Skip to content

Canadian Mountain Holidays founder dies at 92

Leo Grillmair was among the first to ever heli-ski in the world
Leo Grillmair, guide, former manager of CMH Bugaboos Lodge, with Bugaboo Spire in background, Purcell Range, BC. (CMH Heli/Pat Morrow)

Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) paid tribute to Leo Grillmair - one of the founders of the company and a pioneer in heli-skiing - who died early in May.

Grillmair sustained an injury on his skis weeks before his death that he was unable to recover from. The 92-year-old died with family and friends around, but arguably most importantly he was surrounded by the mountains he loved, worked, and played. As is the case with so many, CMH spoke in a press release about the way that Grillmair lived, rather than his death. Grillmair’s death sends ripples of sorrow through the skiing, mountaineering, and guiding communities, but the impact of his life’s work was even greater.

“Leo Grillmair was a man without pretense. He was a straight-shooting, all-out, gregarious personality who had a natural way with people and a special knack for making anyone who crossed his path feel welcomed,” said CMH in a press release.

Grillmair, along with his fellow CMH founder, Hans Gmoser, are often credited with pioneering heli-skiing. Their friendship started in Austria as children, but CMH said that it was Grillmair who convinced Gmoser to make the trek to Canada in 1951. Given their relationship, CMH said that without Grillmair, CMH might never have been started.

A young Grillmair at Yamnuska. (CMH Heli/Franz Dopf)

Working closely with his friend, Gmoser and Grillmair explored the Rocky Mountains, gaining valuable experience that ultimately led to CMH’s founding.

READ MORE: Revelstoke council to consider implementation of white sturgeon hatchery

Grillmair pioneered infamous routes in the Rockies, like the Grillmair Chimneys and Direttissima of Yamnuska at the mouth of the Rocky Mountains near Canmore, AB. He was also a founding member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) – a vital organization to making the backcountry a safer place to explore.

“Leo had an endearing touch of irreverence and a willingness to go for it and try something that had never been done before,” said CMH President & COO, Rob Rohn in a press release.

His character is baked into the product that CMH has become renowned for — going where few have gone and taking others along for the ride.

Leo Grillmair, guide, former manager of CMH Bugaboos Lodge, with Bugaboo Spire in background, Purcell Range, BC. (CMH Heli/Pat Morrow)

When Gmoser and Grillmair took the next step and used a helicopter to access higher and better terrain, it was Grillmair who acted as lead guide for 22 years in the Bugaboos.

Since its founding by Grillmair and Gmoser, CMH has operated in the backcountry for more than 55 years. Their operation expanded to more than 10 destinations across British Columbia including Revelstoke, Golden, Valemount, and more, helping to cement western Canada as the most popular heli-skiing destinations in the world.

READ MORE: How to fly: A peek behind the curtain at heli-ski piloting, one of Revelstoke’s biggest industries


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our daily and subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Zach Delaney

About the Author: Zach Delaney

I came to the Revelstoke Review from Ottawa, Ontario, where I earned a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University.
Read more

Pop-up banner image