Skiing


In what is an incredibly unexpected development I just learned that Radical Rob has developed a social media presence and has been posting videos of skiing around Snowbowl or various Missoula spots.  He’s even progressed far beyond my feeble video capabilities and is incorporating a pole cam like a progressive youngster.  I’m quite happy to  be able to rectify his long absence from these pages. I’m still working on something about my trip to the lower48, so in the meantime enjoy the Montana videos. They seem to have had an amazing season, and hopefully I can keep posting these to make up for my own laziness.

Mini Truck Skiing.

Took the Mini 35 miles up the Kougarok hwy in search of some spring skiing. This was the longest solo trip of the mini’s life.  The mini dominated the gravel roads that have been recently thawing out, its narrow stance splitting the pot holes and ruts from the bigger vehicles.  About 2 miles from my stopping point, I was enjoying looking out at future ski lines, then I was relegated to an idle. WTF?!?!  I got out and saw that the throttle cable had just broke.  After a brief panic, the ultimate jury rigging took place.

and this fix has laset for the last 100 miles

and this fix has laset for the last 100 miles

During my skin up I could see bear tracks across the valley that led to black spots that I was sure were bears but I just could make them out a mile away.  Running through the different bear encounter scenarios kept my mind from thinking  how out of shape and hot I was.

the skiing

the skiing

Once I reached the summit of my ski, I was faced with the usual dilemma of not see what I was going to ski.  The hot spring conditions had my avalanche hackles up so I tossed a snowball for the dog and watched her jump the cornice and chase the snowball.  The NW aspect looked better than I thought.

the approach 3.5 miles

the approach 3.5 miles

After skiing  4” of wet pow and making it all the way back to the truck without any bear surprises,  I was enjoying the radio, which was emitting some fuzzed out playlist when I began to be flagged down by a truck on the shoulder.  Why were these people flagging me down, I thought to myself, if they only knew I was keeping my day together with vise grips, tie wire, and tape.   They wanted to know if I had a pump – which I did.  I watched them fumble with it for a while thinking about having been in this same situation before.   They pulled out a jack, which turned out to be broken, so I offered up a jack.  The trailer tire had a hole in it so I gave them a couple tire plugs, and a can of fix a flat.   They were super pumped and couldn’t believe that the little mini truck had rescued them.   I told them that my day was so awesome that it just wouldn’t be right to not get them on the road have them get after the rest of the day. I mean it was already 7pm and they still had 5hours of day left ahead of them.  the day ended with what was only the most awesome meal of all time a double pattied bacon waffle burger from golden china.

Fixing the local crap

Fixing the local crap

Little did I realize, the mini would save the day three days later on my birthday.  I was slated to meet Nome’s Senator to make some work arrangements about leasing office space.    When I showed up to meet him, he immediately tasked me with jump starting the house representative who was parked just outside the airport, on the side of the road. Apparently he had left his keys in the ignition or something.  I pull up to the early 90’s ford truck, jumped out and introduce myself.  I think that he thought someone more official was coming, not some joker in a mini truck, either way, I tried to jump him with no luck.  He suggested that I try tow starting him.  “Sure, as long as you got a strap I’m up for anything at this point.”  I towed him back to the airport without the truck starting.  “You wanna just tow me back to my house in town? Neal asked.  Sure!  Away we went, all through town, the mini truck towing the house representative.  I couldn’t stop cracking up.  I was just wishing that the police would have pulled us over since the mini truck isn’t supposed to be on the roads we were on.

What a great birthday!

the best burger ever

the best burger ever

Well, this winter has mostly been about waiting, and then when the waiting is over you get the joys of bushwhacking through alders, tagging rocks, and walking for a mile or so down half paved dirt roads in ski boots.  Things have improved from January, I’m currently able to look out my window and see some snow thanks to a wintery week in mid February.  Mt Eyak was open for a couple days, and thanks to extended sunlight this time of year I was able to piece together a 10 plus day streak of skiing everyday with the help of after work dusk laps.  Tuesday was the highlight of the apres-work turns that seem to have made up the bulk of my season when I was able to get up on top of the far eastern face of Wolverine Ridge.  The snow was fantastic, a couple inches of supportable powder without any hint of wind crust.

The skiing was great, but this year is so thin that I found myself kicking steps in tundra moss and walking on scree along the ridge to reach the entrance point pictured above.  What last year (also a thin winter) was a pleasant approach that allowed you too keep your skis on was a bit of a windswept scramble more typical of the I-70 corridor.

Other then evening laps on Wolverine, I skied way back in to Middle Arm last Sunday but didn’t really ski anything worth remembering. The more north facing couloirs coming off the back of Queen’s Chair weren’t fully filled in, and the best looking of the bunch was blocked by a large frozen waterfall. Otherwise life in Cordova pleasant, Ice Worm Festival was a nice break from the rain, and the heli skiers haven’t been too annoying thus far, so things are good, but a some significant snowfall would be greatly appreciated.

 

alaska skiingThe horror of January and early February is no longer bothering me as the skiing has been consistently good for long enough that I’ve completely lost track of time. Weeks and months are all mixed together as days relate to each other more by the similarities of snow conditions and what was skied rather then their postion on a calender.  Yesterday will stand out in my memory for some time though, as it was the real life version of the stereotypical ‘epic April day in AK’, the type of day I missed out on of last season and which I managed to completely forget was coming in my rainy mid winter thin snowpack depression.  Its extremely reassuring to know days like yesterday can not only happen but sew themselves so seamlessly into everyday life that they don’t really feel significant at the time.

alaska skiingI walked home from work yesterday afternoon, changed clothes, and walked out the door with my skis and boots on my shoulder.  After about 20 minutes walking down the road I switched over to skis and skins. I had skied the shoulder of Eccles the day prior and was pretty confident in the conditions and had planned on skiing Wart Face down to the lake (my lines the top picture).  The approach was uneventful, skinning in a t-shirt while listening to BBC podcasts I found myself up top sooner then expected.  From above the center of the roll over into the face looked a little cross loaded, so I skied along the skiers right of the face, with the idea of being able to bail to the ridge, before cutting into the center.  The snow was perfect Alaskan velvet, and sluffed from every turn for some extra fun and a nice cloud of snow in the corner of my eye as I hit the apron.  I’ve got a huge smile on my face just thinking about it.  From there I skinned back up and, bumped into the Mike Records crew (who has some tasty TT43 pics)on top, then hit the mellower bowl in the far left of the top picture for more perfect snow. Fantastic day, hopefully more like it to come.

alaska skiing

alaska skiing

The last month has been fantastic. Equal parts snow and sunshine with manageable avalanche conditions. April has thus far been significantly colder then January, so the snow quality has been above average,  and the extended day light allows turns till about 930 now.

main street cordova alaska skiing

Checked off a couple lines on my regional hit list, including the north couloir of Heney (pictured top), and gave a new line off Murchinson an attempt this afternoon, but mostly have just been lapping sunny powder with no one around.

mt eyak single chair alaska skiing

Today was the last official day for Mt. Eyak, despite still having tons of snow and great coverage, but I’m told they still be offering occasional bumps to shorten the trip up the ridge. The closing day bbq brought out what looked to my eyes to be the years biggest crowd, and the free burgers were fantastic.  Really everything is perfect except for the state of my bike (pictured bellow), which got run over by some slednecks and is mangled beyond repair.

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alaska skiing wolverine ridge cordova

Skiing has been fantastic recently.  Colder temps, with occaisonal night time flurries with either high clouds or sunny skies during the day for the last week.

mt eccles cordova alaska skiing

Skied the center chute on Mt. Eccles (pictured above) yesterday, and have been making a habit out of closing days spent skiing elsewhere with late afternoon trips up Mt. Eyak for evening laps into Hippie Cove (pictured bellow). Hopefully the wonderful conditions continue through spring.

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Sunshine and fresh snow while being stuck working in the liquor store the past two afternoons had me feeling extremely antsy to get out this morning before the predicted storm rolled in this afternoon. I’d had the rib pictured above in my mind for some time and figured today was the opportunity to give it a go. A couple of turns on stiff windboard up high before the snow turned to alaskan velvet a quarter of the way down. Its like a different world from the bullshit weather of January and February. The last couple of weeks the skiing has been fantastic around here, and with fat flakes falling outside the bar it seems set to continue.

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