Pre-winter Preparation at Last Frontier Heliskiing

November 07, 2016 Vince Shuley

Winter cometh, and while we’re all dreaming of endless powder days and helicopter rides, there’s a whole lot going on behind the scenes before snow hits the valley floor. This is pre-winter preparation at Last Frontier Heliskiing and it runs on a skeleton crew of staff.

Pre-Winter Preparation
Pre-winter preparation for a heliski company isn’t always pretty, but definitely necessary | Photo – Cliff Umpleby

“For pre-winter set up there are usually a couple of us working on getting rescue equipment sorted out, caches in place, fuel ordered etc.” says Last Frontier Heliskiing’s Director of Operations Cliff Umpleby. “Everything needs to get done around the start of December so we can head off any unforeseen things that pop up. Field operations start on the December 8 where we install some of our remote caches and get things ready for guides training. Training starts on December 11 and runs to the 16th.”

Pre-Winter Preparation
Dialing in the gear well ahead of the winter rush | Photo – Steve Rosset

When a heliski operation has been in business this long, there’s a lot of standard operating procedures in place. Some will be concrete, such as flying regulations and rescue procedures. Others are more tailored to the specific operation such as shuttling supplies to remote caches and ordering adequate fuel for those helicopters. Operations staff sometimes take on custom construction projects such as cabinet making well before snow arrives. That’s because once the birds are in the air with skiers aboard, there’s little time for such projects.

Pre-Winter Preparation
Make hay while the sun shines. Summer at Bell 2 Lodge | Photo – Steve Rosset

Some work is even carried out earlier than pre-winter during the summer months. This includes hiring heli ski guides for the upcoming season,  maintaining the ski rental fleet, falling trees on gladed runs, mapping new runs and ensuring any deficiencies from the previous year are dealt with.

The aforementioned skeleton crew usually consists of a couple year-round staff including Umpleby himself, Franz Fux and a couple workers from Smithers who are around. Once guides and staff are trained in early December, there’s more people to help out on any last minute projects that pop up prior to moving to full operation.

Pre-Winter Preparation
New storage cabinets at a fuel cache. Ready for winter. | Photo – Cliff Umpleby

Start counting the days, ’cause early season heliskiing turns are just around the corner.