At the end of each summer, we look back and take careful note of how our guests tell us we’re doing. In fact, that’s how we design our programs in the first place.
This year, if there is one emotion to describe how CMH Summer Adventures guests tell us they feel, it would have to be this: satisfaction.
From the informal feedback we get while sitting around the dinner table with our guests after a gourmet meal, to our feedback cards where guest can rate their experience with us, to online forums like TripAdvisor where gusts review and rate their travel experiences of all kinds - the conclusion is obvious - our guests are satisfied.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS), an industry-wide customer satisfaction benchmark, asks the simple question: How likely is it that you would recommend (the company) to a friend or colleague?
The average NPS score in the tourism industry is 74 out of a possible 100. Last summer in the Bugaboos, our NPS was 97. Of course numbers don’t tell the whole story, but we’re particularly proud of that one.
The direct feedback from some of our guests is perhaps the most telling:
“My favorite thing was that the entire experience exceeded all my expectations. That may not sound like much but I had done loads of research, talked to lots of people, devoured the web-site, etc and I had very very high expectations for trip (in some ways, almost guaranteeing that I would be disappointed because I was so "psyched" about how cool this trip was going to be). To my delight and astonishment, the trip exceeded all my expectations despite how huge my expectations were going in! I remember walking into the lodge after our last hike on the last day, almost with tears in my eyes, and telling Nina that "I'd rather do this than spend a week in Paris" (my favorite place in the world). The other favorite thing was that everybody was first class and professional, be it the incredible guides, the pilots, or the lodge staff. I described it as ‘the Nordstrom’s of hiking’.”
“When I first decided to take a trip to Bugaboo Lodge I was warned that it leaves a permanent imprint, and I now understand what that means. It took a while for the experience to fully sink in, but I do know how glad I am that I went, and I want to let others know about this "hidden" treasure. The memory I'll alway savour is sitting in the rooftop hot tub with friends after an exhilarating day of hiking, holding a cool drink, overlooking one of the most spectacular scenery I've ever experienced and watching a gorgeous sunset. Life doesn't get much better.”
“All the meals were outstanding. I was blown away by the family atmosphere at the dinner table, and our guide made us feel so welcome. Every morsel was spectacular, but if I had to choose a favourite meal, I'd point to the scallops -- they were sublime.”
“The unexpected thing was the value of the guides - not only for the obvious reason of knowing the trails and where to go but for completely putting everyone at ease. For the first time in my life, I was able to hike without any cares - I didn't have to worry about weather, food, safety, time of day, animals, etc. That was an incredible gift and made it so much easier to relax quickly and enjoy each day. I think this was even more true for my wife who is more of a worrier, she had an incredible time and never had to worry about logistics or safety.”
And one of many rave reviews from the TripAdvisor website:
“We just returned from the best vacation experience ever! We do a lot of traveling but this was the best experience ever! From the booking process ( flawless ), accommodation (this was my idea of roughing it-soft bed,hot shower and private rooms!), food (5 star Boston restaurants are not as good as the food here!) , the people(outstanding) and the outrageously fun hiking via the via ferrata and the Conrad Glacier!”
To summarize the experience of CMH Summer Adventures is difficult, for the very reason that it is different for everyone. We like to make everyone’s trip exactly what they want it to be. If our report card from this summer is any indication, we’re doing just that, and our guests are going home having had their own, personal, perfect vacation.
We’re sad to see the summer slip into fall, as beautiful as every season is here in the mountains, but we’re thrilled to have been able to be a satisfying part of so many people’s favourite summer adventure.
A group of four British women, ranging in age from 59 to 72, have been ticking off the world’s most famous adventure travel destinations. The foursome, who call themselves the “Ladies with Altitude” are featured on the BBC program - Fast:track - and are part of what is statistically our culture’s traveling-est age group.
People over 50 now account for more than half of tourism spending. As one of the ladies explains, “When you reach a certain age, I think you suddenly feel like you need to cram a few things in.”
The financial success many of the the baby boomer generation have enjoyed is part of the reason for the explosion of older travelers, but on BBC correspondent explains that another reason is that the baby boomer generation didn’t travel as much when they were younger as people do today. Taking time off before college, or traveling after college before settling down is accepted today as normal, even encouraged by many parents and educators.
One of the Ladies with Altitude said, “Everywhere we go, we meet people our age, and it’s absolutely brilliant!”
And another added, “I want to see as much of it as I can, while I can, while I’m still fit.”
The correspondent explained, “They don’t just do sun and sand holidays, they really want to go places, to explore and see the world.”
Here at CMH Summer Adventures, the enthusiasm many older travelers have for adventure is no surprise, nor is it really new. Since the 70s, we’ve been hosting adventure travelers of all ages, but older travelers are the ones who encouraged us to begin heli-hiking and develop a comfortable and relaxing mountain adventure program that is not available anywhere else in the world.
In recent years we’ve tailored our programs to appeal to younger Generation-X travelers, with via ferratas, glacier treks, and adventure trails that include ziplines and other safe but adrenaline-inducing fun, but the core of CMH Summer Adventures has always been perfectly suited for older travelers who want the adventure without the discomfort.
The surprising thing at CMH Summer Advenures is not so much that older travelers like adventure, but that the adventures we design for younger travelers, like the via ferrata, end up being a highlight for older travelers as well. And the adventures we designed for older travelers, like heli-hiking, have become popular among younger travelers thanks to the helicopter providing complete immersion in alpine beauty without the crowds, dusty trails, parking lots, and tourist towns.
In many ways, CMH Summer Adventures is where the generation gap disappears. It’s where grandparents and grandchildren, parents and kids, can - and do - share common adventures and return home with common memories of the best times of their lives.
Since the digital revolution, we all communicate the capabilities of our image capturing devices - be it a phone, camera, or tablet - in one, all-powerful word: megapixel. And now there's a prototype camera capable of shooting 50 GIGAPIXELS!
Today, mobile phones shoot more megapixels than my first professional digital camera. Does more megapixels mean better photos? Not necessarily. For outdoor photography, where nature’s unpredictable beauty pushes the world's best photographers and cameras to perform, there are much more important elements than pixel count. In fact, pushing the megapixel count without adequate improvement in things like buffer, shutter-lag, and focus capabilities results in a camera that takes really big, really lousy pictures; but the most common measuring stick for the technology of a camera is, and will likely be for some time, the mighty megapixel.
In keeping with the megapixel race, a team of electrical engineers from Duke University and the University of Arizona have developed a prototype camera that blows away all previous camera's resolution. It can capture 50,000 megapixels of information - that’s 50 gigapixels - or five times more resolution than the eyesight of a human with 20/20 vision.
Eagles are thought to have vision four times better than a human, so the new prototype camera is supposedly sharper even than an eagle’s eye. (I'm not sure which is more impressive, that this prototype camera might compete with an eagle, or that even with todays most cutting-edge optical technology, we're just barely able to compete with the incredible resolving power of an eagle's eye.)
The prototype camera works by combining the information from 98 small cameras, called microcameras, which fire simultaneously to create an image. A single lens feeds light to all 98 microcameras, which then feed their information to a processor that combines the images from the microcameras into a single photograph.
According to the developers the camera is fairly large, nearly a metre wide, in order to handle the control boards and the temperature control components that keep the electronics from overheating while processing information.
The obvious question is: do we need a camera that sees in gigapixels? My gut answer is no, but after seeing what the 36mp Nikon D800 is capable of doing, I’m not so sure. You don’t NEED that many megapixels, but if you have them, it not only allows for larger printing, but also expands the creative potential of the camera.
I bought the D800 for a specific assignment to shoot a sunset landscape to be printed three metres wide. That big of a fine art print demands a resolution that, until the D800, wasn’t possible without using expensive and cumbersome medium format equipment. I began the project before the invention of the D800, and was struggling with stitching together lower resolution photos from a scene with rapidly changing light. When the D800 came out, I was able to finish the job the first time I took the camera out of the box:
Here's a crop of the tiny baby pine tree growing next to the puddle:
So what could you do with 50 gigapixels? That’s a photograph containing 50 billion pixels. It boggles the mind to consider. At 300 dpi, the standard resolution for high resolution printing, a 50 gigapixel print could be about 90 metres across - almost the size of a football field.
Google Earth in scary detail comes to mind, and also murals on skyscrapers, airports and museums - but even more game-changing would be the the post-production potential of the image. Take this casual photo of a woman enjoying a cold drink on a warm afternoon at the Bugaboo Lodge that was shot using the 36mp D800:
No big deal, but then look at the crop below that shows details in the image that are not even visible with the human eye from the distance where the photo was taken:
You could read her watch if it was rotated slightly! So now imagine wildlife photography with a 50 gigapixel camera. Provided the optics are good enough, you could crop in on a tiny portion of the frame with excellent results. Imagine shooting a grizzly bear mother and cub from a nice, safe distance, and afterwards being able to crop in on her and her cub’s faces with enough resolution for a full-sized print.
The documentary capabilities of such a camera would open the door to previously unexplored videography methods, such as panning across a video clip of a busy street scene with enough resolution to see many dozens of people interacting in intimate detail.
For my world, often photographing people having fun adventures in nature, I'd rather if technology produced, instead of a 50 gigapixel beast, a 12mp camera the size of a deck of cards with optics to compete with the best DSLRs. Perhaps one day we'll have my dream camera too.
What about you? Would 50 gigapixels be your dream camera?
As the previous winter’s snows melt up the hillsides of the Canadian Rockies, springtime follows close behind, even into the late summer. In a phenomenon not unique to the region, but perhaps more pronounced in the Columbia Mountains than mountain areas with less heavy snowfall, the wildflower season can last well into late August or even early September.
The Columbia Mountains, a subrange of the Rockies, is a freak of nature that reveals itself in many forms. The heart of this unique quality is the range’s precipitation patterns. The region receives enough annual precipitation to qualify as a rainforest, but most of it falls in the winter months in the form of snow - to the tune of 12 to 18 metres (40 to 60 feet) each winter, leaving the long, sunny, summer days to the flowers.
The Columbia River is the largest river in a region containing one of the world’s richest reserves of fresh water. As the deep snowbanks melt, armies of wildflowers bursting with every colour of the rainbow creep of the mountainsides, following the streams and trickles of the melting snow.
Even in the late summer, when the other legendary wildflower zones are dry, with their blooms long since faded, the flowers of the Columbia Range are quite often still in full glory.
Last week, during a photo shoot in the Bugaboos, I had a hard time keeping my lens out of the dew-soaked bouquet that spread all around us. By the end of each day, my knees were soaked, my memory cards full, and my optical nerves saturated with colour.
One morning, we were greeted with a dusting of fresh snow where the helicopter dropped us near treeline. It melted quickly under the bright alpine sun, leaving the blossoms even more brilliant than the day before.
Even the flowers surrounding the Bugaboo Lodge, while nurtured by human hands, were in full glory and formed a fanatsy-like foreground to sunrise on the famous Bugaboo Spires.
A photographer, Jeff Wendorff, who runs wildlife and landscape photo workshops was there to check out CMH Summer Adventures and decide if it was a good venue for a photo workshop. At the end of our three days together, I asked him if he thought the Bugaboos would work for his workshops.
Photographers interested in current photo workshops with CMH should visit our website. It is highly recommended that anyone booked on a CMH Summer Adventure bring the best camera they own with extra batteries and memory cards - it’s more beautiful than you think.
Last week, the Bodacious Babes hit the Bugaboos and experienced a flavor of beauty that has to be seen to be believed. No words can do it justice, so instead here’s a photo essay on one of their hikes in the Canadian Rockies that is surely in the running for one of the most beautiful places on earth.
It started with pilot Perry dropping us off near treeline aboug halfway up a mile-deep valley on the remote western side of the legendary Bugaboos.
Before the sound of the helicopter had receded into the distance, we were so awestruck by the beauty that some clapped, some laughed, some cried and some hugged.
All of us spun in circles wondering if we’d ever been anywhere more spectacular.
Once we were able to compose ourselves enough to walk, we began wandering through a landscape somewhere between the the Shire of Tolkien’s Hobbit, and the mountains of the Himalaya.
Clouds of mist swirled around the peaks behind us as we hiked through lush fields of wildflowers and past clear running streams.
Above us, the lofty Howser Towers formed an almighty backdrop.
After following the crest of a moraine left by a long-departed glacier, and just about when it seemed it could get no more beautiful, Lyle, our guide, took us past a tarn the colour of the sky in a setting that inspires painters and poets alike.
After a long morning that seemed like both an eternity and an instant, we reached a glacier guarding the high pass to reach the more popular side of the Bugaboos. After a lunch and moment caught between meditation and a nap, pilot Perry returned and whisked us over the pass to another slice of paradise - but that’s for another story.
For questions about Girlfriend Getaways with CMH Summer Adventures, a women's trip that rivals the most fun a person can have, contact Canadian Mountain Holidays at 1 (800) 661-0252.
Photos by Topher Donahue.
When up in the mountains, there is such a vast array of colours in every direction. Green meadows, blue alpine lakes, red flowers; the list goes on! Sometimes, when you take the colour out of the picture (literally), you are left to appreciate the true beauty of nature that surrounds you out in the mountains.
Some photographers have a great eye for when to shut off the colour, and let the landscape speak for itself. Here are my five favorite black and white shots from this summer at CMH:
1. Building thunderclouds always make for fantastic black and white photographs
2. Towering spires poking out of the snow
3. Group of hikers heading across a ridge in the Bugaboos
4. Group of CMH Summer Adventurers heading out on a CMH Glacier Trek.
5. The rock in the foreground pales in comparison to the towering spires in the background
Do you shoot in black and white? Ever considered it? When do you find it most useful? Let us know in the comments below!
Let’s say you want to explore the islands. So you go on a cruise. The ship is comfortable, but when you get to the islands, all you can do is look at them from the deck of the ship, or visit the port where a cruise ship can dock. For this reason, a cruise ship is more like a passenger jet, albeit a huge and luxurious one.
To really experience the islands, you need something smaller, more maneuverable, that can take you into the secluded bays, near the natural wonders of the islands, safely navigate shallow water, and land you on the most pristine beaches.
The best boat for exploring the islands is, without a doubt, the Zodiac. The rigid inflatable boat allows for safe passage in rough water, easy maneuverability to reach the trickiest beaches, no hull hanging into the water to hit ground, and powerful enough to get back to the ship against the tide or swell.
The helicopter is to the mountains what the Zodiac is to the seas. It gets you right where you want to be, easier than any other machine. All it needs to land safely is a space the size of the helicopter.
During CMH Summer Adventures, we use a twin-engine Bell 212 helicopter, called the safest helicopter ever made, each morning to transport you and your friends and guide to your destination for the day, and to return you to the lodge at the end of a great hike, climb, glacier trek, photography session, nap, picnic, or whatever is your ideal day in the mountains.
The ride isn’t like a cruise ship, but neither is it like a jet ski. Somewhere in between the two, the helicopter is designed to be the most versatile, maneuverable method of air transportation.
For many CMH guests, some of the highlights of the trip are the helicopter rides. The helicopter flies slow enough to really see the terrain as you pass by, and low enough that you are often just below the summits of the highest peaks while still above the glaciers and valleys.
This low-altitude perspective is truly a bird’s eye view. In an airplane you gain so much altitude so quickly that even the most striking geography looks flat. In a helicopter you fly along the valleys, looking up to see the summits, gazing into the forrest below where sometimes a moose or bear can be seen peering up at the strange mechanical bird.
The photographic perspective out the window is alone worth the price of admission and, surrounded by windows, every passenger in the helicopter gets a fantastic view. Make sure when you take photos from the helicopter (or a plane for that matter) that you remember the following techniques:
- Use a high shutter speed - ideally 1000 or faster - to compensate for the vibration of the machine.
- Put the camera near the window to minimize glare off the plexiglass.
- Don’t touch the window with the camera because the vibration is much greater when the camera is touching the machine.
- Turn off the flash when shooting out the window to avoid the reflection of the flash.
- Set up your camera before you get in the machine so you’ll be ready when the flight is underway.
- Use the flash when shooting your family or friends inside the machine - the bright mountain sun outside will trick your camera even if it is not pointed out the window.
During a 3-day CMH Summer Adventure, thanks to the helicopter, most of our guests will see more mountain splendor than they have in the rest of their lives put together.
That’s why a helicopter is the the Zodiac of the skies. Visit Hawaii and only use an airplane, and you’ll see Maui and some nice beaches. Visit Hawaii and take a tour with a Zodiac and you’ll see some the most pristine island destinations on the planet.
Visit Western Canada with a plane, bus or a car and you’ll see a few famous views. Visit Western Canada with CMH Summer Adventures and you’ll get a world-class tour of a sublime alpine world very few people have ever laid eyes upon.
Photography by Topher Donahue.
Summertime has finally arrived in the Rockies. The season is short so we must cease the blue sky days and enjoy the sunshine. Banff is a unique place as a small town surrounded by a gigantic playground with endless outdoor escapes. Stumped on what activities you’d like to tackle this summer? Here’s a bucket list of ideas for around Banff to accompany the adrenaline seeker to the bird-watcher.
- Rent a canoe and paddle the Bow River.
- Bike the Banff/Canmore legacy trail.
- Hike Sulphur Mountain, and experience the same views without the gondola cost.
- Explore the “Gateway to the Rockies” exhibition and others at the Whyte Museum.
- Play a round of golf at the Banff Springs golf course.
- View western Canada’s oldest natural history museum at the Banff Park Museum.
- Take a picnic out and start a fire at the Cascade Ponds or Johnson’s Lake.
If you’ve been busy sweating through the up- and down-hills, experiencing spectacular mountain views and encountering wildlife, it's time to rest and put your feet up. Here's a list of patios where you can relax in sunshine, unwind over a pint of beer or refresh with a glass of white wine:
- Timber’s patio
- Banff Brewing Company
- The Juniper bistro & lounge
- The Saltlik
- Elk and Oarsman patio
If you’re feeling good and energy levels are high, Banff also has a great night life scene - any day of the week.
Monday: Chuck Rose at the Rose and Crown www.roseandcrown.ca
Tuesday: Greek night at the Balkan restaurant www.banffbalkan.ca/greek-night
Wednesday: Open mic night at Bruno’s; country line dancing lessons at Wild Bills www.wbsaloon.com
Thursday: Live music at Melissa’s bar upstairs www.melssteak.com
Friday: Fish bowl Friday’s at Hoodoo Lounge, with featured dj www.hoodoolounge.com
Saturday: Dancing Sasquatch www.banffsasquatch.com
Sunday: Considered Banff’s “locals” night check out Aurora nightclub www.aurorabanff.com/
From the outdoors to the night life, Banff hosts something for everyone. Time to get out there and enjoy friends, family and whichever activity you decide to do. Cheers to a memorable summer 2012!
by Ellen Barone
Vacations seem to be all about fun, sun and escapism. But if you look past the recreation, they can also inspire powerful insights and help you on your path to living a bolder, braver life at home.
I was a dizzying 90-feet above the dense Amazon jungle. The narrow canopy bridge beneath me sagged and bounced with each anxious step. White-knuckled, I clutched the straining steel guide wires that heaved and creaked as I inched my way across the wobbly expanse.
I spotted a shiny new piece of wood replacing one of the weathered, mossy planks that comprised the hanging bridge’s timber flooring and tried not to obsess about the unthinkable – a floorboard suddenly crumbling and plunging my foot, and me, into the dense tangle below. With laser focus, I concentrated my gaze at a distant point and edged my way to the awaiting platform.
If only there weren’t five more bridges to cross. If only my legs would stop threatening to collapse. If only I’d read the brochure more carefully… I wanted to be fearless. I really did.
Most of us don’t set off on vacation to face our fears. But the angst of travelling beyond your comfort zone, no matter how unnerving, can serve to teach, inspire and challenge us to push through and return home bolder and braver.
The next time fear threatens to ruin your adventure here are five strategies to help transform terror into courage.
1. Question your thoughts
Look closely at the thoughts fueling the fear. Are they realistic? Is a different, less terrifying, scenario just as possible?
2. Allow for discomfort
It’s easy to opt out. But if you're willing to be uncomfortable, to allow yourself to notice the roiling emotions but not buy into them, you reduce fear’s power, and that's when boldness begins.
3. Push through
Courage doesn’t come to those who avoid fear; it comes to those who act in spite of it. When you choose not to defy fear, you choose not to honor your capabilities. Choose otherwise.
4. Evaluate the consequences
Ask yourself, "What is it costing me to be afraid?" If the answer is your joy, your sense of peace, or your relationships, the cost is too high.
5. Have faith
Bravery is not instantaneous. It is a habit of thought cultivated with effort and humility and faith. The greatest act of courage is to identify your fear, accept it and move forward: The feeling may still be unpleasant, but it’s tinged with hope and nurtured with love rather than pain.
Ellen Barone is a freelance journalist specializing in travel and frequent contributor to the Adventure. For the latest travel news, tips, and reviews, visit her website at EllenBarone.com.
Photo: Canopy Bridge, Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica eco-lodge, Peruvian Amazon. ©Hank Barone.
By Dave Butler, Director of Sustainability, CMH
In the 1970’s, a young BC-born boy became a seasonal park ranger in Bugaboo Provincial Park. It was one of many early experiences which led him on a global odyssey of exploration and adventure, eventually earning him a PhD in ethnobotany from Harvard University and the status of Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. He has been described as “a real-life Indiana Jones” and has been the focus of Hollywood and IMAX movies. But when Wade Davis and his wife Gail joined CMH for a Heli-Hiking trip in the Bugaboos last week as part of our annual Speaker Series, it was like he was coming home.
Wade is an author of more than a dozen books and 180 scientific and popular articles, and his cultural research has taken him to all corners of the globe. He uncovered the drug which plays a role in creating zombies in voodoo practice, he researched the use of coca leaves at high altitudes in South America and he wandered rain-forests in the Amazon basin for months at a time.
The first evening, after warm-up hikes in Chalice Creek, Easy Roll and Groovy, we were treated to a presentation which was a summary of Wade’s 2009 Massey Lecture: “The Wayfinders.” For all of us, it was a stirring introduction to his deep background in anthropology, culture and languages. We also experienced the poetry of his ideas, a fact long-known to those who have heard Wade lecture around the world.
On the second evening, fresh from a full day in the mountains, we listened to Wade describe the results of his decade-long research into the links between the British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920’s and that country’s shattering experiences in World War I. His extraordinary and innovative work, which ends with the mystery which still surrounds George Mallory and Sandy Irvine’s ill-fated climb of 1924, has become: “Into the Silence; The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest.” We were left spell-bound by both the story and the story-teller, and there was no doubt amongst any of us why this 2011 book has become so popular. With views of the granitic spires of the Bugaboo group, and the history of Canadian mountaineering literally sitting outside the window of the lodge, it was a fitting place to hear Wade and his mesmerizing tale.
Finally, on the third evening, Wade shared his perspectives with us on the Sacred Headwaters project. This - his current labour of love - is an initiative to save an area at the headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers from a major proposal for a coal-bed methane development and a separate open pit mine. His words and images quickly transported us to this magical part of northern BC, where Wade and Gail make their home for part of each year. It was such a compelling story that some guests immediately asked: “How can we help?” (click on www.sacredheadwaters.com for more information).
Some of our guests on this special trip chose to join us because of Wade’s presence. For others, the ability to walk ridge-tops and alpine basins with him and to hear his stories was simply luck and good timing. For all, it was an honour and a privilege to share mountain time with Wade Davis.
Great news: Wade and Gail have agreed to join CMH again in the Bugaboos July 21-24, 2013. You too can meet and hike with this famous and fascinating researcher, author and explorer.