BD employee Dylan Freed heli-ski guiding in Alaska
BD employee Dylan Freed works part-time here in Salt Lake City, running the ski cage to make sure all the demos are mounted, tuned, waxed and ready to rip throughout the winter. When he’s not here in Utah, Dylan splits time heli guiding in Alaska and New Zealand (and testing the latest prototype skis and boots). A pretty sweet life, indeed. Here’s a report, photos and video Dylan put together of his spring season of guiding in Alaska, where he put a pair of proto Gigawatts through the AK paces.
I have never claimed to be a rock-star skier. I've spent my energy in becoming a strong skier capable of traveling in steep terrain and acquiring the necessary skills to guide others through those mountains and experiences.
I am extremely fortunate to have started work for Valdez Heli Ski Guides at a young age and now have five seasons in this incredible profession. Being surrounded by a crew that still hold the Doug Coombs style and spirit alive is even more rewarding than the skiing exploits. What I can learn in the company of these other experienced ski guides when developing a stability forecast or assessment and operations plan while still maintaining a level of mutual respect, is extremely rare in the guiding world. Each functioning as a “lead guide” in the field, we individually select and open runs based on avalanche hazard, client ability, and weather trend that allows us to give our clients an experience unlike anything else. This style of guiding is why Doug Coombs started the operation by hiring extreme skiers capable of each acting as lead guides so that the clients' experience is not deflated by skiing tracks or “following the leader” all day. That kind of freedom and trust is maintained through our current owner and is certainly not industry-wide. The awesome options available with a helicopter make run selections an easy way to get in over your head quickly; so having the mindset to make appropriate, safe, and quick decisions is an extremely difficult and unique task, unlike any other I know.
Decisions being important as they are, I choose to take the biggest skis Black Diamond has made to date to AK and throw the prototype Gigawatts in the basket of the ship to carry around. After early season testing in Utah proved very positive, they certainly came into a new realm when they arrived in Valdez. Unfortunately, an incredible wind event had just ripped through Thompson Pass and some real character-building hardpack conditions were prevailing for the early weeks of March. As it was, I was still happy to ski the Gigas with their solid edge stability and surprisingly easy turn initiation and pivot due to the rockered profile. Once the snow came and buried our less-than-ideal memories of missile-hard snow, I truly came to appreciate the nature of these skis in the big mountains. There are virtually no conditions that I wouldn't ride these skis while guiding, so I will continue to take them to Valdez until the engineers in R&D get the motivation to make an even bigger model.