by Kendall Hunter
Must have been a sign of the times, cause I’m pretty certain you wouldn’t see this kind of thing happening today three kids bouncing around on top (yes on the roof) of a Chrysler, holding on to the rubber bands of an old ski rack (remember those?); giggling away as the old car meandered it’s way up the road to the Bugaboos. It was late summer in the mid-seventies and we were off on a family holiday. Providing that is, we made it alive.
Well somehow we did. That was the era, after all, when kids didn’t even have to wear seat belts. (Ok, bit of a leap from back seat to rooftop but we made it in one piece.) It was the best thing ever. I’d been to the Bugaboos before and anticipating what lay ahead well I couldn’t wait. And this was even before the days of Heli-Hiking!A few years previous to this, when I was seven, I was lucky enough to have a winter adventure with CMH, Heli-Skiing for a week in the Bugaboos. I’d also had the fortunate opportunity to travel through Austria with the man that started it all - Hans Gmoser. At 12, I was introduced to his homeland and to what shaped the life of this incredible visionary. Living in Banff was one thing but being introduced to mountain culture like this at a young age was a true privilege.
I remember well that first trip with CMH. The skiing was cool; the runs were longer than anything I‘d ever dreamed about; there was the absence of boring line-ups and cold chairlifts to ride with freezing toes, the food was truly, truly amazing, but it was the helicopter ride that excited me the most. Embedded in memory was our landings on mountain tops, hurriedly jumping out and covering our faces as swirls of snow stung our cheeks. As we listened to the sound of the blades fade away, having left us to our pristine gift, I only hoped it could last forever. It was only natural now, I wanted my own children to know this world too.
But this was summer. There were no snow flurries as the helicopter ascended, only the muscled “whop, whop whop” of the blades that jibed with my heart; both accelerating as we rose above the lodge out into the open sky. Here I was, about 33 years later, this time at the Bobbie Burns with my own kids (via somewhat more cushioned means). I was travelling alone with them - post divorce hoping for a rather “uncomplicated” journey. And it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. From the complimentary taxi that picked us up from our home to the time it delivered us to our doorstep upon our return, this adventure holiday flowed - the only thing in our way being a few blistered heals
That brings me to Thierry Cardon, our French CMH hiking guide who packed, along with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the mountains, a hefty bag of band-aids. With tightened laces, and padded heals, my kids became completely enamoured by the history of the natural world surrounding them. Being dropped by helicopter at the places once only gazed at with wonder is pretty darn magical. “Mom, we’re in the middle of nowhere again.” I heard my daughter Jemima exclaim on more than one occasion. It’s debatable when my heart swelled more: seeing their feet grounded on such rare terrain or watching them riding shot-gun with Gordie the helicopter pilot front row centre flying high above the world?
Mine were the only kids along for this “Short Escape” yet the whole package of guides, guests, and adventure kept it thrilling. I’d struggled to get them to hike for more than half an hour at home yet out here at the top of the Purcell mountains, they just kept walking - for hours without complaint. It gave me the chance to get to know the other interesting guests who were from the US and England and of varying ages. Having grown up in Banff, I soaked up the reactions of the couple from central London, plunked down in the wilderness as if in a dream.
These interesting people that comfortably surround, quickly become familiar during a hike or over meals. Friendly staff draw the children into the entire experience making it the perfect set-up for a single mom travelling with kids. Neither isolating nor too structured - the rhythm and vibe of the entire trip carried forth with ease. "What was the most special thing about our trip?" I ask my daughter. Without hesitation, she feeds me my final line; one I'm not going to mess with 'cause it's just too perfect. "That they treated us like family." 'nough said.
Kendall and her daughters were guests of CMH this past summer and she will be a regular contributor to The Adventure.