Words and Photos by Topher Donahue | Dec 1, 2011
Just to the east of the small town of Revelstoke, at the edge of Glacier National Park in Interior British Columbia, is a peak called Mt. Fidelity. On that peak is a weather station – the snowiest weather station in Canada. It records an average of 1471 cm (48 feet) of snow each year. The Mt. Fidelity weather station also receives more days of snow than anywhere else in the country, averaging 144 days of snowfall each year.
It’s no wonder Revelstoke and the surrounding Columbia Mountains have become known as the ultimate destination for powder skiing on planet earth. It’s about time.
The opening of Revelstoke Mountain Resort in 2007 opened the eyes of the world to the skiing and snowboarding potential in the area, but heliskiers and backcountry skiers had been shredding Canada’s deepest snow for many years before recent ski films like “Attack of La Niña” and “Rev” revealed the deep powder fantasy land that is Revelstoke.
For nearly half a century, CMH Heli-Skiing has had the lion’s share of the heli-ski terrain in the Revelstoke area, and it has been really fun watching the ski and snowboard world realize that our slogan, “The World’s Greatest Skiing,” is no hype.
In the mid 60s, mountain guides Hans Gmoser and Leo Grillmair were looking for the right place to try using a helicopter for a ski lift. With no small amount of luck and vision, the two friends stumbled into ski paradise in the Columbia Mountains surrounding Revelstoke and started CMH Heli-Skiing, the world’s first heli-ski business.
At that time, Hans and Leo had their pick of which areas to use for helicopter skiing, but by the 70s other helicopter skiing operations opened doors and a sort of white gold rush began. Over the next 20 years, CMH was able to secure 11 different tenures for a staggering total of 15,000 square kilometres, giving CMH guests exclusive helicopter skiing access to more of the Revelstoke area than any other skiing service.
While writing Bugaboo Dreams, a book on the invention and state-of-the-art of heliskiing, I made this observation: Historically, every two decades another recreational user group discovers Revelstoke. Backcountry skiers in the 50s, heli-skiers in the 70s, sledders (or snowmobilers) in the 90s, and now, with the ski resort opening, Revelstoke is quickly gaining international recognition as perhaps the best, most consistently high quality powder skiing in the world.
In many ways, even though our administrative offices are in Banff, Revelstoke is the beating heart of the vast ski and snowboard playground that makes up CMH Heli-Skiing. From the northern CMH areas of the Cariboos and Mcbride, to the southern areas of Kootenay and the Bugaboos, Revelstoke forms both a geographical and spiritual hub of CMH Heli-Skiing.
In some ways it feels like our baby has finally grown up, and the rest of the world is realizing just how sweet it is skiing and snowboarding in the mountains around Revelstoke. If you’re like most of the skiing world, and just now figuring this out, buy some fatty powder boards, book a trip to Revelstoke, and hold on – you’re in for a wild ride!