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February 5, 2024

Heli & Cat-Skiing: How It All Started Here

It was Hans Gmoser who made snowy adventure in the wild a reality. In 1965, the maverick mountain guide flew six skiers deep into the Purcell mountains via helicopter in pursuit of untracked slopes — a ground-breaking, historic journey that would redefine the boundaries of the sport, showcase the vast nature of BC’s largely untapped landscape and spawn countless deep-powder operators, including Gmoser-founded industry icon CMH Heli-skiing & Summer Adventures (formerly Canadian Mountain Holidays). 


Being first has its advantages — including having picked one of the best skiable areas in British Columbia.  Today their 12 destination lodges (10 along the Powder Highway) are tucked in the Columbia mountains and have claimed a massive tenure; 1.2-million hectares (3+ million acres) of ski/ridable terrain!

One of the first helicopters into the Purcell; photo courtesy of CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures 
Heli-skiing today; photo courtesy of CMH Heli-skiing & Summer Adventures


Hans Gmoser isn’t the only non-conformist to carve his own path in the Kootenay, either; just 10 years after heli-skiing made its first tracks, snowcat-skiing nipped at its heels, thanks to the ingenuity of  Selkirk Snowcat Skiing (formerly Selkirk Wilderness Skiing) Allan and Brenda Drury. The concept was simple: adventurers would tuck into the warmth of a snowcat, plying their way through powder to reach masses of snow in BC’s remote regions, far beyond the boundary of a resort.

Photo courtesy of Selkirk Snowcat Skiing

Over fifty years later, British Columbia has come a long way. Embracing the spirit of these early pioneers, their are 30+ heli & cat-skiing operators along the Powder Highway, showcasing diversity within the sport that boasts few equals.

You could, say, do a little day trippin’ and venture out from a resort: RK Heliski Canada lifts off from Panorama Mountain Resort, guiding groups through expansive glaciers and glade skiing in the Purcell Mountains for over 50 years; while Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing delves into the Selkirk and Monashee mountain terrain accessed from community of Revelstoke or CMH Purcell (formerly Purcell Helicopter Skiing) from Golden.   

Photo courtesy of RK Heliski Canada

If you prefer an old-school approach, opt instead for multi-day excursions that set up camp at remote lodges, complete with perks that include cosy accommodation and hearty menus to fuel the fire. Huge alpine, world-class steep tree skiing and endless pillow runs await.  And, you don’t need to be an advanced skier or boarder to take on these uncharted territories, either. On the contrary; many operators are, in act, offering programs ideal for first-time heli- and cat-skiers/riders. 

So, where to start? Visit your one-stop-shop, the Powder Highway — it has the highest concentration of heli, cat, backcountry and alpine resorts in the WORLD! 


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