First, I’d like to apologize for our lack of updates. We’ve been either too drunk or too busy the last couple weeks so I really haven’t put much together, so what follows will be rambling, incoherent and off topic.

Jason Stinsman Backflip Silvertip

Max, Matt, Espn, Wilson, Mania and I rented an RV and took off for Valdez Monday of last week. As Matt the Cook sped our land yacht in glorious sunshine along the north side of the range it was possible for a moment to forget the forecasted storms and truly believe we were in for some flying. The belief lasted past the Hub and the fireworks stand till we hit and until we descended from Thompson Pass into a rainy and overcast Valdez. The shit weather held and we never got to fly, although we did have a pretty good time.

Espn Tubing Valdez Style

The first thins we were told upon arrival was the story of our good friend from Utah, Karitis, fighting  some backcountry guru, Matt Kinney, who also  wrote a pretty good book. Apparently he’d skinned up to where Karitis was guiding that day and a full on scuffle broke out, which apparently Karitis won, taking said guru to the ground. Watch out Karitis, sometimes these things are settled rather badly.

That being said we spent most of our free time at the Valdez gun range shooting propane tanks with lit road flares duct taped to the side. The resulting explosions went a long way to lifting our spirits, although the same can’t be said for our associates living in town.

 

However great that story was, it has to be said that the morose Heli-guiding community of Valdez possesses the self importance of  7th graders and a detachment from the skiing public’s reality reminiscent of a soldier just back from war. Only the Guides aren’t so much haunted by the deaths of comrades and unspeakable tragedies, but rather the true horror (“you don’t even know man!”) of waking up at 5 am and being forced to ski with a 20 pound backpack. Our group’s continuous and collective eye rolling did nothing do diminish the onslaught of tales of hardship (“it’s been overcast for a week!”) and misfortune (“my boss is a disorganized stoner!”) suffered by all of those so unlucky as to be in guiding in Valdez. From what we heard, it’s amazing they are there at all.

Despite all the self pity spewed forth by the various guides (who work less then your average Teamster), most of them seem to have drunk a little to much of the special kool-aide distributed by their various bosses, and possess a strange unflinching loyalty to the cause. Our suggestion that the European clients, who’d paid thousands of dollars to reserve helicopter time they’d never use, would rather shoot guns and ride snowmobiles then watch lame slideshows of some guide’s ice climbing trip in southwestern Colorado was met by smug stares and claims that we just simply didn’t understand “the industry.” I guess gasoline and gunpowder aren’t that entertaining. I honestly met a French guy that night at the Pipeline Club (more on that later) who claimed his guides couldn’t find someone to take him fishing on a down day, something it took Angela, the awesome bartender, an entire 5 minutes to rectify.

When later discussing the general idiocy of the Valdez Heli scene Max smartly pointed out that none of the operations have any familiarity with the state at large. With most of the guides flying up from Colorado or California for the 2 month season, and never seeing anything other then the Anchorage airport and the Valdez area they simply don’t understand how things work up here. They possess one incredible product they do a fantastic job selling, but seem completely unwilling to accept that one can enjoy themselves up here without skiing, and completely fail to capitalize on the endless fun waiting just beyond their fingertips.

Valdez Gun Range Sawed Off Shotgun And Locals

After school fun Valdez style, sawed offs, pigeons and cigarettes down at the range.

Anyway, I’d like to mention that despite the clear inadequacies in the operation I plan on returning to Valdez and still regard heli-skiing there as worth every penny. We even spent the time to get our avalanche and helicopter briefing out of the way with Valdez Heli-Camps who I plan on flying with later this season. We were once again treated great by everyone there,  although we were asked to take down our video 

and told they no longer allow firearms or fireworks in their parking lot. If anyone is looking for advice I’d say forgo the package deals sold down there and rent an RV in Anchorage, drive down and go standby. This was my second time on such a trip and it’s been a great time both  when we flew (last year), and when we didn’t.

I’ll also give special to Angela at the Pipeline Club, who couldn’t have treated us better. Angela poured Wilson and I drinks so stiff they were translucent, claimed she would be our mother while in town, gave me a hat, and fed us fried halibut and chicken fingers. She let us stay past the 5 am closing time, continuously hugged Sean and Nappy saying “you’re from Hope and my middle name is Faith” and brought a smile to all of our faces, an absolute model bartender.

We got back to Anchorage late Wednesday, and my cousins Jim and Mike arrived Thursday night. We’ve managed to get some good footage since they’ve arrived as the two of them have been killing the roadside jumps in the pass. I’ve also got the two of them out on skins for the first time, had them crossing open creeks, and enjoying themselves on Silvertip the north facing stuff off Sunburst. They have been blowing our expectations out of the water, keeping up with us when going up or down, and have been generally game for anything. Yesterday we managed to get some great footage skiing surprisingly deep powder on Hillside, and the Hilltop Ski Jumps. It looks like it may stay sunny for the rest of their trips so were just getting started.

 

Max and Charley are taking up the invitation he received to compete in the Freeskiing World Championship at Alyeska this afternoon.  Apparently,  according to this article, they’ve been “duped by Corporate America” but Craig Medred is an idiot so we’ll just dismiss that entirely. Craig really doesn’t understand the concept of risk. He’s written so much inane tripe (he’s essentially crashed extremely hard many times); that he’s assured of his status as village idiot, and an additional idiotic column carries little risk to his personal reputation.

Wilson and Mania have returned to Valdez with Gary and Clue to further harass Karitas and his co-workers and hopefully get some skiing in. Word is that they were going to ski with Rendezvous yesterday but their car broke down a couple miles away with a faulty fuel pump they’ll have to fix before they do any skiing. Jason’s good friend April has her boyfriend on it though, so hopefully that works out.

It’s supposed to be clear for the next 3 days so stay tuned.

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