I’ve lived in a fair few ski towns over the years and visited countless others on winter road trips. I’ve seen the lists out there of top ten mountain towns and top ten ski towns. I’ve watched the absolutely ridiculous Ski Town Throw Down that Powder Magazine puts on. I say ridiculous because it feels so contrived to me. Sure, it’s voting, so there’s something democratic about it, but there are no parameters, no reasons. It’s just people who like certain towns, or live in those towns, who think they are the best.
For a heli-skiing operation to run safely, there is one massive factor that has to be absolutely dialled: flying a helicopter. On top of that, heli-skiing pilots are required to do precision mountain flying in extreme winter conditions, which means that the pilots that fly the machines at our lodges have to be some of the most experienced pilots in the business. Lucky for us, they are.
A precision landing in the mountains. Photo: Dave Silver
Helicopter etiquette is pretty simple: get in, help each other with the seatbelts, don’t hog the window seat, pass the water, get out. Gondolas and chairlifts, however, adhere to a completely different set of rules and standards. There are several ways to do it wrong. Here, we talk about ski lift etiquette and doing it right.
Perfect heli etiquette Photo: Dave Silver
1. Go with the flow
Sometimes there are people in charge of making sure everyone follows the rules of the road: alternating which side of the line gets to go next, making sure singles and doubles join triples or quads, reminding people to swing their unnecessary backpacks to the front of their bodies; and then, sometimes, it’s every man/woman/child for themselves. When this happens, be decent: wait your turn, fill the chair with friends or strangers (regardless of how cool they look) and be prepared to move when it is your turn. Oh, and don’t do this:
2. Butt out
Some people smoke. Others do not smoke. It’s understandable that sitting on the lift between runs with your buds feels like the perfect time to relax via smoking, and it would be, if it were 1983 when people smoked everywhere including classrooms and hospital waiting rooms. Unfortunately for smokers, non-smokers have won the right of way when it comes to second-hand smoke in public places and, thus, lighting up on a lift is poor form. (It’s also against the actual rules and can get you kicked off of some mountains.)
3. Read the room
You can make small talk, but you don’t have to. If you’re a chatter, throw an opener into the void and wait to see how it’s received. If your lift buddy is listening to music and giving off a solitary vibe, it’s going to be a quiet ride. Respect that. And, speaking of respect, not every story is appropriate for sharing with strangers. Please – PLEASE – save your swear-riddled, offensive tales of debauchery for après at the bar or, better yet, your diary.
solitary confinement (Mad River Glen, Vermont) Photo – UnofficialNetworks.com
4. Stash your trash
Thanks to the incredibly effective guilt-trips and moral brainwashing I received as a child in small town Canada, I would NEVER toss a juice box off a chair lift onto the groomer below. Like, actually never. I don’t understand who would. I mean, you had a backpack or a pocket big enough to carry the item you just consumed until the moment you ate or drank it, so clearly you can manage to carry the container with you to the top of the lift where there is ALWAYS a trash can.
5. Cheers, not jeers
The thing about skiing or riding the run directly below the lift is that you’re on display. Everyone knows this. The thing about riding the lift directly above a run is that you have two choices: you can be a happy, awesome cheerleader or a big, mean jerk. Celebrate the kid who’s blowing down the groomer in a firm tuck. Whistle at the hot ski instructor who has to spend the first powder day in over a week teaching the snowplow. Take a selfie. Eat a granola bar. Have a nap. There’s no need to tease, mock or heckle. We’ve all bailed below a lift full of snickering strangers. It’s the worst. Be kind.
Every year we release a short feature film as a way of showcasing a typical week at Last Frontier Heliskiing. We invite two athletes, in this case big mountain freeskier and BASE jumper Suz Graham, and freeskier Chris Booth, and we invite one photographer, this year it was Reuben Krabbe, to come and work with filmmaker Grant Balwin. We book the week months in advance, and spend a week, regardless of weather or conditions, shredding the single largest heliski tenure on the planet.
As there continues to be more and more “epic” in ski media, it is a gift that the leading filmmakers in the industry give us when they portray the art behind the sport. There is an inherent connection between the person and nature, and in Afterglow by Sweetgrass Productions, the intricacies of this connection are, quite literally, illuminated in a new and special way.
Look, I’m not saying that riding resorts is bad or boring or the opposite of awesome. I’m sure we can all agree that any day on snow is a pretty darn good day. I’m just saying that some days are better than others, and those days just so happen to be the days you spend helicopter snowboarding across untouched terrain with some of the best guides in the universe leading the way. Below are five tough-to-argue reasons why heliboarding is the way to go.
January at Last Frontier Heliskiing. Photo – Reuben Krabbe
It can be difficult to choose when to go heliskiing. At Last Frontier Heliskiing, we’ve even written a post about it to help you decide when to come visit. You see, every month is different and they all have their pros and cons. March is the glory month; sunshine and waist deep turns. February is cool and crisp and made for long, alpine descents and exploring the deep corners of our massive tenure. Early April is spring skiing at its best with some pow days thrown in for good measure. December can be epic, with those early season storms that seem to never stop rolling in. But January? January is something different. Continue reading →
Watching a good GoPro video can be one of the most vertigo-inducing, adrenaline-jacking, heart-pumping thing in the world, but watching a bad GoPro video – or hours of footage of someone’s helmet – can be painful at best. If you want to capture your best life moments with your GoPro, do the following.
There’s a paradoxical truth dominating ski towns across North America: we’re all decked out in ridiculously expensive gear right down to our socks, despite the fact that our incomes are laughably tiny and we can barely afford a latte, let alone drop-in yoga. How do we do it? What’s our secret? It’s all thanks to the ancient art of thrifting.
Thrift shop savvy or big spender? We’ll never know… Photo: Reuben Krabbe
Gear. I love gear. New gear, old gear, I’m a bit of a gear junkie. My garage, storage space, living room, bedroom, truck…every space I live and work in is littered with gear from the various sports I do or have attempted to do. Harnesses, skis, carabiners, ice tools, ski boots, touring boots, bikes, skateboards…it never ends. People unfamiliar with an outdoor enthusiast’s obsession with gear may laugh and think we are ridiculous. But as anyone who has spent any significant time doing any outdoor sports understands, having the right gear can make, or break, a day in the mountains. Continue reading →
Switchback Entertainment, based out of Whistler, BC, has been doing nothing other than straight killing it for seven seasons of Salomon Freeski TV, and have just launched their eighth season, recently dropping another banger episode, filmed in Japan at Rusutsu Resort! Headed up by local Whistler legend Mike Douglas, Switchback has produced a series that travels from Austria to Iceland to Alta, and has even been up to our lodges. In other words, Salomon Freeski TV knows how to hit the best places that you can hit when it comes to skiing.
There are several factors that play into a successful day in the backcountry: your comfort level and ability, snow conditions, group size and composition and, not to be underestimated, the suitability of your gear. With new technology emerging every season, it can be tricky to separate the money-grabbing fads from the genuine innovations. Here, we give you the rundown on a few key components to ensure you are well-equipped for your next heliboarding trip.
October News Lots of exciting stuff this month. Enter to win a 5 day heliski trip courtesy of Goldwin, get a first peek at our new heliski video and enjoy a host of new Last Frontier Heli photos. Continue reading →
Why we play in the mountains… Photo – Caton Garvie
Playing in the mountains is not without risk. For those of us who spend their work and pleasure time in the mountains, managing that risk is the key to staying safe and helping others to stay safe. Over the last few years, the numbers of folks heading into the backcountry has increased significantly and as a result of that we are starting to see more and more situations, specifically with avalanches, where inexperienced groups are getting caught in slides. There have even been cases where the convergence of different user groups in the backcountry have led to incidences of avalanches where one group has caused a slide to take out another group. Continue reading →
Suz Graham ripping it up on our heliski safari. Photo – Reuben Krabbe
Every year at Last Frontier Heliskiing, we pick a week well in advance, invite our filmer, Grant Baldwin, a couple of athletes, and a professional photographer, and we film our short feature film for the next year. We feel it’s important to give a true sense of the heliski experience we offer on the Last Frontier. That’s why we book the time well in advance; there’s no picking and choosing, the dates are the dates and we see and ski what we see and ski. We’re confident that at anytime during the season, there is epic skiing and riding to be had and filming over a 1 week period allows us to showcase the vastness and variety of what is the world’s single largest heliski tenure.