It’s hard to believe a month has already come and gone up here in Alaska. While I’m completely stoked to get back home to springtime in the “Range of Light”, the last few weeks have been nothing short of extraordinary in the Chugach. With week four passing we have a few more clients in the field, who will officially wrap up the first season of the heli ski touring program with PNH. It’s been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had the fortune of locking into in terms of backcountry skiing. Along with fellow guide Jeff Dostie, breaking in the first touring program of its kind in the Chugach, with base camp on the side of a mountain boasting ski options in a full 360 degree spectrum, this project has fully been a backcountry skier’s dream realized. That said, the guests and conditions we were lucky to get all season, especially this past week, really helped push the experience beyond.
Over the past month I’ve shared two updates on Unofficial, linked here and here, but this past week is the one that brought it all together. With perfect bluebird skies and more bottomless powder from a two-day storm that dropped the previous weekend our all-star crew got after it making the most of the almost silly opportunities that lined up all week.
Our boys from Jackson, Sam and David, ditched their plans for Valdez after hanging with us the previous week (read their story on the TGR site linked here). They along with Jeff and myself as guides, local fisherman/ripper Wesley helping keep camp dialed in between shreds, and a slew of close friends all either living in Tahoe or with some strong Tahoe connection got lucky. We were able to tap into the elusive trifecta of perfect weather, stability, and overall conditions in a season that will for surely be remembered in the Chugach.
With the skies clearing from our recent storm and a forecast for blue our whole crew made a big push on day one to go big and break in some more new terrain. Traveling heavy on people as a group of eleven, a group of five set out to lay the second ever tracks up and down “Shakedown Street”. In the process they also linked up another chute on the exit, “Habibi”, which was a new descent for the program.
The other six of us peeled off into an adjacent drainage where Unofficial photographer Ryan Salm set up and captured our group heading up and down a previously unskied or climbed couloir now known as “Tweezer”.
The ascent was beautiful showcasing a steep skin track, stable snowpack informed via snowpit analysis, and vertical bootpack that crept on neck deep trail breaking near the 50+degree top of the line. The look down near the top was worth the effort alone to make the trip to Alaska from the lower 48.
After a solid collective effort on Monday the next two days saw our group breaking in more new terrain, and a whole lot of perfect velvet AK powder skiing showcased here by our splitboard crew of Wes, David, and Mark.
We even had our first official BN line go down at camp with a guitar shredder sending “Home Knoll”.
While serenading camp was a must after the historic BN moment, our guitar guy did just as well slaying steep AK pow with his clothes on.
With a few first ascents and descents, all-you-can ski blower, and more perfect weather the groups attention shifted as the week progressed towards our local spine wall known as “Dano’s”.
There are some better shots that will be shared at some point from our spine day. These shots attempt to show how truly perfect this session was.
After spine day it was pretty cool to come back to “Home Base” in our little corner of the great Chugach, crack a few cold ones while dinner simmered, and stare off at our work from the day on “Danno’s”.
By week’s end everybody was completely gassed, not to mention the northern lights sessions that capped our evenings the final three nights of the week. All that was left to do was lay into a few more perfect pow turns and call it good.
It’s truly been a surreal experience living on the side of a mountain in the Chugach the past month. Waking up and going to bed in the heart of the range, making decisions on where to go ski each day based on current observations-whether to break in a new line, ski dreamy spines, or just lap flawless powder-is in my opinion one of the raddest trips a backcountry skier can get her/himself into. We’re already making plans about adding another camp to our established zone for next season, taking requests from people who want to secure a spot for next year, and trying to comprehend just how good it’s been in the Chugach for the past few weeks. One good run in AK will stay with you for a lifetime, and at PNH we’re beyond FIRED UP to have shared that experience with literally everyone who made the trip to visit us this year. I look forward to keeping you in the loop about our plans for next season as they unfold, and can’t wait to catch a bunch of you on a skin track in the Sierra in the weeks to come.