This article first appeared in print in the June 2023 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
Leo Grillmair, co-founder of CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures and a pioneer in the heli-skiing industry, passed away on May 1, 2023, at the age of 92. Grillmair, known for his charismatic personality and love for the mountains, succumbed to injuries sustained from a skiing accident a few weeks prior. Surrounded by family, he departed with the mountains he cherished standing watch outside his hospital room.
Grillmair, a plumber by trade and a mountaineer at heart, played a crucial role in establishing CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, the world’s first and largest heli-ski operator. In 1951, he convinced his childhood friend Hans Gmoser to join him on a journey from Austria to Canada, where they built a guiding business and explored the Rocky Mountains together.
Together, Grillmair and Gmoser grew their venture into the renowned company CMH is today, pioneering routes in the Rockies and shaping the heli-skiing industry. Grillmair’s contributions extended beyond heli-skiing as he made the first Canadian ascent of Mount Alberta, climbed new routes on Denali, and co-founded the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.
CMH President & COO, Rob Rohn, remembers Grillmair as a pioneer with an irreverent touch and a fearless mindset. Grillmair’s and Gmoser’s exploration of the Bugaboos, along with a suggestion from a ski touring client, led to the birth of heli-skiing and CMH.
For 22 years, Grillmair served as the Area Manager and lead guide of the Bugaboos, overseeing lodge construction and entertaining guests with yodeling and storytelling. His energy, physical prowess, and faith in guests earned him immense respect.
Leo Grillmair’s legacy is intertwined with CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures and the heli-cat industry. CMH and the mountain community owe their livelihoods to Grillmair and Gmoser, whose dedication paved the way for countless guides and skiers.
CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures mourns the loss of Leo Grillmair, a man who made things happen and left an indelible mark on Canadian skiing and mountain history.