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View Full Version : Alaska TR: Patience Rewarded (with photos)



3pin
03-17-2005, 09:48 PM
I alluded to it in a post before, but I got the incredible opportunity to ski in Alaska last week, and I wanted to spread the stoke, and a thank you, here on the board.

I was writing a story for Telemark Skier next season on Owens' operation in Girdwood, Chugach Powder Guides, so I left last Monday with our photo editor, Tom. We chose Girdwood and CPG because of the options they had: heli, cat, and resort skiing, and as the trip played out, we were quite thankful. Basically, the trip left me spellbound, and I'm trying to pull together the pages and pages of notes I have into words that will actually do the terrain, the scenery, the skiing, and the whole area some justice. It was incredible in every sense of the word... so an enormous thanks to Owens, our guides, pilots, and everyone up there who helped this happen. Now to the trip:

I've never been to Alaska, I was pretty giddy with anticipation on the flight up. My neck actually hurt after the flight from craning to see mountains out the window as we approached the Kenai. Shrouded in clouds, peaks barely edged out, but they were amazing. The clouds cleared approaching Anchorage, and the sun created this cool prism effect off the plane window on the mist over the water:

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/01-plane.jpg

Not 20 minutes off the plane and Tom's friend had us at the Great Alaskan Bush Company. An Anchorage must-see apparently, although the 4pm, Monday afternoon strippers were probably not their best girls (I hope). Continuing on to Girdwood, the sun faded away, and the clouds and fog set in.

We were hoping to fly Tues-Sat and check out some of the new Seward terrain that Owens got, then stay through Tues night to ski Alyeska and some backcountry. The weather had other plans.

We awoke to dripping water out the window, and I didn't need my contacts to know that the weather wasn't good. 5 minutes later and vision clear, I saw it was far worse.

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/02-rainytrees.jpg

Waves of rain blew past the window, and in spite of the safety briefing and avy beacon work, it was clear that we weren't going anywhere. The snow phone made clear that it was snowing up high though, and there was some accumlation, so we got on the first tram at 10:30 (you Alaskans have it nice on powder mornings).

3pin
03-17-2005, 09:58 PM
The mountain received 10" of wet snow overnight, but at the bottom it was definitely raining heavily. I realized quickly why locals walked around town in full rubber galoshes.

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/03-wet.jpg

We rode up, struggling to see anything in the fog, skiing completely by braille.

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/04-fog.jpg

And so it continued, day after day. Plans were cancelled to leave for Seward and flight holds continued, 8am, 10am, 12pm, 2pm, cancelled. It was clear that the weather was there to stay. At least it was snowing up high though, and it was piling up. The precipitation wasn't our problem, it was the visibility. So it continued, 10" on Tuesday, 12" on Wednesday. Wet snow, pillow hits, airs unintended in the mist. The resort closed on Thurs, our only real "down day". Not bad for heli-skiing... we were still making turns, enjoying every minute of it. By the time the mountain opened on Friday, it was 36" at the top (although the wind hammered it into a pretty compact 36"). The better snow was the heavy 12" at midway, and through Saturday and Sunday it continued. Here and there the weather abated, and the mist cleared just enough to let us shoot some pics:

The Christmas Chute at Alyeska. This was closed most of the week, but opened for us to ski on Sunday.
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/05-xmas.jpg

Turns in the clear, with the Turnagain arm in the background
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/06-alyturn.jpg

Our local talent, Nels, hits a double-stage pillow line
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/07-npillow.jpg

I follow him up with another pillow
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/08-gpillow.jpg

The North Face was closed all week, but finally opened for us on Sunday. New Years (l) and Xmas (r) chutes.
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/09-northface.jpg

Finally the sun began to break through Sunday evening. Our hopes climbed as it shone through breaks in the clouds across the Turnagain tidal flat
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/10-turnagain.jpg

3pin
03-17-2005, 10:07 PM
Then it happened. After a full week of waiting, it went bluebird:
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/11-bluebird.jpg

The nervousness grew and the adrenaline began to pound a bit as we waited at the hangar, finally our turn to board and fly. The bird dropped us off on our first lines, buzzing us on the way down, and it was on.

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/12-bird.jpg

A week of storms had kept us from flying and soaked the valley floors, but it did wonders for the mountains up high, leaving 116" of new snow blanketing every mountain and feature. The mountains were incredible... I'm used to the Rockies, the Sierra, the Greens, etc, where the ranges aren't very wide. Standing on top of the Chugach I took in endless views, every direction, absolutely stunning peaks.

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/13-mountains1.jpg

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/14-mountains2.jpg

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/15-mountains3.jpg

They sent a couple boarders with us the first day, some guys from Colorado and elsewhere who had grown up together in Jersey. Great company, and patient enough to bear with us while we shot photos. These photos that I took were mostly for record and some backup for the story. Most of the action shots and all of the heli action shots of me were taken by Tom, but here's a few of the other guys.

Jersey boy Chris ("The Rock") finds out how sweet it is.
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/16-jersey2.jpg

The snow was great, light and cold, boot to knee deep. Between the windsculpting and the glacial features, it was breathtaking everywhere I looked.

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/17-icefall.jpg

Snow waves
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/18-waves.jpg

3pin
03-17-2005, 10:12 PM
The runs went on forever. 2000, 3000, almost 4000 vertical feet, then back up again. The new snow kept us on some mellower terrain, but occasionally the steeper pitches would sluff around me. The snow just got better, every run we took. The pictures tell most of the story, although I saw Tom's slides earlier today, and his shots make mine look deplorable.

A run called the Sharkpit, one of our favorites. From the top to there was maybe 1/2 the run.
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/19-sharkpit.jpg

Tom and the guide set up for a photo below while I wait
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/20-tracks.jpg

Another Jersey boy who knows how to get some
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/21-jersey1.jpg

Tom gets a few turns in before the camera
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/22-tomsmoke.jpg

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/23-tomdeep.jpg

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/24-tomsmiles.jpg

Ak_pride
03-17-2005, 10:17 PM
nice dude, nice, someday, someday

3pin
03-17-2005, 10:19 PM
Collected by the cat at the end of the day because of fog, we ran into some familiar faces off the board. Hearing talk of South Lake Tahoe, I introduced myself to Arty and LPH, and soon the well-known maggot leading his Alaskan Straigtline Adventures camp. They fared better with their choice of week than we had, and the camp looked like a blast with Gordy and Sarge heading things up.

The next day found us with an overcast sky, but it the ceiling was high, so the flying continued. We skied peaks, glaciers, and chutes, with the same great snow. The sun came out again partway through the day, and Tom kept rolling film. I continued to shoot away with my new digi, so the photos can keep painting the pictures...

Nels and Tom hike after our guide from the LZ
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/25-nelshike.jpg

Nels gets some
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/26-nelsclose.jpg

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/27-nelswindlip.jpg

A backlit Tom shoots Nels, with rooster tails hanging in the air
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/28-nelsspray.jpg

Tom on our last run, actually out through the cat area, with good snow to the bottom.
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/29-tomcat.jpg

ak_powder_monkey
03-17-2005, 10:20 PM
Were you the dude I met on chair 6 sunday? SICK SICK SICK pics wasn't that snow light as anything? still reeling from yesterday

Squirrel99
03-17-2005, 10:20 PM
Wow!, errr... Wow!

Big Blue
03-17-2005, 10:23 PM
:eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: Need $$$$ for heli-trip!!!

3pin
03-17-2005, 10:26 PM
Our last day ended, and now I'm back in Tahoe with a couple enduring images seared forever into my memory.

High above the world
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/31-tomhike.jpg

An endless array that I can only describe as otherworldly
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/32-mountains4.jpg

I guess this concludes what's probably been my longest post ever, but it still doesn't seem to do it justice. I'll be working on that for the article, so you'll have to check out our September issue for the full, indepth TR.

Thanks again to Owens, and if anyone is thinking about heli skiing, I highly recommend CPG. They offer the skiing alternatives with the cat and Alyeska that Haines, Valdez, Cordova, and BC can't. The Chugach is an incredible treasure chest of terrain, and the guides and staff are incredible, taking great care of you in every way.


-Graham

FollowMe
03-17-2005, 10:35 PM
Graham...One of the most inspiring TRs I've read on the board and you've got a great first draft of your story. Well done...Brian

gorms
03-17-2005, 10:43 PM
So sweet....!

splat
03-17-2005, 10:51 PM
Yaaaaaa, maaan.

Dr. Send
03-17-2005, 10:58 PM
That's too fuckin' much, man. Awesome.

sherpahigh
03-17-2005, 11:08 PM
Incredible stuff. Awesome shots!! Alaska looks so incredible, beautiful place.

really dig that shot out the plane window too.

powderfinger
03-17-2005, 11:14 PM
KILLER pics! :D

Cornelius
03-17-2005, 11:16 PM
absolutely obscene TR. Crunching the numbers to go helliing as I type...someday much sooner than later.

Blurred
03-17-2005, 11:27 PM
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/22-tomsmoke.jpg

3 times dope.

yentna
03-17-2005, 11:34 PM
Those are some mad sexy pics. Congrats!

Me homesick.

edg
03-17-2005, 11:39 PM
Fing excellent photos :D

edg

truth
03-18-2005, 12:01 AM
If your pics suck I can't wait to see Tom's. FKNA! Sick.

Hicks
03-18-2005, 01:23 AM
The Chugach is an incredible treasure chest of terrain

Can only subscribe to that one, your pics make me wish to go back there on the spot.

Jiehkevarri
03-18-2005, 03:08 AM
That's the stuff dreams are made of...someday maybe, someday...

Thanks. Incredible pics. Some of the best TR's I've read here, ever.

PS. Current situation: Alaska-Europe 6-0...:D

ScottG
03-18-2005, 04:46 AM
Sweet TR
Hella Heli Steeze :fmicon:
Sorry you got rained on so much and missed so many days of heli pow.
At least you weren't paying out of your own pocket to sit around.

Free Range Lobster
03-18-2005, 05:40 AM
Utterly amazing man.

Just fucking amazing.

spanky
03-18-2005, 06:03 AM
FKNA. Utterly amazing. I'm jealous.

snow_slider
03-18-2005, 07:02 AM
Unfuckingbelievable I was up at Alyeska during the summer and I remember standing on the North Face wishing it was winter so I could try Christmas/New Year's chutes.

Great TR.

gonzo
03-18-2005, 07:15 AM
fucking sick!

gforce
03-18-2005, 07:20 AM
Nice TR. The first trip there is so inspiring...makes you so happy and proud you invested so much time in the sport.
Definitely a "on top of the world" feeling.

bad_roo
03-18-2005, 07:21 AM
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/20-tracks.jpg

This picture is really rather splendid.

Mr. Altagirl
03-18-2005, 07:39 AM
FFFFFKKKKKNNNNNAAAAA! Nice job and thanks for the report!

natty dread
03-18-2005, 07:49 AM
Niiiiiiice.
April. April. :D

lemon boy
03-18-2005, 07:59 AM
Verdy Nice!

:D :D :D

Grange
03-18-2005, 08:05 AM
Great TR. After reading this I have a serene feeling overcome me. Much easier to approach a work day this way. Thanks.

Theodore Huxtable
03-18-2005, 08:07 AM
Finally the sun began to break through Sunday evening. Our hopes climbed as it shone through breaks in the clouds across the Turnagain tidal flat
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/10-turnagain.jpg[/QUOTE]

Here comes Sunshine!!! That is some tripped out shit. The sky looked like the ocean and vice versa. All the pics are sweet and the TR as well. Nice work. What did the whole trip end up running you if you don't mind me asking?

Pinner
03-18-2005, 08:12 AM
Prime, Top-choice, Grade-A, Certified, Boner City TR.

marshalolson
03-18-2005, 08:19 AM
oops, i crapped myself.

AH
03-18-2005, 08:20 AM
...Magic...

mr_gyptian
03-18-2005, 08:24 AM
[speechless]............../[speechless]

Trackhead
03-18-2005, 08:33 AM
I need to save my pennies for a trip like that. Holy crap.

Tyrone Shoelaces
03-18-2005, 08:54 AM
Wow...amazing Graham! Thanks for taking the time to share that!

skierX
03-18-2005, 08:59 AM
so beautiful......im tearing up.

stuck in the L48 with the ak blues again.

phUnk
03-18-2005, 08:59 AM
My balls ache.

rip
03-18-2005, 09:03 AM
$$$$$$$$

baseWeldr
03-18-2005, 09:10 AM
sweet pics and stoke
gushy gush gush blingbling gush.....
[/whimper...]

Arnold Babar
03-18-2005, 09:31 AM
Oh My God

Thanks for sharing.

Honc
03-18-2005, 10:24 AM
No words. :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

Alyeska_Skibum
03-18-2005, 10:35 AM
Sweet pics mang!!!!


[QUOTE=3pin]Tom's friend had us at the Great Alaskan Bush Company. An Anchorage must-see apparently, although the 4pm, Monday afternoon strippers were probably not their best girls (I hope).QUOTE]

Ya, Monday afternoon.............................definatley "B" squad

DJMingus
03-18-2005, 10:38 AM
Fantastic TR 3pin - looking forward to the article.

Thanks for that - talk about stoke!

3pin
03-18-2005, 11:12 AM
Thanks for all the comments and feedback. Still digesting it all. Glad I can share the stoke, so here's a little more...

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-1.jpg

Tom
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-2.jpg

Two amazing looking lines
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-3.jpg

Nels
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-4.jpg

Tom
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-5.jpg

Looking down a run into the foggy abyss
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-6.jpg

Terrain playground in the Cat area
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-7.jpg

Just beautiful
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-8.jpg

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-10.jpg

By far the best run of our trip. I've seen Boner City before, and skied there a few times, but this was like finding the underwater Atlantis of Boner Cities. This run still replays in my mind. Tom skiing with lots of little slough runners on the Shark Pit.
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-9.jpg

Pura Vida
03-18-2005, 11:18 AM
:yourock: :yourock: :yourock: Sick TR
Going to AK for the first time (and anytime for that matter) is a life-changing experience. The scale and remoteness of that place just blows everything out of the water. seems like you're in a constant state of bliss when you're up in those peaks... Thanks for the TR

btw.. as far as the Bush company goes... "I don't know, but I've been told Eskimo pussy is mighty cold"

3pin
03-18-2005, 02:34 PM
Sweet pics mang!!!!



Tom's friend had us at the Great Alaskan Bush Company. An Anchorage must-see apparently, although the 4pm, Monday afternoon strippers were probably not their best girls (I hope).

Ya, Monday afternoon.............................definatley "B" squad

Edited to maintain the stoke. But definitely B Squad.

Bump for another 10 photos on page 2. The more I look at this one, the more I find myself surfing again and again to Travelocity:

http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/r2-9.jpg

lemon boy
03-18-2005, 02:40 PM
Yeah, a lot of tatoos and stretch marks.


A FOUL ON THE COURT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:cussing: :cussing: :cussing: :cussing: :cussing: :cussing:

Telenater
03-18-2005, 02:56 PM
I still hate you......

homerjay
03-18-2005, 03:01 PM
Now THAT'S a TR. Shit.

sick.bird
03-18-2005, 04:25 PM
CAW! CAW!! CAW!!! CAW!!!!

Ski Monkey
03-18-2005, 04:27 PM
Fantastic. I was just at alyeska about 2 weeks ago and indeed, the north face is boner city. We caught it on about a knee deep day, a day after the storm. There are so few skiers there though that it skied like the utah resorts do at noon on a pow day.

I'm still slaking in getting my TR up, maybe i wait until this one fades a bit. ;)

glademaster
03-18-2005, 04:28 PM
Is your friend skiing Sanouk's mounted with tele binders (Hammerheads perhaps)? Musta been a sick setup for the skiing. Oh yeah, and great TR, I know what I'm saving my pennies for now. :biggrin:

SPREAD EAGLE
03-18-2005, 04:29 PM
I heart AK :biggrin:

AfroMullet
03-18-2005, 04:48 PM
Bonerocity.com is where to book a flight for a trip like that.

Focking Eh!

powstash
03-18-2005, 05:46 PM
if ever there was a need for the Sick Bird it is this thread - glad to see you finally showed up :rolleyes: :biggrin:

vinzclortho
03-18-2005, 07:17 PM
WOW. 5678910

ak_powder_monkey
03-18-2005, 07:37 PM
Fantastic. I was just at alyeska about 2 weeks ago and indeed, the north face is boner city. We caught it on about a knee deep day, a day after the storm. There are so few skiers there though that it skied like the utah resorts do at noon on a pow day.

I'm still slaking in getting my TR up, maybe i wait until this one fades a bit. ;)

Dude aly is an anthill, it gets tracked out real fast, you want no people you should see ALpenglow and Eaglecrest, if its a powder day and you don't score fresh on your last line of the day something is seriously wrong :D

And I need a sled to get me back into turni some, shizzle!

Svengali
03-18-2005, 07:56 PM
Akpm, I'm really am trying hard to refrain fom the "shit on akpm thang" but it's the posts like the one above that really push my buttons------you only sound like you know what your talking about, cause everyone else is atleast 2,200 miles away---stick to your TR's (they really are getting better!,honest) and quit trying to add three cents to everybody else's two cents------

Nice!!! 3PIN
ps. those monday afternoon B.C. ladies are fri night attractions at PJ's!!!
;)

hucksquaw
03-18-2005, 08:28 PM
fuckin bitchin pics mang!!!! they remind me of my days in the AK and how i really need to get back up there!!!!

AfroMullet
03-18-2005, 08:45 PM
Akpm, I'm really am trying hard to refrain fom the "shit on akpm thang" but it's the posts like the one above that really push my buttons------you only sound like you know what your talking about, cause everyone else is atleast 2,200 miles away---stick to your TR's (they really are getting better!,honest) and quit trying to add three cents to everybody else's two cents------

Nice!!! 3PIN
ps. those monday afternoon B.C. ladies are fri night attractions at PJ's!!!
;)

I'm pretty sure that was AKPM's internet sarcasm...

Out_to_lunch
03-18-2005, 08:58 PM
That is A-mazing!!
Pictures= HOT!!(and then some)

Bodhi
03-18-2005, 09:14 PM
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/20-tracks.jpg

This picture is really rather splendid.

Ditto that...best shot in the whole lot, BFaA. Ultra kind angle and scope. Nice eye for the drama...and mondo sick terrain. Gotta git me somma thatums, soon. Some of those chutes are calling me, chanting a mantra with my unworthy name...

Calm down, go grab some tp...

peace,
BS.

ps...where is the strobe and the numb hand?

Owens Never Sleeps
03-20-2005, 01:21 PM
Glad you could make it up here Graham. It was a pleasure to have you guys.

Crinkle
03-20-2005, 10:49 PM
I'm with Natty on this one, quietly chanting "april" in my head.

Great TR with AMAZING pics.

i have so much wood for this thread its retarded.

onehotchili
03-20-2005, 11:04 PM
Graham - nice TR. i've only been to AK once. it was on a month long mountaineering trip back in '93 after graduating from college and it was absolutely amazing. your pics and TR are bringing back those memories and are making me itching to get up there again... this time for some skiing. time to start saving the $$$ for a trip like that.

btw, i am also glad you brought some pow back home with you. thanks mang, i needed that....

Arty50
03-20-2005, 11:08 PM
A run called the Sharkpit, one of our favorites. From the top to there was maybe 1/2 the run.
http://www.couloirmag.com/by_contributor/gephart_graham/ak/19-sharkpit.jpg


Hmmmm...those tracks seem awfully familiar. :D That day was sick. It was a pleasure meeting you guys. Hopefully we'll make some tracks together in Tahoe soon.

lph
03-20-2005, 11:10 PM
Graham, nice to meet you guys. I probably was a bit quiet, but I was pretty convinced that the I was gonna puke from the Cat ride and felt like I was turning various shades of green as we sat there bumping our way down the track.

Great great pics, i haven't even begun to look at ours yet, but hopefully we have some that will do our trip justice as well.

Len

AKBckntry
03-22-2005, 03:57 PM
Dude aly is an anthill, it gets tracked out real fast, you want no people you should see ALpenglow and Eaglecrest, if its a powder day and you don't score fresh on your last line of the day something is seriously wrong :D

And I need a sled to get me back into turni some, shizzle!

I know for a fact that that's no god damn lie. Aly gets tracked up in only a few hours; there simply isn't enough terrain. The only spots you can really get fresh lines after noon is on the High Traverse/Max's Mountain and if you duck the lines into the chutes (on days when they are closed but TNF is open).

Aplenglow is amazing on powder days. That's the place to hit after storms, if you don't want to drive all the way to Girdweed.

But this is besides the fact. The above pictures are simply amazing. That's the part of the Alaskan winter that I love.