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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    seattle
    Posts
    512

    Alaska TR: Patience Rewarded (MORE PHOTOS!!)

    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:



    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.



    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).
    Last edited by 3pin; 03-18-2005 at 11:13 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    seattle
    Posts
    512
    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.



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



    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.


    Turns in the clear, with the Turnagain arm in the background


    Our local talent, Nels, hits a double-stage pillow line


    I follow him up with another pillow


    The North Face was closed all week, but finally opened for us on Sunday. New Years (l) and Xmas (r) chutes.


    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

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    seattle
    Posts
    512
    Then it happened. After a full week of waiting, it went bluebird:


    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.



    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.







    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.


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



    Snow waves

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    seattle
    Posts
    512
    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.


    Tom and the guide set up for a photo below while I wait


    Another Jersey boy who knows how to get some


    Tom gets a few turns in before the camera





  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    alaska
    Posts
    191
    nice dude, nice, someday, someday

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    seattle
    Posts
    512
    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


    Nels gets some




    A backlit Tom shoots Nels, with rooster tails hanging in the air


    Tom on our last run, actually out through the cat area, with good snow to the bottom.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Eagle River Alaska
    Posts
    10,909
    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
    Its not that I suck at spelling, its that I just don't care

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Jackson, WY
    Posts
    5,641

    Thumbs up

    Wow!, errr... Wow!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    CH
    Posts
    1,514
    Need $$$$ for heli-trip!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    seattle
    Posts
    512
    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


    An endless array that I can only describe as otherworldly


    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

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Lower Queen Anne
    Posts
    769

    Thumbs up

    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
    Aliases: B-Dub, B-Dubya, & B. White

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Market St. Station
    Posts
    1,050
    So sweet....!
    let your tracks be lost in the dark and snow

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Posts
    29,336
    Yaaaaaa, maaan.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Vancouver BC
    Posts
    390
    That's too fuckin' much, man. Awesome.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Alberta
    Posts
    412
    Incredible stuff. Awesome shots!! Alaska looks so incredible, beautiful place.

    really dig that shot out the plane window too.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Posts
    166
    KILLER pics!
    Livin the moon time.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Denver
    Posts
    85
    absolutely obscene TR. Crunching the numbers to go helliing as I type...someday much sooner than later.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Colorado Cartel HQ
    Posts
    16,033

    Thumbs up



    3 times dope.
    Follow me on Instagram

    brett.mcnary

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Utard
    Posts
    1,684
    Those are some mad sexy pics. Congrats!

    Me homesick.
    This touchy-feely Kumbaya shit has got to go.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    London : the L is for Value!
    Posts
    4,587
    Fing excellent photos

    edg
    Do you realize that you've just posted an admission of ignorance so breathtaking that it disqualifies you from commenting on any political or economic threads from here on out?

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Posts
    11,350
    If your pics suck I can't wait to see Tom's. FKNA! Sick.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Eurozone
    Posts
    2,682

    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by 3pin
    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.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    very very small mountains
    Posts
    668
    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...
    Last edited by Jiehkevarri; 03-18-2005 at 03:12 AM.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    my head up my ass
    Posts
    525
    Sweet TR
    Hella Heli Steeze
    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.

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    on the pointy end, calling the line, swearing my fucking ass off
    Posts
    4,717
    Utterly amazing man.

    Just fucking amazing.

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