Longing to return: Guest perspective

In Heli-Ski, Lodge Life, People

Mike Arzt | The Public Works

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Long-time CMH guest Mike Arzt wrote this beautiful reflection of 2020. It explores his longing to return to CMH Bobbie Burns, and how his connection to the mountains helped him overcome his lowest personal moment of the year. 

Mike is Co-Owner of The Public Works, a multimedia marketing firm in Denver, Colorado. He and his team produced the short film ‘At Home & Homesick for CMH Bobbie Burns’ early on in the 2020 pandemic. Read on for the emotional inside story of what prompted this beautiful homage to CMH daily life, and re-watch the film, below. 

As 2020 winds down, I’m taking some time to reflect on the highs and lows from this year.  

While the world was shutting down last spring, I read the Rahm Emanuel quote that states, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Easier said than done.   

I’d like to share this particular part of my journey, and also document it for myself. I believe we must learn from the past to do better in the future.  

For close to two years, we have been working on a project with CMH to dig deep into the emotional connection of the mountains, exploring not only how this connection gets passed from generation to generation, but also the motivation and spirit-of-life that these adventures fuel.  

The date April 14, 2020 has been burned into my memory forever. On this date, we were supposed to go to CMH Bobbie Burns to document the biggest part of this story. It was going to be the day I surprised my 12-year-old son Ben with his first Canadian snowboarding experience. It was to be his first time in a helicopter. His first time going to CMH. His first time meeting the crew of Bobbie Burns, who have been like family to me.  

A fellow guest, accomplished surgeon, and generational heli-skier Stephanie Miller was going to be with us. We had already filmed her family and others at CMH Gothics over New Years. Her story and deep connection with the mountains were resonating in my head leading up to this time. Years ago, her dad took her to CMH when he hit one million vertical feet of skiing. She now has well over three million. Skiing helps to create balance in her life while working as a surgeon.  

New Years 2019 at CMH Gothics | The Public Works

I was heading into this April trip with 996,000 vertical feet. I knew that on our first day on mountain, I would be sharing this same experience with Ben. I would reach one million vertical feet while skiing with my son on his very first CMH trip.    

Then, April 14 hit; the day of our now-cancelled trip. And it hit hard. Nothing but quarantine. I was on non-stop calls with our employees, clients, vendors and everyone else I could brainstorm our way through this crisis with. There were few calls that were positive. I hit a low point in my spirit that was new to me. I felt guilty about missing a heli-ski trip. I kept telling myself there were so many people in much worse predicaments and that I had no right to be in such a negative funk. We had talked about filming a spoof piece on this day about not being at CMH but I just could not bring myself to do it. I barely got myself out of bed that day.  

Two days later, it was dumping here in Colorado, and the snow and the mountains did for me what they do so well for all of us: they motivated me.  A few members of our team rallied up to my house and we decided to knock this piece out. I filmed all the indoor footage to keep everyone else safe. With a tear in my eye and warmth in my heart, we tried to emulate a day at CMH at a time when we could not be at CMH. I even happened to have an old flight suit and as usual, my wife was down to play along with my silly ideas.  

We don’t know when we will be back to CMH, but we know it’s ‘when’ not ‘if.’ Heli-accessed backcountry riding has not only been a privilege in my life, it has been a major motivation in my life. For over 20 years I’ve busted my hump to make these trips possible. I will share that with my son. It might not be exactly the same for him, but my job as a parent is to create as many experiences for my kids as I can.   

So, while April 14 was one of the lowest points for me in this COVID journey, April 16, the day we filmed ‘At Home and Homesick for CMH Bobbie Burns,’ will always be one of the high points. It was another day spent playing in the snow that helped to turn lemons into lemonade. I hope that sharing this creates a little bit of light for everyone.  

We will see you soon! More than anything, I know I will be returning with an even more profound appreciation of the mountains and the relationships they bring together and strengthen.  

~ Mike Arzt (a soon-to-be million-footer!)