CMH Heliskiing and Heliboarding
CMH Heliskiing and HeliboardingCMH: three magic letters that are your passe partout to the best heli-skiing on the planet. Since 1965, discriminating skiers have travelled from all corners of the earth to enjoy CMH’s now famous Canadian heli-powder.
For a place that’s often called the world’s most exclusive ski destination, CMH embraces a lot of lucky people into its bosom. More than 7,000 skiers and boarders each winter book into their 12 lodges, sprinkled across the most snow-blessed regions of British Columbia.
And the numbers pile up as fast as their feather-light snowpack. In their four decades of heliskiing and an estimated 7.4 million runs and 16 billion vertical feet, CMH clients have made household names of British Columbian ranges like the Bugaboos, Monashees, Selkirks and Purcells – mountains that regularly receive a few dozen feet of snow each winter and can only be reached by the flashiest of multi-million dollar helicopters. The sum total? A perfect 10 of a ski experience.
The Adamants, a fly-in lodge, is nestled at the confluence of four major valleys in the Selkirk Mountains. It offers both gentle and challenging tree and glacier terrain. The Bobbie Burns is designated for experienced heliskiers, with long runs and only three groups of eleven per helicopter. Bugaboos, where it all started, is the classic heli-destination. Its recently renovated fly-in lodge accesses varied terrain, distinguished by its trademark granite spires. Cariboos is known for north-facing glaciers and high snowfall with wide open alpine runs and good tree skiing. Galena, another strong-heliskier only lodge (not suitable for first-time heli-skiers), is a remote and wild area with quality skiing and deep powder.
Bordering partly on the Adamants territory, Gothics features a broad expanse of high alpine long runs and low altitude treed terrain. For those wanting a 3-4 day programme, or a smaller group, Kootenay operates out of the town of Nakusp, BC, on the shores of Upper Arrow Lake. The Monashees, the most challenging of CMH’s 12 ski areas, has some of the world’s best tree skiing (60-90% of the skiing is tree skiing in forest) as well as long steep runs. The Revelstoke programme is based conveniently in town, where private weeks are also available, with a good choice of glacier skiing and alpine terrain including tree skiing. Private programmes – where one group of 10 flies with one helicopter for maximum maneouvrability – are offered in McBride, Monashees (regular groups also), Silvertip and Valemount.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Up, up and away: CMH’s powerful Bell 212 choppers carry 11 skiers and one guide deep into untracked mountain terrain. Heading out around 8.30am, four groups are lifted in rotation from the lodge and flown back, depending on the time of year, between 3.30 or well after 5pm in the springtime. It’s worth noting at this point that you’re now in strictly off-piste territory and, while (gratis) fat skis have made it a thousand times easier, it’s never going to be easy to ski powder in a snowplow position.
To heliski comfortably and safely, you need at minimum the skills of a strong intermediate, with some prior experience of deep snow. The better your physical condition, the more fun you’ll have too. Typically, you can expect 8-12 runs per day, and there are usually opportunities to fly home early should your energy give way in advance of your pride.
In snowy and cloudy weather, guides head for the fantastic tree skiing. This allows the trees to be used as visual reference both by skiers and by the pilot. Over the years selective glading and commercial logging have produced some of CMH’s best tree runs. When conditions allow, the high alpine bowls beckon, and classic huge-vertical descents like Run of the Century in the Gothics produce the pictures, the memories and enough lactic acid in the legs to last a lifetime.
Guiding at CMH
Heliskiing is supposed to be fun, of course, but the first and last priority at CMH is safety. All CMH guides are certified members of the UIAGM, the internationally recognized guiding qualification, or of the ACMG, the Canadian mountain guide certification. CMH guides are experienced professionals, trained not only in the science of snow safety and mountain travel but also in giving you the most enjoyable experience possible.
Guides make every effort to show everyone a good time – including snowboarders. Indeed, many guides are avid one-plankers in their other lives, but despite their best efforts, traverses and climbs will sometimes be necessary.
Safety at CMH
Before your ski week begins, a safety video outlines basic operating procedures and on arrival all guests undergo avalanche transceiver orientation and helicopter safety briefing. All guests are provided an avalanche transceiver to wear each day. Snow stability research and weather information is shared daily by all 12 CMH areas on a radio exchange. As is required by law for all BC heliski operators, you must sign a waiver of liability to participate.
If you’re tired, for instance, there are usually several opportunities a day to fly back to the lodge; your guide will offer the chance whenever a re-grouping opportunity is coming up. The guides carry a radio and a pack which allows them to handle most accidents on the spot; when necessary, the helicopter can usually land close enough to any injured party to evacuate quickly. Several guest packs containing a shovel, probe and radio are rotated for wear among the group.
In addition to the guides who lead you in the mountains, one guide also works as safety guide, working with a second helicopter to continually assess snowpack and hazards in the field.
Accommodation at CMH
Most of CMH’s 12 lodges are purpose-built for use of heliskiers, in locations that are both romantic and ideally placed to access the goods.
After a long day deep in the powder, your heli-lodge provides welcome refuge – but not without risk. One of the unavoidable factors of heli-skiing is heli-belly: dinners, lunches and breakfasts here are renowned so, despite the serious exercise you’ll be getting, don’t expect to go home a belt hole down.
Some lodges are fly-in only and others have road access. A few, like Kootenay and Revelstoke, are located right in town. Accommodation is comfortable with single and double rooms with private or shared bathrooms. Massage therapists are available in each lodge. Other amusements for those who have the energy, such as wireless access, climbing walls, saunas and gyms are available at many lodges. Getting to CMH
CMH’s 12 lodges are scattered across Canada’s Rocky Mountains and Columbia Mountains and for most CMH lodges the nearest international airport is Calgary. A guest coach transfer service links Delta Calgary Airport Hotel and 9 of CMH’s 12 Lodges. Transfer times range from 4 hours to 8 hours and, depending which lodge you choose, there are connection stops in Banff, Lake Louise, Golden, Revelstoke and Jasper ski resorts. All inbound transfers from Delta Calgary Airport Hotel depart early in the morning.
McBride, Slivertip and Valemount are farther north. If lodging in McBride you fly via Vancouver to Prince George, BC, for an overnight stay at the Coast Inn in Prince George then a 2½ hour chartered bus transfer to McBride Lodge. Transportation to Silvertip is by private charter flight from Calgary or Vancouver airports to the 108 Mile House community followed by a 40-minute helicopter flight to the Silvertip lodge. Valemount is 520 kilometres northwest of Calgary and is reached by private charter flight from Calgary (75 minutes). If weather conditions are do not permit flying CMH will arrange alternative ground transportation.
CMH Heli-Skiing and Heli-Snowboarding trips
Trips are available from 3-days to 10-days long. Packages include fat skis, accommodation, fantastic full board and escorted transfer from Banff or Calgary. 7-day packages include 100,000 feet of vertical; shorter or longer ones vary accordingly. In addition to the “normal” heliski weeks, CMH also offer these custom-designed experiences including:
- Powder Intro Weeks are designed to help first-timers who are strong intermediate skiers make a quick and easy transition to powder skiing. Specially trained guides offer practical instruction as the group skis.
- Powder Masters Weeks are paced to emphasize quality over quantity. This programme lets long-time heli-skiers continue to enjoy the CMH experience “for as long as the spirit is willing”.
- Private Weeks are the ultimate in heli-skiing, providing groups exclusive use of a helicopter and two guides, and complete flexibility in setting their own pace. Private Weeks are offered at McBride, Silvertip, Valemount, Monashees and Revelstoke lodges. Tax rebates available for non-Canadian residents.
Canadian Mountain Holidays
PO Box 1660
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +1 403-762-7100