COMMON GROUND: Inspiration from CMH Heli Skiing


It was exactly 50 years ago that skiing in Canada’s British Columbia reached new heights. Hans Gmoser introduced helicopters as an efficient transport to the Columbia peaks and helped kick-start a craze. Today, Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) is the largest heli-skiing and heli-hiking company in the world.

The Austrian ski enthusiast and expert mountaineer couldn’t have predicted the enduring impact of his madcap idea; CMH – of which Gmoser was the founder – has been quenching a public thirst for adventure for five decades and counting. ‘It’s the ultimate ski experience,’ says Chris Cecil-Wright, who has been heli-sking with CMH for the last nine years, ‘In Canada, we ski the same distance from the top of Everest to sea level in waist deep, champagne powder – each day, all week.’ As Joe Flannery, President of CMH, explains: ‘There’s an ‘umami’ with CMH – you can heli-ski an infinite number of times, but back at the lodge you’re always going to get that sense of passion and stoke as you got the first time. The size, scope and scale of western Canada just blows people’s minds.’

CMH has access to a staggering 3.1 million acres across the Columbia Mountains. Chris has become particularly attached to the Cariboo range for its magnificent combination of alpine and steep tree skiing in an area three times the size of Les Trois Vallées. Every evening the guides – and CMH is the largest single employer of highly experienced mountain guides worldwide – will give guests a tally of the vertical feet they’ve been lifted that day. ‘We average about 25-30,000 vertical feet per day, or 160,000 in a week – and it’s addictive’ explains Chris, ‘After 6 to 8 weeks of intense skiing you might be lucky enough to join the million feet club. That’s the cue for a crazy initiation ceremony with balloons, loud music and the presentation of a bright blue jacket – one that you might then recognize
on the slopes of Courchevel.’

For all the frivolity and antics, CMH prides itself on an unbeaten safety record, meticulous yet friendly service and supremely comfortable lodging. The company organizes all travel, transfers and the best skis for the terrain. The 11 timber lodges – each in a different location and some only accessible by helicopter – are kitted out with Jacuzzis, masseuses and private chefs. Guests can expect gourmet cooking, fine wine and their favourite drink presented to them daily, après ski – ‘and everybody especially loves it when chicken wings are on the menu,’ Chris enthuses. On the last night, the guests are encouraged to raid the dressing up box for flamboyant evening attire – which wraps up a week of spectacular skiing on another high.

“Gmoser came to Canada for the same reason as our guests do now: to escape and find nirvana. He found it on a scale he couldn’t believe."

Joe Flannery,
President of CMH 

“With CMH heli-skiing we never cross anyone else’s tracks all week – it’s fresh, virgin powder every day."

Chris Cecil-Wright 

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