Last Frontier April Road Trip

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.

Dream come true | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Dream come true | photo: Aurelien Sudan

It is with little sleep that I walked towards the Vernon greyhound station, just blocks from Last Frontier’s Head Office, heavily loaded with 100+ pounds of gear on my back. I was going heliboarding. Most guests chose to fly north from Vancouver to save time; I had the opportunity to drive across BC for the first time and did not want to miss out.  I took the bus to Kamloops to meet one of our bloggers [Blackcomb Patroller D’Arcy Mcleish], before sharing a 16h+ road trip together towards Stewart, home of the Last Frontier Ripley Creek lodge. We ended up staying one night in Smithers after 12.30h of driving, both exhausted. The drive got exciting the following day between Smithers and Stewart, especially the last 60km which were spectacular: numerous glaciers and gigantic mountains abruptly end on the side of the road.

Natural spectacle on the road

Natural spectacle on the road | Photo: Aurelien Sudan

We arrived early afternoon in the charming town of Stewart, after crossing one too many over-sized logging trucks heading towards the Alaskan highway. In Stewart we met Liam, who coordinates the lodge operations. The sun was bright and it was in t-shirt and flips flops that Liam warmly welcomed us, as we were contemplative of the massive mountains surrounding town. Shortly after, we met Jonas, Danny and Franziska, who would be our traveling companions for the entire week. With such springlike atmosphere, it was hard to believe that tomorrow, we would be heli-skiing in sub-zero temperatures and cold smoke few thousand feet above the lodge.

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Ripley Creek Inn, home of Last Frontier | photo: Aurelien Sudan

the vistas from our bedroom were impressive | photo: Aurelien Sudan

The vistas from our bedroom were impressive | photo: Aurelien Sudan

From BC to AK by pedal
We took the rest of the afternoon off to pedal on vintage bicycles to Alaska. Yes, Stewart is located only 3km away from Hyder, tiny and rustic ghost town in Alaska. The vistas from there were breathtaking and it is with dream images of swimming seals in the ocean bay that we pedaled back towards the lodge. Lead guide Franz Fux greeted us at the Canadian border, announcing that safety training would have to happen before dinnertime. We hurried back.

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Appreciating the ocean bay near Hyder | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Franziska on her way back from Hyder | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Franziska on her way back from Hyder | photo: Aurelien Sudan

The food in Ripley Creek was fantastic. Chef Toivo took pride at constantly changing meals week after week throughout the season, following his wildest and freshest inspirations. It is always with a happy belly that we went to bed. The smile and the goggle tan on the face of the guests present at the dinner table gave us an insight on the potential skiing heaven up there. Our anticipation was spiking.

Time for a good night of rest | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Time for a good night of rest | photo: Aurelien Sudan

The Heliskiing experience
We awoke to an optional stretch class given by Jessica (my back thanked me for going every morning) followed by a copious breakfast buffet. At 9 0’clock we were sitting tight in the heli, while the blades rapidly gained momentum. We took off. Our pilot Tim dropped us on the summit of a mountain overlooking Stewart. The vistas extended far into Alaska. I had a knee on the ground and the eyes rived onto the heli, until the latter took off and dove into the valley. Quickly, the sound of the A-star vanished. Everything was quiet, and the magnitude of the mountains around us became overwhelming. I turned around only to get in awe in front of a gigantic glacier, stretching right in front of us thousands of feet below. I shed a tear under my goggles in front of such majestic beauty.

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D’Arcy hiding his anticipation on our first heli drop | photo: Aurelien Sudan

D'Arcy in his element | photo: Aurelien Sudan

D’Arcy in his element | photo: Aurelien Sudan

We were at 6,000ft of altitude and a long descent in pristine April powder awaited us. I felt a burst of emotional overload come up. We’re riding. It was soft, fast, fluffy and marvelous. I could feel my inner child chanting, hooting and hollering at each turn. Runs went by quickly one after another, fueling our never-ending hunger for powder. Life was good. Almost surreal. Days and lapses followed one after another, with our faces getting baked by the generous northern sun, and we all enjoyed powder while it lasted. Our last day got shut down due to high winds and poor visibility but it did not matter anymore. Everyone was satisfied. Everyone’s brain was saturated by the incredible experience we got to live. It will take us weeks to fully decompress and comprehend the value of each minute spent up North.

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Deep tracks and happy guests. | photo: Aurelien Sudan

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perfect April powder | photo: Aurelien Sudan

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Kilometers of glaciers. We felt small. | photo: Aurelien Sudan

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Blue ice and high peaks. | photo: Aurelien Sudan

linking turns down 'Darth Vader'. | photo: Aurelien Sudan

linking turns down ‘Darth Vader’. | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Fly-by above boulders | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Fly-by above boulders | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Bluebird powder day | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Bluebird powder day | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Guides were all smiles | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Guides were all smiles | photo: Aurelien Sudan

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Time to hop back in the bird. | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Worth it?
It took me a few hours to emotionally recover from my first day of heliskiing. The following days went by rather naturally, as if my mind and body had already adjusted to such a unique and privileged experience. While I cherished every minute of this trip, no memory tops the first flight, drop and ride down while overlooking Alaska. Every minute of this trip was loaded with beautiful memories from the drive, the food and the heli experience. Going to Northern BC is worth every penny for the trip in itself. But if you are already there during winter season, going heliskiing in such a remote mecca only makes sense. I am grateful for all the memories accumulated and extremely thankful to all the staff, guides, cooks, and guests who made this journey the trip of a lifetime.

Related posts:

  1. Choosing The Right Ski Vacation
  2. Summer at Last Frontier
  3. April 2013 Heli Skiing News

About Aurelien Sudan

I'm a part-time marketer, writer, photographer at Last Frontier, and full-time mountain explorer on the Pacific West Coast. When not in the office, you will likely find me in search of secret staches on my splitboard, or finding peacefulness on a slackline.

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