Remembering Leo Grillmair

In Heli-Ski, Lodge Life, Origins, People

Photo by Pat Morrow

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May 5, 2023 | Words by Kelsey Verboom

Leo Grillmair, mountain guide, heli-skiing pioneer and one of CMH’s founders, passed away on May 1, 2023. Unable to recover from a fall he had while skiing a few weeks prior, the charismatic 92-year-old passed while surrounded by family and with the mountains he loved standing sentry just outside his hospital room.  

Here, we remember his remarkable life. 

Leo Grillmair was a man without pretense. He was a straight-shooting, all-out, gregarious personality who had a natural way with people and a special knack for making anyone who crossed his path feel welcomed.  

A plumber by trade, he was a mountaineer at heart who built a life out of his joy and passion for skiing, hiking and exploring the mountains. 

Without him, CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures (originally Canadian Mountain Holidays) may very well have never existed. 

It was Leo who convinced his childhood friend Hans Gmoser—the name most famously associated with pioneering heli-skiing and founding CMH—to join him on a journey to Canada from Austria in 1951 to work and explore the Rocky Mountains.   

That invitation was the catalyst for years spent side-by-side as friends, climbers, skiers, innovators and business partners. Together they grew a fledgling guiding business into the company CMH is today and blazed a path for the sport of heli-skiing, which has since grown into an entire industry.  

Beyond his pivotal role in shaping the heli-skiing industry, Leo made a host of other significant contributions to the mountain community. He pioneered new routes in the Rockies, most notably Grillmair Chimneys and Direttissima on Yamnuska, made the first Canadian ascent of Mount Alberta, climbed a new route on Denali in Alaska, and was a founder of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. 

“Leo had an endearing touch of irreverence and a willingness to go for it and try something that had never been done before,” said present CMH President & COO, Rob Rohn, of the characteristics that made Leo a one-of-a-kind character and a pioneer.  

“He and Hans invented a new sport that really differentiates Canada in the mountain and guiding world and is now the primary employer of guides in this country. That doesn’t happen without a certain mindset.” 

Early years 

Born October 11, 1930 in Ansfelden, Austria, Leo was the sixth of ten children. He grew up in a small, 400-year-old house in the woods in a busy household he described as “dirt poor” but filled with music. Leo’s father loved to sing and taught Leo to do the same.  

As a young boy growing up during World War Two, Leo found escape in learning to ski, camp and hike. This initial spark formed the roots of his lifelong passion for travelling among mountain peaks. He hiked and climbed many summits in Austria during and after the war and was mentored by climber Fritz Kögler.  

Leo became an apprentice plumber during wartime at age 13, and by 17 had earned his journeyman’s ticket. When the war ended and a looming labour shortage threatened future employment, Leo’s foreman told him of a program that was paying for skilled tradesmen to move to Canada. On the very day Leo filled out the paperwork to do so, he bumped into Hans on the street and convinced his longtime friend to join him on the trip as an electrician.  

The two soon bid farewell to their families and climbing friends and set sail for Canada on Leo’s 21st birthday. They endured a 13-day boat journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada followed by a train ride and were dismayed at first glimpse of their eventual destination: Edmonton. With visions of climbing and skiing Canada’s great rocky ranges, they’d requested to be sent to simply “the mountains.” Instead, they disembarked the train crestfallen, nothing but a pancake-flat prairie landscape stretched out before them.  

Their early days in Canada weren’t short on struggle. With little money or English language skills, a leg injury suffered by Leo, and a few unsuccessful attempts at finding work, they initially limped along. Leo was fired from a Northern lumber mill, and both were swiftly axed from a logging camp near Edmonton when they snapped a saw on day one. They accepted they weren’t destined to be loggers and moved on to Calgary.

Leo, left, and Hans stroll down an Edmonton street en route from the pawn shop where Leo bought a guitar for Hans, who had just arrived from Austria, 1951. Photo: Leo Grillmair collection.

At long last 

It was while stationed in Calgary that Leo and Hans finally had the chance to explore the mountains they’d been longing for. One excursion included Leo’s namesake ascent of Grillmair Chimneys on Mt. Yamnuska, where his plumber’s grip, strengthened by heaving heavy pipe day after day, worked in his favour to allow him to pull himself up through the chimney-shaped slot (while wearing crepe-soled street shoes, no less!) 

Leo strikes a pose on a pinnacle of Mount Yamnuska, Alberta Rockies, circa early 1950s. Photo by Franz Dopf.
Leo strikes a pose on a pinnacle of Mount Yamnuska, Alberta Rockies, circa early 1950s. Photo by Franz Dopf.

Leo and Hans eventually found work in the Bow Valley as a plumber and an electrician. With newfound proximity to the landscape they’d imagined while crossing the choppy Atlantic, the duo further hiked, climbed, skied and pushed the limits of what had been accomplished on the mountain faces of Canada.

The two men alternated taking jobs in their respective trades while working to become certified mountain guides. During this time Leo met and married his first wife, Elfi, and fathered three children. He also worked on a number of geological and mining expeditions; it was there that he was exposed to helicopters and saw their potential firsthand.   

Leo and Hans’ guiding eventually led them to the Bugaboos, where they were awestruck by the terrain. They began ski touring and guiding clients in the area, unaware that they were on the verge of revolutionizing backcountry skiing.  

Art Patterson, a ski touring client, suggested and urged them to attempt using a helicopter to gain extra vertical and a few extra runs. Following a few hit-and-miss attempts, finally in April 1965, Hans hosted the first official weeks of commercial helicopter skiing. The first guests were hooked. Heli-skiing, and CMH, were born.

The humble site of an old logging camp near the base of the granite Bugaboo Spires was the birthplace for that wild dream, which quickly grew to include the construction of the first CMH lodge. The rest, as they say, is history.

True partnership 

When CMH started to really take off and expand, Hans shifted his focus to the business side of things and Leo turned his attention to operations, the guiding team, and the day-to-day, on-the-ground tasks of running a successful heli-skiing operation. 

Leo (left) and Hans (right), 1951, lace up for yet another memorable adventure. Photo by Erwin Tontsch.

“They decided that together. They had a great partnership around making decisions about things,” said longtime CMH guide Dave Cochrane, who was a young guide when he first met Leo and eventually himself became the Bugaboos Area Manager. 

“I often heard Leo say that he was just along for the ride, but watching them together, I disagree. They would face a problem, discuss it together, and then they would make a unified decision and just go forward with it. There was little hesitation or going in circles. It was a cool partnership.”  

The original CMH guides, Bugaboos. Left to right: Herb Bleuer, Leo Grillmair, Lloyd ‘Kiwi’ Gallagher, Hans Gmoser, Rudi Gertsch, Peter Schlunegger, Sepp Renner, Frank Stark, and Ernst Buehler. Photo: Leo Grillmair collection.

The ultimate host 

Leo spent 22 years as Area Manager and lead guide of the Bugaboos. He oversaw the construction of the lodge (plumbed it, of course), maintained it, and guided guests. He met his wife, Lynne, while she was working at the lodge as a cook. When they married, she joined him at the lodge and took over the tireless cooking, cleaning and hospitality tasks that life in the middle of nowhere required.  

Although Leo and Lynne eventually purchased an acreage in Brisco at the end of the bumpy dirt road that leads to the Bugaboos, the lodge was their home for much of the year.

“Being at the lodge was like being at Leo and Lynne’s house,” Dave explained. 

Leo enjoyed socializing with guests, often playing cards into the evening, singing, yodeling, and playing Austrian folk music with Hans for an audience. He had a talent for rich storytelling and routinely held the CMH dining room rapt with an animated retelling of one misadventure or another. 

“He made it a point to make sure people felt welcome. But he did it in a very natural way that didn’t feel forced. He was just open. There was no false politeness. He was just himself, and he made the lodge a great place to be that was comfortable and cozy. He wanted you to feel like it was your place, too, and he did that by being generous and open and without having to say it.” 

Leo’s style of hosting others is a legacy that lives on today, Rob echoed. 

“His way of welcoming everyone as a guest into our home is the unique style that is CMH hospitality. He helped create an environment where people’s background or status in the outside world seems less relevant as we share an amazing experience together and part as friends. 

“I can’t imagine how many people across the globe and over the many decades counted him as a friend and whose lives he enriched from the time they spent with him skiing, hiking and climbing in the Bugaboos.” 

What you see is what you get 

Leo’s no-frills mannerisms sometimes came off as gruffness, but people seemed to love him for it all the same.  

“He was direct and he was honest,” Dave said. “With Leo, there was no hidden agenda. You knew where you stood. He didn’t have much of a filter and just said it like it was. I admired him for that, and I think it was the thing that endeared him to so many people. He wasn’t putting on a show. It was like, ‘If you want to go out in the mountains, let’s go, but you’d better keep up.’” 

Leo’s technical skills and physical strength, combined with the joy he exuded while he was guiding, led guests from all over the world—some with vast mountain experience themselves—to want to be with him. Those he hosted included everyone from regular people to royalty and politicians, like former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.  

Leo guiding Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau with Allan Moore RCMP bodyguard, Timothy & Wendy Porteous on Mt Colin, Jasper, 1968. CMH archive.

“For me, one of the most outstanding things with Leo was how passionate he was about being in the mountains and about skiing. His energy was super infectious,” Dave said. “He engendered a lot of respect because he was not only a strong guy physically, but he was highly competent in the mountains. He also seemed to have a lot of faith in his guests. People loved him for that and wanted to follow him.” 

His faith in others included his colleagues. 

“Fundamentally, I think he just respected people. He let them do their thing,” Dave said. “He was tremendously loyal and protective of his guides and staff.” 

“What I tried to take away from Leo was the way he made people feel. When I became Area Manager, I didn’t want to mess that up. I wanted it to continue to be that amazing place where people could feel at home. It was always on my mind.” 

The man with more than nine lives 

It was no secret that Leo moved fast, drove like a race car driver and somehow found his way out of multiple avalanches and mishaps that might’ve spelled the end for others. 

“He had a number of brushes with death that other mortals and other guides couldn’t have gotten away with, but somehow he did,” Dave said. 

“I don’t know how many people pulled Leo out of a ditch over the years,” Dave remembered, laughing. “Too many to count. He’d tear up and down the road to the Bugaboos and would regularly need a hand getting out of the ditch for one reason or another.” 

In 2010 at a celebration for his 80th birthday, Leo told a reporter it was a wonder he’d made it so far. 

“At my lifestyle, it’s amazing,” Leo commented. “Someone once said to me that I had horseshoes up my ass. I told them I had an entire damn ranch.” 

A candid Leo moment. Provided by Chic Scott.

Leo’s skiing sometimes mirrored his zero-hesitation approach, though it was always with a combination of skill, knowledge and experience.  

“He just looked at terrain and went for it. He was famous for taking off with a yodel and hammering all the way to the bottom of the run without stopping,” Dave said. “His guests had to do their best to keep up.”  

As for the yodel?  

“He was a beautiful yodeler. I think it was a gesture of happiness for being out in the mountains and doing what he loved to do,” Dave mused. “It was an expression of joy.”  

Online tributes at the news of Leo’s death were dotted with similar sentiments of a life lived at full volume.   

“Leo had more lives than a cat and never took things too seriously,” one friend posted. “An incredible life, an unparalleled legacy. Nine lives were truly not enough,” commented another. 

There ‘till the end 

When Leo eventually retired, he never truly left CMH. He enjoyed life with Lynne, travelled extensively, relished time spent with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and devoted more time to making beautiful woodworking creations in his workshop. But he was never far.

From left: Leo enjoying time in the mountains with his children Carl and Elizabeth (Liesl), and wife Lynne. Photo by Brad White.

 For many years, he would go to the Bugaboos for a meal and a hello, and to check on the place he poured his heart and life’s work into. He would sometimes barge into the President’s office in Banff and interrupt things for a long-winded chat and to hear the latest.  

And even until last winter, Leo would drive over to the Bugaboos heli-pad in his blue station wagon on most exchange days to be a part of the hubbub. Newer guests were often unaware that they were standing next to the man partly responsible for the experience they were about to enjoy.  

At the heli-pad on those Saturdays, Leo was there to chat with the guides and to see longtime guests he knew well. His friends.  

“It’s nice to have so many friends here,” he was quoted saying at his 80th birthday celebration, which was held at the Bugaboos. “There are so many really good friends who have been with me for so long. What else is more important than friends? I think a day like that, it couldn’t be nicer.” 

Leo hiking in 2015 with Bugaboo Spire in background, Purcell Range, BC. Photo by Pat Morrow.

A toast 

Join us in raising a glass or singing a tune in celebration of Leo. A man who made things happen, who was often behind the scenes but always present, and who was one of the most significant right-hand men in Canadian skiing and mountain history. 

Leo, we thank you. Everyone at CMH and across the heli-cat industry owe their livelihoods to you and to Hans, and what you created together.  

Share your memory 

If you have a memory of Leo you would like to share, we invite you to do so below so the family and others can read them.  

Leo is survived by his wife, Lynne, his two children, Carl and Elizabeth (Liesl), and his three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

At the family’s request, in lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Leo’s name to the Canadian Red Cross, an organization Leo and Lynne supported. 

Editor’s note: a special thanks to Lynn Martel and Chic Scott, whose well-researched biographical works about Leo helped inform this piece. See ‘A Life So Fascinating: Leo Grillmair‘ written by Lynn Martel and published by the Alpine Club of Canada; and ‘Leo Grillmair – Pushing the Limits: the Legacy | Episode Seven‘ an enhanced interview by Chic Scott in partnership with the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Thanks also to Topher Donahue, author of Bugaboo Dreams: A Story of Skiers, Helicopters & Mountains.

33 Responses to “Remembering Leo Grillmair”

  1. Diane and Mike Jensen Avatar
    Diane and Mike Jensen

    Thank you for the notice!
    It was so great to meet Leo and Lynn last year at the Bugaboos.
    My wife Diane received her million foot suit from Dave. We enjoyed Leo’s love and a great evening of Dave’s hilarious
    Presentation Celebration of Diane’s achievement.
    We have enjoyed so many years of joy in what Leo and Hans have developed into perfection. What a great man!!!
    Blessings to Lynn and all his family and All ya All at CMH.
    We will continue to enjoy the legacy he and Hans started!
    Love from Mike and Diane Jensen

  2. Peter R Freund Avatar
    Peter R Freund

    Fantastic and well done. A human legend!

  3. Eleanor Allgood Avatar
    Eleanor Allgood

    I was both touched and fascinated as I read this memorial tribute to Leo Grillmair tonight. I met Leo and Hans Gmoser in the mid-seventies with my husband, Walter Robinson, who introduced me to The Alpine Club of Canada and hiking in the mountains. These men inspired me and I began a life-long practice of heli-hiking in the Rockies that continues to give me so much joy. I have a deep respect for the women and men who guide us and teach us in our magnificent mountains. Leo was a pioneer in this noble endeavour.

  4. Fred Harris Avatar
    Fred Harris

    I have many fond memories of times spent with Leo in the Bugaboos skiing, chatting and sharing dinner in the lodge. He was an outstanding individual and icon in the climbing and ski world. I feel blessed to have known him.

  5. Michael Rosenbaum Avatar

    I skied once with Leo although I don’t remember which area it was. When I skied with him I was unaware of his history with CMH and only found out later that evening. I spent time with him that night and frankly thanked him for helping create the most fantastic thing you can do- heli ski.

  6. Michael Rosenbaum Avatar

    I skied once with Leo although I don’t remember which area it was. When I skied with him I was unaware of his history with CMH and only found out later that evening. I spent time with him that night and thanked him for helping create the most fantastic thing you can do- heli ski.

  7. Sarah Leete Avatar
    Sarah Leete

    For 2 summers in the early ’70s as part of the Young Explorers program I wrangled a. team of horses from Martinsville. Leo called me. the Rossknecht. Never knew if it was a compliment or not!! Lots of laughs both summer and winter

  8. Elinor Florence Avatar

    What a great tribute, Kelsey.
    My condolences, Lynne.
    Rest in peace, Leo.

  9. Don Drake Avatar
    Don Drake

    My first encounter with Leo was in the 1980’s when I took my family helisking at the bugaboos. I remember that it was not Leo, but Lay-o. My youngest son was 12 years old and at that time they had never had a 12 year old Heli skiing. My son did great and was always right behind Leo as we went down the mountain. During that week Mark Kingsbury came to the Bugaboos just to see how a 12 year would do. They were satisfied that a 12 year would do just fine. The week was the week of Christmas and Leo made it very festive. Christmas Eve they lit all the candles on the Christmas tree and sang songs mostly in German. It was a Christmas my family will never forget. We have wondered how long they continued to put candles on the Christmas tree. It seemed dangerous, but was beautiful. The Bugaboos was always a special place mainly because of Leo. I skied there 6 times the last time was when Dave Cochraine was the lodge manager. I first met Dave at the Caraboos when he was assistant manager under Ernst.
    I will always remember Leo yodeling as we skied down the mountain so that we would know where he was. He was one of a kind and one of the best.

  10. reyl Avatar

    I’d been lucky to meet Leo and his wife thanks to Andy at bburns, they invited us to theire home at th end of the week, great moment,
    My first time at CMH was Bburns with my father around 2005, he made me discover rockies and heliski,
    After many years Ireally wanted to come back at bburns in memory of my father, and we met Leo and Line, it was a really special time,
    And for the story, my father died the first May too (2015)…
    It has been an honor to meet Leo

    I will share my photos

  11. Mark Jurisic Avatar
    Mark Jurisic

    Living your best life with dignity, courage, respect and a sense of excited! Salute

  12. Frances Firmin Avatar
    Frances Firmin

    Geoff and I met Leo some 15 or more years ago, he was already a “senior” but gently exuded and shared his incredible enthusiasm for the mountains and the heli-adventures we so enjoyed. We usually travelled to Bugs in April and for several years were blessed to ski with both Leo and Hans and their wonderful wives and to share amazing evenings filled with stories and laughter. Thank you Leo for being you and for encouraging so many people to love and respect the mountains as you did.

  13. Jim Graves Avatar
    Jim Graves

    I met Leo in 1971 on my first CMH trip (17 in all). I was with Brooks and Anne Dodge and Joe and Ann Jones who had brought the first American group to heli-ski with CMH a few years before. We had 6 days of wind crust before a big powder dump the last day; being on 212 Rossi GS skis didn’t help. I had the time of my life! Leo was a great guide, host and story teller. Hans was also a great guy, but Leo was the charmer. Those guys made CMH and I never heli-skiied with another outfit. Over the years, the lodges got nicer, the protocols improved from lessons learned, but Leo remained the same, a simple, straight forward, very funny guy who loved folks and loved what he did.

  14. Marcel Gisquet Avatar
    Marcel Gisquet

    Greetings, my heartfelt condolences to Lay-o s family and friends.Though I never knew him I grieve with you. Men like Lay-o and the rare few like him have enriched our lives by teaching us the joys of the mountains and the life style they offer. It’s clear from the attributes you have distinguished him with; direct, honest, without pretense, gregarious and humble. The mountains teach you that and it’s clear that Lay-o was a great student.
    Since I did not know him what strikes me best is what Dave said about the decision making , it was collaborative and unified , forward looking with no going around in circles. My tribute to Lay-o will be to emulate that process and think of him when doing it. We live on in those who remember us and it sounds like he will be remembered for a very long time.
    One last thing , perhaps his greatest quality from what I have read is that he had faith in people that’s the key that opens peoples heart to one another.
    Let’s not forget the fun part of his life. I probably know a great many of the lyrics of the songs he sang and they are a wonderful expression of the love he had for the mountain life he embodies.
    Thank you all for sharing it has enriched me.

    Zum wohle und Aufgehts !
    Marcel Gisquet

  15. Roy Henderson Avatar
    Roy Henderson

    CMH was my introduction to Heli-Skiing in the mid 80’s… loved every minute and foot of election skied.

  16. David Hummel Avatar
    David Hummel

    As you can see by my email address, I was a CMH client for about 35 years and 8.5 million vertical feet. Sorry to say at age 83, the old body can no longer handle any more skiing. Reading Leo’s life history brings back many fond memories of times at Bugaboo Lodge. A number of my trips included our two sons who have each exceeded one million vertical. Great times heli-skiing with my kids were the best family experiences in my life. When I first met Leo in about 1978, I was somewhat intimidated by his aggresive guiding style. As the years went by, I began to look forward to seeing and skiing with him. In more recent years it was fun visiting with him at the heli-pad. One fond memory was a day of skiing with Leo after Dave took over the Lodge operation. Without the management duties, Leo was just out to have fun. We were nearing the end of a great run and Leo said, ” if we just cut through these trees, we can pass the other group and get an extra pickup.” We did it.

  17. Mike Desmond Avatar
    Mike Desmond

    My dad wrote this in response to the email regarding Leo’s passing. I’m not sure that emails are being posted here, so I thought I’d copy / paste it.

    Regarding Leo’s passing:

    I have been up 21 times and have about 2.3 million feet. The first time I took my son MIke Desmond to the Bugaboos he was about 17. One day Leo was our guide when we were somewhere close to Rory Creek. Leo took off and we followed him but when we all stopped Mike was not there. I asked Leo where Mike was? He said “I sent him down to the bottom. He’s too fast for his old man.” He was correct. Now Mike is 54 and he books a CMH trip every year. At 81, I don’t feel that I am still up to the challenge of heli-skiing but I still ski every winter.

    Leo was an inspiration and his stories were fantastic. I specifically remember the time he told a story about himself when in the summer he was going to hike up to the Conrad Kain hut and some of the fellow guides put weights or rocks in the bottom of his pack. He got to his destination and he was just exhausted. They got him that time.

    He is gone but he and Hans left a legacy beyond their wildest dreams. Thanks to both of them for all the wonderful adventures they made possible for many thousands of skiers.

    They will never be forgotten.

    Tom Desmond

  18. Caroline Kahn Avatar
    Caroline Kahn

    What a beautiful tribute to Leo. It was an honor to meet him and Lynn at Bobbie Burns in February and stop by their home on the way back to Calgary. Leo will be missed. My deepest condolences to Lynn and her family.

  19. Doug Dykeman Avatar
    Doug Dykeman

    Saddened to hear of Leo’s passing.
    He was truly one of a kind.
    I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to fly Leo, Lynn, his family, and many friends around his beloved mountains. He was like a kid in a candy store in that environment, and his enthusiasm and passion for life was contagious. It was all smiles and laughter.
    And he was also a tough son of a B!! I remember him cracking his ribs in a collision with a tree stump in the Gothics one Presidents Week. He went to Revelstoke hospital that afternoon, and was back on skis the next day!!! Incredible!
    A long satisfying life lived.
    I am sure Hans was waiting for him with a freshly tuned set of skis.
    Farewell old friend.

  20. […] Rest in peace Leo, you will always be remembered. Read more here. […]

  21. Don Vockeroth Avatar
    Don Vockeroth

    Very rare being did not ask for
    attention, understand human
    behavior. Person with boundless energy, knowledge and helpfulness. A role model to

    1. Don Vockeroth Avatar
      Don Vockeroth

      Met Leo as a young 18 year old climber he was a hero. I recall some years later on a early ACMG
      Guides exam where as aspiring guides we were assigned a compass problem through forest
      swamp wet lands. Leo was examining, Charlie L and l
      we’re sitting against a tree
      resting when we saw Leo
      compass in hand working
      through the landscape.
      I yelled Leo you lost, got
      a quick reply “not funny”
      After a encouraging talk
      he let us go on. At the closing ceremony where
      I received a Guides license
      Leo privately aside said l
      almost failed you. I often
      felt my comments showed a lack of commitment.
      For decades Leo has remained a role model.

  22. Sigrun Schlüter Avatar
    Sigrun Schlüter

    Obwohl ich diesen Pionier leider nicht kennen gelernt habe, bin ich beeindruckt von dieser Lebensgeschichte und in Anbetracht der Tatsache, dass Leo Grillmair Österreicher war und viele Gäste aus dem deutschsprachigen Raum kommen, schreibe ich bewusst in seiner Muttersprache und erweise ihm hiermit die letzte Ehre. Ruhe in Frieden und schaue von oben auf die wunderschönen Berge, die durch eine Reise mit einem Helikopter, auch in meinem Leben, zu einem unvergesslichen Erlebnis wurden. Danke dafür Sigrun Schlüter

  23. Harry Patterson Avatar
    Harry Patterson

    I would have been 12 or 13 when my dad Art Patterson took me ski touring with Leo in Roger’s Pass. (One of the guests would unmount and re mount his bindings in the hotel lobby depending on the snow!) One day we skied across from the hotel and were met at the bottom by the army Howitzer crew who had already closed the road! Another day we skied Fidelity up to the cabin and met Willie Phister who had some kind words for us. As I recall the line we took down Fidelity was skiers right from the cabin and quite tight trees. At the highway we were missing a couple of skiers and I recall Art asking Willie where he thought they were. Oh they’re up in those F—ing trees somewhere!! And I recall a day at a nostalgia week in the Bugaboos and the most delightful time with Leo skiing but mostly chatting. “Right here was my first helicopter crash and there was another one just over there!” And a time he was coming to Banff to see Mark Heard and was a bit late because he had rolled his truck at the Sunshine turnoff! Great memories of a great time and a wonderful person! Thank you Leo. Harry Patterson

    1. Ellen Chase Avatar
      Ellen Chase

      Nice memories , Harry. I hope these old mountaineers are remembered. We are lucky enough to have experienced the mountains in ways that can never be repeated. Hope you are well
      Your cousin . Ellen

  24. Andreas Marcher Avatar
    Andreas Marcher

    I met and skied with Leo in the Adamants Lodge (12 years ago) and was told some wonderful stories about the beginning of Heli skiing. A true legend and pioneer of the sport! My condolences to the family and the CMH family!

  25. Anne Sasso Avatar
    Anne Sasso

    Leo was a surrogate dad for the two seasons that I worked in the Bugaboos. He was gruff but affectionate, and I loved him for it.
    He picked me up at the airport on my first CMH summer. I white knuckled the drive from Calgary to the lodge, wondering what the heck I had signed up for. I remember him hugging the inside of the curves, whether it was his lane or the oncoming one, regardless of how blind they were.
    He was generous. He lent me his old blue pickup on my time off. And pulled me out of the ditch when I drove too fast up that darn bumpy road.
    He always welcomed me to his hiking groups because I knew all the wildflowers and happily answered guest questions.
    When I returned for my first winter CMH season, he welcomed me again. Teased me for wanting to ski so much but trusted me to stay at the back of the pack and keep a close eye on any lagging guests.
    Leo was unable, however, to teach me to yodel.
    Leo and Lynne were the heart of the Bugaboos. I have so many fantastic memories of my time there. And I will always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me.
    My deep condolences, Lynne and family for your loss.
    RIP, Leo. Thank you for all the turns and all the laughs.
    Anne Sasso, Bugaboo Laundry Girl, Summer ’84 & Winter ’87-’88

  26. Howard Hirsch Avatar
    Howard Hirsch

    My first year in the Bugaboos was 1973. Leo was an inspiration. Trying to keep up with him on a run was challenging. I remember him singing and yodeling with Hans playing the guitar. I drove to the lodge that summer with my wife. He was a great host. I have great memories of those weeks in the Bugaboos and the other lodges. 5 1/2 million feet of skiing and snowboarding. I miss the guides, the guests, the staff, and especially Leo, Hans and Mark. May they rest in peace.


    Thanks for sharing the (sad) news.
    I had the fortune of knowing and skiing with him during the eighties in the Bugaboos. We just loved the place!!
    Leo and Toni, who played the zither during dinner and the rest, always tried there best so we would have a great time, not only skiing, but at the lodge . One spring day the whole stuff organized a BBQ and a soccer match over a frozen lake with our ski boots on 🎿. Unforgettable!!
    It was almost spring time and a video was made called BUGABEACH.
    Rest in peace and servus, dear Leo,German Gamazo -Madrid

  28. Bryan (Million-footer) Avatar
    Bryan (Million-footer)

    What ever became of Leo’s first wife (and their separation) and his third child ?
    What an awesome life !

    1. Kelsey Verboom Avatar
      Kelsey Verboom

      Thanks for your comment, Bryan. You can read about Leo’s life in more detail here:

  29. Randall Putnam Avatar
    Randall Putnam

    More memories from the early 70’s at the Bugs… narrow stairways, bunkbeds, smoke, schnapps, laughter, long and narrow skis, Home Run, leather boots and long thongs, men… real men not putting up with pansies, first to pitch in and help, sawing off trees near the landings, respect for the mountains. CMH is woven into the fabric of my big family — I’m grateful to Leo and Hans for exemplifying what it. means to serve others.

  30. Gail Walters Avatar
    Gail Walters

    What an amazing life story. My late husband Fred & I spent many weeks with CMH and quite a few at the Bugaboos. Dave was a great manager and fun to be around. I have so many great memories of times spent skiing with CMH.
    Leo will be missed but never forgotten.


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