Finding winter in the Cariboos

Finding winter in the Cariboos

IT DIDN’T HAPPEN UNTIL APRIL, BUT WE FOUND WHAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR


WORDS & PHOTOS | CRYSTAL SAGAN

There’s fresh snow outside our window, a sight I haven’t seen much of this winter, and the guides at CMH Cariboos lodge take it in stride as if it’s just another day. I try to do the same—playing it cool and not diving headfirst into powder panic mode—though all I really want to do is skip the pancakes and eggs and get right to the skiing part. By the time we make it outside I’m over-caffeinated and anxious, but four turns into the day I’ve forgotten everything else: It’s a bona fide powder day, and I already have the perma-grin and snow-caked face to prove it.

That April powder sure does taste good.

Normally, I wouldn’t preach the powder gospel but it’s late in the season and I’d all but given up on double-overhead days—winter at home in Colorado having left a little to be desired this year. On top of that, the good—strike that, amazing—snow in the Cariboos doesn’t end. The entirety of my seven-day stay at the lodge consists of more perma-grin and snow face days, with pillow drops, glaciers, gourmet meals, and then a bit more powder thrown in for good measure. To put it in perspective, the amount of vertical the thirty of us lodge guests ski each day is the equivalent of roughly nine “T2B” laps at Aspen Mountain (which boasts 3,267 feet of vert), the exception of course being your line is completely untouched powder.

The chariot arrives.
Follow the leader to the goods.

What stemmed from Hans Gmoser’s love for the mountains over 50 years ago has today become the premier heli-skiing operation in Canada, and arguably beyond, complete with a die-hard cult following of guests who return again and again for these endless powder days. The three-million-acre tenure (which, for reference, is 23 times larger than all North American ski resorts combined) gives guides options to choose from, allowing flexibility to explore better options when one zone’s snow or terrain isn’t what they’re looking for. Not that it’s hard to find good snow, when April brings the type of storms you’d expect to see in February. (For reference, CMH was recently purchased by Alterra Mountain Company, which produces the Ikon Pass. Ikon Pass holders get early booking privileges with CMH. For more information, click here.)

The scenery complements the incredible snow.

Halfway through the week our group is assigned to ski with a twenty-year CMH veteran guide, Otto. He’s an Austrian import with old-school Euro ski values. “I don’t want you to get bored,” he tells us through a thick accent after our first lap, “all this powder skiing all day can get boring.” And proceeds to instruct our ten-person group how to “lay down the carpet,” otherwise known as making perfectly coordinated wiggle turns. The scenery in the alpine where we’re skiing is so mind-numbingly beautiful it almost looks fake, and the snow is still completely surreal. Freshly fallen flakes catch the sun’s rays, sparkling in the light, and the weightless snow leaves cold-smoke trails three turns long—but let me get at those wiggle turns, I don’t want to get bored and lose my perma-grin.

Otto, teaching the group how to “lay down the carpet.”

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