For the past two winters I’ve worked as a radio operator/transfer coordinator for Last Frontier Heliskiing. I grew up in Jasper, Alberta, which was a perfect place for scrambling pointy things and survival skiing. This is my first post.
It was on a climbing trip in Jasper when I first heard of the Continental Divide trail that ran from Canada to Mexico, along the Great Divide. Later a friend and I discovered that the divide went through Jasper. The image of shouldering a pack, stepping out the door and heading into the woods was one we couldn’t escape. We wanted to do an adventure from our doorstep. In April of 2014, we left our beds and stocked fridges and followed the mountains from our home to the Mexican border. It took 8 months and we skied and walked over 5400 km. The following post is a day in the life of a long distance hiker.
Typical hiking along the Divide in central Montana. The Divide is the hydrological spine of North America. Water on the East side goes to the Atlantic and to the Pacific on the West.
Pillow fight in Ripley Creek
Photo – Chris Oconnell
Last Frontier Heliskiing operates out of two distinct locations in its tenure in Northern BC. The first, Bell 2, is our purpose built heliski lodge on the Stewart Cassiar Highway, which is smack dab in the middle of one of the largest heliski tenures in the world. And while Bell 2 is our flagship location, it’s little brother, Ripley Creek, is often overlooked by some of our guests. Continue reading
There is a lot of important equipment that heliski guides must always have stowed in their rather large – and often heavy – backpacks; avalanche rescue equipment, first aid kits and snow science tools to name a few. But there’s one piece of kit that on the guide that keeps the whole operation working; the VHF radio.
The SCR-300 Backpack Walkie-Talkie Radio, produced by Motorola, was produced during World War II and weighed around 35 pounds | Photo olive-drab.com
Can you even imagine going heli skiing for a week and then returning home with nothing but stories? Like, just words? No selfies, no thumbs up in the helicopter, no sick action shot? Of course not. We live in a world dominated by photos and video. Pictures, or it didn’t happen. Fortunately, there are some incredible products on the market right now and we’re here to break down the best ski friendly cameras and accessories for the upcoming winter season.
People deserve to see what living the dream actually looks like.
Photo – Adam Clark
Location: Ripley Creek
What if you were one of those ultra rare people who is both a ski bum and independently wealthy? Sorta the dream, really. They’re out there, to be sure. I’m working on being one. But once a ski bum, always a ski bum. So what vehicle would you drive to the hill or into the backcountry if money were no object? And don’t start thinking of Range Rovers and Porsche SUVs. We need to think more creatively than that. We need luxury, performance and a little dirtbag character thrown in for good measure. So here’s a list of vehicles I would consider getting if I didn’t have to work, money was no object, and I spent my time roaming from powder day to powder day:
The Sportsmobile 4×4. Available in a diesel as well.
Photo – Sportsmobile
The quest for the perfect ski boot can often seem like a fool’s errand. Just when you think you’ve got the fit, the desired stiffness and (most importantly) comfort dialled in, something will usually arrive in the form of a blister or pressure point to remind you that when it comes to ski boots, you can’t have everything.
These boots were made for walkin’ | Photo Dave Silver
Every skier is an amateur meteorologist at heart. We follow news feeds from a variety of sources, embrace the jargon and debate the forecast with a confidence that is unflinching and, let’s be honest, generally unfounded. This winter, we all seem to be jumping the gun in response to what magazines and websites are predicting to be an El Niño year of epic proportions. Some are stoked about the early forecast, some are preemptively mourning the entire season. If nothing else, it makes for great drama. Here at Last Frontier HQ, however, it’s business as usual. The weather outlook for the coming winter is just one of a thousand things we have to consider in planning for another stellar season.
Last Frontier is sitting pretty up there on the Northern Branch Jetstream path
I like this time of year. Summer is giving way to fall and in the high country, light dustings of snow appear a few mornings a week, giving us a hint of what’s to come. Winter is around the corner and by all accounts, if you’ve been reading the weather forecasts lately, we’re in for a doozy. Sounds good to me. Here in Southern BC, we could use an epic winter. People have almost started to forget what bottomless turns are like.
This is what we’re prepping for.
Photo – Willi Kunz
Skins are a remarkable piece of ski equipment, as old as skiing itself. The name “skins” actually originates from the original climbing skins made from the hide of a fawn, the bristly hairs of a young deer having the optimum blend of grip when ascending snowy slopes and glide for traversing over long, flat distances.
Steep skin tracks require well-fitting skins | Photo Vince Shuley
Not much has changed in the last few hundreds of years with touring skins. Synthetic materials such as nylon have made them cheaper and more durable, with the tradeoff of increased weight and volume and decreased glide. Glues have become more resilient with some brands doing away with it all together in favour of selective adhesives, making transitions faster and easier.
Well, summer, that was fun. We swam in the ocean and took naps in the hammock, we drank beer in the sun and played frisbee in the park. It was everything it should be and another one for the books, but now my tan is rapidly fading and I’m trying to fit into my jeans after months of wearing only cute, stretchy things. It happens every.single.year. and yet, here we are. Fortunately, it’s too cold for patio cocktails and too warm for snow; shoulder season is here and that means the time to get ski fit is NOW!
You’re going to want to be ready for this | Photo: Jun Yanagisawa
My leg won’t stop shaking. Even my belayer, ever the patient climbing partner, has started to notice. ‘Try and relax, honey, just breathe.’ Ya thanks, darling. I AM breathing, I mumble under my breath. Hyperventilating, actually. But I can’t seem to move from my position. And that leg…it just wont stop. My arms aren’t far behind. They’re swollen, burning and lobbying me for a two-hour nap. I need a nap. My belayer needs to stop talking to me. I need to stop talking to myself. I hate climbing. Why am I out here right now?
For whatever reason, being on rope, climbing on rock, mirrors life’s struggles. That’s why it’s worth it.
Photo – D’Arcy McLeish
There’s rarely such a thing as a bad time to go heliskiing. Getting lifted by mechanical flight to the top of your next run – all day – is a bit like pizza, or sex. Even if it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. But late season heliskiing has more benefits than you may think.
Alpenglow in the alpine. What dreams are made of | Photo Reuben Krabbe
It’s pouring right now. Despite my calendar insisting it’s still technically summer for a couple more weeks, I’ve lit the wood stove, pulled out my down slippers and am snuggling under a blanket as I type. Summer was fun, but I’m welcoming this change in seasons with a pot of tea and a really good book. While we all wait for the snow to creep down into the valley and the real fun to begin, I’d like to share some favourite classics and new additions to the genre of ski literature in case you’d like to join me.
Are we there yet? | Photo: Dave Silver
Even when it’s like this, it’s nice to have a properly tuned pair of boards strapped to your feet.
Photo – Reuben Krabbe
I know, I know, most of you are thinking, when it’s waist deep and blower, the last thing I need to worry about is tuning my skis. To a certain extent, you’re right. When it’s deep and dry, it doesn’t really matter what you’re skiing and whether your skis, or boards, are tuned. You’ll be having fun no matter what shape your equipment is in. But even in fresh pow, it makes a difference to keep your skis in good nic and always have a relatively fresh tune. Continue reading
When visitors ask why I moved to Whistler, I used to give a long, elaborate answer about my origins of skiing as a child in Australia, how I dreamed about one day following in the footsteps of my high school friend’s older brother who worked as a ski instructor in Canada.
These days I condense the reply to the common question by simply replying “the mountains,” usually with a gesture towards the surrounding peaks visible from pretty much every vantage point in Whistler.
No regrets with this career choice | Photo Dave Silver