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Ways and Means : Jess Oundijan

heli ski home base

Ways and Means are a series of texts by Orage ambassadors that express their lifestyle and the way they manage everyday obligations and their infinite love for the mountains.

Text by Jess Oundijan

Featured image by John Entwistle (www.instagram.com/entwistlephoto/)

We all love pro skiers, those incredible humans that we witness blowing apart the boundaries of what’s possible on two planks. We live vicariously through their Instagram accounts and POV helmet cam shots, fueled by energy drink sponsors and heli drops. These athletes are awesome, but in reality not many of us can actually claim to have outrun an avalanche on an Alaskan spine, or nose butter triple corked our way to X Games glory.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have tourist skiers. The hard working families who dedicate one or two weeks a year to the mountains. They teach their kids to pizza and french fry, battle the crowds for inbounds powder turns, and Jerry their way into the hearts of ski bums across the world when their questionable style and unfortunate mishaps are captured on film.

Somewhere in the middle, however, you will find another cross section of mountain dwellers. The people that live and work to fund their all-encompassing snow addiction. They dedicate their lives to exploring, photographing, filming, or competing in the mountains because they can’t imagine a life where skiing was not a part of their daily routine. These people receive grassroots support from brands that appreciate their passion and they provide the day-to-day face of the ski industry.

JessOundjian_AdamantsTreeSkiing_Photo-ChristjanLadurnerCMH

There are a myriad of different ways and means to fund a mountain lifestyle and this series of blogs will introduce you to some of the Orage ambassadors and how each of them handles that elusive balance of work and play.

To begin with, here is my small contribution to the story. This year I have found myself working part-time as a lodge girl for a heli-skiing operation near Revelstoke. For a week or two at a time, I am flown out in a heli to live and work in a remote mountain lodge. Our guests spend a week being dropped at the top of fresh powder runs, fed gourmet food and pampered to their heart’s delight.

Jess helicopter

My life at the lodge is much less glamorous but it makes up for it with, let’s be honest, some pretty outrageous perks. The mornings are full on, with breakfast service, bed making, kitchen prep, dishwashing, room tidying and bathroom cleaning. Lots of bathroom cleaning. Most evenings are spent at table with our guests, wining and dining them, enjoying three course meals and often joining them at the bar after dinner. It’s a fun, friendly, hardworking atmosphere that definitely does not suck.

However the real fun begins when that radio call comes in from the guides in the field. “Staff ski spot. 15 minutes.” Everyone hears it. The expectation rises as we look to see who’s at the top of the list. Then, if it’s your lucky day, the boss calls your name. “Hey Jess, wanna go skiing?”

Like a rocket you’re off, throwing on your gear and running to the helipad. You crouch low and shield your face as the heli touches down, then hop in and buckle up. Within minutes you’ve gone from armfuls of carrot peelings to facefuls of fluffy pow, and the smile on your face is an accurate reflection of the fact.

Jess Oundijan heli 2

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not getting dropped on top of ski movie lines, and we respect our paying guests by skiing at the back of the group. However some groups are stronger than others and I certainly won’t forget the day I got to chase a bunch of Jackson Hole locals and German ex ski racers down a stacked pillow field.

It may only be one afternoon a week, on a good week it could be two or three times, but those afternoons getting ferried to fresh pow with a group of smiling faces definitely make the sweat and toil of the mornings worthwhile. Plus, last December was one of the snowiest that British Columbia has had in years, and I can assure you, I got pitted.

Jess Oundjian Pow Skiing

You can learn more about Jess on her Instagram.


Jess wears:

Sue Jacket in V294. See for US or CAN

and the Deal Jacket in V150. See for US or CAN

This post is also available in: French

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