Hosed by the Weather
For most skiers Bella Coola will be high on their ‘go ski’ list. It’s a mountain mecca perched mid-way up the British Columbian coast loaded with skiable terrain amongst jaw dropping mountains.One of the few places along the 1200km of mountainous coastline of BC that you can access by car Bella Coola has the good fortune of being protectively sandwiched between both ocean and mountains. A well known place for life experience skiing, exceptional snowfall and spectacular views…if the weather luck is on your side.
The project was to shoot a Holiday Campaign called ‘Mountain Workshop’. Internally we joked about a play on Santa’s workshop and the idea evolved from there. My vision was to show two parts of Arc’teryx craftmanship:
- The organic relationship between our athletes and designers that has lead to many great friendships beyond protos and testing.
- The wild places that we choose to spend time, test, and ideate in.
Picking locations for me is one of my favourite parts of the process. High level it’s easy as many locations often come to mind but in reality it’s challenging as there is so many factors to consider; accessibility, weather, stability of snowpack, safety of my crew and an always teetering balance between cost and time.
Why Bella Coola?
When I think about what best represents the scenery of Arc’teryx, the Coast Range is my go to. Not only it is the backyard of our birthplace here in Vancouver but it’s loaded with traits of our brand personality open spaces, quality scenery, wild coastal weather and rugged, often inhospitable terrain. Bella Coola is a unique coastal gem. It’s on the edge of the ocean, boarded by fjords and beautifully featured mountain terrain. A perfect place for our basecamp and a week of testing and ideating.
Bella Coola is blessed with an average snowfall of 60-100ft (20-30m) and according to Bella Coola Helisports ‘has one of the most stable snowpacks in the world’ but if you don’t get unlucky with the weather your trip can turn coastal very quickly. Think damp, warm winds, foggy and unrelenting winds in the alpine. Leading up to the trip dates we had beautiful weather but as we closed in on our departure the weather rapidly deteriorated. We bumped into our venue but couldn’t land where we originally planned so had to deploy a back up plan. The weather was a shut down so we spent many hours in the bomber basecamp we had built. Complete with a wood fire stove that our engineer Chris Wollard had custom built for our trip.
The Bella Coola River Valley forms the boundary between the Kitimat Ranges to the north and the Pacific Ranges to the south. These ranges make up two of the three major sections of the Coast Mountains, the other being the Boundary Ranges along the border with Alaska.
Film: Matt Iriving
Guides: Ross Berg & Rupert
Chef: Kinley Aitken
Helicopter: Bella Coola Helisports
Tent Supplier: SlingFin
Designers: Greg Grenzke, Nat Marchand and Brylee
Engineer: Chris Wollard
Skier: Josie Meadows
Behind the Scenes
Two highlights of the trip outside of the basecamp.
- Richard the Pilot – what immediately strikes you about Richard is that he is warm and jolly. A full belly of laughter kind of guy with a treasure trove of stories that will outlast this heli ride by years. Ranging from flying for motion picture films of the 90’s to celebrities to friends we have in common. What I didn’t know was that flying up here in Bella Coola is in fact his encore career. Richard was well decorated Royal Canadian Airforce pilot. Oh, and you want to know about the red fabric plane on his hip looking helmet? He also had a career as a Canadian Snowbird. This man is a legend.
- Pacific Ocean HotSprings – As we ended a day early we took to the fjords of Bella Coola in a boat to go and find the local hot springs. A place that we appreciate is part of the history of the First Nations communities of this area tucked into the rocks under a canopy of rain forest.