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The Psychology of Fear & Adventure

Wednesday, 10th July 2019  /  By Dan O'Keefe
whistler-activities

We are hardwired to remember events that come with an emotional kick

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Weekender’s Guide to Summer in the Sea to Sky

Wednesday, 5th June 2019  /  By Dan O'Keefe
Mountain skill academy via ferrata Daniel-OKeefejpg

The weekend is coming up, there’s sun in the forecast, but you have no plans! What are you going to do? The Sea to Sky corridor from North Vancouver to Whistler is filled with adventures for the timid to thrill-seekers. Let’s say it’s a long weekend and you want to fill it with the most amazing, unique memories to hold you until the next long weekend. Here’s what you might get up to… Day 1 – Britannia & Squamish You’ve left Vancouver and are heading ...

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Getting the Rock Climbing Season Started

Friday, 29th March 2019  /  By Vince Shuley
rocking climbing Squamish man is rock climbing

Spring has sprung early on Canada’s West Coast. There’s still good ski touring to be had at the alpine elevations, yes. But with snow packs in the valley bottoms quickly disappearing, summer recreation sports are already kickstarting. Warm sunny days have dried out the crags and the climbers are already clamoring over the available routes. So to help you get fit and ready for summer, here’s our advice for an early start to rock climbing season. Start with a proper fitness base Base fitness is ...

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Photos in the backcountry: Doing it Right

Tuesday, 5th March 2019  /  By Vince Shuley
photos backcountry whistler

The art of outdoor photography may have been appropriated by Instagram, smartphones and an endless competition for likes, but coming home from a trip with quality images is still one of the rewarding experiences of spending time in the mountains. Digital photography is within everyone’s reach these days with image sensors in phones having the same pixel count as many Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras did just a few short years ago. Yet despite all the technological advances with these devices, good photos still ...

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Keep Your Avalanche Skills Sharp This Winter

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019  /  By Vince Shuley
avalanche safety AST1 Companion Rescue Skills Whistler

One of the first things that new winter backcountry travellers learn about avalanche education is that it’s lifelong. Courses and certificates represent certain milestones, yes. But veteran avalanche forecasters are constantly combing weather reports, gathering snowpack data and retraining their rescue skills on a daily basis. As recreationists touring on weekends and days off, we can’t expect to spend as much time with our heads buried in the snow as the guides and industry professionals.   However, avalanche knowledge and rescue skills are in the ...

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These Backcountry artists will inspire you these holidays

Sunday, 23rd December 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
backcountry artist kate zessel

In case you hadn’t noticed, the backcountry is a beautiful place. It can be hard work to get  out there and home again, but few people would argue against it being worth every sweat-inducing step. With such magnificence on our doorstep in British Columbia, it’s not hard to see so many artists use it as their primary inspiration for drawings and paintings. For these holidays. MSAA has profiled five of our favourite backcountry artists in the province. You can find these works sprinkled around mountain ...

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Big snow dumps mean big, dangerous tree wells

Thursday, 13th December 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
tree well Whistler snow safety

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

Friday, 26th October 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

Sunday, 9th September 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

Saturday, 28th July 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

Saturday, 28th July 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

Wednesday, 25th July 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

Friday, 13th July 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

Wednesday, 27th June 2018  /  By Dan O'Keefe
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

Friday, 8th June 2018  /  By Vince Shuley
Rock Climbing Course- girl looking up the rock climbing slope

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

Saturday, 24th March 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

Monday, 5th March 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

Saturday, 20th January 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

Wednesday, 17th January 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

Tuesday, 19th December 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

Wednesday, 29th November 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

Tuesday, 7th November 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

Thursday, 26th October 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

Wednesday, 18th October 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

Tuesday, 26th September 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

Wednesday, 20th September 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

Monday, 28th August 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

Wednesday, 23rd August 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

Tuesday, 1st August 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

Thursday, 20th July 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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