Choosing the Right Heli Ski Operation for Your Trip
We’re often asked by prospective guests “How do you compare to CMH?” So we thought we’d take some time to explore the main differences and help you make a better decision about which operation might suit you best for your heli ski trip to Canada.
Heli Ski Terrain
The majority of CMH Heli Skiing lodges are located in south-central BC, in the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains, near the towns of Revelstoke and Golden, and in the Kootenays. This area gets exceptional powder snow and has great terrain for backcountry skiing and riding. But its southern location means it typically has a slightly shorter ski season and gets less total snow than the Skeena Mountains in Northern BC where we do the majority of our skiing at Northern Escape Heli Skiing (NEH).
Since many of the CMH lodges are larger and the groups are bigger, if there are challenging weather conditions, and if terrain options are limited by avalanche risk, it stands to reason that individual skiers would have less untracked snow to ski in larger groups vs smaller groups.
At NEH, our small groups can spread out, find their own lines, and all enjoy fresh tracks without having to ski tight-knit to preserve snow for the next group. As well, our longer ski season means December and April skiing at NEH is usually better than operations further south. At NEH, we have one of the largest heli ski tenures in BC, so there’s always enough fresh snow to ski with only 2 (or at most 3) machines running on any given day.
NEH is also one of the few heli ski operations anywhere to have snowcat skiing backup, so we (almost) never have down days, like at other lodges.
Group Sizes and Abilities
The standard group size at CMH is 11 skiers, plus a guide. So if you’re someone who prefers skiing in bigger groups (or you have a lot of ski buddies) this can be a good option. Generally, larger ski groups move through the mountains a bit slower, which can be nice for less experienced skiers, as you have more time to rest on the way down. Indeed, we find that most CMH guests tend to be intermediate-advanced level skiers (with some lodges offering expert programs), whereas the typical NEH guest tends to be an advanced-expert skier. Depending on where you’re at ability-wise, you may want to choose your BC heli ski trip based on that. (Note: at NEH we accommodate less advanced skiers too, but most of our guests are on the stronger side).
CMH uses larger Bell 212 helicopters for their heli ski tours, as they are typically running with 3 or 4 groups of 11 skiers sharing the same machine. These are very safe and capable machines and well-suited to CMH’s group sizes. (Note: CMH does offer smaller group options using A-Stars at an increased cost.)
At NEH, we have based all our heli ski trips on smaller groups, with two groups of 5 skiers for the Elite Program, three groups of 6 skiers for the Classic Program, and one group of only 4-5 skiers for our Private Heli Ski Program. We use the ultra-powerful Koala Helicopter as our machine of choice, as this works well with our skiers who like to do more challenging terrain and big vertical days and move through the mountains faster.
Lodges and Amenities
Most of CMH’s 11 lodges tend to be on the larger size, with up to 48 guests at a time. At NEH, we have smaller, boutique-style heli ski lodges. Our Yellow Cedar Lodge accommodates only 18 guests, our Mountain Lodge 10 guests, and our private lodge just 5 guests. We find this more personal touch to be preferred by our guests and staff.
Dining is a key part of the luxury ski experience, and the food quality at CMH is first-rate. But our guests often tell us that the plated gourmet meals served by our Red Seal culinary team are the best they’ve had at any heli ski lodge.
The main disadvantage of the CMH lodges is the absence of a major airport nearby. Therefore, CMH guests usually fly into Calgary or Kelowna and need to take a 3-5 hour bus ride (depending on the lodge and winter driving conditions) to get there. NEH’s location is very close to Terrace, which is a major hub for Northern BC, with 5 or more flights each day, so there’s never a long bus ride before or after a trip, just a quick 20-min shuttle to and from the airport.
We hope this article has outlined some of the main differences between CMH and NEH and helped you decide which is a better fit for your luxury ski vacation. Regardless which you choose, both CMH and NEH are excellent operations and you will have an amazing heli ski trip to BC with either one.
Heli Skiing with Northern Escape
Since 2004, Northern Escape Heli Skiing has operated small group heli skiing in Northern BC’s Skeena Mountains, near Terrace, BC. Named World’s Best Heli Ski Operator in 2022 by the World Ski Awards, our premium ski experience, three boutique lodges, snowcat skiing backup and big mountain, deep powder terrain attracts riders from around the world. Our lodges are easily accessible from Vancouver via Terrace Airport.