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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
Avalanche1

By now you’ve probably seen the viral 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 & Adventures ...

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Iron, Rock, Snow and Ice – 2016 in Review

Thursday, 22nd December 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
Another cycle, another sunset.

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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The Weekender’s Guide to the Whistler Backcountry

Monday, 12th December 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
Whistler backcountry in 48 hours

When the weekend comes around and the weather looks good, there’s no better place to spend your time than in the Whistler backcountry. Escaping the crowds and noise of the ski resort – if only for a few hours – gives the classic ski weekend a whole new meaning. You can spend the day ski touring in peaceful tranquility, then spend the evening celebrating the nightlife and resting in comfortable accommodations. To make sure you get the most out of your 48 hours in Whistler, ...

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Whistler Blackcomb Opening Day 2016 in Pictures

Thursday, 24th November 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
opening day 2016

Opening Day 2016 – the gates have officially parted. Whistler Blackcomb fired up its lifts on Whistler Mountain this morning to the delight of thousands of shred-ready skiers and snowboarders. Some participated in the The North Face’s overnight basecamp event in Skier’s Plaza, others rose early and stumbled into line before the sun came up. With 26cms of snow overnight, the early birds were rewarded with more than a few face shots. Despite the great snow for opening day and more in the forecast, conditions are still very much early ...

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Spearhead Huts: 5 Reasons We Love the Project

Saturday, 22nd October 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
Spearhead Huts ski touring

If you’re a frequent visitor to the Whistler backcountry, or any backcountry skiing area in British Columbia for that matter, you’ve probably heard about the Spearhead Huts Project. For those not familiar, the Spearhead Traverse is a horseshoe-shaped 35km route over 13 glaciers in Garibaldi Provincial Park adjacent to Whistler Blackcomb. The only structure that currently exists on the traverse is the Himmelsbach Hut on the edge of Russet Lake, built in the ’60s and in dire need of replacement. The Spearhead Huts Project (which ...

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5 Reasons to go Fall Hiking in Whistler

Tuesday, 20th September 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
Glacier walk

The unmistakable scent of fall is in the air here in Whistler. Leaves are falling, grassy fields turn white with morning frost and bears are coming out to top up their bellies. Winter may be on its way, but there’s still plenty of outdoor adventure to be had between now and when the snow flies. One activity that’s by far the most accessible to the most people is fall hiking. July and August are the months when Canadians are the most likely to get outside, and  while summer ...

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Level Up with a Rock Climbing Course

Saturday, 20th August 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
rock climbing course

Like many sports, rock climbing has a steep learning curve when starting out. Many aspiring rock climbers begin their journey in an indoor climbing gym before trying their hand (and feet) at outdoor rock. Some climbers take to outdoor walls quickly, rapidly developing the skills and strength required for more difficult routes and are soon ready to attempt their first lead climb. But for each significant step to becoming an accomplished rock climber, the more skills are required to keep the climber and their partner ...

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Best Rock Climbing Spots in Vancouver and Sea to Sky

Wednesday, 13th July 2016  /  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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Choosing the Right Rock Climbing Shoe

Friday, 24th June 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
Choosing the Right Rock Climbing Shoe

The most important piece of equipment for any rock climber is their shoes. Not just any shoes mind you, modern climbing shoes are able to stick to tiny ledges and grip on steep, smooth surfaces. That comes with the caveat of discomfort, a reason why almost every beginner climber has a love/hate relationship with their footwear. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By choosing the right rock climbing shoe for your ability and climbing style, you can get the most out of this ...

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An Alternative Peak Experience with Whistler Via Ferrata

Thursday, 9th June 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
whistler via ferrata

Sightseeing is officially open on Whistler Mountain. Plenty of people heading up to the alpine to ride the Peak 2 Peak gondola and witness winter’s melting snow blanket. The white stuff is still very much present this time of year, as evidenced by the towering snow walls near Whistler Peak. The Peak Chair and the surrounding hiking trails were yet to open, but there’s a more exciting way to the reach the top – the Whistler Via Ferrata. If you’re unfamiliar with the via ferrata experience, ...

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An Ode to the Glacier Walk

Wednesday, 25th May 2016  /  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. Glaciers presently cover approximately 15 million square kilometers, ...

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Beginner’s Guide to Rock Climbing

Tuesday, 17th May 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
Performance Alpine Clinic Rock Climbing Canada

Of all the mountain pursuits, rock climbing can be one of the most intimidating. Watching videos of professional athletes ascend impossible-looking vertical walls with nothing but tiny ledges for grip, it’s not hard to see why it can be perceived elitist-only sport. But like every experienced rock climber, the pros had to start somewhere. In this Beginner’s Guide to Rock Climbing, we’ll hopefully dispel some of the perceived barriers to the sport and show that with a bit of perseverance, anyone can do it. Step ...

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5 Reasons to try Via Ferrata

Tuesday, 26th April 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
via ferrata

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. Ascend a steep rock face with the ease of climbing a ...

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Top 5 Ski Traverses Around Whistler

Tuesday, 29th March 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
ski traverses around Whistler

With some long spring days ahead in April and May it’s prime time for longer ski traverses. For those not familiar, a ski traverse is when a group travels from one destination to another through mountains on skis. A traverse can be done quickly in a day or take several days or even weeks with the associated winter camping equipment and food supplies. While the main goal is to travel from point A to point B, pursuing vertical objectives is still very much possible depending ...

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Backcountry Group Dynamics: Making it Work

Friday, 25th March 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
backcountry group dynamics

An often overlooked, but extremely important factor in any ski trip, is backcountry group dynamics. Last week the Whistler Museum hosted a talk as part of its Speaker Series titled “Group Dynamics in the Wild.” Two Sea to Sky expedition skiers; Bridget McClarty and Holly Walker gave presentations about their own experiences of backcountry group dynamics on trips both big and small. Research has shown that groups of four or more skiers in a backcountry group are at higher risk of causing avalanches. We also ...

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Crevasse Rescue Training for Skiers

Sunday, 13th March 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
crevasse rescue training

Ski touring takes us to some amazing places in the mountains. But those mountains can be fraught with dangers such as avalanches. But lurking ounder the snow surface is another  another hidden hazard – gaping cracks in snow and ice that can swallow people whole, also known as crevasses. For this reason, every backcountry skier or boarder travelling over glaciated terrain – particularly in the early winter and spring months – should take some form of crevasse rescue training. Rescue Me Crevasse rescue is needed when one member of ...

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Skiing the Duffey – Mt. Melvin in a day

Friday, 4th March 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
skiing the duffey

Scratching the exploratory itch is what drives a lot of backcountry travelers. Some of the most memorable adventures begin by pouring over topographical maps and Google Earth imagery on the kitchen table. And while skiing the Duffey Lake Road north of Pemberton was pioneered by grizzled mountain men decades ago, the personal emotion felt when summiting a new peak and then descending its prominent line never gets old. Deep into the Duffey Downton Creek is an area that lies one step beyond the convenience of ...

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4 Reasons for Ski Touring Rogers Pass

Sunday, 28th February 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
ski touring Rogers Pass

Anyone who has spent time in British Columbia’s winter backcountry has no doubt heard of the ski touring in Rogers Pass. The infamous mountain road that links the Trans Canada Highway between Revelstoke and Golden is the most avalanche-prone area in the country. That can mean frequent road closures during storms while government avalanche control workers fire howitzers from the road side and drop explosives in the alpine. But when the avalanche danger subsides, ski touring in Rogers Pass is some of the best in ...

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Spearhead Traverse – Whistler’s backcountry rite of passage

Thursday, 18th February 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
Spearhead Traverse Whistler

In the world’s most popular ski destinations there’s a classic, multi-day backcountry trip considered a rite of passage by the local ski touring community. In the Alps it’s the Haute Route from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. In the Canadian Rockies it’s the hut-to-hut journey through the Wapta Icefields. In Whistler, it’s the Spearhead Traverse. While it may be one of the most well-travelled backcountry areas in North America, only a small percentage of touring travellers actually head out with the goal of completing the ...

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