Can you imagine taking your bride-to-be Heli-Skiing for the first time – on your wedding day?
Or how about being a guest of CMH Heli-Skiing for 17 years and then becoming their Colorado rep?
Or visiting 35 countries and all 7 continents?
Yeah, Brad Nichols has lived a pretty sweet life. Earlier this week I spent a day skiing with Brad and found out a bit about what makes him tick, as well as his approach to helping people interested in booking the ultimate ski or snowboard vacation.
Brad started skiing when he was two years old, and although his profession took him far from the slopes at times, he never lost his passion for skiing. His career took him from engineering with Texas Instruments, to information systems at a startup in Colorado, to trip planner for a bike touring company, to seven winters as a ski instructor, and most recently as a CMH rep. (A trajectory that clearly moved more and more towards the outdoors.)
So when Brad had the chance to begin working with CMH, he jumped on it. And as a rep who has vast experience as a guest of CMH, he knows exactly the kind of things first timers and veterans want to know.
Sitting on a chairlift, Brad explained to me the advantages of booking through a local rep. The price is the same either way, and the reservations agents at CMH in Banff are happy to answer questions, so why book your CMH trip through Brad or another rep?
Brad explained that it’s easier to plan something exceptional when you have someone local to answer questions and help with preparation. Brad explains that his goal is make people feel like part of the CMH family right from the first conversation: “I’ll meet people for a coffee to answer questions and talk through a potential trip – the personal touch makes people feel a lot more comfortable. This family feeling is one of the unique aspects of CMH starting right from the first contact all the way through the trip itself. From the first phone call, to greeting people in Calgary when you arrive in Canada, to the guides and staff dining with the guests – it really has a family atmosphere.”
When I asked Brad about the unique aspects of CMH in the ski industry, he didn’t hesitate in his answer:
“CMH is the biggest Heli-Ski company in the world, so we can provide just about any specialty trip you can imagine (like Brad and Dorothy’s wedding trip), but once you get to one of the lodges everything is on a small, intimate scale – as it should be in the mountains.”
“After nearly 50 years of dialing in and tweaking the Heli-Ski experience, we’ve got every detail sorted. Take the CMH safety program for example: With 115 guides, the computer modeling and collaboration between areas – CMH has the Rolls-Royce of safety programs.”
“We can accommodate everyone from a first timer who’s an intermediate skier at the resort to the best skiers in the world – and they all have fantastic experiences. When I’m helping people plan a trip, the first thing we do is talk about what CMH area would best suit their skiing style and ability – and then it’s just about timing what fits best to their life and schedule.”
One of the most common questions Brad is asked is, “When is the best time to visit CMH?”
Tongue in cheek, Brad likes to answer, “Right after it snows.”
But then he goes on to give a more useful answer: “It’s really more about fitting it into your schedule than trying to plan around the mountain conditions. Early winter with the low sun there is less sun effect on the snow, so powder stays fluffy longer, but late winter has longer days, is warmer and more comfortable, and can deliver excellent snow conditions as well. Let me help you choose the right Lodge, then pick a time that fits into your life.”
Ever since seeing a photo hanging on the wall of the Bugaboo Lodge of Brad and his wife Dorothy on their wedding day, dressed in ski gear, I was curious to hear the story of that wedding day. As it turned out, it was Dorothy’s first day Heli-Skiing. Brad recalls with an ear-to-ear grin, “I think she had a lot on her mind that day.”
Brad and Dorothy and the Bugaboos guides sat around the map and chose the most scenic and comfortable spot they could think of, the top of Flattop Mountain overlooking the legendary Bugaboo Spires, and the guides arranged a special flight for the small wedding party. After the ceremony, they skied powder the rest of the week – then went on their honeymoon in Antarctica.
“My best memory from CMH,” concluded Brad, “is chasing my wife down an untracked mountainside. It’s etched in my mind forever. I don’t think anything could improve on that.”
As it turns out, Brad’s main connection to CMH is a shared passion, a passion he describes as his mission in life: “To share my passion for these fantastic experiences so others can experience them as well.”
Photos of Brad on the cliffs above Capetown, South Africa; and with his bride Dorothy on their Heli-Ski wedding day on Flattop Mountain in the Bugaboos, courtesy of Brad Nichols.