November 30, 2008

Chugach State Park - Wolverine

Randy K, Trooper & I met up on the Near Point Trail. Randy skied from Prospect Heights, and I skied from Stuckagain and we arrived at the meeting spot less than a minute apart. Not bad considering we each skied more than an hour to the meeting spot. We had planned on ascending Near Point, but we changed course to the Wolverine Trail because of the nil visibility on Near Point. Snow pack was typically a little thin up high on Wolverine, but below the brushline it was exceptional.

This storm system we've been enjoying left about a foot of fresh at Stuckagain. Great snow, great day for a tour in the Chugach Front Range. Some turns, but mostly touring.

November 29, 2008

Arctic Valley

Turk will be happy. No wimpy Alpenglow at Arctic Valley in this blog. It's just plain old Arctic Valley: frigid, bleak, windswept, treeless Arctic Valley. Could have used some trees today in the white room with black curtains. But after getting that first down track in, the others really flowed with plenty of good quality snow. Rendezvous snow was sweet; a little windy at the top (can you believe it, Rondy summit, windy?) and Rondy took only one bite of p-tex. Under the long lift (Chair 2) was better.

By the way, I noticed the Anchorage Ski Club website has reverted to "Arctic Valley" as the ski area name, perhaps it's been that way for awhile. Website refers to the Alpenglow Lodge. The alpenglow at Arctic Valley really can create an inspirational experience.

No activity at the lodge or lifts. It's terrific that we have Arctic Valley, and its wonderful alpine access! I truly appreciate the volunteers of the Anchorage Ski Club that keep the Alpenglow (oops, sorry Turk) Arctic Valley enterprise going, and the people who keep the road open (I think it is the US Army Fort Richardson). It is a terrific service to the community.

November 28, 2008

CSP3 Near Point Trail

CSP still has great skiing, even with the mini-Chinook that left a slight rain crust. We could use a little replenishment, but the Near Point Trail condition is very good. It is clear of dead fall and has a ski-packed base. Wolverine Loop Trail had a lot of snowshoe traffic and is a little boney, but fast.
Backdoor trail

Near Point Trail
Downtown Anchorage view from the Near Point Homestead

November 27, 2008


Chugach State Park still had great snow today in the Wolverine Loop area. Spent more time clearing deadfall than skiing, but my little trail from the Basher parking area is shaping up pretty well. Still a few tortuous sections weaving through the deadfall, but made progress in the powder!

November 26, 2008


Chugach State Park has some great skiing right now. There is a lot to be said for skiing from home. But, as good as it is, it was sad to see all of the trees down from that freak storm about 6 weeks ago.

My favorite trail had sections impenetrable with tangled log jams you expect on Alaskan rivers. Mature spruce were blown over with massive root platforms on edge. Mature birch were snapped at every imaginable place, from just above the ground, to high up in the canopy. The number of downed trees is many, many times more than I've observed in 15 years of skiing this area.
This is sadly common, the underside of a massive spruce tree uprooted by the wind. The tree had been apparently quite healthy. The ground was pretty wet when the wind burst occurred and this one along with many others just toppled over.
So many downed trees block the trail, a new route may be easier than clearing them all.

Home is where the heart is.

November 23, 2008

Tincan Test

Turk, Kruser, Dr. Snow and yours truly made it back to the Tincan to find less fresh than we expected. It skied really well nevertheless, and we found some great lines in the trees without tracks. Took a look at Pete's North, a little boney down low but there are tracks on it.

November 22, 2008

Winner Creek

With a gimpy leg, time to adjust my gear. Jim at the Girdwood Ski & Cyclery did a great job punching out my Scarpa's. Toe box was a tad narrow and I really want to keep the new set of big toe nails I'm growing. Girdwood Ski & Cyclery is a friendly dog kind of place - no fewer than 5 wagging tails outside, and a great place to get your foot beds, boot fitting, and assortment of ski and bike stuff.

So while in GW, I thought why not test my sore leg with my trusty rugged touring set up (Fischer Outtabounds Waxbase with Salomon nnnbc bindings & boots). Up and back Winner Creek Trail. Even the dog lover that I am, I got a little steamed after getting bit on the way back down the Winner Creek Trail. Dog's mistress couldn't control her, let her run loose on the trail, dog bit me, dog got a solid poke with a ski pole and let go, poor thing. Anyway it was a great hour and a half ski - Turnagain tommorrow.

November 21, 2008

Friendship Pass

Kruser made me do it. That is, become a general in Walter Mitty's army, an armchair quarterback, a blogspot skier. I really was there, really, admittedly a while ago. But right now, I'm rather laid up with a #@^*&! tweak of my right soleus, perhaps because my lightweight Dynafit bindings were semi-releasable. The left released, the right did not, leaving me with a bleeding soleus.

The soleus is a muscle deep within the calf, and I strained my right one real good - it's greenish blue and swollen. So here is a report from a while ago.
Well, it was not long ago that the intrepid duo found friendship, 1981 or there abouts. But, it was 2006 that we found Friendship Pass, a mile or so beyond the knuckle draggers' post-holing radius, high in the Willow Mining District, aka Hatcher Pass area. We skinned up south-facing Friendship Pass, fast friends that we are, and skied down the north shady side into cold smoke. Tried to kill ourselves, then skied home.
Knocked down, but not out (and not buried.)

Tweaked my soleus on Tincan Mountain at Turnagain Pass, Alaska of all places. Tincan must be the most pedestrian of all backcountry destinations near Anchorage. And, I injure myself there after making the pilgramage for 27 seasons. Must be getting old - definitely worthless and weak. Wallowing in my W&W unskiing fitness, Kruser reminded me of his Friendship Pass photo essay, mostly posted here. It was a remarkable trip.

Crown of the slab. Good thing it didn't run over the cliffs. It occurred north of Friendship and east of Dogsled Pass. Leary of the stability on the route we got there, we decided to return over a different pass, just west of Friendship Pass.


Backside of Friendship Pass is a fantastic place. To safely venture down the north side of the pass, exercise extreme caution because it is prone to avalanche.

Skiing the High Grade Mine adit.

Going home.

November 14, 2008

Turnagain Tincan

Kruser, MW, Turk and yours truly made the mandatory pilgrimage to Tincan. Lots of really good snow, but also lots of avalanche debris. Several slides were apparent on Tincan, and the Chugach National Forest avalanche advisory warned of human-triggered and natural releases.
So, we were cautious and conservative in route selection.

MW free-heeling.

Kruser waist-deep.

Turk turns.

Another epic powder day on Tincan North run.

November 8, 2008

Tour AND the Turn at Manitoba

Dr. Snow, Turk and yours truly toured to Manitoba on a rare day.

Manitoba’s ample low angle terrain and great snow create a great place for skiers to get out in the back country with low avalanche risk. Manitoba Mountain holds a special place in my skiing history as the place where telemark turns first “clicked” for me.
Manitoba was home to one of the early rope tows in Alaska. The Glacier Ski Lodge and rope tow operated on Manitoba in the 1940’s and 50’s. The cat trail used to haul lodge and rope tow materials is still in use today.

Mills Creek

Skiing Vertical and Distance: 2400 feet vertical in 3.3 miles.
Getting There: Head south on the Seward Highway for 1.5 to 2 hours. A large turnout at mile 48 on the east side of the highway is most convenient for accessing the Manitoba trail. There is another parking area at the north end of Lower Summit Lake, 1.3 miles beyond mile 48.
Approach and Ascent: Skiers are happier leaving skins packed away for the first half mile of the trail. The trail to Manitoba descends about 150 feet from the highway and crosses two creeks before skins are needed. Ski east from the parking area to Mills Creek Trail, a wide snow machine trail, turn left (north) and ski on Mills Creek Trail parallel to the highway. The Chugach National Forest is closed to snow machines in the Summit district, but there is non-forest land in the Lower Summit Lake vicinity, and there are private cabins on both sides of the trail near the highway. An alternative route starts at the gravel pit - not quite as scenic.

Old rope tow area

The trail to Manitoba has bridges across two creeks. Outbound skiers will first come to the Fresno Creek bridge. Take the right hand branch (Mills Creek Trail) after crossing the first bridge. The trail will descend to Mills Creek. After reaching the second bridge at Mills Creek, skins are recommended for the steadily ascending trail. Beyond Mills Creek, the trail has a few switchbacks before reaching a meadow about 1.5 miles from the parking area.
The ascent from the meadow diverges from the Mills Creek Trail and traverses south of June 2188 to an alpine basin. The summit of Manitoba is 1600 feet vertical further.

Descents: My favorite lines start at a bunch of spruce trees at the 2300 feet elevation and run down toward Juneau Creek. The west face summit bowl is a fine moderate angle descent. I have heard the northeastern aspect has been skied, though I have not skied it. Gliding down the old cat trail back to the parking area is great fun as well. Remember to save a little energy for the ascent back to the parking area.
Manitoba summit

Dr. Snow, please, what is the diagnosis?

Turk's test passed with sunny smiles (new hip joint - it passed a motorcycle crash, so Manitoba was cake.)

A little thin down low, but very skiable and enjoyable.

November 2, 2008

Back for More

Microdot has been so pleasant the past couple of weeks, why not try it again? No wind since last week's flurry made great snow. Dr. Snow and I returned to the 'dot and pushed the lines further and further west, or skiers' left. Another exceptional combination of sunshine, calm winds and excellent snow!