December 30, 2008

Nike in my Psyche

The north aspects of Mt. Gordon Lyon are totally hammered with little snow and what remains is sastrugi. Hence, I bailed on my plan to drop the backside. But, the snow on the south facing aspects was sweet and worth a couple of late afternoon laps. There was a pleasant temperature inversion, too.

Arctic Valley is truly a treasure. Road accessible alpine country is relatively rare in Anchorage. Please join the Anchoreage Ski Club and support Alaska's oldest ski organization.

Nike missile sites remain from the Cold War era and sit above the Arctic Valley parking areas. The Nike missiles were decommissioned (I think), and the site now has communications towers, and a weather station. The station temperature was +9F; the thermometer on my car read 11 below in town - a very pleasant 20F inversion!

My psyche.

The Arctic Valley area of the Chugach Front Range is the fastest way to access alpine elevations above Anchorage. Summer tourists will find great hiking and exceptional views of Anchorage, Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range, and skiers will find lift served and back-country experiences. The ski area at Arctic Valley is a lift served area with exceptional back-country access to the Chugach Front Range. Having been blessed with countless powder days at Arctic Valley, I’m an avid advocate of this terrific front range experience.

This area is rich with Alaska skiing history. The Anchorage Ski Club, founded in 1937, operates Alpenglow, home of the eldest lift-served area still operating in Alaska. The Anchorage Ski Club is a nonprofit organization and the area is run by volunteers. The present-day area was established in the 1940’s as a civilian/military cooperative and still operates with cooperation from the United States Army of Fort Richardson. Arctic Valley Road is maintained by the army and patrolled by the well trained Military Police.

Present day Arctic Valley has a one surface lift and two chair-lifts situated in the northwest corner of Chugach State Park. Arctic Valley also has an enchanting 1960’s era day lodge remarkably well maintained and adorned with the best powder bells in ski country. Nozzles from cold war era Nike missiles, mounted upside down, are located within a comfortable ski pole tap of the chair number 2 to ring in the powder! Hearing that reverberation, I think: for whom the powder bell tolls, us of course!

The access road to Arctic Valley crosses Fort Richardson Military Reservation and some areas are marked as restricted. Speaking from experience, it is best to respect the signs. The military operated a chairlift and a surface lift on the southwestern flanks of Rendezvous Peak for many years. The chairlift is still shown on the current version of the USGS map, but both of these lifts have unfortunately been removed.

If powder is your pleasure, get a ticket to Arctic Valley and your powder chances are good. Alaska’s oldest ski patrol, the Denali Patrol, sometimes allows access to outer areas from the lifts. And plenty of back-country ski adventures can be enjoyed without riding the lifts. The Anchorage Ski Club asks that backcountry skiers stay clear of the ski area boundaries.

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