Heliski Tree Glading – Creating A Tree Skiing Nirvana

September 19, 2019 Steve Rosset

Situated on the Southeast Corner of the Alaskan Panhandle, Last Frontier Heliskiing is uniquely positioned to offer our guests a highly diverse and flexible heliski area. Unlike our Northern neighbors in Alaska, we have an abundance of sub-alpine heli skiing terrain. Tree skiing is an essential component of our ski program. When clouds arrive and snow starts to fall, the tree canopy provides sight lines for our pilots to access mid elevation landings. From there, guests ski or ride in predominately naturally gladed forests down into valley bottoms.

Tree Glading Program – Phase I Complete

This summer, we have completed the first phase of what is anticipated to be a multi-year tree glading program in our Red Flat zone. Cliff Umpleby [Director of Operations] lead the intensive multi-year process that involved government permitting, first nations consultations and a careful analysis of the local topography to minimize environmental impact. Red Flat is easily accessible with a short 5 to 10 minute flight from Bell 2 Lodge and is one of our go-to ski areas during poor weather conditions. A crew of professional fallers [who are also avid skiers] spent two weeks establishing several new landings, opening up dense tree stands and linking naturally existing glades. It is estimated that this program will double the tree skiing area on the run Borderline. Future plans call for similar tree glading programs to be undertaken on Mucho Gusto and Zamboni.

The goal with this year’s tree glading program is to make the area more accessible for heli skiers and boarders that may not be comfortable navigating tight trees. Regardless of ability level, you can expect this area to ski with considerably improved flow. Guests that have skied with us can reference Caribou Trees, where we’ve under taken a similar glading program in the past. In Cliff’s own words: “I walked the block and I have to say its going to be epic in there! Can’t wait.” Larger heli landings and pickup zones were also established to make it more efficient and safer for pilots to access.

Remote Camera Installation

A remote satellite camera has also been deployed at an elevation of 1,300m to monitor pre-season snow accumulation. At this time we will not be providing a live feed, but do stay tuned for occasional updates on our social media channels. The system is reliable and easy to deploy, so we will likely be testing it in various locations throughout the winter season. It is designed to give our operational heliski team eyes on the ground where normally only a reconnaissance flight could gather weather intel. This is part of an ongoing program to reduce unnecessary flights, thereby saving fuel and driving down emissions.