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Rock Climbing 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Friday, 8th June 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

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

Wednesday, 20th 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

Thursday, 19th 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

Tuesday, 29th 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

Friday, 21st 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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5 Ways to Celebrate Canada 150 in the Outdoors

Friday, 30th June 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

Monday, 26th June 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

Monday, 12th June 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

Friday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Wednesday, 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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Cornice Hazards: What you need to know

Monday, 24th April 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
cornice hazards

One of the recurring themes in British Columbian backcountry advisories this season is cornices. These aesthetic but often hazardous snow structures are formed by wind drifting snow onto the downwind side of an obstacle, such as a ridgeline or precipice. Their size can range from windlips a few feet high to the size of small houses, sometimes even larger. Cornices present a hazard for a few reasons; they can be hard to identify from the top of a ridge, they can be very sensitive to ...

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Getting the Most Out of Spring Mountain Multi-sport

Wednesday, 29th March 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
spring multi-sport

The rapid approach of spring in a mountain town is a strange dichotomy. On one hand, people are ready for warmth and a return to their favourite lakes and trails after a long Canadian winter. On the other, vehement skiers and snowboarders keep basking in the lingering winter conditions such as we’ve seen in British Columbia this year. But the best thing about spring? The opportunity to multi-sport. Ski, climb, run, hike, bike… even swim if you’re feeling brave enough. With daylight stretching longer with ...

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Introduction to Crevasse Rescue Part 1 – The Gear

Wednesday, 22nd March 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
crevasse rescue gear

Ski mountaineering season will soon be upon us and that means going after bigger objectives in more technical terrain. One of the gateways to standing on summits and skiing couloirs in western Canada is glaciers. These stretching snow-covered ice sheets  provide suitable access routes and great low-angle skiing. But a caveat of glacier travel – whether on skis, skins or snowshoes – is the prevalence of crevasses. These gaping cracks form where the glacial ice in tension, creating a dangerous fall hazard. By mid-winter (depending on the season ...

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Ice climbing with MSAA featured on FlightNetwork

Monday, 20th March 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
Intro To Ice Climbing Canadian Rockies

The 2016/17 winter has been an amazing season for ice climbing. Consistently cold temperatures lingered in December and early January, freezing many of the waterfall features in the Sea to Sky and opening up a few routes that had not seen the swing of an axe in quite a few years. For MSAA, this has meant many more ice climbing trips going out at all levels, from kids and families safely trying it out on top rope belay to clients looking to achieve their own first ascent. ...

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8 Benefits of Hiring a Backcountry Ski Guide

Tuesday, 21st February 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
backcountry ski guide

Skiing in the backcountry is awesome. There’s way less tracks, it’s a great workout and there’s no real noise except your own. But the best thing? It’s free. Even though many folks choose to enter the backcountry via the lift system of ski resorts, there’s usually a way to access that public land without having to fork out for a lift ticket. Why then, would you pay to have someone guide you in the backcountry? Well, since Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures has been guiding since 1991, we’ve accumulated ...

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VIDEO: Tuning for backcountry skiing and riding

Thursday, 9th February 2017  /  By Vince Shuley
tuning for backcountry skiing

An essential part of the backcountry skiing and riding routine – one that people often neglect – is tuning. Backcountry skis and splitboards spend a lot of their time skiing the best snow in powder conditions, so why would you head out with gear that’s in substandard shape? Well-tuned equipment comes with some healthy benefits when ski touring and splitboarding, but most of all, it just feels nicer when making turns. Especially in the fresh powder snow that we’re all seeking in the backcountry. To explain the best methods and choices for ...

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Making Sense of the January 11 Viral Avalanche Video

Friday, 13th January 2017  /  By Vince Shuley

By now you’ve probably seen the viral avalanche video of Australian Tom Oye’s avalanche in Chocolate Bowl in the Brandywine area south of Whistler on January 11. The video not only received tens of thousands shares and millions of views, but also made news headlines on Australian television. It serves as a stark reminder that avalanches can occur when the danger rating is forecasted at the “Moderate” level. There’s a lot of questions left unanswered on why this avalanche occurred, so Mountain Skills Academy & ...

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Iron, Rock, Snow and Ice – 2016 in Review

Thursday, 22nd December 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
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 ...

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