[Report courtesy of State of the Backcountry]
As winter turns to spring, year in and year out, the compass always points to Alaska. Snowsliders the world over have been making the trek for over 25 years, and while the best ski day is always exactly where you’re at, there’s still nothing like scoring a pristine day in the Chugach Mountains. I have been traveling north to ski in Alaska since 2003 and remain humbled, excited, and inspired by every chance I get to lay tracks in this special part of the world.
In 2011, Jeff Dostie and I were offered the opportunity to create a unique ski touring program that would be the first of its kind in the state. While helicopter assisted backcountry skiing is commonplace in Western Canada, no such program existed in Alaska until we started Tour Camp with Points North Heli-Adventures. This April marked our seventh year of exploring the mountains outside of Cordova, with this season wrapping up our sixth year of sharing the experience with guests from around the world.
Overall, it was an atypical season in the Chugach. Our season started with a very uncharacteristically thin snowpack absent of the velvet powder visitors seek when they travel to coastal Alaska. After a tricky start, a small storm that would normally be nothing to write home about ended up giving us a fresh blanket on our local peaks yielding prime powder skiing on all aspects. Because of the harsh N winds that plagued the early season, and an increasingly unstable snowpack, our terrain choices were somewhat limited until this storm allowed us some reprieve.
Tour Camp enjoyed a beautiful week of powder skiing under sunny skies with our Week 2 crew before a classic Chugach doozy showed up, dumping close to 8 feet of snow on us over the course of nine days. Strong storm systems like this are not atypical in the Chugach, and even though some people get a little cabin fever after multiple storm days in a row, our guests during this period embraced the storm, for the most part, and made the most it. We night skied, hiked “Home Knoll” daily-a short powder shot located right above camp that’s skiable during rough bouts of weather, played beacon games, practiced crevasse rescue techniques, and even established the 1st Annual Propin’ Games. The Propin’ Games is a three part relay that pits each tent in Tour Camp against each other with a friendly race around a skin track put in by the guides, followed by a bootpack and ski of “Home Knoll”, ending with a multi-burial beacon search.
Our last week of the season started with the remnants from the storms of the prior week, but gradually shifted towards classic Chugach conditions by weeks end. We welcomed another crew of great guests from around the world, including a stellar professional crew out to film the final segment of the soon to be released ski documentary, Finding the Line. The crew got some great footage and were a pleasure to work with throughout the week. We’re looking forward to seeing the film next fall.
While tricky conditions stayed around for longer than we would’ve liked this season, we still skied almost everyday of our season, and enjoyed welcoming many new friends to the Chugach. We had several returners this season as well, which is always a treat. Jeff, Wes, and I take great pride in Tour Camp as it’s become a home away from home the past several years. Sharing the experience with guests never gets old, especially when the week comes to an end and people are so excited about their experience. We’ve already booked several spots for next season and look forward to sharing the human powered side of skiing in Alaska with skiers and riders once again in 2018.
If you’re interested in winter camping and ski touring in Alaska with us next season be in touch. It’s always exciting to start, and sad to leave Alaska when the season is done, but with snow stacked across North America the spring is shaping up to be one for the books. I look forward to spending some quality time in the Range of Light come May, but for now I’m excited to get back to Greenland to guide the annual Ice Axe Expeditions ski trip with OG Sierra Slayer Glen Poulsen. It’s been inspiring to get out of the Alaskan wilderness and hear about all the turns being enjoyed from the Sierra to the Tetons these past few weeks. Stay fired up and safe, and keep enjoying this monumental season everyone!
Unofficial Networks State of the Backcountry Reports from the 2016-2017 Ski Season:
Antarctica and Tahoe (Nov)
Tahoe Storm Edition (Jan)
Sierra Storm Edition (Feb)
Eastern Sierra Edition (Mar)
State of the Backcountry Shares Stoke Through: