Few holidays are so addictive that guests start booking next year’s trip half way through the current one. But that is what happens every week of the ski season at any of Canadian Mountain Holidays’ 11 heli-skiing lodges. Making sure you are booked in for next year is an almost instant reaction when presented with kilometres of blissful runs in untracked powder, a helicopter to take you there, and a lodge brimful of fine wine, gourmet food and like-minded company to return to at night.
It is also what happens when the skiing tops any ski experience anywhere else in the world. Guests during our week at CMH’s Adamants lodge this year could not believe the quality of the powder snow.
“This is the best day of heli-skiing I’ve ever had,” announced Washington financier Greg as we lunched in yet another unbelievably spectacular alpine setting in the middle of a heli-ski day. He had not only skied all over the world but had already been to Chamonix that winter, as had the two friends with whom he was visiting CMH. “The snow was just perfect everywhere,” echoed his friend Barry.
Welcome to heli-skiing, one of the most indulgent and enjoyable pursuits on the planet. This is a world where a week-long trip can cost $10,000 and up, where guests can burn through thousands of dollars in a day clocking up the ski miles (primarily due to the cost of fuel), but where they also realise this is the ultimate way to spend their hard earned cash. After a few runs in the jaw-droppingly beautiful wilderness it is abundantly clear why people from all over the world descend on CMH every year, from royalty to rock stars – even Virgin boss Richard Branson was so impressed he posted his own CMH trip video online.
Within hours of arriving at the Adamants lodge in March this year we were skiing down runs with snow flying over our heads. This was exactly what we had signed up for – and seven more days of the same lay ahead. What’s more we were to squeeze in as much skiing as possible, having chosen to go with CMH’s newer program that uses smaller helicopters to carry only five guests. This meant we were able to move around faster than at most other operations, which use larger Bell 212 helicopters to ferry around groups of 11 skiers.
Heli-skiing tenures are so enormous that the expert guides can find deep fluffy snow virtually every day of the week. This meant it was no surprise that our final day at the Adamants turned out to be one of the best. On the first run, our guide Pete led us down the aptly named Alpina, and even he remarked it was in virtually the best condition he had seen in his life. The snow was as light as dust, the air was still, and the slope so magically perfect it was impossible to put a foot wrong.
The rest of the day continued in the same vein. Our group, Greg and Doug from Washington DC, and father and son team Todd and Nate from Boulder, Colorado, followed Pete down through trees, glades and wide, open fields. It was the kind of day where we could have kept skiing until we dropped. Waiting for the helicopter was a welcome opportunity to tell jokes and lie down for a rest. Rarely does a regular skier ski this hard in one day.
Skiing is made easier though, as guests are provided with wider skis that are easier to turn in the deep powder. They are also given avalanche beacons and packs with radios and other equipment. Safety is paramount and every guest undergoes an avalanche safety briefing and beacon training as soon as they arrive.
Almost as good as the skiing is returning to the lodge where snacks such as Alaskan king crab claws or freshly baked apple strudel are laid out to placate everyone a few hours before a luscious dinner. Meal times are a chance to swap stories with fellow guests, guides and staff, and of course make plans to return next year.
Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) /
CMH is the longest established and largest heli-skiing company in the world, having started in 1965. In short, these are the people that created the industry so you can’t go wrong here. CMH has 11 cosy, luxurious and mostly remote mountain lodges dotted through the mountains near Banff and Revelstoke, providing gourmet food at every meal and extensive wine lists. Four-, five- and seven-day packages are available with specialty options like family weeks, women’s weeks, trips for first time heli-skiers and advanced weeks teaching techniques for charging steep shots and blasting down pillow lines – just like they do in the movies. No need to be an expert though. A good intermediate and above will have a ball heli-skiing. Four-day packages are priced from C$5,654 (about A$5,625) per person twin share including a guaranteed 17,500 vertical metres of heli-skiing or heli-boarding, all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, accommodation, airport transfers, guide, heli-skis and specialty equipment, and training. In Australia, packages are available only through Travelplan.