Before moving to Stewart, I never thought much of toasters. All they do is brown bread and other than that one time I almost burnt down my dads apartment with a toaster that failed to pop-up, I rarely use one. Frank Kamermans, the owner of the Ripley Creek Inn, the hotel where the guests of Last Frontier Heliskiing stay in Stewart, owns over 1500 toasters. Yes, you read that correctly. 1500 toasters. It’s probably the largest toaster collection in Canada and in the top ten for the world. For Frank, toasters do much more than toast bread, the way their designs have changed over the years tell a story, or in this case, over 1500 stories of human ingenuity and art. For decades after the toaster was invented in the early 1900′s, over a hundred companies “battled” for the ultimate toaster. Some succeeded and some failed. Back in the 20′s and 30′s companies were still concerned with finding the best way to toast bread, not only with what would sell. You’d think toasting bread would be simple; turn’s out it is an art.
The Toastworks Cafe, the building in red, is where Frank keeps most of his toasters. His wife, Deb runs the cafe with many of the toasters on display. The cafe is part of the Ripley Creek Inn, where the Last Frontier Heliskiing guests stay. | Photo – Randy Lincks
We’re often asked what our helicopter pilots do in the summer months and how that differs from their winter work. Obviously there isn’t much heliskiing in the summer…, but you would be surprised at how versatile our helicopters and pilots are and the wide range of operations they engage in during the warmer months of the year.
Long lining equipment and rescue personnel are an integral part of helicopter work in the summer.
Photo – Lakesle Air
There’s all sorts of way to get ready for a heli ski trip, from over-priced home workout devices to cult-driven cross fit classes. But at the end of the day, the only thing that really gets you fit for a ski trip is, well, skiing. To that end we’ve rounded up the top 5 ski resorts in BC to prep your legs before your next heliski trip.
Terrain, snowfall and all the amenities. Whistler Blackcomb ticks a lot of boxes | Photo – Vince Shuley
The American author, Aldo Leopold once said, “To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” To many, Northwestern British Columbia seems empty. Towns are few to non-existent. Many peaks are unnamed and never climbed, let alone skied. Rivers are wild and valleys expansive. Few roads cut across the landscape and in many places there’re no signs of human civilization. It’s a lonely land, however it’s far from empty. The area provides a rich habitat for bears, mountain goats, and many birds and fish. Northern BC is rugged, lonesome, and wild. Although the area is sparsely populated, it has a long and colorful history. Parts of the Last Frontier Heliskiing tenure was once an active mining hub, with over 10 000 people living in the region. The land is believed to be very prosperous in gold, copper and silver, which lead to strong mining explorations during economical booms. Now there’s less than 500 people living here, most of which are in Stewart. However, mining hasn’t completely left the area. Since the birth of Last Frontier Heliskiing 20 years ago, heliskiers and miners have successfully shared the landscape.
The Skeena mountains around Last Frontier Heliskiing have rich mineral deposits of gold, copper, and silver. Stewart in particular has seen many mines in the last 100 years. Countless folks have made their fortunes, and lost them, within these rugged peaks | Photo – Grant Gunderson
The Salmon Glacier. | Photo – Steve Rosset
Summers in Northern British Columbia are like no others. Northern BC spans a massive area, encompassing some of the most remote places in Canada. It’s littered with high mountain creeks, massive glaciers, rugged mountains and lakes and some of the healthiest ecosystems in the world. It’s a great place for a summer trip so if you’re itching to pack up and hit the road, head north, there’s lots to see. Continue reading
Have you ever considered working for a heli ski company? More specifically, have you considered working at Last Frontier Heliskiing?
If the answer is no, let me give you a few reasons why moving to a remote mountain lodge to work during the winter can be quite the life experience. Just ask our staff!
We want you! | Photo – Dave Silver
Our heliskiing season runs from December to April. While the Ripley Creek operation at Last Frontier Heliskiing closes during the summer, Bell 2 Lodge stays open and continues to serve travellers along the Stewart Cassiar Highway, some 300 kilometers North of Smithers. Most folks heading to Alaska tend to focus on Stewart, Whitehorse, and Dawson City, but the beauty and isolated location of Bell 2 is a notable rival to anything in the North.
The Beautiful Bell 2 Lodge | Photo – Steve Rosset
Let’s be honest. For those of us that live our lives on snow, summer isn’t the greatest time of year. Sure, we’re loving the hot weather and getting into our off season pursuits, but none of them can replace skiing and riding. You see, it comes down to one thing for us: untracked turns in deep, fluffy snow. For those of you that have experienced what that’s like, you know what I’m talking about. It’s our addiction. From when the first snows fly in the fall to those rare but mind blowing spring powder days in April and even May, snow is what we live for. It drives us, feeds us and dictates almost everything in our lives. Which stresses the question; What do we do the other six to eight months of the year?
So some parts of summer are pretty darn good. | Photo – D’Arcy McLeish
If there’s one thing heliskiers are looking for after a big day in the mountains (besides a post-ski celebratory libation, of course), it’s good food. Properly refueling the body is of utmost nutritional importance after skiing. Long days spent in the mountains, swallowing more than 30,000 feet of vertical powder tends to make our guides and guests hungry.
Originally from Montreal, Head Chef Toivo Heyduck has been working in kitchens professionally for over 10 years and has spent the last two winters at the helm of the Bitter Creek Cafe, the restaurant in Stewart BC that feeds Last Frontier Heliskiing’s Ripley Creek guests.
I sat down with Toivo during a quiet afternoon of food prep to learn about cooking for heliskiers, living in Stewart and keeping his produce fresh.
Chef Heyduck putting the final touches on the appetizer course. | Photo – Geoff Holman
A major part of the heliskiing experience depends on the helicopter. Consequently, various heliskiing operations use different machines. Some larger, some smaller, as it depends on the company. Some use the immense and in-charge Mil Mi-8, an extremely powerful Russian built chopper that can transport 12 guests, 4 guides, 2 pilots and an engineer. This helicopter is popular (not surprisingly) in Russia and in Eastern Europe. It’s so huge, you can have a party on-board. Others use the Bell 212, which is well known and commonly used in Canada. It’s also a larger machine, capable of carrying up to 14 passengers. Another helicopter used by heliskiing companies is the A-Star. The A-Star 350 is Last Frontier Heliskiing‘s first and foremost choice of choppers. Here’s why:
The A-Star getting cosy for the night at Bell 2 Lodge | Photo – Andrew Doran
The crew scoping lines. | Photo – Mike Watling
Every year, Last Frontier Heliskiing picks a week well in advance, invites a filmmaker, a pro photographer and two athletes to come and ski their way around our tenure on a heliski tour. Our focus during media trips has always been to really showcase what you can expect to experience during any given week in the heliski season. We’re as bound by weather and conditions during the filming of our promo as our guests are in whatever week they chose to come skiing. Continue reading
It’s sad to see winter go. Snow has all but made its last mark for the 2015/16 season, melting and making way for hikers, bikers and mountaineers. But it doesn’t have to be over. Where there’s a will (and a budget) there’s a way to ski during the summer, whether it’s hitting glacier camps in July or surfing deep pow after a South American storm. To keep you satiated for next winter, here’s a few summer ski destinations.
Momentum have been running freestyle and mogul camps on Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier for more than 20 years | Photo by Momentum Camps
We all have a different interpretation of the concept of “adventure”. What does it really mean to you? For me, an adventure involves taking off my shorts and putting on pants to go do something. It could mean skiing across the Greenland ice-cap , heliskiing at Last Frontier, or tackling an exotic cheese platter (which requires the stretchy sweat pants). For some, it may involve eating strange foods, like sheep head and chicken spleen, but for a local somewhere that might be an everyday meal. Perhaps that’s the beauty to an adventure – it means something different to everybody.
People come from around the world to undertake excitement and thrill at Last Frontier Heliskiing | Photo – Grant Gunderson
Early season this year…| Photo – Mark Stanley
And so we close the books on the 2016 ski season at Last Frontier Heliskiing. It’s been a good one this year. Lots of epic days, lots of snow, some new descents in the far reaches of our tenure and some happy, contented shredders who got to experience what skiing in Northern BC was all about. Continue reading
When it comes to backcountry travels, the old adage “less is more” couldn’t ring more true. Resisting to fit that blanket, extra sweater and the rest of your bedroom in your backpack will save your body from a premature retirement. Renouncing to bring all of your friends on a backcoutry trip is also necessary. Research has shown that the likelihood of an avalanche increases significantly when group size is more than four people. The human factors play a role in group dynamics in the backcountry, in which group size is often overlooked.
Communication is key when planning routes and objectives | Photo – Vince Shuley