Family, friendship and heli-skiing in the Columbia Mountains

Photo: CMH Valemount, British Columbia

Words by Morgan Dinsdale | Photos by Danny Stoffel
Posted December 20, 2016

Skiing may be one of the most romantic ways to spend your days, joyfully laying turns down mountainsides and looking out upon incredible vistas the world over. For Laura and Anand Swaminathan, heli-skiing in the Columbia Mountains of British Columbia has become a passion that they are able to experience together. Speaking from their home in San Francisco, this couple of over twenty years shares how CMH has come to mean so much more than great skiing, it has come to mean love and family.

CMH: Where did your CMH story begin?

Laura: Twenty years ago we met at Case Western University in Ohio, where we quickly fell in love. We were from opposite sides of the world; Anand grew up in Dubai and I grew up in a small town outside Columbus, Ohio. When we first started dating we didn’t have a whole lot in common because Anand grew up playing tennis in Dubai and I didn’t have the hand-eye coordination to pick up racquet sports. So he acquiesced and decided to try and learn how to ski because I had done that growing up. Killington in Vermont was the first place we skied together but he wasn’t a huge fan. When we moved to California it became a social aspect of our lives and that’s when Anand was invited to go heli-skiing at CMH Valemount, the location we would fall in love with skiing as a couple.

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Photo: taking the heli to the next pristine, backcountry run

Anand, so you weren’t a very strong skier when you first went to CMH Valemount in 2005?

Anand: On that first trip to Valemount I can remember Danny Stoffel, Valemount Area Manager, and Anjan Truffer, Valemount Assistant Manager, asking my friends who brought me what they were thinking! I had never skied powder. I was still quite a beginner. But being in the private group essentially allowed me to learn quite rapidly, in a controlled environment. I got confident pretty fast. While I had the fitness for heli-skiing, it was CMH with Danny and Anjan who really taught me how to ski.

Photo: Anand heli-skiing in the Cariboos
Photo: Anand heli-skiing in the Cariboos

When did you two start skiing at CMH together?

Anand: Our first trip together was for Laura’s 30th birthday in March 2007. We went to Revelstoke for a 3-day program so Laura could ease into heli-skiing.

Laura: I grew up in Ohio, skiing on small, icy hills. When Anand introduced me to CMH I’d never experienced powder skiing before. But we’re a couple who loves to do things together. He didn’t want to miss those weeks of skiing with CMH and he didn’t want to miss those weeks with me so we went together. What we realized in those mountains was that we could do something together, in such a serene environment, that allowed us to disconnect from the rest of the world while reconnecting with each other. It became this incredible passion we were both becoming good at. We see so many other guests missing their spouses or having to ask permission to go on trips and we always tell them that they should just bring their partner along, because skiing at CMH has only brought us closer.

Photo: Laura crushing it at CMH Valemount last December
Photo: Laura crushing it at CMH Valemount last December

Together you’ve spent many weeks skiing at CMH Valemount and CMH Adamants. What’s kept you coming back to these two lodges in particular for the past decade?

Anand: We’ve fallen in love with the small group program and the people at both these lodges. We’ve made many friends with other guests and staff, several of whom have become family to us. I’d say there are really three huge things that keep us coming back twice a year. First off, the sense of family. CMH has become an extended part of our family, to the point where this upcoming Christmas we’re bringing our three young boys to Valemount. People like Danny and Anjan, and places like Valemount, are who and where we enjoy celebrating being together.

Secondly, the experience out there in such a pristine, unique and precious environment where you are out connecting with nature, is a rare and wonderful experience. There’s something truly special about days out in mountains like those we’ve had with CMH. Lastly, it keeps us fit and healthy. If you’re not fit then your experience won’t be as good as it could be, so we train throughout the year. When we arrive, the diet, the food and the fitness element of heli-skiing leave us feeling good. When you ski 200,000 vertical feet in a week your legs definitely feel it!

Photo: Enjoying the pristine Columbia Mountains as a couple.
Photo: Enjoying heli-skiing as a couple.

It seems what you both value most about heli skiing with CMH is a feeling of belonging to the CMH family and the experiences you’ve had together in the mountains?

Laura: CMH has given us this special place to reconnect with each other and with nature, away from the business of life. You have got to be able to disconnect from the distractions of life, from the little things bothering you and taking up the lion’s share of your life. CMH has become that place that allows us to deepen our connection with each other. And the fact that Danny has designed a Christmas week for us and our children at CMH Valemount, where they will be able to come out into the field to join us for lunch to see what mom and dad love to do together, that’s a pretty special thing. We wouldn’t trade those weeks for the world.

 

Laura and Anand heli-skiing together
Laura and Anand enjoying another powder slope
Photo: Waiting for the heli
Photo: Waiting for the heli

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For more on CMH Heli-Skiing click here.