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. http://www.alsap.org/Manitoba/Manitoba.htm
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.