my procrastination would somehow keep my adventure from coming to an end.  Eventually I reached the top.  The end of this skin track was the most breathtaking of all the amazing places I had seen over the last 7 days.  Our cameras and camcorders were constantly snapping and rolling in an attempt to immortalize our final moments on the mountain.  Taking the photos and video was somewhat therapeutic because even though we would be leaving soon, we would at least be leaving with some memories captured on our digital devices.  That thought made it a little easier to face the inevitable end.  Hundreds of photos later we geared up and headed down our closing run smiling and laughing the whole way.

Writing and reflecting back on my trip has been fun, but also difficult.  I’ve struggled to highlight a few experiences when every moment is truly worth telling.  The bottom line is that this holiday exceeded my expectations on every level.  The skiing was truly exceptional.  After a long day of skiing, Pat walked into the lounge with his eyes wide open shaking his head in amazement, “Best day of my life!” And he was dead serious.  I know what he meant, but good skiing is to be expected when you sign-up for a trip with CMH.  What wasn’t expected is what I will call the “secondary experiences”.  These are the things that you don’t see in the videos and that can’t be captured in the pictures of brochures. They can only be explained in writing or by word of mouth.  The indescribable bonds of friendship, emotions felt, and spiritual awe are all brought to light deep in backcountry.  It was these secondary experiences, mixed with skiing, that made this trip the most unforgettable adventure I have ever been on.  I can now see why so many of the guests return to CMH year after year and in some cases multiple times a year.

I am now home and the memories of ski touring live on in my mind but the relationships I formed are not limited to my thoughts they are still active. Initially, I formed friendships with people based on a shared love of skiing, but now those relationships are deepened as we correspond and share what is going on in our lives. I hope to get back up to CMH for another adventure because it truly was a remarkable experience.  Thanks to CMH, Greg Hill, ARC’TERYX, Paul and Hans (our mountain guides), Matt, Mary, Stephanie, Thomas, John, Pat, Wade, and Ellen for playing such a critical roll in my understanding of what it truly means to be “Inspired to Ski Tour”!

Topics: Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

A Heli-Assisted Ski Touring Dream Come True, Part 2

Posted by Jane Carswell on Apr 21, 2010 10:10:00 AM

This is a guest post by Tim Oliphant, winner of the CMH/ Arc'teryx What Inspires You to Ski Tour contest.

April 4-9, 2010:   There are so many wonderful details and memories that I have from my CMH Heli-Assisted Ski Tour that I could probably write a book. However, I want to focus on my time in the mountains, because that is where the most memorable experiences happened.

Heli-Assisted Ski Touring with CMHI was part of a group of ten fun and diverse people for the seven days of ski touring. We came together for this adventure from all corners of the earth including:  the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, Great Britain, the Caymans, and Germany. There was no doubt in my mind that this colourful group was going to have an incredible week.

The helicopter lifted off from the Adamant Lodge and flew us through the snow-covered mountains that seemed to roll on forever in every direction. We were dropped at the top of a mountain and geared up for the ski down. I was still nervous, because I had never skied the backcountry.  My worries disappeared as I pointed my skis downhill and made my first turns.  Backcountry powder is very different from groomed resort skiing, to which I had become so accustomed. The snow was remarkably soft, fluffy, and deep! At times I felt like I was floating! After a few pointers from the other members of the group, my skiing began to improve.  Nothing could take the smile off my face; not even the handful of tumbles that sent me flying head over heels into the soft powder. Oh by the way, falling in powder is much more forgiving than wiping out on hard pack.  I was very grateful for this because the mountain and I would have many close encounters over the next 7 days.  As I reached the bottom of our run, I was glowing. I couldn't wait to head up and do it all again.  But little did I know that the trek up the mountain would be even more engaging than the incredible experience I had just had coming down.

I had never expected the uphill part of ski touring to be so incredible.  I was very profoundly impacted by the pride in accomplishment that I developed, the scenery I witnessed, and the conversations I had out on the skin track.

Pride: Getting dropped off by a helicopter and skiing down the mountain was definitely fun, but it wasn't until I'd experienced the march back up that I realized how much I took for granted on the ride down. I indeed "earned my turns" with every step I took as I skinned up the steep and winding terrain.  Once at the top, my sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. I had just hiked - on skis - to the top of a mountain. Awesome!  My perspective for the second run down was much different than the first. Instead of mind numbingly zipping down the mountain, I savored each and every turn that I carved into the fresh powder.  Yeah, there is a unique sense of pride and self-accomplishment that comes with tracking up a mountain then skiing down.  It was a pride that I embraced wholeheartedly.

Scenery: More often than not, when I ski I neglect to appreciate my surroundings because my focus is on the aggressive activity, not the scenery.  Touring helped break me of the bad habit of only looking straight down.  Instead, I started looking around. Wow!  Words are useless in trying to describe the splendor of all I saw.  Sparkling snow, frozen deep blue glaciers, intricate rock formations, animal tracks through the snow, and countless mountain ranges are just some of the amazing sights I witnessed each day. The scenery never got old and the best part was that each day presented new and more magnificent vistas.  My memory is full of all the natural beauty I was able to take time to enjoy while trekking up and through the mountains. 

Conversation:  The long hikes up the mountains allowed for much conversation. No topic is ever off limits when on the skin track...politics, religion, family, relationships, life ambitions, etc...we shared it all.  Needless to say, we got to know each other very well.  We developed amazing camaraderie and unity during our time together.  Even Greg Hill was willing to take the time to share some pointers that helped me significantly improve my skiing.  These conversations were highlight of my trip!

By this time several of the days had passed and I realized that there was only one day remaining in this adventure of a lifetime.  Considering all that I had learned and experienced, I didn't want the holiday to end.  Little did I know that the final day of ski touring would prove to be the most memorable!

To find out what happened on the final day, and to hear how Tim dealt with re-entry to the real world, check back next week!

Topics: Heli-Assisted Ski Touring

A Heli-Assisted Ski Touring Dream Come True

Posted by Jane Carswell on Apr 16, 2010 10:12:00 AM

Ahhh, pre-trip excitement! You know the feeling, the night before you leave for your CMH trip: Can't sleep, the 'What did I forget?' feeling.  Well,  I asked Tim Oliphant, winner of our What Inspires You to Ski Tour video contest and first-time CMH'er, to give me a run-through of his pre-trip jitters and first impressions.  He shared the following with me.  Can you relate?!

April 1st:  The night before I left for Canada, I didn't sleep a wink. All I could think about was what I was going to be doing for the next 10 days.  I was about to fly to Canada (a country I had never been) to ski tour (an activity I had never done) with CMH (a company I knew very little about).  Yeah, I was definitely a little nervous but I couldn't help but be super excited at the same time.

April 2nd:  I eagerly hopped out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and headed to the airport.  A few hours later I met up with my buddy Pat in the Calgary airport.   We couldn't believe that we were actually in Canada about to go Ski Touring! We walked across the street to the Delta hotel where the CMH folks greeted and helped us check in.  They then helped us prepare for the journey to the Adamant Lodge that would take place in the morning.

In the hotel lobby we began to meet people that were going to be part of our adventure. Steve and Heather, a father and daughter from Virginia who would be Heli-Skiing.  John and Thomas, a father and son from the Caymans who would be Ski touring with us.  I found that almost everyone we met had skied with CMH before and I started to think that there must be something special about this place because so many people were coming back year after year. Pat and I were asked to accompany our new friends to a Calgary restaurant were we sat around, shared some wine and exchanged stories.  Very quickly this trip had already begun to exceed my expectations.

Once back at the hotel it seemed that Christmas had come early.  Our new ARC'TERYX gear was waiting for us at the CMH desk.  Pat and I ripped open the boxes and were amazed at what was inside.  We each received a Stinger Jacket, Stinger bib, Hercules jacket, top and bottom wool base layer, a Silo backpack and a toque.  I'm telling you, I‘ve never owned anything as nice as the gear ARC'TERYX gave us for this trip. So now that we had our gear we were ready for the mountains.

Heli-Assisted Ski TouringApril 3rd:  Our bus ride to the to the Adamants helipad was highly entertaining as we met even more great people (Ellen, Matt and Mary), we laughed a lot and we took in the beautiful Canadian scenery.  I was already having the time of my life and we hadn't even gotten to our destination!  We arrived at the helipad where the helicopter zoomed us away the Adamant Lodge. We were greeted by the friendly staff and informed that we would be going through safety training once everyone had arrived. During the interim we got our skis, skins, shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver...then I met Greg Hill.

I definitely didn't recognize him when he walked up to me and introduced himself because he looked very different from all the videos I had seen of him. Greg Hill, it seemed had acquired a mustache.  I was so glad that we finally met and had some time to talk because it helped to take away some my anxiety.  I mean, little old me ski touring for the first time with the guy who basically wrote the book...that's a little intimidating!  But he was very encouraging and offered to help as much as he could. I was energized by our conversation because I knew that I would learn a lot from him in the next 7 days.  Heck, if just a fraction of his skill would rub off on me before it was all said and done I'd be a much better skier... But first, everyone in the Adamant Lodge had to go through safety training.

Safety is priority #1 for CMH and they trained us well.  We learned helicopter safety, avalanche transceiver usage, as well as, probe and shovel procedures.  We spent a good amount of time practicing with our avalanche transmitters making sure we knew how they worked.  We even participated in a mock emergency to put all our newly learned skills into practice.  After the training I felt much more at ease because I was confident I knew what to do in an emergency, but even better than that I also knew that everyone in the entire lodge was just as prepared as I was.  I felt very safe, even less anxious and my excitement continued to build!

Now everything was in order and my dream of finally getting to Ski Tour was about to come true!

Check back next week to hear how Tim's week at the lodge evolved and for more stories from the skin track.

Have you booked your 2011 Heli-Assisted Ski Tour yet?  New pricesEarly Booking deadline extended to May 7. and dates just announced. 

Topics: First Timers, Heli-Assisted Ski Touring