Jan 27, 2010

Becoming a Ski Millionaire at CMH Valemount

The crew ready to load up

A million vertical feet. I tried to sort out some sort of visual for how much vertical that covered. Skiing Everest ten times to base camp would do it, or conversely skiing my old Minnesota stomping grounds Buck Hill roughly 3,333 times (only 300 feet of vertical built on an old trash dump). Either way I was stoked to have accumulated all my feet at CMH Valemount. Located in British Columbia in the Colombia Mountain range, the majority of my million was skied through un-tracked alpine and trees covered in deep powder to the tune of gleeful shrieks. Okay - maybe there were a few off days here or there due to mother nature but on the whole I was a happy millionaire.

What a good lookin’ suit!

One of my favorite days out

The excitement all unfolded at Valemount, one of Canadian Mountain Holiday’s heli-ski lodges with the yearly cast of characters (we now call ourselves Jerry and Gina’s kids). I was told I would hit the magic number sometime that week, only 40,000 meters (131,000 feet) to go. No problemo if our weather cooperated because Valemount is for the true ski addict. Ten people, two guides and one helicopter often result in days topping 15,000 meters (50,000 feet) or more.

The crew making the tunnel

The beginning of the week was filled with the light sparkly snow consistency you read about and we managed to log a 13,000 meter day. Wednesday afternoon a weather system moved in giving us a few down days to chill around the plush lodge which also touted cross country ski trails, a gym, yoga and bouldering area. Friday morning, our last day arrived. I glanced again at the daily meter count and found I was only a few meters short. The breakfast weather report did not sound promising but we set out to try to “see what we could see” as the guides say. White out soupy conditions prevented us from landing anywhere and denied me my last run, or so I thought.

Navigating Desperado

No biggie, I thought to myself, its all about the journey, I will bag my suit next year (a suit is awarded from CMH proclaiming you are a million footer when you hit the zenith mark). The chopper turned around and instead of heading home landed at the top of a logged cut block area out behind the lodge. Local loggers had harvested much of the diseased young timber in the area to prevent the beetle kill from spreading. The guide pointed to me and we hopped out leaving everyone else inside.  Surprised, I donned skis and watched as they flew down a few hundred feet and landed.

Celebrating with Jerry, Gina and champagne

“What are we doing?” I asked. “Getting you your last few feet!” he replied. We skied through heavy snow weight on our tails careful to avoid the cut logs underneath. At the bottom my great posse had made the traditional tunnel of poles overhead and I skied down through rains soaked snow mush and loud cheers to my new suit waiting at the bottom. We deemed the new run “Desperado” and thanks to my pal Jerry, our crew has become family over the last five years and I cherish each run I have skied with them.

The Valemount Curling Club
The special suit…

Later in the night we returned to the lodge where a special surprise awaited which requires some background information. In addition to skiing with my pals for the past five years I also met my fiance, Danny, at the lodge. A sort of million foot celebration/impromptu bachelorette party ensued. The fun-loving gals on the trip had taken one of Danny’s old neon 80’s style CMH guide suits and transformed it into a new fashion creation which I have to say was an improvement on the original. I wore it after dinner for some late night dancing but had to change for the limbo contest. I have saved the special suit and left it hanging in the lodge, but will prefer my new suit for the actual skiing downhill. The day could not have been better (we even curled in the afternoon) and many many thanks to Jerry, Gina, Jeff, Becky, Tom, Helen, Robbie, Bernadette and the Good Doctor Jim for making the last feet the best feet.


A special thanks to the legendary John Eaves for capturing some of it on film - don’t know who he is? Ever seen James Bond’s “For Your Eyes Only”? Remember the ski scene? Click here for more info on the ski-stunt legend, and click here to see him in action.