The Advantages of a Road Through our Heliski Area

November 08, 2017 D'Arcy McLeish
Photo - Reuben Krabbe
Big country. Photo – Reuben Krabbe

We often get asked why we chose to open a heliski operation in the remote reaches of Northern BC. In fact, we’ve written a whole post on it here. In that post, we explain what went into choosing our current heliski area. You know, things like the fact we get 25 metres of snow each year, have some of the longest vertical runs in BC or it’s the single largest heliski area on earth. All of those things give us huge versatility and adaptability in our operation. But another advantage we seldom discuss which plays a significant role in our operation is we have a major road running right through the middle of it our heliski area.

ski_area_graphic BIG MAP-min

Last Frontier Heliskiing is located adjacent to South East Alaska in Northern British Columbia. With a heliski area spanning over 10,000 square kilometres, it runs from the Coast Mountains, along the border of Alaska and Pacific Coast, far inland to the Skeena Mountains and encompasses one of the snowiest and most remote mountain regions in Canada.

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When you drive north of Smithers or Terrace, BC, on BC Highway 37 (which is really more a road than a highway), you get to a place called Meziadin Junction. It’s a small place, with pretty much just a gas station, but it’s a confluence of giants. It’s where the southern end of our heliski area starts to get rolling in earnest. Going north up BC Highway 37 or Northwest up BC Highway 37A takes you into some of the most remote, glaciated mountains in Canada. Having those two roads, one of which cuts our tenure virtually in half south to north, is invaluable.

We want to maximize this and the road through our tenure helps immensely with that.  Photo - Grant Gunderson
We want to maximize this and the road through our tenure helps immensely with that.
Photo – Grant Gunderson

We like to ski, and because of that deep passion for getting our guests the absolute most out of their days, we use those two roads to our advantage. Our heliski area, or tenure, is big. So big, in fact, that flight times and fuel burn come into play. With that big tenure, we have lots of options on any given ski day. Options to go where the good skiing is. That massive area gives us huge versatility in where we can ski. But the road is what allows this big area to be much smaller, both in terms of flight times, fuel burn but most of all, waiting time for our guests. And that’s the key. The more we use that road to our advantage, the more you get to ski.

Over 10,000 square kilometres of remote, glaciated mountain wilderness. And you get to ski it.
Over 10,000 square kilometres of remote, glaciated mountain wilderness. And you get to ski it.

We could be miles from nowhere, skiing some unnamed line in the wilderness, a significant flight from our lodges and still have easy access to fuel because of the road. Whether it’s by truck or in one of our strategically placed landing zone/fuel caches on one of those roads, we can save time and fuel, thereby getting our guests to their turns faster and more efficiently. This reduces guest wait time, and allows our guides and pilots to strategically plan the day to get the absolute maximum skiing time. This is especially true if we’re moving into some of the really remote spots in our tenure. But even at Ripley Creek, we use that road; we start the day with one group taking off from Stewart and the other two groups meeting the machine from a staging area on the road. This allows the groups to get out skiing faster and means more laps at the end of the day. Wasted time means no skiing time and we think that sucks just as much you do.

Bell 2 Lodge: Right on the road, in the middle of nowhere, just the way we like it.
Bell 2 Lodge: Right on the road, in the middle of nowhere, just the way we like it.

Another great advantage to having those two roads is the ability to get folks out of the terrain and off their skis. This is true in emergencies but also if someone has had enough waist deep pow for the day and simply wants to end things a little early and head back to the lodge for a massage and a little apres. We can simply fly to a staging point along the road and have a nice warm vehicle take folks back to one of our lodges earlier in the day.

Early morning discussions on where to ski.  Photo - Blake Jorgenson
Early morning discussions on where to ski.
Photo – Blake Jorgenson

One of the best uses of that road, however, is for reconnaissance.  Because of those roads, we can send someone out, long before anyone is even contemplating getting out of bed for their ski day, to scope things out. One of our guides will head out on a recce mission and see what the weather is doing in different parts of our tenure. We can get live reports and data from the field to help us strategize where the best skiing is going to be on any given day. This is a huge plus for us and offers some unique advantages, all of which end with you spending more time on your skis and less time ferrying around in a helicopter.

Sometimes we get hitchers on the road.  Photo - Ron Ledoux
Sometimes we get hitchers on the road.
Photo – Ron Ledoux

We love to ski, and we know you do too. Our job is to get you the goods, day after day. Thankfully, having over 10,000 square kilometres to choose from makes things pretty easy. But an amazing staff, skilled guides, ninja mountain pilots and that handy road make it even easier.