Recently I asked a question on my Facebook page, what does Wilderness mean to you? It’s a term that’s commonly thrown about in regards to the Great Outdoors, but what does it actually refer to? Can we drive to it on a weekend trip? Does it involve helicopters, month long trudges, battling bugs, and cans of Spam? Turns out its definition can vary, from person to person, and place to place. Historically, it has changed over time. It was more common in the past to regard it as an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region. A place of neglect or abandonment and not profitable. We couldn’t farm it, cut it, shape it, and it had no dollar value. As our perceptions of nature changed over time, so did our views of what was wild and what wasn’t.
The highest peak in Canada – Mount Logan at 5959 meters. It’s an hour flight from the closest road, if this isn’t wild, I don’t know what is | Photo – Liam Harrap
There’s nothing better than going on an trip. It doesn’t even have to be a long trip. Sure, I get excited about a big mountain mission or even better, going away somewhere for months at a time, but even the little trips get my wanderlust on. A weekend away, maybe a short road trip down the coast…as long as I’m headed away, I’m happy. ‘Cause you never know what can happen. That’s the beauty of traveling. Every day is a new adventure and almost always a surprise.
Nothing matches the feeling of being on the open road. Photo – Steve Rossett
As much as both skiing and photography have both changed over the last 100 years, at the end of the day it’s still the same formula – capturing the best moments on skis. That’s always been the difference to film, where the entire sequence of events is captured. A shot printed on the cover of a glossy magazine remains the most desired reward for ski photographers, who spend countless days carrying burdensome packs of equipment in freezing temperatures.
American ski racer Andrea Mead Lawrence making 1940s ski style look good | Photo teenagefilm.com
Before working at Last Frontier Heliskiing, I had no idea what was involved in operating the resort. We’re four hours away from the nearest town and everything has to be well planned, organised, and precise. If we run out of milk, we cannot just simply go pick up more from down the block. When it comes to safety, we strive to be at the top. Since we operate in a very remote area, it’s important that we hire some of the best (ACMG certified) and well-trained guides in the industry, train our guests in avalanche safety techniques, and use helicopter companies with spotless records. We will do whatever we can to keep you safe.
We do everything we can to keep our clients safe and happy | Photo – Caton Garvie
I love to ski. Anytime, anywhere. Deep pow? Sure. Groomers? Absolutely. Terrible melt freeze conditions? Why not? Skiing is almost always better than anything else. But there are a few things about skiing that I struggle with and one of the big ones is the fact that my feet get cold. Too many years working and playing with old man winter have turned my feet into a poorly circulated pain factory. Cold feet suck and they can ruin a powder day, or any day for that matter. So this past winter, after debating and agonizing and finally seeing that it wouldn’t hurt my pride or dent some misplaced sense of machismo toughness, I invested in boot heaters. BEST. DECISION. EVER.
Warm feet, cold smoke.
Photo – Eric Berger
One of the pieces of gear that I would classify as being in the “Turn the car around, I forgot my ____” category are my ski goggles. Without these handy pieces of foam and plastic my eyes are exposed to sharp edged snowflakes, tree branches, blinding reflections from the snow and perhaps worst of all, harmful UV rays.
Like most types of ski equipment, ski goggles come in every size, shape, and budget.
The Abominable Labs Abom Goggles are guaranteed to stay fog free using a heat-conductive film | Photo – Abom.com
While winter is long in Canada, the season for heli-skiing is short. Careful! If you blink too fast, you might just miss it! The ski season runs from mid-December to April, with the peak being in February and March. Not only do the staff have to find others job to fill the “in-between” time during summer, but so do our helicopters. Not surprisingly, we do not own our own helicopters. Every year we hire a company to run, maintain, and fly the machines. The Bell 2 Lodge uses Access Helicopters, based out of Kelowna, and Ripley Creek uses Mustang, based out of Alberta. Here’s what our helicopters have been up to this summer.
The chopper dropping skiers off at the top of a run. Yeehaw! | Photo – Mike Watling
Hiking isn’t often on my list of things to do. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve done a lot of hiking. But most of it has been out of necessity; a long approach to a rock climb, a hike to a remote surf break, hiking to ski. I’ve never really gone hiking to go hiking. But the older I get, the less interested I am in conquering something and the more interested I am in just enjoying something. Hiking is all about enjoyment. It’s a simple activity that doesn’t require any special athletic ability. It just requires a good pair of shoes and an open mind. Besides, who doesn’t like a walk in the woods? I’ve been doing all kinds of hiking over the last few years; short hikes, long hikes, multi day hikes, pretty much anything I can think of. But it’s different from days past because all I’m doing is hiking. No climbing gear to lug around, no skis, surfboards, bikes, just me and my personal kit. With that mileage, I’ve picked up a few tips that I thought might be worth sharing.
One of the best things about hiking is the places you see.
Photo – D’Arcy McLeish
Travelling for skiing is one of the most exciting parts of the culture. Hitting the road or catching a plane to a ski area or backcountry operation across the continent (or the world) will likely be a highlight of the season. But with travelling to a different country comes a caveat – if you get hurt, your home state or provincial health plan can’t help you. That means risking many thousands of dollars in medical and hospital fees. Unless you were smart enough to purchase ski travel insurance before you left.
If you end up in the stretcher this winter, make sure you’re insured | Photo – Jun Yanagisawa
I will never forget the first time I saw Bell 2. It was December and late at night. Or at least it felt late, being so far north the daylight hours are short, so what probably felt like midnight was only 6 pm. I had been driving for two days. Northern British Columbia, is a hard place to get to from Alberta. You always hear that terrain is big in the north, but it’s hard to comprehend until you see it. Places of civilization are few and far between. After driving for hours in the dark, along a lonesome, twisting road, I finally arrived at my new home – Bell 2 Lodge. Bell 2 is four hours north of Smithers on the Stewart-Cassier Highway, and it’s not uncommon to pass no vehicles for hours. It’s a quiet part of the world.
The village of Bell 2 | Photo – Grant Baldwin
Photo – Grant Gunderson
We get questions all the time. About the snow, the lodges, the food, the guides; you name it, we get questions about it. And so it should be. We’re here to answer those questions with some useful answers. But a few of those questions deal with some common misconceptions about heliskiing we thought were worth writing about. Continue reading
The further north one travels in BC, the more wild it gets. This applies for not only to the landscape, but to the wildlife. As the pockets of human habitation become more and more sparse, the belts of animal migration become less and less interrupted. If you’re a wildlife photographer or just curious about creatures, northern BC has a unique and amazing host of fauna.
The moose is loose. In Northern BC | Photo Ron Ledoux
It wasn’t that long ago that trip reports, which are writings relating to peoples’ adventures in the backcountry, could only be read in magazines and books. They usually describe the route taken, logistics, and if you’re lucky some gossip from the trip. For Canada, a great resource was the Alpine Club of Canada journal, which was released yearly, and contained many stories of trips taken around the world, from the Canadian Rockies to the Antarctic. Stories were heavily edited, had a word count limit, and a few humble pictures. It wasn’t easy to be published. However, those days are gone. People writing personal reports on adventures have exploded, many have their own websites and blogs. Facebook groups on skiing, hiking, and backpacking have become numerous and plenty of people post pictures of their trips or ask questions and/or advice from others. The difference between the ages is startling, in a little over a decade, we’ve gone from scraps of information to truck loads. At times, it can be overwhelming, and the hardest part can be sifting through it.
Who wouldn’t want to read about a trip like this? | Photo – Liam Harrap
Living in a place like Squamish, just about everyone is an athlete of some sort. This is true of a lot of other places, but especially here in the mountain towns of BC. And why not? We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Endless mountains, lakes, rivers, and ocean coastlines. BC is one of those places where if you like to play outdoors, you have every option imaginable. Even here in Squamish, on any given summer day, I can go kite surfing, ride world class singletrack, spend my day climbing some of the best granite in the world, go mountaineering, run epic creeks in a kayak, spend the day on a stand up paddleboard…you can even ski if you’re motivated enough. The options really are endless.
Find a good bench and spend a few hours with a good book.
Photo – D’Arcy McLeish
If you’ve never set foot in Canada before, you’re in for a treat. At 9.98 million square kilometres, Canada is enormous (the second largest country in the world, in fact), filled with polite folks, distinct cities and a beautiful, natural landscape that stretches across the North American continent. In order to get the most out of your visit to the Canuck Empire, here are 5 travel tips for visiting Canada.
When the bill arrives, don’t forget to add the tip. | Photo – Caton Garvie