Iron, Rock, Snow and Ice – 2016 in Review

What a year it has been for us here at Mountain Skills Academy!

In case you don’t keep up with our updates on our Facebook page and Instagram feed (you definitely should), we’ve had some standout moments in 2016. From ski touring in the backcountry, scaling rock and waterfalls, to hiking on snow and dirt trails, our guides are proud to have introduced hundreds of guests to the outdoors and shown many more what is possible when pushing their limits in the mountains. Here’s a few of the highlights of our 2016 in review.  

A strong start

The 2015/16 season began with a bang (ok, not quite as good as this season but still pretty good) setting up ideal snowpack conditions for Avalanche Canada’s Avalanche Awareness Days. We also had great turnouts for our Companion Rescue Refreshers, giving backcountry skiers and boarders a chance to practice their self rescue skills.

We also held our first five-day Ski Guides Training Course in Whistler, with candidates walking away with professional level guiding skills and seeking work placements in ski guiding operations. If you’re looking to kick off your career in the industry and propel yourself towards ACMG certifications, this is an excellent place to get started.

Happy heli faces. Media manager Dan O'Keefe and guide Klemen Mali take the easy route up
Happy heli faces. Media manager Dan O’Keefe and guide Klemen Mali take the easy route up

Heli of a good time

Mid-winter saw us guiding our first heli-drop backcountry ski touring trip to Mount Joffre in the Duffey Lakes area (north of Whistler), an adventure we were happy to repeat a couple times for different groups throughout the season. At MSAA we love offering custom guided adventures, so if you have a trip in mind to a remote peak, call us and we’ll make it happen.

It's not heliskiing, it's heli ski touring!
It’s not heliskiing, it’s heli ski touring!

Tantalizing Turns

If you are an experienced ski tourer looking for steep and challenging terrain, there are few mountains that will stack up to the Tantalus Range. A quick heli flight from Squamish Airport, the Jim Haberl Hut is perfect base for two or more days of ski mountaineering in the Tantalus. Both Eric and Klemen guided trips up there last season and will no doubt be looking forward to more trips of this caliber in 2017.

Steep climbs for steep descents in the Tantalus Range
Steep climbs for steep descents in the Tantalus Range

Where’s there’s a will, there’s an iron way

The Whistler Mountain via ferrata was happily buried under snow for the winter months, but our Squamish via ferrata course (accessed via the Sea to Sky Gondola) is able to run year round. The Squamish course was built and tested by our lead guide and owner Eric Dumerac and has seen hundreds of happy faces climbing up the ramparts to the Summit Lodge this year. The views of Howe Sound are just as exhilarating during the winter, so pack your gloves and warm clothes for a different kind winter adventure in Squamish.

Another stoked group on the Whistler Mountain Via Ferrata with guide Josh Majarossy
Another happy group on the Whistler Mountain Via Ferrata with guide Josh Majarossy

Cold as ice

Not only has it been an excellent start to the snow year, but the recent cold snap has made for ideal ice climbing conditions. Last winter we managed to get plenty of groups out for ice climbing tours in the Duffey Lake area, where cascading icefalls lets our guests ease into this physically demanding sport. Even the kids can do it!

Client Paul Massier nearing the top of Leucothea, a first ice climbing ascent in the Rockies.
Client Paul Massier nearing the top of Leucothea, a first ice climbing ascent in the Rockies.

First ice climbing ascent in Rocky Mountains

This was not your typical weekend trip! Paul Massier completed the first ever ascent of Leucothea, a 500m mixed rock and ice route on Mt. Whyte graded as M5 WI3, guided by MSAA owner and lead guide Eric Dumerac. Eric described the climb as “moderate in technical terms, but the team had their hands full with inclement conditions bringing high winds and lots of spindrift.” Leucothea is mythologized as the Greek Sea-Goddess and Protectress of Sailors, but in this case Eric jokingly referred to her as “the Greek Goddess of Spindrift.” We’re proud to have such accomplishments under our belts here at MSAA, for both our guides and our clients.

Our office team; Dan, Junichi, Rachel, Laura, Sophie and Marlaina, 2016 in review
Our office team; Dan, Junichi, Rachel, Laura, Sophie and Marlaina. Eric was busy in the mountains that day.

New additions to the MSAA Team

Lastly, our team at MSAA has grown! In the last few months (in addition to our guides roster) we’ve seen some new faces added to the MSA office crew. Marlaina Rhymer hand Sophie Horsfall have come from previous professional careers, having taken positions as booking agents/ski rental technicians. Marlaina has been guiding our via ferrata, hiking and snowshoe tours and Sophie will begin their guide training next summer.

Rachel Huber recently came on board as the Business Development & Sales Manager and is responsible for pretty much all the social media posts you’ve seen lately. She brings a wealth of business and marketing experience to the team.

Dan O’Keefe is our official man of media and is behind all of our video and photo content. While a wizard behind the keyboard and editing screen, he also spends a lot of time in the field with his camera documenting our courses and adventures. He also guides via ferrata, hiking and snowshoe tours.

Laura O’Keefe remains in her role as operations manager and is now charged with MSAA’s human resources. So if you’re looking for a job with us, be sure to drop her a line!

Junichi Matsunaga has been guiding for us for a few years now and has recently stepped into the shoes of General Manager. We still hope to see him getting out into the field guiding as much as possible.


From the entire team at Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures, we wish you all the happiest of holidays! May 2017 bring you many more adventures.

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