Monday, January 31, 2011


Today was both Jon and I's first day out to Hatcher Pass.  And now I know why I haven't made the trek up Hatcher Pass.  We started out heading up Peak 4068 enroute to ski Halibut Tail.  Just as we started our ascent, the entire slope settled with a big "whump".  We decided to hedge our bets, and we turned around.  We opted to ski a spine on the west face of Marmot.

The climb was not easy.  Attempting to get our skins to gain purchase along the "bootpack" rather than the "skin track" was not an easy task.  Thanks to the knuckle-dragging boot-packing snowboarders and sledders.  The wind was howling pretty good.  I actually got to use my Voile ski crampons.  I think the snobomb is going to get himself a pair (of ski crampons, that is).  The first couple of turns were nice, but there was a nasty rain crust.  The bottom 3/4 of the run boasted some nice blower pow.  We only made 1 run and brought the pups back to the truck.

In other news, there are some pretty spooky conditions down in Turnagain right now.  A party of 4 skiers were caught and injured in an avalanche down in Summit Lake this weekend.  We skied Pete's North, and kept our slope angle in check.  Scary thing is, that it broke above them while skinning.  Glad everyone turned out ok.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tincan Trees

I headed to Turnagain today with local ER skier Eric.  There was about 2-3" in my driveway, but CNFAIC reports boasted only about 1" down south.

The tour was pleasantly surprising.  Based on my previous observations from Eddie's and Magnum, I knew the higher elevation terrain was wind scoured.  We decided on some mellow tree shots to the lookers left of the main Tincan drainage.

We made a total of 4 shorter laps and found fresh untracked snow on each run.  The dogs enjoyed themselves, and LB got back on the saddle.

Eric tries to sieze what he can Sees.

I must say that there were some nice lines in the evening alpenglow on the Sunnyside.  Lobita surveys the way back to the truck.
This was a pic from Tuesday's tour to ski PMS Bowl.  I met Jon and Jenna, with Kijik, Chili and Hannah in close proximity.
I depart Los Anchorage tonight for Hawaii to meet Meg.  I hope we get mad snow when I return.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Getting Back to Alaska...

My return greeted me with high pressure, clear skies and sub-zero temperatures.  B-real and I headed south to sniff out some softer snow.  The last storm rolled through nearly 2 weeks ago.  With longterm instabilities, we made the slog out to Eddies for a couple of runs.

It was -8F at the truck when we left, and at the bottom of Ingram Creek the temps read -15F on my thermometer.  With the cold temps and moisture source, we witnessed some of the largest hoar frost crystals i've ever seen.  They were the size of potato chips.
It was so cold that I didn't take any pictures of our ski runs.  I was too busy trying to get my hands and feet to stay warm.  Our skins didn't even stick to our skis on the second run, so we only made it about half way up.  Eddie's was pretty tracked up, but we managed to find some nice soft snow on the lower elevation flanks.  Tyler slogs it back out to the road
Pausing for the ever-so-famous "end of tour group shot i'm freezing so lets hurry up".  Like the beard?
But this never gets old.  Redoubt Volcano taken from the Seward Highway.
Oh yeah, the only cars in the parking lot were Toyota Tundra's.  Seems the only folks who can hack the cold were Tundra drivers....go figure.

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Green Mountain Backcountry Adventures

I miss the fabulous tree skiing of the east coast.  I recently spent 30 days in Upstate New York visiting the family, and was rewarded with a ski trip in Northern Vermont to ski the steeps of the East.  Long time ski partner Pat Cuffe and I spent 3 days skiing in the Green Mountains.  After a lift served mandatory penance at Killington, we headed north to unchartered territory (for us) in the Jay State Forest.

The night of our arrival greeted us with 8" of low density blower powder.  All the groomers were boilerplate, but the trees held the goods.  Skiing runs like "Timbuktu", "Andre's Paradise" and "Beaver Pond Glade", we stuck to the glade skiing all day long - making the brutal ride up the chair facing 60mph wind gusts worth it.  After a burger and brew at the Tram Haus Lodge, we got after it the next day with some Jay Peak side country.  Not before some medication for my knees....800mg Motrin and all the whiskey my stomach could handle.
We broke trail from Jay Peak to Big Jay, on an illegally cut trail by the Jay Peak Resort crew in 1998.  But this makes the access relatively easy via the 1 mile trail to the wooded plateau summit of Big Jay.  The drifted soft snow wasn't a challenge and the views were epic, with both Mount Washington in New Hampshire and Mount Marcy in New York visible on our ascent.
I've skied with Pat for nearly 20 years.  And I think this single run down the east face of Big Jay was the pinnacle our our ski pursuits.  From skiing across the street from his house in Chadwicks, New York to dropping the "nipple-deep" powdery riches of Vermont's Yellow Birch and White Pine gladed runs - this one certainly comes out on top.  Just minutes before dropping into the white room...

I couldn't possibly explain how good the skiing was, so I put together a small video.  This tour can be found in David Goodman's eastern backcountry bible, Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York.

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