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17November 2017

5 Things Most People Don’t Know About Heli-Skiing

(1) The birthplace of heli-skiing was in the Purcells

Heli-skiing was invented just 50km up the valley from our lodge. When Hans Gmoser founded CMH in the Bugaboos (a sub-range of the Purcells) in the 1960s, heli-skiing as the sport we know it today was born.

Heli-skiing has since spread across the world, from Chile to Kamchatka, Kashmir to Iceland – there’s more places to heli-ski in the world than ever before. But the origin will always be our neighbourhood, well chosen, given our vast empty backcountry and reliably incredible snow quality.

It’s also why you get the most experienced operators in the world, and we’re proud to be part of that club.

A heli snowboarder leaves a high speed trail of powder snow behind while turning through massive rock walls

(2) It’s not as terrifying and extreme as what you see in ski movies

The way heli-skiing has been promoted in media has been both a blessing and a curse. No doubt, watching pro skiers jump-exit a hovering helicopter onto a knife edge ridge with you-fall-you-die consequences is a thrill to watch. But is it representative of commercial heli-skiing as a whole? Nope.

Those kind of antics are just too dangerous for the average or even above average person. Business owners don’t want to push risk of avalanche involvement. Guides have a duty to keep you safe and don’t want to be a bundle of frayed nerves by spring. That means reasonable decisions about terrain with a good margin of safety to allow for wild cards, weather-related or human.

Heli-skiing gives you adrenaline-rushing access to super fun terrain with the best, untracked snow alongside only a few other people, but death-defyingly steep is not what you’ll find. Let’s all keep having fun out there for many, many years to come, okay?

 

(3) It’s a team sport

That’s not a label usually applied to skiing or snowboarding, I know. But take it into the backcountry, and a team mindset is what you need. This is true for one simple reason: the actions of one affects all.

No one can be left behind to finish laps on their own. If I take an unnecessary risk and get lost or injured, that affects everyone else’s day, which might mean pivoting quickly to get me out of trouble. Regular backcountry skiers and riders know this: even when not on a guided trip, the crew out together must work as a team to look out for each other and make decisions that everyone’s on board with.

A team sport means compromise for the good of the whole, and a group with the same goals that has your back. Go team.

A group of heli skiers and snowboarders stands discussing line options in the shadows of huge snow covered peaks

(4) There’s no such thing as ‘The Best Time To Go’

Everyone wants to know: when is the best time to go? Understandably so! Is December too early? Is March too late? Is it better to go when it’s quieter or right in peak season – do they all know something I don’t?

On this front, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news: no one knows when it will be best. Big dumps, perfect temps, no wind, blue-sky days don’t happen predominantly in one month over another. It’s truly random.

The good news: the BC Interior is the birthplace of heli-skiing and world capital of heli-skiing for good reason. We get consistently incredible conditions. The vast majority of the time you’re dealing with shades of good to awesome, not rolling the dice on a full spectrum of good to terrible. Poor conditions, like breakable crust or sun-baked slop are very rare.

So although the date you pick is a gamble on the specifics, odds are good it’ll be better than good.

A heli snowboarder gets almost covered in deep powder snow while descending a slope

(5) The season is long than most people think

The whole skiing and snowboarding world gets super keen to get out there starting in late October. US TOO. And in November things get going, but reliable conditions are still a few weeks away. So we poke around, quench the thirst for being out there, but always, the best is still to come.

But what most people don’t know is how good conditions still are in April. Many have moved on to bikes or golf clubs, but the snowpack by then is at its fattest, and there’s still plenty of pow to go around.

We spend more time in the high alpine as valley temps rise, and we shred north-facing pow before relaxing on the deck in short sleeves.

The mountains can offer a different world – one where winter hangs on in great shape until May. (Did you see the photos from the guides skiing off Silent in July? The season isn’t really that long, but they can’t help themselves.)

 

Want more insider knowledge? Maybe from a window seat? Take the Quiz and Find out if you’re heli-ski ready.

 

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