Gemütlichkeit, meaning cozy, comfortable and convivial. Until Canadians invent a more all-encompassing term, it’s as good a word as any to describe the essential CMH lodge experience. At upper left is one of the eazrzliest surviving photographs from the super-rustic Bugaboo sawmill camp where CMH was born in 1965. There’s Hans Gmoser, dabbling at the zither. In red is Brooks Dodge, the New Hampshire Olympic racer and extreme skiing pioneer who organized the world’s first Heli-Skiing week. (They scored bluebird skies and perfect powder, incidentally.)
Gmoser, of course, was adamant about maintaining the communal nature of the lodge ambience. Even when accommodations improved, he famously banned TVs, telephones and lightbulbs over 40 watts in guest rooms, lest skiers be tempted to remain separate from the effervescent action in the common areas. A relaxed, family-style approach to dining is one of the key components, though it was not something Gmoser grew up with back in socially rigid Austria. In that nation’s alpine huts it was customary for small groups to keep to themselves; fraternizing between social classes simply wasn’t done.
In Canada, however, the woman who would change that was named Elizabeth von Rummel. The daughter of a German baron, she was familiar with aristocratic ways, though she learned a hard lesson about social mobility when the Great War wiped out the family fortune. By then she was working in the Rockies as the quintessential backcountry lodge hostess. Upon their chance meeting, she hired Hans Gmoser as a guide and hut-tender. Lizzie, as everyone knew her, would become his mentor, and it was she who inspired the legacy of cheerful democracy by decreeing that, in her lodge, everyone from the richest international visitor to the humblest local hiker would dine together as equals. That tradition proudly endures—as gemütlich now as it was a half-century ago.