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 | 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
I’ve been fortunate enough to work at both lodge locations for Last Frontier Heliskiing: Bell 2 Lodge and Ripley Creek. Although they’re managed by the same company, both are very different. Bell 2 Lodge is a classic, luxurious, remote, one-of-a-kind heliski lodge set in the rugged Skeena mountains. It generates its own electricity and treats its own water. It’s a slice of civilization, set in a faraway distant land. The helicopter departs right from the backdoor. There are few distractions at Bell 2, as it’s the only place for miles, therefore the focus is skiing skiing skiing. And it’s pretty good. While skiing of course is a priority at Ripley Creek in Stewart, there’s more “going on”, as it’s located in an actual town (although less than 500 people live in Stewart, it’s a bustling metropolis compared to Bell 2). While Bell 2 Lodge is more luxurious, Ripley Creek makes up for it with charm, character and rugged mountains. It’s an old mining town, with a long history of miners striking it rich. Enjoy a beer in the town tavern and meet some of the locals. Although the golden days of mining are over, skiers are still striking it rich with powder. A safari ski package allows guests to enjoy and explore both locations.
A Safari at Last Frontier Heliskiing involves guests skiing and helicoptering from one lodge to another | Dave Silver
Julia doing what she does best…
Photo – Georg Dujmovits
Our northern location tends to attract some pretty interesting people. This past March was no different when Austrian professional snowboarder Julia Dujmovits, Olympic Gold Medalist in Women’s Parallel Slalom at the Sochi Winter Games, came for a week of riding at Ripley Creek with her brother and personal photographer, Georg. Julia is an accomplished athlete in more than one discipline. She has surfed, kite surfed and snowboarded herself around the world on grit, determination and a passion for the oceans and the mountains. Continue reading
You have to hand it to skiing entrepreneurs for never giving up. Every season there is new ground-breaking technology and innovation that either revolutionizes the industry, or disappears like the hundreds of other fads that have come and gone in past decades. Some inventions simply boggle the mind as to how they can possibly serve any practical purpose.
From the ingenious to the weird , here are the best and the worst ski inventions of 2016.
Jean-Yves Blondeau,AKA Rollerman designed this Transformer winter suit. | Photo Christophe Lebedinsky
Even Radio Operators at Last Frontier Heliskiing need days off. What do we do during our free time? Well, it depends. Some head to Smithers and/or Terrace, spending time partying and relaxing. Perhaps go to yoga or the ski hill, keeping their ski legs in tip-top shape and hoping for a free seat on the helicopter the next work week. Others travel, such as flying to Vancouver or road tripping to Prince Rupert. We work in shifts, week by week. I usually work three weeks on and one week off. Since we get a nice chunk of days off (none of that only-two-days-off-a-week nonsense), you can get up to some pretty cool stuff. I went skiing on my last days off, or at least I tried…
Even if conditions say no, my friends and I still go skiing. Anyways, having no snow is just a minor technicality | Liam Harrap
The Redbull Crew at Last Frontier Heliskiing
Photo – Scott Serfas
I love deep snow. And experiencing deep snow on skis is pretty much what every skier lives for. But there’s something special about watching a snowboarder in a wide open bowl, ripping massive turns in powder. The first time I saw that, it almost got me to switch over. Seeing a rider completely laid out, shoulder almost touching the snow as they carve a wide, fast, deep turn is pure magic. It conjures images of big wave surfing and long barrels in the South Pacific. Maybe that’s what draws them…it’s a little more loose and free than skiing. No poles, less gear and just you, surfing your way down a mountain. Continue reading
April is perhaps the most underrated month for backcountry skiing. While many mountain towns in the Lower 48 are already golfing or mountain biking, April in British Columbia is when you are most likely to score the best weather with the best snow stability.
If you are reading this from anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll probably point to the current warm spring weather forcing an early retreat of the snowpack, back to the waterways from whence it originated. Yet, dedicated skiers know that the high alpine still offers excellent corn snow conditions, despite the heat in the valley bottoms.
Early morning spring crusts on sunny aspects can still mean good powder on on northern aspects | Photo Vince Shuley
When people find out I work for a heliskiing company, they often ask what month is the best for skiing. I’ve always struggled answering that question. Each month of the season has something special about it. December is always exciting as it’s the beginning of the ski season. There can be tremendous powder dumps, bringing cold smoke blower snow and boundless face shots. By January/February the snow pack is usually deep and the alpine runs begin to open, but there’s still epic tree skiing. March is historically the height of the ski season. The snow pack is the deepest, days are long and warm, and the snow factory is still producing. Then comes April – the forgotten month.
Sunshine, blue sky, blue ice, and powder. Just an average April day | Andre Ike
Your chairlift for the week…
Photo – Caton Garvie
Ski vacations come in many forms. There’s the short respite from everyday life with a day at your local hill. There’s the weekend getaway, without the kids. Maybe you’re staying in a chalet or a log cabin, enjoying the fruits of a smaller ski resort’s charm close to where you live. Then there’s the week to ten days full ski vacation at a proper winter resort. Think Vail or Whistler or Val d’Isere. Depending on your budget, your wants and needs, it might be a week of luxurious pampering in a five star hotel, high-performance ski rentals, fine meals and good skiing. Continue reading
Operations manager Andre Ike (right) with fellow lead guide Hannes Webhofer
Photo – Vince Shuley
As one of Last Frontier Heliskiing’s longest serving heliski guides, Andre Ike knows the Ripley Creek tenure like the back of his own hand. Ripley Creek is one of the two heliski lodges operated by Last Frontier Heliskiing in Northern BC, Canada. First joining the company in 2000 at Bell 2 Lodge, Ike was offered an assistant manager position at Ripley Creek in its first year of operation in 2005. When George Feitzinger [the previous operations manager] left in 2010, Ike was promoted to his current position. Andre has been overseeing the Ripley Creek lodge and ski operations ever since.
On a recent visit to Stewart, B.C., I sat down with Andre to hear about what makes his operation tick.
The newest innovation in BC’s backcountry ski industry, Heliski Groomers allows skiers and snowboarders of all abilities to experience heli skiing. Imagine carving beautifully prepared corduroy in the remote Skeena Mountains of Northern British Columbia. This exciting program has been in beta testing for several years and now Last Frontier Heliskiing is ready to offer the first trips in 2017.
Perfectly groomed runs in the big alpine. | Photo: Grant Gunderson
Home Sweet Home
Photo – Grant Baldwin
When you look on a map of Northern BC, tucked into the Skeena Mountains at the confluence of the Bell and Irving Rivers sits a little dot along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway called Bell 2. Built in 1978 as a fuel/supply stop for traffic making the long journey to the Yukon and Alaska, Bell 2 was a small operation pretty much the middle of nowhere. That middle of nowhere, however, would prove to be in some best ski terrain in North America. Continue reading
This Month we recap recent heliski conditions and introduce our new 9 & 10 day heliski safari tours.