Love at high altitude

In Heli-Ski, Lodge Life, People
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January 14, 2022 | Words by Kelsey Verboom

When Shawn Lee strapped into his board for the first descent of the day at CMH Revelstoke, he had no idea that by the time the heli picked him up at the bottom, he would have a soon-to-be husband and forever snowboard partner. 

Midway down the day’s first run on the eastern slope of Mt. Crawford near Revelstoke, B.C., Shawn’s partner of a decade, Michael ‘Mickey’ Mack, dropped down on bended knee in the snow and surprised an unsuspecting Shawn with a heartfelt proposal that was a few years in the making. 

“I’ve been witness to a variety of different celebrations – birthdays, anniversaries, millions of feet skied – but honestly, this moment was by far one of the most profound experiences I’ve had guiding,” said Steve Chambers, Shawn and Mickey’s guide on the day. “These two have a great rapport and amazing, positive energy. You can see that they are two people who are deeply in love.” 

“To be able to share in something that’s so powerful and deep to these two people and being lucky enough to get to participate in that by virtue of what we do – it was just an incredible moment and I felt so honoured to share in it.” 

CMH’s guest services team helped plan the secret with Mickey, who’d originally intended to pop the question to Shawn on a scheduled 2020 trip to CMH Revelstoke that was postponed due to COVID. The couple had previously shared other trips there, and Michael knew he wanted to wait to propose until he and Shawn were reunited with their favourite vacation spot. So, he bid his time until travel reopened and they were able to return. 

“This most recent trip, we were just so happy to be there,” Mickey said. “I really felt like the timing was right. We’ve been together for a long time, and I’d known for a while that I was one hundred per cent certain I wanted to be with Shawn forever. His personality is just so bright. Every time I look at him it puts a grin on my face. He’s so welcoming and inviting to others, and he’s genuine. That’s huge for me.” 

The big moment 

The third morning of their trip dawned with fresh snow and bluebird skies. Mickey knew it was the day. The duo flew out in the first ski group, which meant there was a little extra time after being dropped off to execute the proposal. 

The summit of Mt. Crawford was originally planned as the location, but when the group was dropped off, the wind was howling and everyone was eager to get off the peak. Steve guided the group a few hundred metres downslope to a more sheltered clearing. 

The views of the Selkirks were spectacular where they stopped, and with a nod from Steve, Mickey knew this was his moment. Using the ruse of taking a Christmas card photo for photography enthusiast Shawn, they posed together for the camera. 

“It was sunny and clear, with fresh snow everywhere. It was perfect. We posed for the photo and the heli flew by, and I just dropped onto my knee and asked Shawn to marry me. He totally freaked out and buried his head in his helmet,” Mickey said, laughing.  

“I didn’t notice what was happening right away, and I was really confused,” explained Shawn, who had zero suspicion Mickey was even thinking of asking the question. “It was just so far off my radar. But once it clicked that he was proposing, there was a cascade of emotions. I was really overwhelmed and happy. I couldn’t believe it.” 

The rest of the guests in their group – most of them members of an extended family – quickly realized what they were witnessing and started cheering and clapping, managing to record photos and video for the couple as things unfolded. 

“You could see Shawn’s shock turn into joy,” said Steve. “We all started clapping and it was just so good. It was perfect.” 

“I finally said yes,” said Shawn. “Of course, I said yes. Mickey is one of the most honest men I’ve ever met. He’s adventurous and open. The intimacy and the depth of the connection I have with him I never really imagined was possible with another person. My mind likes to complicate things, and he knows how to keep things simple. He is very much the yin to my yang.” 

The grand gesture was such a surprise because it was totally out of character, joked Shawn.  

“To be honest, Mickey’s not the most romantic person and doesn’t tend to do super romantic things,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know where the hell he got this idea. It blows my mind. He makes me feel like the most special person in the world.” 

GOTCHA! Mickey (left, blue jacket) proposed by tricking Shawn into believing he was posing for a Christmas card photo.

Shared joy 

News of the happy engagement spread among the other ski groups during lunchtime.  

“I couldn’t stop blushing when people were coming up to us and saying congratulations,” Shawn said. “The way the other groups reacted to the news and the way my group reacted when it happened was really special. Everyone was ecstatic. We felt so welcomed and celebrated.” 

The couple enjoyed a blissful afternoon together on their boards and returned to an aprés champagne toast from the Revelstoke team. 

 “The rest of the day was pretty electric,” Shawn said. “I went from one moment living my life like I normally would, to living my life knowing I was going to be married and have a husband to be with forever. Just that one question really changed the perspective of my entire life.”  

Connecting, unplugged 

The San Diego, California-based couple met online in 2012 and realized their shared love for mountain biking, camping, hiking, boarding, and all things outdoors. Their home hill is Mammoth Mountain, where they spend as much time snowboarding together as they can.  

“Earlier in our relationship, the first time we went snowboarding together at Mammoth, I thought because I’d grown up on the hill that I would be a lot better than him. But he was so good and completely left me in the dust,” Shawn said, laughing. “Snowboarding quickly became a platform in our relationship as an activity to enjoy together.” 

Mickey was the first of the two to visit CMH, and immediately wanted to convince Shawn to join him on the next trip. Shawn went, thinking it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He’s now been three times and is bringing his parents for their first trip later this season.  

“It’s magical. It’s heavenly,” Shawn said of why heli-skiing is so special to him. “It’s an overwhelming sense of how beautiful and vast and creative and great nature is. At the same time, you experience an immense sense of gratitude for being able to be a witness to it. It’s an experience that I wouldn’t want to do anywhere else.” 

“The backcountry is a really special place for us, especially at CMH,” Mickey added. “Snowboarding is a chance to unplug and truly be present in a way that you’re just not a lot of the time when you live in the city like we do. When we’re in the backcountry and at CMH, our phones are on airplane mode. I love that. It’s just you and the people you’re with, and you’re able to enjoy and connect with that.” 

Just what was needed 

Following a few years of pandemic stress, Shawn and Mickey’s joyous mountaintop moment was exactly what was needed, said Steve, who conceded to having a few tears in his eyes while re-watching video of the proposal. 

“Obviously it was the story of the trip. It was a moment that seemed to resonate with a lot of people.” 

“It was such a hard season last winter not being able to operate. I think it has been a hard time for people in general. So then when something like this happens, you’re reminded of how lucky we are to take people out into the mountains, to share our backyard with them and show them skiing and riding experiences that impact their lives in all these different ways.” 

A next chapter 

Mickey and Shawn have been basking in their newly engaged glow since the proposal on December 29 and are starting to plan their dream wedding. 

“There’s this exciting chapter of our lives ahead of us,” Mickey said. 

“I’m just so grateful we were able to do this at CMH,” added Shawn. “I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to do a better proposal in a better place in a better way. It was just perfect in every way. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better day.” 

Heli-skiing at CMH Revelstoke >