Sunday, March 20, 2011


For the last three days i've been hanging out with the folks from the Alaska Avalanche Information Center in Valdez, Alaska.  I can't say enough about the professionalism of these folks, and our instructor who is from Stevens Pass, WA.
I would even say that Thompson Pass is worse off than the front range.  However, after this recent storm event it looks like Hatcher Pass has faired the best.  Positive vibes and prayers to all involved in the recent avalanche event on Hatch Peak.

Above is a pic of me geeking out with some snow crystals; observing surface hoar formation in our full profile pit.  Hopefully we'll get some new snow and low pressure soon.  I'm tired of clear and cold...

Friday, March 18, 2011


Here are a couple of Supermoon pics from Valdez.  I'm here for a Level II Avalanche Course enjoying the good food and views.

Valdez Harbor.
So I guess this is the closest the moon has been since December 2008 - a mere 354,000 miles, and some speculate that this is the cause of the Japan tsunami.  Maybe its the cause of the low snow year?  CNFAIC reports that this is the dryest Girdwood has been in 20 years.

Meanwhile, the beard is shaping up well...
Ski fast, take chances.  A phrase that we used to use at the ski shop...

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Goose Bay and Culross Island

The newly constructed Goose Bay Forest Service Cabin.
I just returned from spending five days skiing in Prince William Sound out of the Forest Service cabin at Goose Bay.  It was constructed last May after the South Culross cabin was demolished.  Besides Matt Murphy and his cabin crew from Girdwood, we were the first official skiers to visit the cabin.

Cap'n Mike Bender from Lazy Otter Charters did a great job on the water taxi.  Although Goose Bay was partly frozen, we got off about 250 yards from the cabin.  This, however, required a two hour movement over the sea ice and steep banks of the bay.  Lets just say the return trip was  a lot easier to navigate.
The snow conditions were no surprise to anyone.  After the horrific wind in Southcentral, combined with no new snow in the last 3 weeks, conditions were dismal.  But you've heard me say it before, "skiing is skiing".  If it weren't for ski crampons, we wouldn't have been able to navigate to the terrain we skied otherwise.

In a total of 3 full days and 2 half days of skiing, we bagged nearly 11,500 vertical feet.  I am going to return to Culross Island when we have  powder.  The ski access directly from the front door of the cabin gives way to phenomenal tree skiing - something an east-coaster takes a particular liking to...

We took it upon ourselves to name all of the runs that we skied.  So if you hear something in this blog, it has been aptly named by yours truly.

Tyler descends the Dogface in the soft afternoon corn.
Marc harvesting the goods.

B-real contemplates the boilerplate.

On Day 2, we toured for nearly 7 hours and finally summitted Goose Peak.  This was our favorite run of the trip, named Sound of Sunshine.  It was a beautiful south facing shot that ran cleanly all the way down to the water.

On the way to recovery.  Where recovery is measured in vertical feet.
Marc working on his tan.
After five full days of turns, I had a tired pup on my hands.  When we took a break, she took a break.
Splitter weather gave way to cold and clear nights.  With no propane in the two 50 gallon tanks, we had to improvise with our own stash of fuel and below zero down sleeping bags.  This is the second cabin trip in a row that was bingo on propane.

The northern lights were out and amazing.  I was surprised to see them so well this far to the south.
I also experimented with the illumination of the moon and some other constellations.
Cabin life.  I made B-real run back and forth with a flashlight to make this shot.  After cleaning this up, I did notice the Aurora in the background.
On the second to last day we got the Tsunami Advisory over our VHF radio.  Pretty crazy considering we were about five feet above sea level at the time.

Check out this video of our trip.

If you've never skied in the Sound, make it a future destination on your backcountry bucket list.  You won't be disappointed.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Girl...

Meg and I in a recent trip to Hawaii.  She's the better looking one...
Yep, the two most important girls in my life....Meg and Lobita.  But recently, it seems that La Nina (or The Girl in spanish) has been at the forefront of conversations in South Central Alaska.  The forecast for the next week is clear, sun and cold.  Not very favorable if you're planning a ski trip to Prince William Sound.

I checked out the anti-tracks with locals Matt and Agnes from Hagephoto.  We headed up Tincan for a "one run and done" - and to see what the wind left us with.  Not much...
 Matt and Agnes survey the landscape and try to find a place to ski.  It actually wasn't that bad, we found some decent carveable turns in the protected trees.  Define Powder?  As Rick Vance (February 2011, Backcountry) states, "skiing today was like pornography: great to look at, but a poor substitute for the real thing."
 Me and one of my favorite girls.
Matt Hage took this photo.  It's pretty sweet, and you can find it on his Facebook page.  I heart Utica Club.  Fun facts about "UC" (or Uncle Charlie's as we call it):
1. First beer sold in the United States after prohibition.
2. Only sold and distributed within 90 miles of Utica, New York.
You know you're an Alaskan powder enthusiast when... a Backcountry Ski Magazine is on your dashboard at the trailhead, and your windshield is splattered with State Parks passes.

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