I recently got the chance to sit down with Ingrid Backstrom on her porch in Squaw Valley and ask her about all the fun she has been having lately. We talked about what it was like to ski in Greenland, her experience climbing and skiing Denali, and her plans the rest of the summer. Here is the interview:
So, how did your season go?
I actually had a really good end of the season. It seemed like it just kept going, but it was all good stuff. I finished out April in B.C. and then May was mostly spent in Greenland, three weeks there, and then June I was in Denali for three weeks.
That must have been rad…
Yeah, it was amazing.
Can you tell me a little about Greenland? Who was a part of you trip? What kind of terrain did you encounter?
It was a North Face trip with the Rocky Mountain Sherpas and we got really lucky with conditions. We got a week of perfect pow. We set up a base camp out on a glacier where there were tons of cool lines right there. We got to hike and ski everything before the weather came in. We didn’t get to ski much after that but it was still really fun to be there and to check out a sweet Greenland village that had about 300 natives. It was awesome.
The people are so cool, they are so in tune with their environment and completely depend on the land. It is very different, we tend to close off that part of us as we are surrounded by technology. There are no cars there, they just walk. It is also a very community and family-oriented culture. It is gorgeous.
What was the terrain like?
The potential there is amazing…We were there a bit late, but you could tell that if you were there earlier there would be spines everywhere. Being right next to the ocean and fjords the visuals were just amazing. For what we were doing, more hiking and skiing, it was perfect because the conditions were really stable. It was spring conditions were we’d ski corn on the south-facing terrain, then pow on the north-facing terrain.
What size were the faces that you were skiing?
It is really similar to AK, so we would ski anything from 500 ft to 2000 ft long, but you could see some bigger stuff for sure.
So, from there you went to Denali, right? How did that trip go for you?
The Denali trip was a really great opportunity through The North Face. They took several of the very experienced ski and snowboard mountaineers, who were the mentors for some of us who were less experienced at mountaineering. The purpose of the trip was to be super safe and learn in a good environment, have a good time and hopefully make it to the top if conditions permitted. We got dropped off on the Kahiltna Glacier by planes with skis on them.
That must have been rad..
Yeah, so awesome, the pilots were so badass. We landed at approximately 7000 feet and from there we started making our way up the mountain. We had skis and skins, which made it a lot easier. We pulled sleds for the first several days because we had so much gear. We pulled then to 11000 feet where we left the sleds and then started ferrying loads up higher. So you would take a load up, drop it, then go down, sleep low, and then go beck up to acclimatize. We did this until we got to 14000 feet where we eventually made our main base camp.
While we were getting acclimatized we got to ski several days in the Orient Express, which was a super cool run. For our summit bid, we acceded the West Buttress, which is the most common route on Denali. We got to 17 Camp, spent the night there and then made it to the summit. We were able to ski right off the summit in powder and then down another big face back down to 17 Camp. There we spent the night and then the next morning we skied down the Rescue Gully, which was a really cool run above 14 Camp.
How was skiing right off the Summit?
Well, it was pretty mellow skiing off the summit, it wasn’t super steep. But at the same time you are definitely very aware because it is such a huge mountain. You are at 20000 feet, you are tired, you don’t want to mess up. It is a crazy feeling to click into your skis at 20000 feet and know that you are on the highest spot in North America. I was up there thinking, somewhere out there are other places I’ve skied in Alaska, but this is kind of the ultimate.
Who was on the trip with you?
The mentors on the trip were Hilary O’Neill, Conrad Ankerr, Jim Zellers, Giulia Monego and Emilio Previtali. Jimmy Chin was filming and taking photos as well, Adam Clark was a photographer, Matt Irving was another filmer. The mentees were myself, Lucas Debari and Sage Catabriga Alosa.
It was awesome to see how Sage skied, because it was definitely not his area of expertise but you could see how he is such a good athlete. In the beginning of the trip he was like, “How does this work? Where does this go?” and by the end he would be the leader while skiing. The mentors had so much mountaineering experience, but Sage had so much natural skiing ability, which showed on the descents. It made for really great team work.
Do you think this may have opened a can of worms for him? Do you think he is going to get into ski mountaineering?
I don’t know, I was biking with him the other day and he said he couldn’t pass another opportunity like that up. I think it definitely opened up his eyes to this sort of thing.
So the whole experience must have been incredible?
Yeah, we totally lucked out. This past year conditions on Denali had been really gnarly and really icy, but right before we got there it snowed a bunch and stuck somehow. We got this window of really good weather and good conditions. Everybody worked really hard, we had maybe one down day the whole trip.
What are you plans for the rest of the summer?
Well, I’ve got a week or so more of summer and then I’m headed down to South America. First off will be La Parva Chile, where there is a photo contest happening. I get to be a judge, which is super cool. I am very stoked to get to go to La Parva again, to ski there and see all the crazy stuff people are doing. From there I get to go to Las Lenas Argentina for the Red Bull Powder Disorder. I am not sure if I am going to compete or hang out. Then I am coaching at Chris Davenport’s camp in Portio Chile. It should be super fun.
Thanks so much for chatting with me Ingrid.