2-5-08: Sun Shine!

Deciding where to ski each day up here is a bit of a chore. Our weather reports are nothing but worthless (saying “partly cloudy, chance of snow” everyday for 3 months isn’t forecasting), waking up, and sometimes even leaving the house, before sunrise and the giant disconnect between the weather in Turnagain and Anchorage leaves any personal observations lacking merit. I’ve yet to possess any idea of current conditions beyond what I’d call a guess.

Looking at Eddies from Tin Can Proper

 

This meteorological confusion, compounded by the massive amount of terrain within which there exists a depleted uranium level density of quality ski terrain, turns any collective decision making on the day’s activities into a massive headache, which I’ll admit, does, occasionally, leave me thinking about the ease at which I used to wake up in Utah, where consistency renders discussion of both the day’s conditions and destination (sunny, little cottonwood) redundant. It’s a fleeting sentiment though; one which never resists the conjoined memories of crowds, closed signs, aggression and moguls.

 

Seany B a week ago on Superbowl

Then there is the entire issue of figuring out who is actually heading out each morning. A task made considerably more difficult without Utah’s partial prohibition, as the wide spread availability of booze as well as bars selling legitimate drinks makes finding someone cognitively capable of skiing at 9 am near on impossible.
So, that being said the weekend kicked off with a typical phone call between Sean and I while I was still in bed. “What’s the weather like down there”, “I don’t know, it’s still dark”, “yea same here”, “might be clear, what does the report say”, “partly cloudy chance of snow”, “hmm”, “yea, I don’t know”, “when are you going to leave?”, “whenever Graham gets here, so I don’t know, what do you want to ski?”, “no idea”, “lets ski something steep”, “meet at Sunburst parking lot in about an hour and a half?”

About 2 hours later Graham and I arrived to find vodka clear skies and Sean sitting on the hood of his room-mate’s car. It was too cold, at 12 bellow, too sit around and discuss where to go so with our near instant consent we set off towards Pastoral thinking of skiing something steep between there and Tin Can peak. With Graham setting a crazy pace and Sean and I struggling to remain in his wake we caught up with Sam, Mitch, another Sean from Hope, and a random kid from BYU who had apparently been met in the parking lot, a the pass between the tops of the sunburst and magnum ridges. Pastoral, Kick step and Tin Can Peak were all thickly enveloped by clouds, and with the Mormon in mind decided to take the back entry to Dreambowl.

This was my first time skiing there, although I’d stared it down repeatedly over the course of the season and was quite excited. From the top it looked to roll over and hold just as steep a pitch as it’d imagined, all of which turned out to be quite true. After about a turn the snow turned to perfect with that soft supple smoothness one so loves. The highlight of the run had to be Sean unsuspectingly hitting the 20 foot rock band Graham had warned of and sticking it.
After some concerted effort to memorize which chutes were and weren’t continuous we set off en masse up Superbowl. The skin up was pleasantly passed salivating over the snow and improved traction of my new skins. And as I stood on the summit, watching Sam take that first run, his reappearance from behind the main spine accompanied by shouts of joy on his part I knew I was in for a treat.
Despite a near constant effort I remain completely incapable of figuring out what I stand on top something I haven’t skied before, which has been particularly annoying up here with blind roll over’s and skiing something for the first time the norm. And so it was that I dropped in half expecting to come around my chutes corner and slam on the breaks to avoid some cliffs, only to find pure unblemished snow extending all the way to the apron. My excitement over the run was matched the entire party many of whom were stuck in the superlative while discussing the day. From there we parted ways, the Sunrise and Hope residents continuing down Bertha creek hoping to hitch a ride to the car, Graham, the Mormon and I skinning back up to the top of Magnum hoping to ski there, which with the extreme cold, was well worth it, as the snow was great all the way down to the road.

Sam Last Week on Magnum

Max arrived back in town from San Diego that night, and although I passed out long before his arrival, it had been mutually agreed upon to go skiing the next morning. Sunday morning was almost a bit strange as I was all but sure it was sunny and stable and generally confident of skiing Tin Can proper, after having stared at it for most of the previous day. The routine pre-dawn phone call with Sean passed with ease, both of us with an odd assuredness as to the conditions and what we’d like to ski. Graham, Max and I ended up meeting Sean and Sam about half way up an abandoned Tin Can (there was only 1 other car in the parking lot, and I find it unbelievable that people would be that discouraged by the cold, what do you expect? this is Alaska isn’t it?) where the snow seemed a bit more wind affected then what we’d found the day before. After some shady skinning on a super narrow exposed ridge and a steep hanging face everyone but Graham and Sean opted to boot we arrived, our planned run off proper looking beautiful even if slightly wind affected at the top.

Tin Can Proper

Our plans and earlier assuredness were, as usual, made to look stupid once Sam dug a pit and a 3 foot slab leapt clean into his lap upon isolation. Repeated tests produced identical results. I wasn’t in the pit myself, but from where Sean, Max, Graham and I stood above on the ridge it was especially disheartening to see the same slab continue to slide away with such ease. Figuring that although we may end up skiing something less exciting the views and reconnaissance of future lines they provided were well worth the skin we’d put in the mood remained high. And after fifteen minutes or so of drooling over the countless possibilities staring us down from all directions we finally grew cold and were ready to ski.
In typical Dong show fashion, after contemplating both hiking back down the ridge and skiing something simpler, or the possibility of skiing a wind affected shadowy line on the northern aspect, we convinced ourselves we’d ski what we’d initially planned on, but just stick to the ridge which we hoped would keep us safe and hold snow far different from where we’d dug out pit.

The run off Proper was great, and although harder wind effected snow was occasionally detectable, and convoluted nature of the final couple hundred feet prevented everyone from opening it up too much, quality high speed turns with a couple of token cliff drops thrown in for good measure were had by all.

 

From there Sam and Sean departed to catch the 2nd half of the Superbowl as Max, Graham and I headed up the valley for a half hearted attempt to ski something in the library, which turned into more of a discussion on the best direction to approach Tin Can Peak and those delicious west facing ridges. I think we agreed upon coming from Placer. More on that next week, although apparently Max will be in Ketchican

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