Editor’s note: This story was independently produced as part of an arm’s length partnership with CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures. A special thanks to George and André Schwarz of The Post Hotel & Spa for hosting us in Lake Louise, Alberta on the night before this unforgettable adventure.
— By Kim Gray
I look across to my husband of nearly 25 years and realize that we’re both sporting big, silly grins on our faces.
We’re tucked into a helicopter, day packs on our laps, and we’re swooping upwards into the high alpine of Western Canada’s Columbia Mountains.
It’s exhilarating, just like the hiking that unfolds over the next several days as we travel along mountain ridges with on-top-of-the-world vistas, part of a small group of international visitors led by first-class guides.
Wherever we turn in this pristine landscape, something extraordinary appears.
Here, a tiny mountain blue bird, in all of its cerulean perfection, floats ahead of us on the wind.
There, in the meadow, over-turned boulders and churned-up soil mark where grizzlies have been digging for glacier lily bulbs and fat ground squirrels to fill their bellies.
Now, our bear-aware guides suggest a picnic near a lush, moss-lined mountain stream as it steadily flows by. (Yes, please!)
Unlike camp, however, we get to anticipate a well-earned glass of crisp white wine after a day of playing in the wilderness.
And, depending on our mood, we also have the option of soaking in a hot tub, sitting back in a sauna with a mountain view or enjoying a massage at the on-site spa.
The après hiking vibe at this historic lodge — which includes family-style dining with delicious, lovingly-prepared meals (including fresh, Canadian-sourced salmon, beef, lamb and mussels) — is incomparable.
Later in the evenings, we’re pleased to retire to a soft bed — well-fed and happily exhausted from fun, full days — in our comfortable, private room.
It’s genuinely romantic.
Our hosts are pioneers in the heli-skiing and heli-hiking world and they make it easy for us to feel welcome on what might seem like a trip tailored exclusively for extreme adventurers and high-level alpine athletes.
Here in the shadow of the ancient Bugaboo spires, everyone’s invited, whatever your age or physical ability.
Each day, after a hearty breakfast, hiking groups are formed depending on the desires of guests, from hard-core trail runners to happy wanderers wanting to smell the wildflowers along the way to those who want to sit quietly in a mountain meadow with a lawn chair, a book and a thermos of coffee.
And then, we’re on our way, once again carried off into the alpine for another heart-racing, high country adventure courtesy our trusty helicopter pilot.
We’re pampered by smart, informed and accommodating staff: a friendly bartender, a talented chef, our fearless hiking guides.
Sue Webb, who’s certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, explains that CMH founder Hans Gmoser’s intent was to open up this part of Canada to others.
He wanted “to fill our lodges with people, take them hiking and share joyful nature experiences,” our wildflower-loving guide tells me.
“I love watching people in this environment — all gushing waterfalls, sparkling glaciers and snow-covered peaks. I love watching our guests get away from the daily grind, unwind and take in deep breaths of alpine air.”
Our trip reminds me that travel helps build shared memories and reinforce relationships.
Travel, I read recently in a Condé Nast Traveller article, is also proven to stoke our imagination and create new neuropathways in our brains.
It disrupts our routines and shocks our senses, making recollections of adventures rise to the top of our memory banks.
Travel makes us smart, “fuelling our brains to function at a higher level.”
And, no surprise, retirees who travel have higher levels of mental prowess than those who don’t travel.
A lifetime of adventures have shown me that travel with loved ones deepens our bonds.
My husband and I are going to remember this trip, always.
We’ll smile when we recall boot-skiing through fields of snow and we may blush when we’re reminded of that smooching selfie we took, the one with the impressive rocky backdrop.
Plus, who could ever forget doing the heli-huddle with other guests as we waited to be lifted once again from a remote mountain top and escorted back to our cozy lodge?
Not long ago, as a gift for my husband, I commissioned a painting (which you see in our story’s lead image) from artist Stéphanie Gauvin.
We love this cheerful piece of art, inspired by a photo I took of our hiking boots in a meadow during our adventure.
The painting reminds me of a quote I heard recently about how, for the hard times in life, it’s helpful to keep something soft and beautiful in your heart.
The Bugaboos hold that place for us now. Those wildflowers, that wilderness, our shared sense of wonder.
Our wild romance in the high alpine.