Guide Training Week 2015 at Last Frontier Heliskiing

December 21, 2015 Vince Shuley

As resorts open their flood gates to the masses across British Columbia this December, the guides at Last Frontier Heliskiing are getting ready for what is looking like an awesome start to the 2015/16 season.

Guide training Week Last frontier Heliskiing
Helipad procedures | Photo Aurelien Sudan

First off, condition updates from guide training week (December 13-18).
Temperatures: Between -10C and -12C during the day; -15C to -24C at night.
Snowpack: Average of 160cm at treeline, up to 320cm in the alpine.
Terrain: Excellent early season conditions with lots of fresh snow. Good coverage, allowing some guides to ski all the way to the valley.
Lodge: 50cm of snow at Bell 2 Lodge.

Looking like winter at the Bell 2 Lodge | Photo Aurelien Sudan
Looking like winter at the Bell 2 Lodge | Photo Aurelien Sudan
Bell 2 Chalets | photo: Aurelien Sudan
Bell 2 Chalets | photo: Aurelien Sudan

Something new for 2015/16 season – the 21st year of Last Frontier Heliskiing – are the guide uniforms. Gone are the orange shells of 2014 in favour of our brand new blue (and very fetching) Bergens of Norway jackets. The logo stands out perfectly with that colour, don’t you think?

Guide training Week Last frontier Heliskiing
Guides in training flying the new colours of Last Frontier Heliskiing | Photo Aurelien Sudan
Probing 320cm deep in the alpine. | Photo: Aurelien Sudan
Probing 320cm deep in the alpine. | Photo: Aurelien Sudan

On a more serious note, Guide Training Week isn’t just about parading around in new uniforms and skiing powder. Following a warm welcome from the lodge staff, the first day consists of a tour of the facilities, good practices at the helipad, as well as a presentation of the tenure and strategically located fuel caches.

De-icing the heli is common procedure in the morning. Photo: Aurelien Sudan
De-icing the heli is common procedure in the morning. Photo: Aurelien Sudan

In any outdoor guiding operation, an emergency plan is required in case anyone is injured or requires evacuation. Our guides receive the highest level of training for all sorts of emergency procedures, making sure our guests and their loved ones are well looked after.

Snowpack at treeline: 160cm with good stability. | Photo: Aurelien Sudan
Field rescue simulation. | Photo: Aurelien Sudan
Field rescue simulation. | Photo: Aurelien Sudan

A big part of training is familiarization with the snowpack and available rescue equipment. To that effect, the guides spend plenty of time in the field under tutelage of our forecasters assessing the snowpack stability, recording readings and noting any natural or human-triggered slides, no matter what size. Guides also run through rope rescue scenarios on top of rehearsing avalanche rescues.

Avalanche Rescue Scenario. | Photo: Aurelien Sudan
Avalanche Rescue Scenario. | Photo: Aurelien Sudan
Guide training Week Last frontier Heliskiing
What’s training without sampling the product? | Photo Aurelien Sudan

Running a successful operation also requires strict procedures and effective communication. To that end, guides are introduced and rehearse daily operations with lodge staff, helicopter pilots and engineers. Lodge staff also need to keep the lines of communication open with the booking office in Vernon to make sure every guest has their needs met and exceeded, whether that’s lodging, transfer requests or dietary requirements.

Guide training Week Last frontier Heliskiing
The smurf march to the helipad | Photo Aurelien Sudan

And at the end of the day, it’s you, the guest, that we aim to please. Guide Training Week may involve a bit of sneaky powder skiing, but with the largest single heliski area  in the world, there’s plenty of fresh tracks waiting for you.

Let the season begin | Photo: Aurelien Sudan
Let the season begin | Photo: Aurelien Sudan
Good early season coverage | Photo: Aurelien Sudan
Good early season coverage | Photo: Aurelien Sudan