Take Air with Last Frontier Balloon Skiing

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.

Hot air balloons are a great opportunity to fully appreciate vistas

Hot air balloons – another first for Last Frontier.

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The World Ski and Snowboard Festival

Saturday night at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. The biggest party of the winter.  Photo - Mike Crane

Saturday night at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. The biggest party of the winter.
Photo – Mike Crane

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

Canine Companions in the Backcountry

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.

Dogs love faceshots, too. Link gets deep | Photo Vince Shuley

Dogs love faceshots, too. Link the wolfdog  gets deep | Photo Vince Shuley

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Surviving The Shoulder Season

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.

Moving on | Photo: Adam Clark

Moving on | Photo: Adam Clark

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Heli Skiing Conditions Update – March 2015

March 2015 held its promises at Last Frontier. The unusual extended period of sunny skies in late February pushed us to ski some remote parts of our tenures in Week 10 and early week 11. Through some exciting exploration, we established an array of new classic descents. Even after 20 years of operation, there are still plenty of firsts descents to be had.

breathtaking alpine views

Breathtaking alpine views. | Photo: Hans-Joerg Franz

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Helmet or No Helmet?

Wearing a helmet really isn't that big a deal.  Photo - Dave Silver

Wearing a helmet really isn’t that big a deal. Just ask our guides. They seem to not mind at all…
Photo – Dave Silver

For most of my ski career, I have not worn a helmet. I was one of those skiers that was adamantly against having to wear a helmet to ski. Two years ago, when we were mandated in the ski patrol to wear helmets at work, was the first time I wore a helmet skiing. But even then, on my days off, I would still only wear a toque and goggles and leave the helmet at home. But this year that changed. First, I found a helmet that fit well and that I really liked and second, I realized that not wearing a brain bucket was just stupid. The helmet protects my head, plain and simple, so why would I not want that for myself? Continue reading

History’s most influential steep skiers Part 2 – The Contemporaries

Last week we profiled some of the world’s first purveyors of extreme skiing in History’s most influential steep skiers Part 1 – The Pioneers. As the sport evolved in both equipment and skill, a new wave of steep skiers brought the sport into the mainstream spotlight through innovation, exploration and showmanship. This week we bring you five of the most influential steep skiers of the modern era.

Doug Coombs is credited with bringing commercial heli skiing to Alaska | Photo Doug Coombs Foundation

Doug Coombs is credited with bringing commercial heli skiing to Alaska | Photo Doug Coombs Foundation

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Poles. Size matters.

While our skis, boards, boots and bindings tend to hold well-deserved high priority status in terms of careful gear selection, poles are a key piece of equipment not to be undervalued. The wrong poles can greatly hinder your progress as a shredder-in-training as their weight, length and function can have a significant impact on your form (and fun). Not convinced? Read on.

Put your best pole forward | Photo: Dave Silver

Put your best pole forward | Photo: Dave Silver

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The Leatherman MUT EOD: A Multi-Tool for the End of the World

Up until recently, my experience with multi-tools has always ended in disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I see how useful the swiss army/plier combo can be. But after owning several swiss army knives and several multi-tools, I always seem to wander back to just carrying a really good, strong, folding knife. Having a blade is incredibly handy. I use mine, especially at work, several times each and every day. But more than that, a good knife doesn’t break. My experience with multi tools, be it from Victorinox, Leatherman or Gerber is that they just don’t stand up to the punishment of everyday use; they do everything poorly and are awkward to use. All those moving parts tend to come loose or break after a few months of daily use. Last year, however, a friend of mine purchased the biggest, burliest, most bad-ass multi-tool I have ever seen and after seeing it in action for a few weeks, I decided to get one for myself.

The EOD. The burliest multi tool on the market.  Photo - Leatherman.com

The Leatherman MUT EOD. The burliest multi tool on the market.
Photo – Leatherman.com

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History’s most influential steep skiers Part 1 – The Pioneers

Skiers can do some impressive things in the mountains these days. Technology has changed, allowing athletes at the forefront of the sport to both ascend and descend more efficiently and demonstrate near-death defying aerial maneuvres.

But before the age of rockered skis and double back flips, skiing the steeps was all about survival. The drive to become the first to ski some of the world’s most hazardous mountain faces has propelled these five alpinists into the book of steep skiing legend, at great risk to their own lives.

Stefano De Benedetti skis the north face of Mont Blanc | Photo TetonAT

Stefano De Benedetti skis the north face of Mont Blanc | Photo TetonAT

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Skiing Superstitions

It’s Friday the 13th – our second in a row, as a matter of fact – so we’re going to embrace the spooky and explore the debatable logic behind rituals and routines when it comes to skiing. Whether it’s your traditional breakfast at the same coffee shop every Saturday, the order in which you gear up or the fact that you always try to sit on the inside of the chair lift, you’ve probably got a few skiing superstitions worth admitting to…

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Skiing and Waiting – Enjoying the Downtime

Skiing is my favourite thing to do in life. The conditions don’t matter. Icy, corn, groomed, crud, chop, waist deep, over-the-head pow…all of it is fun. Few things compare to the absolute bliss of being outside and sliding along the snow on two skis. But one thing fairly unique to skiing is the waiting. Waiting? Yep. Any skier out there will tell you how much time we spend waiting. Waiting in line for a ticket, waiting for the lifts to open, waiting in the liftline, riding the chair, riding the gondola, waiting for your friend to make it up the boot back, waiting for the high alpine lifts to open, waiting for winter, waiting for the next storm. Waiting for your ski date (the worst kind of waiting). But the waiting time is important time.

Even heliskiing there's some down time. Use it wisely.  Photo - Blake Jorgenson

Probably the best form of waiting – that of waiting for a helicopter to take you back up for another epic lap.
Photo – Blake Jorgenson

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A skier’s guide to car-free living

We all know that skiers are great at living carefree, but what about car-free?

Unless you’re one of the small percentage of people who are lucky enough to live slope-side, skiing involves commuting, whether it’s the weekend rush from the urban centre or hopping on the shuttle bus to your local ski hill.
One thing is for sure, owning a vehicle as a skier is a luxury, one that should not be taken for granted in this day and age of responsible carbon emissions. That said, there are still thousands of skiers that make their way to the powder on a daily basis without a car. Here are some of the ways that they do it.

Hitching in pairs can meet long wait times on the highway shoulder

Hitching in pairs can meet long wait times on the highway shoulder | Photo: Ron Ledoux

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Spring Break Survival

For some, Spring Break is a welcome departure from routines and the daily grind, a chance to get away and let loose. For others, however, it can actually be a really stressful time as kids are out of school and the expectation to DO SOMETHING FUN is overwhelming, not to mention potentially very expensive. If you haven’t already planned a vacation to, say, a remote heli ski lodge for the week, we’ve got some ideas to help make this the best Spring Break ever, so far.

Winning Spring Break I Photo: Reuben Krabbe

Winning Spring Break | Photo: Reuben Krabbe

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Ski Patrol – A Real Job

It happens to ski patrollers at every resort. A guest gets on the chairlift, sees the crosses on the jacket and asks: ‘So…do you guys just ski around all day? Do they pay you for that?’ I usually don’t dissuade them. On most days, I do just ski around, and yes, they pay me for it. Occasionally though, I am tempted to give the guest a true sense of what it is we do with our day.

Cheat death, save lives and blow shit up.  Photo - Jonas Hoke

The author getting his avalanche control on. Nothing like throwing bombs first thing in the morning. 
Photo – Jonas Hoke

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