When you think about it, skiing is kind of a ridiculous activity (as are most that don’t involve hunting, gathering, constructing a shelter, building a fire or running from saber tooth tigers). Add in a helicopter that flies you to the top of a mountain and it becomes the most ridiculously awesome activity on the planet. Ok, so maybe I embellished a little there, but it’s freak’n rad, and if you enjoy skiing or boarding in the least little bit I highly recommend you do it at least once in your life.
Canadian Mountain Holiday (CMH) is the oldest (since 1965), and largest, heli-skiing operation in the world. It’s safe to say they have the heli-skiing system dialed! Our friend Carl organized the trip to the Galena Lodge. The idea was simple: find 10 skiers/snowboarders of moderate skill and go heli-skiing in Canada for a week. Why 10? Because is more fun to ski with a bunch of friends and that’s the number that will fill the heli – we wanted to maximize our time skiing instead of waiting on some random assholes to fall their way down the mountain. Of the plethora of lodges CMH operates, why the Galena Lodge? In a word: Terrain! The terrain surrounding the lodge is rumored to be best in terms of pitch, trees, pillows, cliffs, etc. I have no basis for comparison or ability to substantiate that claim as I’ve never visited any other lodge, but all I can say is the terrain did NOT disappoint.
Heli-skiing is tailored to the wealthy and our group certainly did NOT fit the typical heli-skiing demographic. In order to save a few bucks we organized a “fusion” trip which meant we had 4 days of pure heli (60,000ft vert guarantee) and 3 days of heli-assisted touring. The average net worth of a typical guest is quite high and the design/accoutrements/refinements of the lodge reflected that fact. It was gorgeous! The lodge sleeps 44 guests (not including staff) and was complete with a giant hot tub, sauna, steam room, 4 massage rooms, game room (darts, foosball and a pool table), stretch/yoga room, workout room, a few different offices, bar, dining room and equipment drying room. The staff of the lodge consisted of 2 massage therapists, 2 chefs, 2 heli pilots, a heli mechanic, a bartender, 3 or 4 house keepers, a lodge manager, 6 or 7 ski guides and 2 dogs. Oh yeah, and the food was fantastic! This winter (2014-2015) was below normal for them in terms of snow pack. Don’t be fooled, they still had over like 250” of snow (equivalent to keystone’s best year EVER), but for an area that normally averages 650-700” a year, 250” is a paltry pittance.
We, however, lucked out with conditions – it snowed 3+ feet the day before we arrived and snowed another 18” mid-week while we were there. Which wasn’t really surprising since Chris Davenport was heli-skiing out of an “adjacent” lodge that same week……I’ll just let the pictures tell the rest of the story.