BANFF, Alberta -- Clients yearning to hike the high mountain
meadows of the Canadian Rockies can take the path of least
resistance by booking a heli-hiking package with Canadian Mountain
"We like to encourage people to get out of their [tour] buses
and cars," said Jane Hay, director of marketing heli-hiking for the
company. The company also offers mountaineering and heli-skiing
products. The company, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of
its helicopter-assisted hiking travel packages this summer, pairs
high-mountain hikes with stays at small alpine lodges offering
dining and accommodations.
Canadian Mountain Holiday, or CMH, was founded by Hans Gmoser 32
years ago. He teamed up with a geologist named Art Patterson, who
had the idea of using helicopters to shuttle skiers to the pristine
slopes of the Rockies. According to CMH, the skiers loved the idea
so much they persuaded the company to build a lodge with a
helicopter landing pad.
The 24-room Bugaboo Lodge, built in 1968, is one of four lodges
equipped to house heli-hiking and heli-skiing guests. The Bugaboo,
Bobbie Burns, Adamant and Cariboo lodges each accommodate nearly 50
guests, assuring small hiking groups and a less-populated
"Basically, there are 44 guests in the lodge at one time and
they are divided into hiking groups with a maximum of 11 people,"
Hay said, "and what we plan for them depends on the weather that
day and what they want to do."
Hay said that a longstanding relationship with Westport,
Conn.-based Tauck Tours has taught CMH how to cater to the average
consumer rather than just mountaineering aficionados and other
special-interest travelers. "Arthur Tauck came up with the idea of
heli-hiking when he was bringing one of his sons heli-skiing in one
of our areas in 1977," Hay said. "He wondered what we did with our
lodges in the summertime, so he phoned Hans Gmoser to ask about a
motorcoach trip starting out with seven days in the Canadian
Rockies, visiting Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Then they would go
to the Cariboo Lodge for heli-hiking for two days."
Since then, the company has grown to accommodate 6,500
heli-skiers and 3,000 heli-hikers per year, he said, adding that
Tauck accounts for about 2,000 hikers each year. Although CMH
counts hard-core mountaineers and daredevil skiers among its
clients, the firm also caters to guests who are novices at mountain
hiking -- as long as they can clamber aboard a helicopter and have
no significant health problems, they can enjoy the view from near
"Having dealt with Tauck Tours for so long, we're really good at
dealing with people who don't hike a lot," Hay said. "I had a
couple -- the woman was 90 and the man was 92. For these groups, we
would land them in spots that are level and easy for walking. We
use the term walking [rather than hiking] a lot because it's
basically walking in the mountains." Those with an aversion to high
altitudes also can take heart because the hikes take place between
6,000 and 8,000 feet rather than in higher elevations. The
guide-to-guest equation is one guide for every three guests on the
more technical hikes and climbs.
CMH also caters to clients by providing hiking boots, parkas and
other gear. The company also sells medical insurance that includes
emergency helicopter evacuation.
Contrary to what one might expect with a special-interest travel
company, CMH provides excellent support to travel agents. CMH
launched a concierge service last summer that equips its clients
with all they need for extended stays in the region. "If agents
have an FIT client who wants to go heli-hiking and also wants to
spend, say, two weeks in Vancouver, our concierge will book the
hotels, the rental cars and the trains and we will give them the
commisionable price back. What's happened in the past is that
because the average stay is just three nights, travel agents say,
'Gee, all that work,' so we put the entire package together, and it
really helps our business."
CMH also is a member of the exclusive Texas-based Allied
Percival International consortium, which offers a certification
program for U.S. agents selling adventure travel packages.
Canadian Mountain Holiday, Phone: (800) 661-0252 or (403)
762-7100, Fax: (403) 762-5879