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Big snow dumps mean big, dangerous tree wells

Thu, 13th Dec 2018  /  By Vince Shuley

Whistler and the whole of the Pacific Northwest is rejoicing this week after winter broke down the door with well over a meter of snow on the slopes and more in the forecast. What a time to be alive! But while everyone is busy ditching work getting faceshots, there remains a life threatening hazard at every turn, and I’m not talking about avalanches. Snow Immersion Suffocation (SIS) can happen when a skier or snowboarder falls into a tree well or deep, loose snow – usually ...

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Understanding Human Factors in Avalanche Safety

Fri, 26th Oct 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
human factor avalanche

Why do so many people with avalanche training end up triggering slides more than a few times in their backcountry careers? It’s one of the most perplexing conundrums of avalanche safety, one that boils down to psychology rather than skill or knowledge. Avalanche researchers have termed this effect collectively as “human factors.”

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Best Fall Hikes in the Sea to Sky

Sun, 9th Sep 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
whistler hiking fall

Summer in British Columbia is always over too soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of the transition season before winter arrives. The fall can be bittersweet; lake dipping temperatures are gone, replaced by toques and puffy jackets. Sunsets hide behind cloud cover before heading to bed early. Crowds thin out to a trickle as school resumes. While weather can be cold and sometimes wet, beautiful bug-free sunny days do make an appearance. So with that in mind, gear up for hiking ...

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Via Ferrata in BC: Bridging generations

Sat, 28th Jul 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
Whistler squamish via ferrata Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures

Via Ferrata (or “klettersteig” in German-speaking nations) is a relatively young pursuit here in North America. But in Europe, its history dates back over a century.  While the first via ferrata routes were built to access popular mountain summits more easily, most protected routes in the Alps were a result of military construction.  During World War I, the armies of  Austria-Hungary, Italy and France manned mountain positions in the areas of the Dolomites and the French-Swiss Alps. Military engineers built ladder routes, underground tunnels and hanging bridges ...

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5 Reasons to try Via Ferrata

Sat, 28th Jul 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
via ferrata

Updated: 7/28/2018: Click here for all of our rock climbing activities: Summer has been poking her head out quite a bit recently in British Columbia, which means that hiking and climbing season is not far away. But have you ever considered a hybrid version of these two alpine activities? Via Ferrata, a form of vertical climbing assisted by metal rungs embedded in the rock, blends the two experiences seamlessly. Begin by hiking in the fresh alpine air. Clip your harness into the cable safety system. ...

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An Ode to the Glacier Walk

Wed, 25th Jul 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
Glacier walk

Hiking through the mountains of British Columbia, sooner or later you’ll need to cross a glacier. These ancient remnants of our last ice age elicit both awe and curiosity and come in every possible shape, size and thickness. They may require specialized equipment to traverse or climb them. But for the non-polar explorers, the so called “glacier walk” lets people experience the sensation of travelling over ice and snow in without committing to an arduous mountaineering trip. Click here for our guided hiking tours, if ...

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Best Rock Climbing Spots in Vancouver and Sea to Sky

Fri, 13th Jul 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
Rock climbing spots in Vancouver Sea to Sky

With climbing season in full swing, there’s no better time to start checking off routes on your rock climbing To-Do list. And as much as we’re fans of frequenting our local stomping grounds here at Mountain Skills Academy, we like to switch up our spots for a change of scenery every now and then. We’ll be taking a look at some great road trip options across B.C. and the Rockies in the next couple of weeks, until then, let’s warm up on some climbs closer ...

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Canada Day Long Weekend Sale! 50% Off

Wed, 27th Jun 2018  /  By Joelle
Whistler Sky Walk

For the Canada Day Sale this long weekend we are offering 50% off on 2 tours! Celebrate the grand opening of our newest tour called the Whistler Sky Walk. The Sky Walk is a hike up to and along the edge of Whistler Mountain overlooking amazing mountain and valley views. You clip into a cable to safely cross small suspended bridges and cliff-edge features. This is a stunning guided 2-3 hour hike that is great for wide range of ages and abilities. Enjoy 50% off the Squamish Via Ferrata tour at ...

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Rock Climbing 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Fri, 8th Jun 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
Rock Climbing Course

The Coast Mountains and Rockies have some of the best rock climbing in the world. For that reason alone it’s worth trying your hand at this truly exhilarating sport. But for those who’ve never attempted to scale a wall – whether at a gym or at an outdoor climbing centre – the prospect of hanging off elevated hand holds and foot holds can be a little intimidating. Yet even the most experienced rock climbers all had to start somewhere. In this Rock Climbing 101 guide, we’ll hopefully dispel some of ...

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Understanding Backcountry Food and Nutrition

Sat, 24th Mar 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
backcountry food

Food and water are what keep us alive as human beings. In the backcountry, these nutrients are just as important – arguably more so given the lack of available food in nearby refrigerators and stores. As a general rule of thumb, any time you venture out into a remote place, you should be bringing some sort of food with you. Not just for the comfort of eating when you are hungry, but to sustain your body through the exercise of getting out there and home ...

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The Experiential Benefit of Backcountry Huts and Lodges

Mon, 5th Mar 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
Whistler backcountry huts Rockies

Camping in the winter backcountry takes some motivation. It’s cold, there’s a lot of gear and supplies to carry and there is just a thin sheet of nylon between your sleeping bag and the outside elements. But there’s an alternative to roughing it in the snow in the form of backcountry huts and lodges. Usually positioned around treeline elevation a few hours hike from the trailhead, these structures allow backcountry enthusiasts to carry in food and sleeping gear from their vehicles then ski tour, unhindered, ...

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A Day in the Life of a Backcountry Ski Guide

Sat, 20th Jan 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
backcountry ski guide Whistler Rockies

The day in the life of a backcountry ski guide might seem like it’s all sunshine and powder turns, but the truth is that it’s a lot more work than that. These men and women rise early, stay late and are always surveying the landscape for potential hazards and safety concerns. It takes quite a few years to achieve accredited guide status with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) when you add up all the courses, exams, practicums, trips and filling out of log ...

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Avalanche Awareness Days 2018

Wed, 17th Jan 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
Avalanche awareness days Whistler Rockies

Avalanche Canada’s annual Avalanche Awareness Days are back for 2018! This series of events take place at ski resorts across Canada to promote safety and knowledge in the winter backcountry. As an avalanche educator and guiding outfitter, Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures will again be participating both in Whistler and the Rockies this year. Here’s a list of events going on this weekend. Kananaskis Country, AB – January 21 For those of you residing in Banff, Canmore, Calgary or surrounding areas, Alberta Parks is organizing a ...

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Preventing Avalanche Transceiver Interference

Wed, 20th Dec 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
avalanche transceiver interference

The amount of consumer electronics carried by skiers and snowboarders on a daily basis has increased significantly in recent years. Smartphones, GoPros, cameras and GPS tracking devices all have their place, but when setting foot into the backcountry it’s the most important piece of electronics – the avalanche transceiver – that needs to do its job in order to keep you alive. All the other pieces of technology can cause avalanche transceiver interference affecting your beacon’s signal and search capability. This article goes into a ...

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MSAA and Escape Route Demo the Alpine

Wed, 29th Nov 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
Escape Route Alpine Demo Centre

What’s the biggest barrier to backcountry skiing and snowboarding? Gear. Skis need specific touring bindings. Snowboards need to be able to split in half to allow ascent. Then there’s the transceiver, shovel and probe for self-rescue, plus a backpack to carry it all. Sounds expensive, doesn’t it? You’re not wrong. All the aforementioned gear adds up to thousands of dollars when all is said and done, which can make the backcountry discipline of snowsports a tough sell to those wishing to try it for the ...

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My First Day on Skins: Beginner Ski Touring Experience

Tue, 7th Nov 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
beginner ski touring

No one forgets their first ski touring experience. There’s a realization that no, you don’t actually need a chair lift to ski powder. There are some things to learn, however. A lot of things actually, too much to learn in a single day. That’s probably the reason most people venture out with experienced friends or guides the first time. The following is an account of the author’s Day 1 beginner ski touring experience. I’m not really sure what I’m doing here, but it probably has ...

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MSAA Gear Guide: Ski Touring Boots

Thu, 26th Oct 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
backcountry ski touring boots

Just like with alpine (downhill) skiing, one of the most important parts of your backcountry setup are your ski touring boots. Given the amount of walking one does while ski touring, boot selection is even more paramount for a pain-free time in the backcountry. The most affordable way to start ski touring is with your regular alpine boots and a set of Alpine Touring (AT) bindings. However, now that more manufacturers than ever before have entered the backcountry market, many skiers are choosing to purchase ...

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4 Benefits of Boosting Your Mountain Navigation Skills

Thu, 19th Oct 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
4-season tent winter camping

Being guided around the winter backcountry for the first time can be an awe-inspiring experience, whether by an experienced friend, a friend of a friend or a qualified ski guide. There’s a sense of accomplishment from being completely self-sufficient in the mountains; carrying all your gear to survive on your back as you climb and descend untouched powder slopes. But when it’s time to explore new areas without guidance, getting in and out of the mountains – safely – takes on a whole new meaning. ...

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Guide to Camping in the Mountains: Tents

Tue, 26th Sep 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
4-season tent winter camping

Shelter can save your life in the mountains. By keeping the elements out and warmth in, spending the night in a tent is the best way to get the most comfortable sleep possible. Previously in this camping gear guide series, we’ve covered the importance of sleeping bags and sleeping pads, but those pieces of kit are not much use without an effective tent. Camping on hot summer nights may be the exception, but you’ll probably want something between you and the bugs. And when climbing ...

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5 Ways to Make the Most of Fall

Wed, 20th Sep 2017  /  By Vince Shuley

Ahhh, fall… There’s nothing like a cold season change to renew winter anticipation. The cooler weather has returned with some rain, which has fallen as snow at the alpine elevations. It may still be a while before we’re clicking into our skis and strapping on our boards, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give ourselves the best possible start to the winter by making the most of the winter shoulder season. From getting gear-ready to taking an educational course to simply staying outside as long ...

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Guide to Camping in the Mountains: Sleeping Pad

Tue, 29th Aug 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
sleeping pad camping mountains

When camping in the mountains, your greatest enemy is the cold. Ambient air temperature affects your comfort during the day, but when sleeping at night it’s the ground that will sap your body’s warmth. We can guard against the cold with effective base layer clothing and insulated sleeping bags, but for a good night’s sleep you’ll need something between you and the ground (besides a thin tent floor). That means choosing the right sleeping pad for camping in the mountains, both for warmth and for ...

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Sky Pilot: A Hiker’s Mountaineering Trip

Wed, 23rd Aug 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
sky pilot squamish mountaineering Mountain Skills Academy

There comes a time when an experienced hiker will look for the next challenge. That may entail hiking further from civilization, gaining higher summits or tackling more technical routes. But for those who want to take the next step in vertical, the slow and steady transition towards mountaineering doesn’t have to necessarily involve high altitude climbing or risky routes. Sky Pilot (2031m), a peak accessed from the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, is the perfect introduction to “mountaineering lite” in the Vancouver/Sea to Sky ...

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Guide to Camping in the Mountains: Sleeping Bags

Tue, 1st Aug 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
sleeping bag mountain camping

Every weekend of the summer tens of thousands of Canadians load up their vehicles and bed down in campsites across the country. While car camping has its conveniences and comforts, we at MSAA like to wander a bit further from our vehicles before making camp. That means a slightly different choice of gear, particularly when sleeping in the wilderness. As the main interface between your body and the outside elements, your sleeping bag can make or break your camping experience in the mountains. To that ...

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Enjoying the Outdoors During Extreme Fire Danger

Fri, 21st Jul 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
Outdoors hiking camping Fire danger

You’ve probably been hearing about wildfires sweeping through British Columbia this month. According to BC Wildfire, as of today (July 20, 2017) a total of 152 wildfires are currently burning across the province. Emergency services have responded to 688 fires since April 1, which have burned an estimated 405,000 hectares of land. The cost to control these blazes has run up to $111.9 million, which doesn’t include any of the costs to the province for dealing with the fallout such as housing the approximately 42,000 ...

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5 Ways to Celebrate Canada 150 in the Outdoors

Fri, 30th Jun 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
Canada 150 Whistler Rockies

Well Canada, you certainly are looking good for 150 years old. Canada Day this Saturday (July 1) marks Great White North’s sesquicentennial and what better way to celebrate than getting outside? Summertime is made for outdoor moments, whether on the water, on the trails or just soaking up the natural beauty. In case you haven’t planned your Canada 150 long weekend yet, here are a few outdoor activities to celebrate your inner Canuckness. Hiking Walking among the forests of mountains of Canada is an excellent ...

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MSAA to partner with Whistler Hiatus as official guiding bureau

Mon, 26th Jun 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
hiking Whistler hiatus

Whistler and the surrounding Sea to Sky Corridor is one of the most beautiful areas to hike in Canada. Through a new partnership, Whistler Hiatus and Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures (MSAA) are here to help you get the most out of your summer hiking season. Trails permeate these valleys in all directions, from low-lying forested walks to all-day and multi-day expeditions into alpine elevations. There are natural attractions such as waterfalls, lakes and old growth trees that date back over a thousand years. There ...

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Choosing the Right Rock Climbing Harness

Mon, 12th Jun 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
rock climbing harness

One of the key pieces of rock climbing kit is the harness. It’s a crucial link in the belay lifeline, wrapping our waists and thighs with padded webbing that catches us and helps catch our climbing partners in the event of a fall. The climbing harness experiences relatively low wear and tear (at least in most climbing situations), meaning the harness you choose will likely remain in your kit for a few years. To help you make that first important choice, Mountain Skills Academy & ...

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Glissading: A Different Kind of Snow Sliding

Fri, 26th May 2017  /  By Vince Shuley

With the recent spike of warm weather on the Coast it’s the perfect condition to cool off by walking on an ancient glacier. And just in time, our Whistler Mountaintop Tours are now open for the 2017 summer! We’ve waxed poetic about the Glacier Walk experience before, but after the high alpine snow levels in the early summer 2016 we noticed a particular offshoot activity gaining popularity on our Whistler Mountaintop via ferrata and glacier tours: glissading. According to the the knowledge bank Wikipedia, glissading ...

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The Risks and Rewards of Lead Climbing

Tue, 23rd May 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
lead climbing rock

Climbing can be incredibly fulfilling. Ascending a near-vertical face of rock with a bag of chalk and a pair of sticky-rubber shoes lends a feeling of accomplishment felt in few other outdoor pursuits. Previously we’ve shared MSAA’s Beginner’s Guide to Rock Climbing about the perceived barriers of entry to the sport and how to overcome them. If you are now climbing comfortably on some more difficult routes, have had some experience setting up a safe top rope system and are looking for a new challenge, ...

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Squamish Via Ferrata OPEN + Summer Special Offers

Wed, 10th May 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
Squamish Via Ferrata open

After a very fruitful winter of snowshoeing, ice climbing and backcountry skiing and riding, summer is finally beginning to rear its beautiful face. And that means summer adventures are right around the corner! With the warmer weather in the Sea to Sky recently, our Squamish rock climbing courses and adventures are already in motion in the lower parts of the valley. But our beloved Squamish Via Ferrata course is situated around the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola, which meant there was a bit more snow ...

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