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CMH conditions last winter?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

I was wondering if anyone could report on any CMH trips that they experienced from 2014-2015.  Specifically the snow conditions in that part of BC.  I have been to 4 different areas over the years on 7 night packages.  The weather was total crap on my first two trips (Revelstoke and Kootenay).  Galena was pretty bad, and then finally the Gothics was good but I know that they all can be excellent with a little luck.  I gave up going a few years ago but now with the exchange rate being more favorable, I am definately interested in trying again.  I am thinking of the Bugaboos or going back to Revelstoke for now.

post #2 of 27
A group of us were at Revelstoke with the CMH crew at the end of Jan/early Feb. We didn't catch the glory days, but had an incredible trip all the same. If you've been there, then you know how they operate. All their guides are dialed in and always looking to make the experience one of a kind, even for a couple of east coasters who won the trip through a 24hr. race. Days leading up to our arrival were rough, heat, rain, refreeze, 1.5" crust layer. We received a few inches each day and by the third day, we were making turns we couldn't hear. Glad I had brought a ski with a flat tail. It's all a gamble, but all relative. I've never seen terrain or views like that and I've never had that much excitement for raw conditions. Not sure that helps you, heard bugaboos are fantastic.
post #3 of 27
You ought to try Alaska. Better terrain, better snow, much cheaper, and smaller groups, shuck translates into more skiing.

And lower avalanche risk.

Not implying that in Canada the guides are not safe, just that with persistent bag layers, you just ski low angle terrain.
post #4 of 27

It was a tough year in much of western Canada.  My annual reservation is at Mustang Snowcat and here's their candid summary of the season: http://www.mustangpowder.com/the-grinch-that-stole-winter.htm .   My own trip was challenging but mostly good since the weather was nice and we could stay above tree line ~6,300 feet.  Keep in mind that Mustang is in a very high snowfall location (average ~550 inches at 5,700 feet) with alpine terrain going up to 8,000. 

 

Archives from Island Lake near Fernie imply it was closed Feb. 12-20 after a major Pineapple rain to the top.  Most skiing in late February and the first half of March was in spring conditions. 

 

The best skiing would have been at mostly heli operations with high alpine terrain up to 10,000 feet in the Cariboos, northern Selkirks and Purcells/Bugaboos.  On days when weather/visibility prevents flying/skiing above tree line, ski conditions would have been what many here on Epic call "good for you."  The same appliers for much of the season for the heli and cat operators with not much terrain above tree line.

 

I agree with KeepCold about the guides.  Our guide Bruno at Mustang did a great job finding good snow and interesting terrain for us.  A couple of time we bootpacked for 15-20 minutes to ski some great lines while the cat was relocated to avoid having us ski intervening runs  where the snow was not so good.

 

There are many times in normal when weather keeps you out of the high alpine.  I like to choose an operation that has extensive terrain both above and below tree line because you never know which will be favored by the weather.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post

You ought to try Alaska. Better terrain, better snow (???), much cheaper, and smaller groups, shuck translates into more skiing.
 

I have now been to Alaska 4x.  First time in the heli in 2007 was the best ski day of my life, 28K of waist-deep powder, all the way to 50 feet above sea level.  The other 3 times all had mediocre overall snow conditions.  No surprise I kept trying to replicate that first day. 

 

Better terrain? This is generally true.  But when snow conditions are difficult, even Alaska operators have to dial back the terrain somewhat.

 

Better snow?  No, much more variable. You can get a lot of windslab/sastrugi, plus mixed precip/rain at low elevation, and with the steep terrain you may have to ski through quite a bit of crap to get down to a flat pickup spot.

 

Much cheaper?  Yes, when you actually get to ski.  If you pay $5+K and only get to ski 2 days, or one day plus 2 hours of a second day, that's not a great value proposition, especially when you add in the expense of getting to somewhere like Valdez or Cordova.  I go to Mustang and get 50K vertical in 3 days for ~$3K, with good terrain and far better odds of deep powder snow.

Quote:
smaller groups, shuck translates into more skiing.

Potentially this is very true.   The upside, the ultimate ski experience is more likely attained in Alaska like my day in 2007.  But it's very far from a guarantee.  The better Canadian operations are far more consistent due to less wind/rain exposure and the availability of tree skiing on storm days for super deep powder. 
 

Quote:

And lower avalanche risk.

Not implying that in Canada the guides are not safe, just that with persistent bad layers, you just ski low angle terrain.

This is very true.  Snow stability often dictates skiing lower angle terrain in the Canadian alpine than in Alaska.  This is one of the occasional advantages of cat over heli in Canada.  Terrain gets skied more regularly, so the bad layers get broken up and guides are more confident taking clients into the steeps after new snow.  And lots of the steeps are in the trees.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 6/16/15 at 2:38pm
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 

Is the Regent Inn still a good place to be at?  Good meals, fun people and entertaining?  I liked it when I stayed there back in 2004.  I would like to see how Revelstoke has changed since then.  We had bad skiing due to fog, rain, a few down days, a few half days.  It was January.  I got a big credit towards the next trip.  Thanks for your help.

post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KeepCold View Post

A group of us were at Revelstoke with the CMH crew at the end of Jan/early Feb. We didn't catch the glory days, but had an incredible trip all the same. If you've been there, then you know how they operate. All their guides are dialed in and always looking to make the experience one of a kind, even for a couple of east coasters who won the trip through a 24hr. race. Days leading up to our arrival were rough, heat, rain, refreeze, 1.5" crust layer. We received a few inches each day and by the third day, we were making turns we couldn't hear. Glad I had brought a ski with a flat tail. It's all a gamble, but all relative. I've never seen terrain or views like that and I've never had that much excitement for raw conditions. Not sure that helps you, heard bugaboos are fantastic.
post #7 of 27
The Regent was perfect for us. Outdoor hot tub, two bars, food was phenomenal, town has probably grown since you were there. No bustling ski village, but a good vibe. I guess the resort has gone in since you were last there as well. My buddies skied it after heli and had fun.
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post

You ought to try Alaska. Better terrain, better snow, much cheaper, and smaller groups, shuck translates into more skiing.

And lower avalanche risk.

Not implying that in Canada the guides are not safe, just that with persistent bag layers, you just ski low angle terrain.


Thanks but I really like the combinations of high alpine and sub alpine tree skiing in BC.  The tree skiing in the Monashees is famous, and the Selkirks are just as good from what I have seen and heard.  I talked to some guys in Revelstoke that go to CMH Monashee lodge just for the tree skiing in Soards Creek.  I really liked the old growth forests in Galena, and the burned areas were really awesome.  I have not talked to anybody that has been in the last few years and I am looking for news, good or bad.  Thanks for your time.

post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rubberduck View Post
 

Is the Regent Inn still a good place to be at? 

 

The Best Western is a lot newer and owned by the same people.  They have a free shuttle that runs late, so you don't DWI.

 

 

I'm hesitant to shell out the big bucks, months in advance, for possilby marginal conditions.

I like to book Southwest into Spokane,  mid to late January and just reserve a rental car.  Then you can check the forcast a few days prior and get a good idea of conditions.

If it doesn't look good, cancel and your not out a dime. If it looks promising, drive to the best prospects and enjoy the Canadian hospitality.

We've always been able to get on a heli or a cat and it's usually at a reduced rate.

post #10 of 27
Quote:
We've always been able to get on a heli or a cat and it's usually at a reduced rate.

That depends upon where you're going.  The top operations in remote lodges with the most snow and expansive terrain get booked far in advance.  At the end of my Mustang trip I have to deposit for the next year because there's a waiting list. 

 

If you go for a day operator there are ski quality disadvantages.

1) You lose 2 hours time to safety orientation on the first day, more significant if it's your only day vs. one of 3 or 4.

2) Guides need to be conservative about pace and terrain choice on day one until they see how people ski.

3) The day operations attract first timers who need to ski at a slower pace and in easier terrain

All of the above leads to skiing usually 8-10K per day vs. the 16K I'm averaging at Mustang.   So that reduced rate may not be not quite the bargain it seems vs. a remote lodge.

 

I'm one who nearly always advocates for flexibility on destination trips.  But on this particular topic I make an exception.  I've done 21 Canadian remote lodge trips since 1997.  There was one disaster in 2005 with awful conditions, and 3 trips (2003, 2004 and 2015) where I feel that I "dodged a bullet."  Conditions were bad within a week of my arrival but improved enough for decent skiing while I was there.   2 of the 4 Alaska trips had worse snow (and a third about the same) than the "dodged a bullet" Canadian trips though not as bad as 2005.

 

The non-cat/heli parts of these Canadian trips have had to be more flexible.  In 2015 tseeb and I did some extra driving and skied Kicking Horse, Lake Louise, Panorama, Lost Trail and Discovery to avoid rain/refrozen conditions at Revestoke, Whitewater, Red, Fernie and Castle.

post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 
So that reduced rate may not be not quite the bargain it seems vs. a remote lodge. 

 

There are definetly some trade offs.  But even the remote lodges get soft clients. 

If your not booking the whole ship, you've already rolled the dice anyhow.

 

 I think I'm willing to take that chance and just make the best of the situation.  Especially if the skiings really good

post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post
 

 

There are definetly some trade offs.  But even the remote lodges get soft clients. 

If your not booking the whole ship, you've already rolled the dice anyhow.

 

 I think I'm willing to take that chance and just make the best of the situation.  Especially if the skiings really good

 

 

The cost has risen to a point where many of the clients have more money than legs to take full advantage of the skiing.

post #13 of 27
Exactly, which is why Alaska with 4 people per heli is better.

Actually, having been to both, it's really hard to understand why people still go to Canada.

Inertia maybe, or fear of steep terrain, like you see in ak movies.
post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 

CMH skiers are like a tribe that will not speak.  I am against that.  I like CMH and they run a great trip for what you get for your money.  You can't beat it for what they include.  Their guides, helicopters and pilots, mechanics, chefs, rooms, safety and logistics are the best around.  That is why people from around the world book a year in advance.  It is totally worth it when things come together.  Mother Nature has been the problem.

post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post

Exactly, which is why Alaska with 4 people per heli is better.

Actually, having been to both, it's really hard to understand why people still go to Canada.

Inertia maybe, or fear of steep terrain, like you see in ak movies.


You have huge cajones for real, and probably need a wheelbarrow to carry them around in.  But I am pretty sure that BC has steep tree skiing which holds super deep, stable snow.  And drops into house sized boulders filled with 3 meters of pillow powder and its good.  I have seen it.  Canada is good.  And you can get small group heli in BC on lots of trips with an A-STAR or Bell 407.  The standard on CMH is a Bell 212 with 4 groups per helicopter which is slow but sometimes they will run it will 3 groups which is optimal.

post #16 of 27

I got to put a plug in for Eagle Pass Heli skiing where a friend of mine is a guide. They run A-Stars with 1 guide per 4 skiers and operate on something like 160k acres.

 

The tenure is broken up with runs spread over a huge area roughly between Upper Arrow Lake, south of Revelstoke to Shushwap Lake to the west. Some of their runs are near Mustang Powder Cats, some near Halcyon Heli and they also fly near Monashee Provincial Park and Mable lake.

post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post

Exactly, which is why Alaska with 4 people per heli is better.

Actually, having been to both, it's really hard to understand why people still go to Canada.

Inertia maybe, or fear of steep terrain, like you see in ak movies.

 

 

One's not better than the other, they're just different.

post #18 of 27
Quote:
There are definitely some trade offs.  But even the remote lodges get soft clients.   If your not booking the whole ship, you've already rolled the dice anyhow.........The cost has risen to a point where many of the clients have more money than legs to take full advantage of the skiing.

The ski ability and bank accounts of clients are independent variables IMHO.  If you're not bringing a whole group (tough to do with affordability and scheduling) I see the following as the best shots at ensuring compatibility:

1) Lots of groups.  Mike Wiegele has 90+ people every week.  The newer/slower people are generally the ones in the A-Stars.  Guides are proactive; I was moved up after one day.  Also Wiegele's big helicopters are 10 clients with a tail guide as well as lead guide and max 3 groups per heli, which seems superior to CMH's 11 with one guide and 4 groups per heli.  With snowcat it's a plus to be at a place that has more than one cat. 

2) Some places screen clients and discourage those who are likely to have problems keeping up.  White Grizzly is most upfront about this, and Mustang has a similar attitude.  CMH Monashees has a very expert reputation.  Eagle Pass Heli (DanoT's recommendation above) interrogated me quite thoroughly in 2009 before letting me ski a day with 3 guys from Idaho who had been there a couple of days already.

 

Quote:
One's not better than the other, they're just different.

Or to be more precise, Alaska has more exciting terrain but Canada has better odds for deep powder.  That's why I explained explicitly that 3 out of 4 Alaska trips fell into the bottom 20% of my more extensive experience in Canada for snow quality.  I can ski steep terrain in many lift served resorts, such as my annual timeshare week at Snowbird. Powder is the more scarce commodity for which I'm willing to shell out $1K/day.  YMMV.  For me it's been a long process, trying many different places starting in 1997.  I did not get to Mustang until 2010. 

post #19 of 27
I skied snowbird too, but Alaska is in a totally different level as far as steeps
2000 ft couloirs, 50 real degrees, there's no way you can find this at any ski resort in the us.

And chm is pretty expensive.

Points north in ak is almost half the price. But whatever, I'm not trying to convince anyone.
post #20 of 27

Big Sky to name one.

post #21 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by snokat View Post

Big Sky to name one.

One what? Since clearly it's not a helicopter operation, it would help to use the " icon to quote the post you're responding to. Otherwise we're left scrolling trying to find how this makes sense.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post

I skied snowbird too, but Alaska is in a totally different level as far as steeps
2000 ft couloirs, 50 real degrees, there's no way you can find this at any ski resort in the us.

And chm is pretty expensive.

Points north in ak is almost half the price. But whatever, I'm not trying to convince anyone.


Big Sky to name one.

post #23 of 27
Points North was where I went in 2012 and 2014. Yes it's usually a good value but not when you ski 3 1/4 days out of 2 weeks there.

With regard to terrain Big Couloir at Big Sky and Little Chute at Alta are the limit of extreme terrain I can ski, and I need good snow to be in exposure like that. In those 4 days at Points North I got one run with good enough snow to be skiing a sustained 40 degree slope of about 2,000 vertical. I realize I was unlucky for snow on those 2 trips, but OTOH I was off-the-charts lucky in 2007 at Alyeska/CPG.

I totally understand rod9301's points. Most of the repeat customers at PNH say explicitly they are there more for the terrain than the snow. It comes down to personal preference. I'm just pointing out from a fair amount of experience what the comparative snow odds are.
Edited by Tony Crocker - 6/17/15 at 2:13pm
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post


Inertia maybe, or fear of steep terrain, like you see in ak movies.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post

2000 ft couloirs, 50 real degrees, there's no way you can find this at any ski resort in the us.
 
 
 

All of this is pretty major thread drift. But really? Are you going to claim that the average customer, especially a first time customer, is ever going to touch that kind of terrain? I know what the market hype looks like. But I also know the reality for most of us. And it will virtually never involve responsible guides taking normal clients - doubly so for new ones -  into that kind of exposure.  And honestly, the average client would not have a ton of fun in that kind of scenario vs just plain great skiing.

 

I know of one group that has been going heliskiing annually for maybe about a dozen years. I think that after 6 or so years with the same outfit they (or at least some of them) were taken into that kind of sustained pitch once for one run under "perfect" conditions.

 

Can you provide an example of an operator in NA  that'd take a normal client into "50 real degrees" for 2K feet?


Edited by spindrift - 6/17/15 at 3:34pm
post #25 of 27

Or you get the best snow on the last day and you are too toasted to hammer the pitch.

 

I've had that happen after skiing BS and JH in powder all week, just too tired to ski technical steeps safely by day 7.

 

Just booked into SLC for Dec 8th, so back to Little Cottonwood and some good karma, a dump and 3/4 days with buddies.

 

Can you say, "first tram?" ;-)

 

Then over to DEN for 3/4 days in Vail.

post #26 of 27
Quote:

I know of one group that has been going heliskiing annually for maybe about a dozen years. I think that after 6 or so years with the same outfit they (or at least some of them) were taken into that kind of sustained pitch once for one run under "perfect" conditions.

 

Can you provide an example of an operator in NA  that'd take a normal client into "50 real degrees" for 2K feet?

The Alaska clients are there mostly for the steeps and the operators know that.  A lot of them are perhaps not "normal clients" by usual standards.  Kristen Ulmer, Jess MacMillan, Ingrid Backstrom and Chris Anthony were at PNH the same week as us in 2014.  I think AK operators make the effort to find steep terrain consistent with the safety of the snow and each group's (4 clients) abilities.  In my case at PNH in 2012 we were cruising long corn runs, but by 5:30PM the sun had softened that long and steep west-facing pitch enough for our guide to check it out.  We waited at our drop zone in case the guide didn't like what he saw and would have had us picked up. 

 

I agree that even the "40 real degrees" for 2K feet of that run is rare in lift served areas.  There's lot of hype about how steep certain runs are.  I do know that the steeper the run the better the snow needs to be to let anyone ski it.  At "50 real degrees" it's needs to be exceptionally perfect IMHO.  

Quote:
All of this is pretty major thread drift.

Yes, but it's useful correcting people's misconceptions.  The culture in AK heliskiing is different.  The operators are welcoming to everyone, but the vast majority of clients are there for the steeps like rod9301. If that's not you, you should probably be going somewhere else IMHO.

 

Quote:
Or you get the best snow on the last day and you are too toasted to hammer the pitch.

This is part of why I like my cat/heli trips to be 3-4 days.  If it's challenging snow or terrain at a fast pace that's about when I'll start slowing down.  In AK  a week package price is for about that much skiing.  You'll be paying surcharges if you get more than that.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 6/19/15 at 2:57pm
post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

The Alaska clients are there mostly for the steeps and the operators know that.  A lot of them are perhaps not "normal clients" by usual standards.  Kristen Ulmer, Jess MacMillan, Ingrid Backstrom and Chris Anthony were at PNH the same week as us in 2014.  I think AK operators make the effort to find steep terrain consistent with the safety of the snow and each group's (4 clients) abilities....

 

Indeed. However those pros are most likely (depending on conditions) being taken to lines that most clients will never touch.

 

Face it. Under normal circumstances most operators are running multiple loads per machine. Even a moderate hiccup - like a big fall or someone backing off - can impact management and flow of the whole day. An injury, besides sucking, implies screwing up more than one load for the day. Unhappy in so many ways...

 

No matter what motivates people to go to AK, as far as I am aware, most will be managed into a reasonably narrow class of terrain and snow. Maybe steeper on average than some other places. But not the stuff of the movies. And certainly not 2K feet of 50 degree pitch. If anyone has factual info that indicates otherwise, I'm all ears (seriously).

 

Interestingly,  a corn trip is going to up your odds of steepness vs a powder trip. But I digress even more.... The bottom line is that there are lots of operators who work a pretty wide range of terrain and snow. Pick your poison. But do so with reality in mind - and unless you are a member of a pretty select club, odds are very stacked against you doing really big exposed steep lines. 

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