Founder, Canadian Mountain Holidays (Banff, Alberta)
"The father of heli-skiing", Hans Gmoser founded Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), the world's first heli-skiing and heli-hiking company, instilling a set of values and practices that have continued to guide the company since his retirement in 1995: a relentless commitment to safety, excellent service, environmental stewardship and hiring passionate people.
After immigrating to Canada from Austria in 1951, then 19-year-old Hans Gmoser, already an accomplished alpinist, spent several years working as a mountain guide in Western Canada . Between 1957 and 1968, he led expeditions to the Yukon and Alaska, including the first ascent of the Wickersham Wall on Mount McKinley, and produced ten feature-length films to promote skiing and climbing in Western Canada. He was a founding member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides in 1963, and four years later conducted the first training and certification course for mountain guides in Canada.
CMH was born in 1959 of Hans Gmoser's strong entrepreneurial drive, his desire to share the beauty of the mountains with visitors, and his years of backcountry experience. In 1965, Hans started using helicopters to transport skiers high into the otherwise inaccessible Bugaboo Mountains in the Rockies . Heli-skiing, an idea that had never been tried by any resort, was an instant success; CMH soon began providing new mountain adventures to hundreds of skiers each year, and started building comfortable mountain lodges to accommodate them. Later, at the urging of world-renowned American tour operator Arthur Tauck, Hans Gmoser started flying guests to the mountain lodges for summertime walking and hiking adventures—and heli-hiking became another popular CMH activity.
He has been recognized with a variety of awards and honours, including the Order of Canada, an honourary Doctor of Laws from the University College of the Cariboo (now Thompson Rivers University), the Bill March Summit of Excellence Award, membership in the Canadian Skiing Hall of Fame and the U.S. Skiing Hall of Fame, and the Golden Order of Merit from the Republic of Austria.
Hans Gmoser had made a significant contribution to wilderness and adventure tourism in Canada not only by developing the world's largest and most sophisticated heli-skiing operation—in fact, CMH is one of the most successful tourism operators anywhere—but by participating in initiatives that influenced the sector's development over more than three decades. His influence will continue to be felt for many years to come as the company he founded strives to protect and enhance the environments where it operates, and to contribute to the cultural integrity of local communities.
Hans passed away in July, 2006 while cycling in the Canadian Rockies.