Winter is over. There, I said it. With the exception of a very small minority of hard chargers who are still finding lines to ski way up and out there somewhere, it’s time to hang up the goggles for another year. I say this metaphorically, however: there’s a right way and a wrong way to pack up your toys and stash them away for six months. Proper summer storage habits and techniques can go a long way in preserving the life of your winter gear.
During the second week of April, I had a chance to spend some time skiing at Last Frontier Heliskiing. Never having been there before, I was pretty curious to see the single largest heliski tenure in the world and see what all the hubbub was about. Now I’ve spent a lot of my life in the mountains and skiing has been the main activity but lifting off out of the helipad in Stewart, BC at Last Frontier’s Ripley Creek location on our first day of skiing…it was something to see. Nestled deep in one of the longest fjords in the world, Stewart sits in the heart of some seriously big country. As the helicopter crested the first ridge line, the enormity of the coast mountains in this part of the world was evident. This is a big place.
My name is Aurelien Sudan and I have the privilege to work for Last Frontier Heliskiing within the marketing and media department since the beginning of 2015. Although a trip to our heliski lodge in 2015 was never discussed, I was surprised one morning to learn that plans had changed and I was to be heading up in April for the last week of heli skiing. It was unanimously agreed that my work would benefit from having lived the full Last Frontier experience. Needless to say, I did not need convincing.
Spring ski touring is the best touring. Why? Because the alpine snowpack is deep, probably the deepest it’s been all season. The days are longer, allowing you to push well into the evening before breaking out the head lamp. The weather is (usually) better with prolonged high pressure systems allowing consecutive days of alpine travel without the fear of incoming snow storms that lock you into camp or force an early expedition retreat.
Nothing says spring quite like a goggle tan, am I right? It’s all but inevitable if you spend any amount of time shredding slush and toasting an epic season on the best patio in town. The question is, which goggles will you be sporting to crush it these final days?
It’s mid April and your local ski hill is closed. Boo. The chairlifts stand still, silently waiting for next season and you stand bummed, wishing you could ski for just a little while longer. It’s made worse by the fact that there is still enough snow, at least in your humble opinion, that those lifts could be running…taking skiers up the hill for a few more weeks. Not to worry, while most resorts are closed buy the end of April, there are a few standouts on the continent still rolling along. So for the real searchers out there, and you might really need to search, as in road trip, here are the worthy ones still going strong, some of which are open through the end of May.
Staying hydrated is an all-important step when travelling in the mountains. Heading into the backcountry without water or a means to melt snow isn’t just irresponsible, it’s dangerous.
But when planning to spend the night in either a comfortable hut, a single-walled tent or a personal bivvy, enjoying an alcoholic beverage with your party can be one of the most rewarding experiences of setting foot into the wilderness. In moderation, of course.
Whomever invented wine must have been a heli skier. Can you even imagine sitting around a fire after a day of sweet shredding without a glass in your hand? I shudder to think. Fortunately/obviously, both of our lodges are well-equipped with fully stocked cellars and a wine list that favours some of the best wines from across British Columbia and around the world. While we admit a certain degree of bias, our local favourites more than hold their own against the international wines featured on our menu and we love spreading the good word on behalf of our neighbours in the Okanagan Valley.
As a skier, every season has a different set of emotions, expectations and experiences. Each change in temperature and weather throughout the year allows us to move and grow with the rhythm of the world around us. Summer is a skier’s hibernation period. This is not to say that a skier’s summer is filled with dullness and mediocrity. Far from it. Summer is the time to recharge and take a much needed break from our addiction to all things snow. It’s the only time of year where skiing can be let go completely and we can bask in the sun, enjoy other pursuits, and leave that never ending need to shred behind us for three of four months.
Hot tubs and skiing go together like peanut butter and chocolate. There’s nothing better than kicking back in a vat of scalding liquid after the best day of powder skiing in your life. According to mediocre Hollywood movies, hot tubs also have a mystical, time travelling power that can be unlocked. But for the most part they just make you feel rejuvenated and ready for bed, which is great when you have to get up early to go skiing again.
To make your tub experience the most comfortable and least socially awkward, here are some tips for hot tub etiquette.
A couple of years ago I spent a summer living and working in the northern city of Whitehorse, in Canada’s Yukon Territory. When the time came to migrate south for the winter, I decided to take a bit of a detour and visit a place I had been reading and hearing and dreaming about for years: Stewart, BC, home of Last Frontier Heli Skiing’s Ripley Creek Lodge and next-door neighbour to the infamous teeny-tiny town of Hyder, Alaska. Understand: this was a couple of years before I started contributing to this blog and completely coincidental, albeit serendipitous. I write about it today as someone obviously affiliated with Last Frontier, but also as a completely independent traveler who once experienced the beauty of an almost secret place as intimate and inviting as it is isolated.
Ever since the founding partners established our Heliskiing base at Bell 2 Lodge in 1996, there’s always been a pioneering spirit at Last Frontier Heliskiing. This same spirit saw the opening of Ripley Creek in 2001, the first Heliski Safari Tour in 2009 and now an industry first – Hot Air Balloon Skiing (H.A.B.S.). Since January 2015, we have been running a secret pilot program, testing different balloons and analysing weather data.
Whistler is no stranger to big parties. While summer sees Crankworx, the Subaru Ironman and whole host of parties, events and festivals, there is no bigger party in Whistler or the ski and snowboard world than the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. Held over 10 days and nights from April 10-19, the WSSF combines Canada’s largest outdoor concert series with the biggest names in skiing and snowboarding, a fusion of art, music and competitions, making it pretty much the biggest winter party of the year. Continue reading
Mountains, fresh air and good chat. There’s nothing better than escaping to the backcountry with friends. But what about our furry friends?
It’s hard to imagine anything more exciting for a pet – that has to spend so much of its life indoors – than roaming free in the mountains. It’s also rewarding for the human owners, who are not only giving their pooch a healthy dose of exercise, but are managing to get their own fill of mountain air and outdoor therapy.
When I was twenty-one years old, I had the Mandarin symbol for the word ‘spring’ tattooed on my back. While I’ll admit that I deeply regret it and have been keeping a close eye on developments in tattoo removal technology for the better part of the 21st Century, the season itself isn’t to blame. Spring represents growth, newness and vitality. It’s about deep cleanses and change as we begin to pack up winter and move on. The beauty of the shoulder season is that it provides a brief window of time in which we’re able to do things like ride our bikes to the ski hill for an afternoon of sunny groomer laps or take a few weeks between seasonal employment to do a bit of travelling. The key to surviving the shoulder season is letting go of the winter that was and resisting the urge to long for the summer that will be, choosing instead to see the potential in the here and now.