– February 1, 2023 | Words by Kelsey Verboom –
I consider myself someone who enjoys learning about, creating, and eating great food. My cookbook shelf requires regular reinforcement to prevent it from collapsing under the weight of my growing collection of food-focused daydreams.
Even so, I wasn’t expecting what I found when I travelled to British Columbia’s wilderness with CMH on a special trip last summer.
What I was expecting
Much to my delight, I was invited to join the first-ever Alpine Appétit heli-hiking experience, which made its debut at CMH Bobbie Burns in August 2022. This summer trip combines helicopter-accessed hiking with elevated dining experiences from some of CMH’s most skilled chefs, plus paired beverage tastings. Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, and chefs are given the creative freedom to bring to life wishlist meals they wouldn’t create on a typical day in the kitchen.
Full disclosure: I work on CMH’s marketing team. My assignment was to experience the trip, take photos, take notes, and bring the intel back to my office-based colleagues to grow a deeper understanding of this new opportunity for guests.
But don’t let the fact that I pump CMH up for a living colour the words you’re reading here. I’m a critical personality (sometimes too critical), and I’ve been around the CMH dining table off and on for more than a decade. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy many delicious creations from talented CMH chefs over the years, so I will admit I was unconvinced that the food at Alpine Appétit would be much different or better than it already is on any other given day.
Instead, I found myself having a total pinch-me moment while sitting at a long dining table lit by the evening sun at the remote, yet luxury-packed Bobbie Burns lodge, feeling pleasantly far from the demands of everyday life.
As I sipped my way through a wine sampling of the Okanagan Valley’s finest and used a forkful of tender veal cheek to mop up every possible morsel of just-sweet-enough grape sofrito jam, it occurred to me how surreal it was that I was experiencing this level of food in a remote wilderness location most would describe as the middle of nowhere. That thought made me savour each bite even more.
This delicious snapshot occurred during the final evening of the three-day getaway. The previous days’ menus had been building toward the trip’s culinary crescendo: a five-course Winemaker’s Dinner conceived by Chef Patrick Butrey, each course thoughtfully paired with a different glass of wine from British Columbia’s Hester Creek Estate Winery.
This was the instant that fully obliterated my initial skepticism about what kind of food I would encounter.
The meals and beverage experiences at Alpine Appétit easily exceeded every expectation I previously had. It also redefined for me what our passionate culinary and hospitality teams are capable of, despite the logistical challenges of offering such an experience in a location where the only way to deliver food and drink is via helicopter or a one-hour drive up a bumpy, dirt logging road (think shaken, not stirred).
Here’s a look at the menu of the Winemaker’s Dinner with Hester Creek Estate Winery (Summer 2022)
Saffron citronette, apple-fennel mignonette, pickled mustard. Paired with a glass of 2021 Old Vine Trebbiano.
Grape sofrito jam, potato crisp, plum gelee. Paired with 2021 Cabernet Franc Rose.
Vanilla parsnip puree, hazelnut gremolata, chocolate demi-glace. Paired with a glass of 2019 Garland, and 2019 The Judge.
Charred peach pavlova
Served with a glass of 2018 Old Vine Brut to finish.
No food snobbery here
I realize that my description of the bite that blew my mind verges into something that sounds like food snob territory, but I promise you that was not the case at Alpine Appétit.
I think that’s what I liked the most about this trip — the food was incredible, but the atmosphere was casual and welcoming. Everything felt relaxed, and the effect was a room full of people who were simply enjoying themselves. No one was hung up on which fork you were using, but everyone was excitedly murmuring over their favourite spoonfuls and cheers-ing each other.
For this reason, I’d say this trip is for anyone who appreciates good food and enjoys sharing that experience with other like-minded souls. You absolutely do not need to be a gourmet guru, a food critic or an aspiring chef; if you simply like feeling happily full, satisfied and well-cared for, this is for you.
Full bellies, full hearts
Here’s a sample of other memorable food moments that led up to the Winemaker’s Dinner grand finale:
Post-welcome lunch and a safety briefing, we headed into the alpine to explore a basin dotted with wildflowers, tarns, and a waterfall that screamed Lord of the Rings. We whetted our hiking appetites for a while and then returned to the lodge, where an evening of cocktails and tapas awaited us. The cocktails were courtesy of Banff’s Park Distillery, and we had the opportunity to learn a bit about the distilling process from the head distiller while sipping our first taste of small-batch spirits.
With a lightly spicy Sawback cocktail in hand (chili vodka shaken with pineapple and lime juice, agave nectar, and Triple Sec), we were called out to the lodge’s wraparound deck, where Chef Sue Shih had prepared a sprawling spread of tapas. We were encouraged to hop from station to station and sample everything on offer, which included sticky pineapple chicken, edamame hummus with homemade sesame crackers, grilled vegetables and a fall-apart tender roast. It was the perfect casual, flavourful start to the days ahead.
Favourable weather allowed the guides to take those who wanted to on a Via Ferrata route, while other groups opted to do another hike instead.
Afterward, Vancouver-based 33 Acres Brewing Co. provided the featured craft brews for our second dinner, which was a seated meal in the dining room with the balcony doors flung open to the smell of charcoal and sizzling ingredients. Outside, Chef Gerry Gallant led the charge at the BBQ, preparing a hearty, savoury feast that started with a delicate grilled apricot salad and progressed to sweet grilled corn, buttery asparagus and zucchini, spicy Cornish hen, brisket, and a cut of juicy red meat that was sliced so perfectly, I lost myself in it and forgot to write down the name of it.
A flight of West Coast Pale Ales, hazy blondes, and a dark Schawrzbier played perfectly with the BBQ-based spread. For dessert, I chose one of three options: a playful take on strawberry shortcake that surprised and delighted my tastebuds when I got to its centre and discovered a bite of Pop Rocks that snapped on my tongue. Again, this meal was thoughtful and so (SO) good, but still maintained the casual lodge atmosphere I prefer over a stuffy formal dining room.
Oh yeah, the hiking!
It’s easy to get lost in the drool-inducing meal descriptions, but let’s not forget the thing that sets Alpine Appétit apart from other food-focused trips: the surrounding landscape and days spent enjoying exclusive access hiking through old-growth forests, flower-dotted meadows, and rocky ridgelines.
Following a daily breakfast buffet with options like stuffed berry French toast or spinach cheese frittata (not to be confused with the Via Ferrata!), my group and I climbed into the helicopter with our CMH guide for a quick lift into the alpine. Thanks to the heli, we were able to travel to areas that would otherwise take days to access on foot.
One of those special places was a hike that overlooked Mt. Thorington and the sprawling Thorington Glacier. Standing at its edge with a glacial breeze that cooled us from the hot summer air, our guide, JF, taught us about the 300-million-year geological history of the Purcell Mountains. We spent hours exploring the area and didn’t see a single other person. It was glorious.
I’m a self-described slowpoke hiker, so I shared the company of a relaxed-paced group of women who similarly enjoyed stopping to learn from our knowledgeable guide and to take photos of the scenery. My hiking companions were a group of six friends who came to Alpine Appétit to celebrate one of their 60th birthdays in style. Others on the trip opted for fast-paced days that took them to multiple ridgelines and summits. The guides did a great job of grouping us by pace and preferences, so there’s no need to fret if you prefer ambling over working up a sweat.
By late afternoon, all the hiking groups converged back at the lodge on its wraparound deck. Call the phenomenon what you will, but there’s something that makes the first sip of cold beer, wine or cocktail taste exceedingly better if it’s after a day spent hiking and being outside. I’ve never been able to articulate why, but it’s true. That was certainly the case for me on this trip.
Pro tip: for every evening beverage you sip, drink a full glass of water in between (and then some). Your morning self will thank you when it’s time to lace up your hiking boots!
Alpine Appétit 2023
This summer, Alpine Appétit is again on offer August 19-22 at CMH Bobbie Burns. The 2023 featured beverage sponsors are Wild Life Distillery, Fernie Brewing Company and Phantom Creek Estates. Expect another great roster of beautiful bites, stiff sips, balanced brews and wonderful wines.
Bring an appetite, your camera, and mayyyyybe your hiking pants with the most generous waistband. You won’t regret a single bite or sip.
Note: if you crave more than three days of hiking, ask about the option to extend your adventure. You can choose from six days at the Bobbie Burns, where you’ll have three days of our regular dining program and three days of Alpine Appétit. Or you can opt for a Lodge-to-Lodge adventure, which takes you to CMH Bugaboos (with a regular dining program) following three days of Alpine Appétit at CMH Bobbie Burns.
Curious? Have a question?
Call 1-800-661-0252 or email our team to chat.