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Trip Report: Alaska's Roadside Attractions

Trip Report: Alaska's Roadside Attractions

Trip Report: Alaska's Roadside Attractions

Alaska Roadside Attractions

I’d first started coming to Alaska because I heard about a place with easy access off a mountain pass. Alongside this fabled road corridor stood massive test-piece peaks with names I’d heard about since I was a kid and first attracted to Alaskan style snowboarding. I was tired of winters passing by without having seen the state first hand. Therefore, in 2012 with a record snowfall year it was a perfect time to get my feet wet. I spent 3 months that first year, and each year since has been about the same, though not always to the same spot.

Alaska Roadside AttractionsThompson Pass, Valdez.

I’ve been lucky enough to explore big ranges such as the Chugach, Chilkat, Aleutian Mountains, and the Alaska Range. These mountains humble the biggest egos. I figured this season I’d spend most my time in Valdez and the Chugach Mountains I knew best. It was now March and I’d just finished my first glacier camp of the season on the Cleave Glacier and great snow was plentiful throughout the range. The pass outside of Valdez was starting to take on a much different look though as fellow snow-chasin dirtbags with AK dreams slowly flood the region. This is partly why I like to show up a little early.

Alaska Roadside Attractions
On top of some classic couloirs in the Dimond Arena- The Promise Land

Heli ops start up and soon infiltrate the roadside attractions with mostly banker types from Cleveland or something looking to ski some “steep slopes”, only to cross others’ tracks and see tourers walking out further. It’s rare the heli ops get high profile athlete clients, and when they do it’s a private heli and keeps a private run schedule. Personally though, I’d be pretty bummed to pay 10 grand a week and see people park on the road and walk back to the client heli lines and even further, riding cooler stuff without being told what to do by guides, and better yet, for free. The ski tourers are bummed too because it’s a frickin' helicopter… why not just go one or two ridges back and not harass the tourers?! Give the clients a more remote feeling experience. Snowmobiles (or snow machines as Alaskans call them) also are an issue. A lot of them aren’t there to ski or snowboard and instead highmark up slopes we want to ride down. They put more pressure on the snowpack and make it a little more dangerous for all. A petition recently got circulated and I even attended a town meeting, to try and help create a non-motorized section on Thompson Pass so that there could be a little more peacefulness out there, but it’s an uphill battle.

Alaska Roadside AttractionsRamps, couloirs, and spines are what Valdez is known for. This “heli” run just a couple hours walk from the road.

Alaska Roadside Attractions
Love when I get the ride these pillow lines that aren’t always in shape!

Alaska Roadside AttractionsNuking snow and pow surfin!

Alaska Roadside Attractions
The Mt. Dimond Arena is by far one of my fav off the road corridor. Couloirs, spine/pillows and real deal riding!

Over the next few weeks though there was plenty of quality boarding with our old friends. We even got a few big storms to reset all the way down to the lowers and were able to ride some prize pillows lines that aren’t always in shape. As well as get a fair amount of pow surfing in, which is just snowboarding without bindings. However, once Tailgate crowds show up for their annual event, our urge to fly out for the next camp became a priority to get away from the growing circus. Weather warmed up and was in and out so we flew a couple recon flights to see where we should post up a camp. Fortunately, we found a few good spots and it looked as though we were gonna get a short stint of high pressure to fly out to our next spot soon!

Alaska Roadside AttractionsHalfway down to the road, still a couple thousand vertical to go.

Alaska Roadside Attractions
My camper feels very at home here in March.

Alaska Roadside AttractionsOn a recon flight with Pilot Zack Knaebel of Tok Air Service.

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