Thierry Cardon

1947 -
January 11, 2011

On January 11 our good friend, colleague and mentor Thierry Cardon passed away at his home in Invermere after a relatively short battle with cancer. Our hearts and best wishes go out to his wife Sylvie, his brother Bertrand, his family in France and Thierry’s two daughters Emily and Gillian.

Thierry Cardon was born in 1947 in Paris France. As a kid, Thierry learned to ski on their family ski holidays in the French Alps and he was inspired to make a life in the mountains. After finishing school, Thierry went right back to the mountains where his heart was and became one of the best young mountaineers in France. He guided trips all over Europe, North America, South America, and was on climbing expeditions in the Himalayas as well as guiding in the Antarctic. In 1974, Thierry joined CMH Heli Skiing, and made a huge impact in many aspects of guiding, skiing, snow science, avalanche rescue, risk management, team work and interpersonal communication. Thierry also became a helicopter pilot and flew for several years, flying sightseeing tours and fighting fires.

I can’t overstate how profoundly Thierry influenced all of us over the course of his 36 years with CMH. He was an innovative, out of the box thinker who pondered the multi-faceted challenges we face as heli-skiing guides and prodded the rest of us to do the same.

Pierre Lemire, Thierry’s friend and fellow mountain guide said, “I first met Thierry in the mid ‘70s at the Bugaboo Lodge. We connected easily, perhaps because of our similar sense of humour, which served us well over the years. Thierry was non-assuming and lived a humble life. Possessions were not important to him, but coffee and music was. Thierry remained strong in his spirit to the end.”

Another friend and mountain guide, Dr. Jeff Boyd said, “I first worked with Thierry when I was an assistant guide in the Bugaboos in 1979. Thierry would point out lines on runs that I could guide my skiing guests down as I had only just come over from the Monashees and did not know the Bugaboo runs. After a bit I realized I was skiing the best lines. Thierry was generously sharing his inner eye for the best terrain for those guests.”

“In the early ‘80s Hans Gmoser enlisted me to introduce a more scientific process into the guide’s approach to snow safety. I was surprised to find Thierry thought this was a misdirection of energies when ‘avalanches rumble down empty slopes all the time but it’s the human beings that choose to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ He proposed a system of daily consensus among all the guides in one area in order to determine which runs and which lines on runs could be safely skied given the prevailing conditions. The value of this idea snapped into focus during the post-mortem of a double fatality in the Bugaboos. Thierry’s concept became the Run List which is the overruling crux of snow safety in the helicopter and cat skiing industry. He alone conceived of the application and was insistent on instigating the rules that couched the process.”

Thierry lived our values – uncompromising in matters of safety and selflessly dedicated to creating a truly memorable experience for the thousands of guests who were fortunate enough to spend time with him in our mountains. He was always the first to pitch in when there was work to be done and the first one ready to head out in the morning. He had a wonderful sense of humour and a sage’s sense of purpose.

He remained tirelessly dedicated to CMH right to the end. On Rob’s final visit with him Thierry spent much of the time explaining his latest ideas on the chaotic nature of deep slab instabilities, ways to further enhance service to our guests and discussing our marketing initiatives. He spoke with the calm urgency of a man who knows he has something to say and not much time to say it.

That day he was remarkably strong and at peace with his fate. He had no regrets. It was wonderful to reminisce and laugh with him. He said he was headed on his greatest expedition yet. Take care my friend; I have no doubt that you’ll reach the summit.

(Rob Rohn, Roko Koell, friends and mountain guides).

His wife Sylvie has received many great letters reflecting on Theirry’s personality. They have appreciated his words of wisdom about snow conditions, guiding ideas, how to take care of guests and his excitement about continually making things better in the world around us.

It wasn’t always just about the snow. Theirry was a philosopher and helped people through difficult times in their lives. His words always seemed very wise, well-balanced, caring, full of humour and came with a good dose of humility at the same time.

We will miss you.

A celebration of life will be held at the end of the CMH Heli-Skiing season in May.

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