Bell 2 Lodge – Off The Grid
When George Rosset, Franz Fux and Mike Watling first scoped out what would become Last Frontier Heliskiing’s terrain in the wilds of Northern BC, they knew that running operations this far north were going to be a challenge. First, it’s remote up here. Sure, our Ripley Creek Location is in an actual town, but our heliski lodge is at Bell 2, which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of nowhere, nestled between the Skeena and North Coast Mountains. That nowhere, however, has some of the deepest snow on earth, but I digress.
When they first took over Bell 2 Lodge, it was a small fuelling outpost for traffic moving to and from the Yukon and Alaska. It was basically just a gas station. When they started the build out for Last Frontier, turning Bell 2 into a purpose built heliski facility, their goal was to be off the grid. Not an easy task, especially up there. Bell 2 is remote. So everything; construction materials, repair people, supplies, food, drink, personnel. All of it had to come from places like Smithers and Terrace. Smithers is 359km away to give you an idea.
But being off the grid was important. First, if you’re not self sufficient in a place like this, everything is more difficult. As a result of that, Bell 2 Lodge generates all of its own electricity, has its own water filtration system, sewage system and all communications are via satellite uplink. There is even some food grown at Bell 2, with plans to further expand that over the next few years. But everything else, from the building materials for the Lodge, Chalets, Massage room, you name it, all of it had to come from somewhere else. And it’s not just that they wanted to get whatever was easily available in Smithers or via boat in Stewart. In some cases, they had to go a little further afield. The wood stoves in each of the rooms are soap stone, which are amazing conductors of heat and ultra efficient. Those were made in Finland and shipped to Bell 2. Second, being off the grid, while a long term goal, was a more environmentally sustainable one.
Another crucial aspect of being off grid is that we have to become self sufficient at maintenance and repairs. Everything with moving parts can break down, and the day to day operations of a heliski facility are like any other business. Stuff needs regular, scheduled maintenance and occasionally, repairs. So much like the helicopters come with certified aircraft maintenance engineers, we have a capable and resourceful staff that can handle just about anything that comes their way throughout the year.
And Bell 2 does operates year-round. So sure, during the winter it’s all faceshots, deep turns and apres, but in the summer, Bell 2 operates as an upscale summer lodge for travellers in Northern BC. So there really isn’t much of a down season when things can be shut off.
Being off the grid is never easy. But at Last Frontier Heliskiing, we think it’s worth the effort. Over the next few years, the goal is to continue to strive to be less and less reliant on outside help and more capable of operating with total independence. There are lots of options for that, especially in the realm of renewable energy. In the meantime, Bell 2 sits in some of the most spectacular mountains in the world and is waiting for you, winter or summer, to drop by for a week of skiing or a week of adventuring in Northern BC.
Be safe, ski hard.