Posts Tagged ‘helicopter skiing’

Introducing: Alaska Ingenue, a Cinderella story

Written by leehart on February 26th, 2012. Posted in AK adventures

Welcome to incomparable Alaska

Welcome to incomparable Alaska

This marks the start of the chronicles of my first adventure in Alaska with my client Dean Cummings’ H2o Guides. I had just barely started to scratch the surface of all the amazing in-bounds, side- and backcountry terrain in Revelstoke and then opportunity knocked and poof, gone! So from a 24-hour drive north of Salida, Colorado I’ve landed norther of Colorado. The goal of AK Ingenue is to share with you what I expect to be an amazing introduction to living, working and  playing Alaska-style. Watch my Facebook page to find out about the next installments where you’ll join me for the full gamut of winter fun including all kinds of skiing, snow machining, ice-climbing, some insider glimpses of the heliski biz and more.

Karen Cummings, Salmonberry sidecountry

Karen Cummings, Salmonberry sidecountry

It’s been a week since I touched down in Valdez thanks to the unflappable piloting skills at Grant Aviation. The day after I landed was a momentous occasion, the official opening day of Salmonberry Ski Hill.  I sprang for the $10 season pass and  joined Dean’s wife Karen, and kids Wyatt and Tesslina – in breaking in the new rope tow.  It’s actually a kind of re-opening since there was a ski hill in the same location in the late ’80′s that’s been dormant until Karen rallied local civic leaders to bring the hill back to life. The four-minute rope tow takes folks 1100 feet to the top of a rolling hill. While Wyatt and Tess did a lap, Karen led me off-piste for a couple fresh turns – literally – a couple.

The next day, I needed to get to town for some shopping – it’s just a 20 minute walk but – but Dean offered to give me a ride. In case you haven’t heard, while many ski areas in the Lower 48 were languishing in drought, Valdez was getting hammered. There’s just under 40 feet of snow in town, about a 100 foot base in the

Yellow Taxi, Valdez style

Yellow Taxi, Valdez style

mountains. Fun to play in, deep snow creates havoc on buildings and roads and big equipment to move it all is a pretty common sight around town so it was little surprise that my commuter vehicle was big and yellow. This past week has been all work work work. So I joined the gym to keep in shape in between ski excursions. Prince William Sound Community College has a public fitness center where you can “rent” nordic ski gear and snowshoes for free which came in handy when I joined Karen and her friend Jen on a quick snowshoe jaunt at Dock Point.

Snowshoe view, Dock Point, Valdez AK

Snowshoe view, Dock Point, Valdez AK

All work and no play, at least no real ski play, was starting to make me and the H2o crew a bit twitchy so when  Dean gave the guys – Ryan, Chad, Paul, Elliot and Max - the day off, we all hopped in a van and headed up to Thompson Pass. Quite the views on the way up and we saw two moose (meese?). The ice in Keystone canyon is amazing.

It was a first in many ways today. Just before leaving Revy, I had transferred my Dynafit bindings from my retired Sugar Daddys to my new sweet, fat H2o Outdoor Gear Kodiak 162′s (120 under foot). Today was their first test drive. I was also test driving new skin technology from Gecko. The skis are amazing and the Gecko’s worked just fine. I’m still dialing in my Scarpa Gea’s which I love because they’re so light and comfy and easy to get in/out of but they’re just a wee bit big for me and it became really clear today I still need to work to fill up some volume and get rid of slop.

Couple o’ quick takeaways from today:

Scale is out of whack here: The terrain is bigger than it looks; it’s colder than it seems.

You can gain an astounding amount of vert in just three hours of skinning.

I need to work toward a bit more graceful steep uphill skin track kick turn.

I can’t wait to go again. It’s dumping right now and expected to do so for the next couple days and taper off by the end of the week.

Sorry about the background noise in the video below. It was a little windy on the saddle.