Last Frontier: Dispatch from Seth
Just returned from a film trip with TGR that was a gathering of Oakley athletes. Kye Petersen, Tanner Hall and Dana Flahr were my partners for 10 days of exploration between the Coastal and Skeena Mountain ranges with Last Frontier Heli Skiing based out of the Bell 2 Lodge. This place is in the middle of nowhere, but doesn’t quite feel that way with all the action going on.
Bell 2 originally was a last-chance gas and supply stop for travelers on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Over the past 10 years heli-skiing has grown to be quite popular here, and over the years they have built up quite the compound. There is a main lodge and the guests stay in cabins that are separated into four rooms, two per floor. Pretty sweet setup. They have everything you could possibly need, including a pair of A-star’s and a Bell 407 to facilitate quests for pow.
The skiing is very similar to what I have skied in AK, but it has many more options for down-day type skiing (bad weather skiing). Many tree runs with tons of features in them; cliffs, pillow walls, pillow poppers. And with a tenure a quarter the size of Switzerland, we barley scratched the surface. The flight in from Vancouver offered us some up-close views as we descended into the Bob Quinn Lake. The Coast Mountains stretch from Washington through Alaska, so there was much to see coming from Van.
Our days were split between cloudy weather and sun. When it was sunny we experienced minus-4 F temps all day with a windchill that made it more like minus-20. So needless to say we were in the real deal elements. As we explored around our guide knew the lay of the land well-and this was crucial to be efficient as possible with our heli time.
We did pretty much every kind of skiing you would find in the mountain environment. One day we got to ski a 4,800 vert peak. It was wicked to get on something of some size. Kye was really into doing something of that nature, so the kid got his piece of candy. There were sessions of natural wind-lip features; “no builds” as we like to call them. That was fun to get some practice in for the AK cliff hucks as well as watching the boys send it.
There were some spectacular crashes, too. Dana pulled a massive front, went way to big and tomahawked so violently his jacket and pack came flying off. Tanner had one as well. They got off with just a warning, I guess you could say. We shredded some pillow walls and rode some spine features in the alpine. We also had some crazy exploring descents on a snow-evaluation run. Some areas down low had much different snow than the top and mid-run sections, so some exit points were quite challenging.
Mixed bag of deep surface hoar pockets, moving to collapsing old snow around alders, to sun-baked hot pow. A true mountain adventure is never complete without ever-changing snow conditions. Don’t get me wrong, the snow was good and there was a ton of base-valley floor had over seven feet of it. So you would walk around in near tunnels to get to your cabin.
Being in the middle of nowhere is great and it’s not all just skiing. There was a lot of wildlife in the area: Moose, wolves, bears, eagles, wolverines, martins. But we saw only moose and martins. Many moose are hit on the highway that passes Bell 2. We saw one that had been hit. They have the front-end loaders that do snow removal on the highway pick them up and place them over the side of the snowbank. As we checked one out, you could see a trail from wolves and wolverines heading from the dead moose back into the woods.
So heading up the snowbank was like looking over a cornice down onto a big line: You’re not sure what you’re going to see first and your heart is racing. Lucky for us there wasn’t anything over the edge but the moose. Very cool time up there and a great crew to share it with. Thanks to everyone that was a part of it.
Till next time, S.