From the Front Lines: Chris Rubens on Last Frontier Heliskiing

October 25, 2013 Katie Burrell

Salomon Freeski TV has entered its seventh season and just keeps getting better. A couple of winters ago, Freeski TV came up to film at Last Frontier Heliskiing with a couple of certified shred dogs: Cody Townsend and Chris Rubens.

The two of them hit up the full meal deal and skied some of the gnarliest lines that both Bell 2 and Ripley Creek terrain have to offer. Interested by the culture and socioeconomics of the area, these athletes engaged themselves heavily in the local economy and culture. In other words, they crossed the frontier and got really drunk in Alaska. They also did a bit of skiing…

A &Quot;Chris Rubens&Quot; Spotted  In His Natural Environment. Photo: Bryn Hughes
A “Chris Rubens” spotted in his natural environment. Photo: Bryn Hughes

Chris Rubens is famed in Revelstoke for loading the gondola with absolutely nothing done up properly (buckles, zippers, you name it) and pulling it together so fast that the laps he bangs out under the gondola look like film segments. He is an old-hand at the “ski mag interview” and so we smashed through the preliminary background questions: Salomon Freeski TV, conceptualized by Mike Douglas and Bruno Bertrand, used to be cutting room floor stuff that was edited into episodes and now has its own unique content. Cody is a sterile guy that doesn’t like to have a laugh or make fun of people, etc.

Cody Townsend, Characteristically Serious. Photo: Bryn Hughes
Cody Townsend, also in natural habitat. Photo: Bryn Hughes

Then came the real hard-hitting question: which one of you was it that face plants off the back of the van after you guys get “Hyderized” in the episode of Freeski TV that was filmed at Last Frontier Heliskiing? 

Watch the video here:

Cody And Chris, Debating Leaving The Last Frontier To See What The Other Side Of The Border Has To Offer. They Went For It. Photo: Bryn Hughes
The boys, debating leaving the frontier to see what the other side of the border has to offer. Photo: Bryn Hughes

It was Cody. According to Rubens, “you don’t argue with a man who wants to try to ski behind a van.” Chris told me that being “Hyderized” consists of leaving Stewart, BC, home of the Ripley Creek lodge, and heading across the border to Hyder, Alaska, where there’s a “sweet little bar with money all over the walls and not a whole lot else to do but try a shot of flaming grain alcohol.” This is where the real perks and problems of being on a film trip come into play: “you take the first shot and you go from stone cold sober to pretty buzzed. Then the film guy has one. Then the film guy decides he has to get a shot of us doing a shot. The second shot takes you from pretty buzzed to seeing double. The second shot means that going skiing behind the van sounds like a great idea.”

No Time For Hangovers. Up And At 'Em! Photo: Bryn Hughes
Up and at ’em! Photo: Bryn Hughes

It’s pretty hard to spend the day in bed nursing a hangover when you have helicopters dropping you at the top of your lines, and because these guys are professionals, they got up the next morning and went skiing. But filming is a very different game than just going out shredding with your buddies. “There’s a physical and mental challenge of skiing a film line,” Rubens said, “when you’re out with your buddies you’re not setting up equipment or waiting for light or athletes to get into place. You have to check the snow conditions, know what you’re doing and study the line super hard. When you hit the edge of a cliff you don’t get to slow down and look over it. That’s why it’s all about forehand preparation; it’s normal to be scared, but you should be fairly convinced that it will be OK. You’ve spent your time researching and you know where you’re going. If you’ve done all that properly, it should work out. It should.” (Note to guests: you get to just go shred with your buddies.)

This Is Why We Let The Professionals Do The Picking. I'm Lost. Photo: Bryn Hughes
This is why we let the professionals do the picking. I’d be lost. Photo: Bryn Hughes

Despite Chris having traveled all over the world to ski, he went on record to describe the terrain at Last Frontier Heliskiing as spectacular. “Usually when you’re flying around in a helicopter you’re focused on picking your lines – not really on getting excited looking around,” he said, “but the views up there are jaw-dropping. Also, because it’s so remote, there is a real bond that forms between everybody. Everybody ends up just having a really good time with what’s available.”

Scopin' Lines, Droppin' Jaws. Photo: Bryn Hughes
Scopin’ lines, droppin’ jaws. Photo: Bryn Hughes

What’s available? Oh you know, just huge terrain, endless powder, sweet lines, great people, excellent food, and 99% liquor drinks. You’d be hard pressed to go wrong.