Boards & Fjords: A Dicey Ski Mission to the Fabled Princess Louisa Inlet

“It’s hard to keep everything jibing and in sync. But when the entire family is healthy and the bills are paid, these elusive moments of contentment settle in. It’s then that we have a moment to dream…” So begins Vance Shaw’s narration of Helly Hansen‘s Boards & Fjords, an odyssey from Squamish, BC to the Princess Louisa Inlet – a place where the elements rule, and weather can spell doom in an instant. Follow JF Plouffe, Chris Christie, Matt Elliott, Eric Gindlesperger and Shaw as the 32-foot Maya sails out of Howe Sound in gale force winds – the crew hoping to take advantage of a 200-cm dump and ski the glaciated peaks around the remote Inlet.

 

 

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Check out these trip notes from Helly Hansen ambassadors Matt Elliott and JF Plouffe:

Matt Elliott: “There were lots of firsts for everyone involved. First time hanging out together. We had all met before, but there isn’t much space on a 32-ft sailboat if you don’t get along. Our group dynamic was amazing and everyone found their role really quickly. Problem solving and decisions were easy. I think that had a lot to do with everyone’s inexperience at sailing. We were all interested and willing to learn and right away our group clicked.

 

Photo by Chris Christie/courtesy Helly Hansen.
Photo by Chris Christie/courtesy Helly Hansen.

 

Sailing from Squamish to the end of the Princess Louisa Inlet was amazing. It’s such a different perspective. Seeing the communities of the Sunshine coast pass by on one side, and the vastness of the Georgia Straight on the other…. It makes you feel small.

Once we got into the inlets the wind was non-existent. Slow cruising, gazing at mountains that rise right out of the ocean – it was like a holiday. The only thing we had to worry about was not eating all of our food!

 

Photo by Chris Christie/courtesy Helly Hansen.
Photo by Chris Christie/courtesy Helly Hansen.

We did hit some ice and had to bust through it. I thought it was really cool looking, but Vance [Shaw, boat owner] wasn’t too pumped on it.

 

“Danger was all around. The sound of avalanches and falling ice filled the night.”

 

When we showed up to our destination the dock was covered with 20cms of fresh snow. Not a soul in sight! Stoke levels were high. It was all lining up… But being right on the ocean and wanting to ski is not so easy. As we found out, it doesn’t take much time for the temps to change at the skirt of the Pacific. While Whistler was getting dumped on no more than 60km east of us, we were getting rain, and it was climbing up the mountain quickly.

 

Photo by Chris Christie/courtesy Helly Hansen.
“The most intense hike/climb/skin I have ever been on.” Photo by Chris Christie/courtesy Helly Hansen.

 

Our trip went from lounging on the boat for 3-4 days, to the most intense hike/climb/skin I have ever been on. We covered 1200 metres in 10 hours, with only one stop, at an old trapper’s cabin about halfway. We used so much gear to get up there! 300m in hiking boots, 300m in ski boots stomping through a foot of snow, and 300m on Billy Goat ascent plates. These things saved us. They’re like a snowshoe, but smaller, with aluminium plates. They fit around a crampon. They saved us from post-holing, or slugging out way up gnarly Coast Mountain terrain. The last 300m we finally put on our skis and skinned up. Steep, wet snow … we were all so beat at the end of that day.

Unfortunately the rising temps were beating us, and from what Damien [Etchaubard, HH Marketing Manager] was saying on the other end of our sat phone, it wasn’t getting any better. It’s too bad.

 

At Garibaldi. Photo by Chris Christie/courtesy Helly Hansen.
At Garibaldi. Photo by Chris Christie/courtesy Helly Hansen.

 

We had made it to where we wanted to be. Glimpses of awesome terrain were everywhere. But with it being so warm and wet, danger was all around. The sound of avalanches and falling ice filled the night. We were all on the same page: Get out of there while we could and stay safe.

Beautiful spot. It has awesome terrain. But so hard to time with the quick weather changes. We were so close.”

JF Plouffe: “Each of us had set time aside from work and family to chase powder on distant mountain in a  32-foot sailboat. We saw one ferry, one boat taxi, and a tug boat during seven days of sailing. It was snowing, we had 80km/hr winds, and ice on the Inlet for a kilometre-plus. We hiked in 80cms of isometric snow, avalanches running left and right. We sailed back to find better snow on Garibaldi – dust on crust and a high avalanche risk factor…

What I’m trying to say is: ‘if you get lemons, make lemonade – but we made gin and tonic!’ Carpe Diem!”

More about Helly Hansen’s athletes and partners here.

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