The history of helicopter and snowcat skiing in Canada.
Throughout the last half-century, operators in British Columbia have been at the forefront of the helicopter and snowcat skiing industry and offer the safest and most highly evolved product in the world. When it comes to bringing powder to the people, BC stands alone.
Helicopter Skiing: The Pioneer
In 1964, Hans Gmoser, an Austrian mountain guide living in Banff, Alberta, began utilizing helicopters to transport skiers into the remote Bugaboo Mountains in the heart of the BC Rockies. It proved so successful that in 1968 Gmoser built a high mountain lodge and began organizing week long helicopter ski trips. Bugaboo Lodge was the beginning of what, over the next five decades, would become Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), a highly valued HeliCat Canada Member Operator that welcomes over 7000 heliskiers each winter season. In the five decades since Gmoser's initial forays into the Bugaboo Mountains, over 20 companies have been established throughout British Columbia to deliver some of the best helicopter skiing experiences in the world.
Snowcat Skiing: The Evolution
In 1965 an Ontario native working in Aspen, Colorado, noticed that snowcats were being used to shuttle skiers up an unfinished ski area whose lifts weren't yet running. Alan Drury was immediately struck with a notion to start a wilderness snowcat operation and moved to Calgary, Alberta, in search of the perfect location. A decade later, in 1975, Allan and his wife Brenda's vision of backcountry snowcat skiing in Canada became a reality when they moved to British Columbia and opened Selkirk Wilderness Skiing. A less expensive and more accessible alternative to helicopter skiing, the industry welcomed this evolution and now, over 30 years later there are snowcat skiing operations scattered throughout the province.
HeliCat Canada: The Community
The B.C. Helicopter and Snowcat Skiing Operator's Association was formed in 1978 by five helicopter skiing companies to serve as their collective body to define standards and operating guidelines. The Association expanded to include snowcat operators in 1992 and in October 2005 the name of the Association was changed to HeliCat Canada Association.
Today the Association represents the Helicopter and Snowcat Skiing Industry by:
- Set standards and guidelines for safety, client care, environmental stewardship and operating methods for the industry.
- Act as a collective voice for backcountry ski operators in co-operation with the B.C. Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and BC Ministry of Environment to ensure that the members govern themselves in a responsible manner in all aspects of conducting business.
- Strengthen co-operation and promote cordial relations between its members.
- Promote high mountain skiing by helicopter or snowcat as a viable eco-tourism industry within Canada.
Collectively, the industry accounts for 100,000 skier days with gross revenues exceeding $160 million annually. Approximately 2,000 people are employed directly by the sector. Western Canada is known world-wide for having the best possible conditions and terrain for wilderness ski adventures.