Last Frontier Heliskiing: Where the heck is it?

November 08, 2019 Liam Harrap

If you were to look at a map of Canada, Last Frontier Heliskiing would be at the corner of it. We are right at the edge, snuggled between mountains near the Alaskan panhandle. Many of the surrounding summits are unnamed and icefields seamlessly flow into one another.

Last Frontier has two ski operations: Bell 2 Lodge and Ripley Creek.

Bell 2 Lodge is on Highway 37 deep in the Skeena Mountains of Northwest B.C. The lodge gets its name from a nearby bridge, which crosses the Bell Irving River. It’s the second bridge along the river. Apparently all the more interesting bridge names were taken.

Bell 2 Lodge - Northern BC Canada home of Last Frontier Heliskiing
Bell 2 Lodge is situated on the Bell Irving River. | Photo: Mike Watling

Ripley Creek is in the town of Stewart, B.C., right beside the Alaska border at the end of the Portland Canal in the Coastal Mountains. Highway 37, which leads to both locations, is a lonesome road. It’s not uncommon for hours to pass between cars. If you were thinking of arriving via hitchhiking, you might be waiting a while. If you do, I’d bring a tent and some canned goods – just in case.

The Town of Stewart BC - Home of Last Frontier Heliskiing's Ripley Creek Operation
Ripley Creek is located in the town of Stewart, on the border with Alaska. | Photo: Mike Watling

What sets us apart? 

For both locations, the nearest town is a four-hour drive and that’s without a blizzard or road closures due to avalanche control [which luckily are mostly pre-planned colsures]. It’s this isolation that gives the area a natural charm that is getting increasingly difficult to find in more populated parts of British Columbia.

This is wild country.

Last Frontier Heliskiing has the world’s largest single heli-skiing area at more than 10,100 square kms, roughly a quarter the size of Switzerland and four times larger than the average heli-skiing area in B.C.

The best part though – we’ve got the area to ourselves.

Unlike southern ski destinations like Whistler and Revelstoke, there are no souvenir shops, cafes or tour buses at Last Frontier Heliskiing. In fact, the only other bus you might see is for transporting workers to a local gold mine. Some of our runs even go through historic mines, remnants of former boom times.

Getting to Last Frontier Heliskiing 

While it might seem like you’re adventuring to the edge of the earth, getting here is actually easier than you think:

1. Arrive in Vancouver, B.C. If needed, there are options to overnight.

2. Take a 1.5-hour morning flight to the northern hubs of Smithers or Terrace. Guests going to Bell 2 Lodge fly to Smithers and guests going to Ripley Creek go to Terrace. Both are small towns with local ski hills, if you wish to test drive your ski legs beforehand.

3. A 4-hour ground transfer leads you either to Bell 2 Lodge or Ripley Creek.

Bell 2 is located right in the middle of our tenure, allowing us to fly in all directions from the lodge. The closest runs are a short five-minute flight from the lodge, which reduces the commute.

By comparison, the terrain at Ripley Creek tends to be steeper and more rugged. Sweeping glaciated slopes and longer tree runs will satisfy those itching for just a bit more adventure.

Once you arrive at either location, you’ll be welcomed with snacks like tacos and pineapple, a welcome presentation, avalanche training, a delightful dinner such as beef tenderloin with prawns, drinks, new friends and a comfortable place to sleep. In the morning, you’ll be greeted with a scrumptious breakfast like banana bread french toast to prepare you for the main event –  a plethora of skiing.

This is BIG country 

Combined, there are more than 1,000 named runs, the largest topping 2,000 vertical metres. However, it’s not all about the numbers. The real draw at Last Frontier Heliskiing is the variety of terrain: high alpine, massive glaciers, sprawling tree runs, and everything in between.

Turns out the area is not only good for industry, but with its massive runs and snowfalls, it’s also a gold mine for skiing.

Our tenure is so vast, we have yet to finish exploring it. If you’re lucky, you might even get to name a new run. I think Liam’s Run has a particularly nice ring to it.

Last Frontier Heliskiing is remote, however it’s this isolation that sets it apart from other ski destinations. That and its annual bountiful snowfall of up to 25 meters.

As the British writer David Mitchell once said, “It’s the edges of the maps that fascinate …”

If lonesome rugged terrain tickles your fancy, Last Frontier Heliskiing might be the perfect place for you to explore.

 

 


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