I’ve received complaints that I’ve been writing too much.  So I’ll start with a general synopsis.  And I’ve gotten distracted by another horribly distasteful Medred column.   We skied Lubner and explored the terrain above Whittier this weekend after skiing with CPG Thursday.   It was sick and I’m an idiot,  but bellow, you can find the first part, the rest will be up later this week, or maybe later.

cpg a-star

Jason was the last of the Utah kids to leave.  Kluh and Gary left Wednesday night after 6 straight days of strip clubs and mediocre skiing.  Jason who’d come up here explicitly to go heli-skiing took off Thursday night after the two of us skied with CPG.

The two of us had resolved to fly while he was here and Thursday being his last day, and that morning being greeted with sunny skies in Anchorage (although with strong winds forecasted) we decided to drive down to Girdwood and try our luck with Chugach Powder Guides.  We ended up getting to fly, but were hardly lucky. 

I’ll start off by saying that CPG has easily the smoothest operation up here.  For a change everyone was real nice, seemed happy to be there and pretty sane, a major change from Valdez.  This was the 6thdifferent helicopter and avalanche safety briefing Jason attended while here and claims it was by far the easiest.  Where as I would describe the average briefing I’ve experienced as painful, normally sitting in a trailer being lectured on avalanche safety and helicopter issues before a beacon drill that seems pointlessly simple and unrevealing of anyone’s actual skill.  One such drill, at a company who will remain nameless, involved a guide ordering us to turn around, walking straight out into a field of fresh snow, dropping a beacon, and walking directly back leaving an obvious trail to the beacons location.  CPG has you watch a quick power point about Helicopter safety, then play around in Alyeska’s High Tech Beacon ParkThe whole thing was quick and pain free, and it wasn’t long before Jason and I were back on our own sipping coffee with some Swiss kids and hoping the wind would die down a bit and we’d get to ski.

We flew, but I’d rather we hadn’t.   Right from the beginning our pilot was flying low and half crazy and I half said to myself, “ew, he’s trying to entertain us because flying will be the best part of the day” and quickly tried to dismiss it, hoping things would get better.  It never did.  Our guide, who was cool, and I don’t blame for anything, was completely straight forward and told us after 2 runs, when he started to sense some dissent, that we wouldn’t be skiing anything big or exposed.  When he added it’d still beat skiing in the resort 10 to 1, I couldn’t help thinking that those odds still wouldn’t come close to my average day in Turnagain pass.  And it didn’t.

CPG’s terrain was less then impressive

Growing up skiing in Michigan we were all constantly bombarded by rules and told what we could and couldn’t do.  One year at a ski swap it even came to the level that when my brother Theo responded to a question about what type of skiing he liked to do with “ski powder and hit jumps” he was told by a disgruntled one armed ski patroller that “we don’t have powder in Michigan and jumping isn’t allowed!”  Our entire ski existence was spent in this state of limbo where we’d be unable to follow the rules due to extreme boredom but then constantly in jeopardy of losing our season pass and suffering even greater boredom from not being able to ski.  17 years of being told we weren’t allowed to ski in the trees, hit jumps, do inverted aerials of any kind, ski fast, gap dirt spots, or question the ski patrol in any way, has left me slightly deranged and I can’t say enough how much I’ve cherished being able to do whatever the fuck I want all season.

Stuff best visited on my own

That’s basically how the day heli skiing went.  We followed our guide down lame terrain no one really wanted to ski.   Whenever we asked if we could ski something different we were told no.   The whole thing made the boasts about their terrain during our earlier briefing seem like the advertising we used to get thrown at us in Michigan.  “200,000 acres” or whatever it was seemed no different then “22 groomed runs” or “increased snow making” through out the day.

Throughout the day they never once tried to hide us from the other groups, or establish any sort of remote feeling.  We always landed right where the previous group landed and usually watched as another group landed behind us. Every run had us waiting for the group just ahead of us to get picked up.  Not once did we open new terrain, and the terrain we did ski I’d seen before, from the top of Big League or the road, and although I wouldn’t have felt uncomfortable skinning to most of it I don’t know if I’d bother seeing as it was mostly shit.  It was actually pretty boring.  The most fun I had was sitting at the top of the peaks, looking at stuff I’d like to come back and ski on my own.  Unfortunately we were never given much time to take in the sights, as there was always a group behind us waiting to ski so we had to get on with it.  The entire day I felt like a dumb tourist being shepherded around. 

Another beauty we didn’t ski

At one point after mentioning I knew where we were and that I could ski back to the highway from the landing zone Jason and the Finnish kid we were skiing with wanted to ditch the operation and wander the backcountry on our own.  I declined, ever afraid of getting my pass pulled, the thought of the massive confrontation that would have come from such efforts.  Although now as I write, the story of having ditched CPG in the backcountry seems worth any price.  Which is far more then I could say for anything they provided us with.

I can’t say I didn’t have a good time though.  Flying around in a helicopter on a sunny day through amazing mountains never gets old nor does skiing them, regardless of how mellow the runs or crappy the snow.   It was like going charter fishing and not catching a fish but still having a good time cruising around on a boat and getting drunk.  At least that’s how I attempted to justify it to myself.

That night before Jason was able to get on the plane Kim managed to give him another round of Alaskan comedy by attempting to show off his Norwegian parallel parking skills in front of F Street.  Jason and I walked out of the bar and up to Max’s Tahoe before wondering why Kim wasn’t behind the wheel.  As we walked around the back of the car and noticed the dent in the red Dodge Viper and Kim talking to some Lionel Richie looking character we both burst out laughing.  Kim’s comments of “the trailer hitch, it’s so long, fuck” confirmed exactly what happened and we went back into the bar to spread the news.  Apparently, most of the bar had either seen Kim hit the viper, or seen the owner’s accompanying run out the door.  The first thing I heard was some women shout “Did you see, he has Jimmy V vanity plates, fucking flamer.”  

It wasn’t long before I heard “It’s only a dodge, he should have backed over it.”  When I went to order another drink, both of the bartenders who knew Kim well said, “That guy’s just lucky he isn’t Alaskan or that would have been a hit and run.”  The whole matter would have been settled quickly if some guy hadn’t come out of the bar and urged Jimmy V not to just swap information with Kim but to call the cops.  Call the cops they did, but moments after the cops arrived, before they were even able to talk to Kim someone slammed a parked car across the street and in typical Alaskan style attempted to drive away, before the cops ran him down.  The delay the police provided proved worth it though, as we got to over hear an insurance agent ask Jimmy what the V on his license plate stood for.  Jimmy proudly stated the V was for victory as everyone within earshot burst out laughing.  After the cops got done dealing with the mess across the way they proceeded to harass JimmyV for bothering them saying “this is Anchorage, it isn’t Malibu, exchange information and get on with it.”  Everything proceded beautifully from there.  Information was exchanged, Kim escaped and Jason made it to the airport on time. Part 2 will be here tomorrow!