January 31, 2009

Gordon Lyon Sunshine

A quick trip to Arctic Valley for some afternoon turns in the sunshine was a sure cure for powder fever. Though tempted to change over to my downhill boots, I took my light weight system up to the summit of Gordon Lyon. Beautiful sunshine, 10 deg F, and calm air for the most part.

The lady on the snow report hotline called it 6", more like 4" - reminds me of a bad joke. Gordon Lyon was painfully thin at the summit, but 100 ft below the summit was nice sparkley powder on a scritchy base. Good enough for a couple of laps.

Oh yea, I almost forgot the report on Salomon's X-ADV 8 boots. Well, I'm still enamored. Today was a tough test for the rugged touring system, and especially the boots. The system held up well on 30+ degree slopes with 4" light powder on an icy base.

For a light system, the boots have exceptional torsional rigidity without compromising flex where you need it. Salomon has done very well with the X-ADV 8's.


January 27, 2009

Max's Mystery

Solved. Thanks to Dr. Snow and his research staff, we now can answer the burning question, "Who was Max?" Mr. Marolt, of course.

Everybody calls it Max's, except the USGS who calls it Baumann's Bump. It's a minor summit with a nice overlook of the Alyeska Resort, Girdwood and Turnagain Arm. And it has two names.

It's not deeply philosophical like Mt. McKinley and Denali, Manifest Destiny versus the noble native. It's more like Wasilla and "The Valley", same name for the home of our governor, though the Valley encompasses more than Wasilla. Likewise, Baumann's Bump is perhaps grander than Max's.

Max's is the name of a ski run. But, it is also Max's Mountain and Baumann's Bump at the same time. Hence, this boring blog about who was Max? Well, Max Marolt is a member of the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame, 1950's US Ski Team member, and one who took a dare to ski what we call Max's, but the USGS calls Baumann's Bump. Max Marolt passed away in 2003 at Las Lenas, Argentina while skiing at age 69. He also has a run at Snowmass named after him. http://www.skiinghistory.org/colohof03.html

Mr. Baumann was perhaps not quite as distinguished in the skiing world as the Aspenite Marolt, but the United States Geological Survey named the mountain in question, Baumann's Bump after Ernie Baumann who served in the United States Army 10th Mountain Division. And Baumann was an early advocate of mechanized lifts at Alyeska after reportedly scouting hundreds of peaks between Seward and Mt. McKinley, or is it Denali?

January 25, 2009

Arctic Valley Mid-Winter

Arctic Valley is a shining jewel above Anchorage. Conditions are shaping up there after the meltdown. More snow would be more than welcome, but it's great the area is operating.

Markman had control at the top.

It was lightly tracked.

January 24, 2009

Winter is Back to Back

Alyeska's North Face provided treats worthy of soldiering on to the end. We were the last two through Rag Doll gate. Thanks to the pleasant patroller who said, "No problem"; he had just tied the rope and flipped the sign down, but let us through with no hassle. High Traverse was very good, too with soft snow beneath the 6" fresh on top with a hint of the old tracks. North Face still reigned.

GB & Dr. Snow were amply rewarded for enduring the boney traverse to the Knuckles on North Face.

Storm skiing in Knuckles was excellent.

January 23, 2009

Winter is back at Alyeska

Expecting dust on crust, 20,000 verts and done, the snow gods gave us waist deep and 39k. The waist deep was in the slough-alicious sloughage in Christmas Chute and the Knuckles. Elsewhere it was 3-inch deep dust on crust, and very enjoyable.

The base at the base was boiler plate. Above the frozen snow zone, there was a sweet, soft base. Even the frozen base had enough fresh on top for carve-ability, though it was a bit scritchy.

Alyeska blogger-mistress & meister.

Kate, Kruser, & Dr. Snow dropped into Christmas.

January 18, 2009


Backdoor Trail was right here a week ago. Now, it's a debris field for what was my neighbor's roof. Backdoor Trail is no more, gone with the (warmish) wind. It likely will return, but meanwhile catching up on chores was the best option.

Still 38F and wet. Snow line is about 2000 ft el., 1200 ft above me.

January 14, 2009


38 degrees Fahrenheit, wet, and windy snow eater. Maybe this cycle will end with ...

We can hope.

January 13, 2009

Backdoor by Headlamp

Finally got back on Backdoor Trail on the Salomon X-ADV 8 boots. Alpine touring over the past two weeks left no time for testing the new rugged touring boots. After a short readjustment, it came together so well it was hard to stop, and X-ADV 8's proved better than I hoped.

It didn't take too long to get back in stride. But at first, it really hurt; my old dogs had gone soft on me using those alpine touring plastic boots with no forefoot flex. And what a fast trail! Track was the fastest of the season. A very cold base after almost 2 weeks of subzero temps with a fresh 1/2" of snow that fell at 20F made an extremely fast track - a good test for the boots.

The Salomon X-ADV 8's performed better than expected! Only cranked a few dozen turns in the 400 ft vertical, but the turns came easy with the 8's, and the fast track was a great test. The trail requires some precise, fast turns, and the 8's had a solid, stable feel. Telemarking with the 8's was easy with comfortable control. The kick and glide was super tonight - I think the conditions were mostly responsible, and the 8's felt great on the kick & glide. Salomon hit the mark with the X-ADV 8's.

Weather blowing in. Higher temps were obvious with the little vertical I gained tonight. It was snowing at 800 ft el., graupel at 1000 ft, and 1200 ft felt more like liquid powder.

January 11, 2009

Turnagain Pete's

J-Rock, Brian, Jesse & yours truly made Pete's North ridge today. Very good snow conditions overall, wind-licked in places, and exceptional in ze treese.

The hemlock forest on Pete's.

From north ridge overlooking Pete's Creek, Jon ponders the turns.

Jesse enjoying the POWDER!

Brian found the untouched, untracked among the alders.

We were glad in the glades.

Alders always win.

January 10, 2009

Abe's Trail

Skinned up Penguin ridge overlooking Girdwood. Starting at the California Creek Trail, then the Beaver Pond Trail, then up Abe's Trail.

Each trail is marked, thanks to the Girdwood Trail Committee. Thanks also to Carl for giving me directions. It was my first time up Penguin, and I hope it's not my last - very enjoyable. The snow above 3000 ft el. was a little wind-affected. Best snow quality to be found was in the glades of smallish hemlocks and alders below the glades.

An unusual perspective of Alyeska and Max's Mountain.

Weather moved in today, a welcome relief to the subzero therms. Above zero therms for visibility - I'll take the therms. The trailhead temperature was -4F when I left, and +9F when I returned about 4-1/2 hours later. Winds were high on top.
There were 7 other skiers on Penguin today, but plenty of room to enjoy the untracked experience.

The snow in the forest is thin, but adequate to descend.

January 7, 2009

Below Minimum

It's been a little below my minimum temperature. Five below is tolerable - the US XC national races shut down at -4F; it must be disappointing for the Anchorage hosts of the US XC National Championships to have such a great snow pack then have this cold snap and cancellation of most of the races.

13 below at my Backdoor Trail this afternoon.

There was a nice inversion at Arctic Valley today. 11F above at the Nike weather site (3900 ft el.), at the same time it was 17 below in East Anchorage (200 ft el.)

January 4, 2009

Cold Max

Robb & I went back up Max's, thinking it would be relatively warm there. By the time we skinned to the alpine, there was no inversion, but there was a stiff breeze.

We skinned up and over Baumann's Bump and skied down to the Virgin Creek headwaters where it was shaded and COLD. Max's weather station on Baumann's Bump registered 7-below and 11 mph gusts while we were there which was tolerable, but down in the Virgin Creek valley was really cold. No wind, but really cold. This time is was Robb's turn to have a total skin failure, not good given we needed to climb out of the ice box into the sunshine. We tried taping the skins, but the tape had less stickum than the skins to no avail. It was much less bothersome to me for Robb's skins to fail than for my own skins to fail like they did a few days ago.

Skin failure or not, we had to get back home, so off we went down the valley, Robb breaking most of the way on a traverse track. We happened upon a few ravines to cross, a couple which were spooky terrain traps with a punchy snowpack, and we finally made it back to the up track and skied down through the forest to Timberline Drive.

The snowpack was surprisingly thin on the south-facing slopes, with sloughs running to ground.

Wearing virtually everything I brought, still got cold hands, cold feet, and frozen water in my pack.

Max's weather station. This place sees some extremely high winds, but today it was just plain cold and breezy.

January 2, 2009

Skiing Spectrum

This ski season is among the many reasons I have to be thankful. Nice storms came early and we are on track for another terrific season. Now that it is winter, we can reflect on the first half of the season. According to Kruser, the season starts July 1, or the summer solstice, I can't recall which, but he also says that the start of the season is irrelevant because, as he states in true Kruser mode, "IT'S NEVER OVER."

I guess he's earned the right to declare the new season after skiing every month consecutively for 22 years. Yea, that's right 264 consecutive months on skis. It's actually a little more now, but who's counting (besides Kruser)? OK, back to the subject: Skiing Spectrum.

Like water droplets creating a rainbow, water crystals suspended in sun-lit air can also create a mesmerizing halo-like color spectrum, especially when it's cold and clear like it presently is in the Anchorage day-trip radius. The snowpack also exists in a spectrum of forms from vapor-like powder to the morphed anti-powder glacial ice.

The first half of the season (it started on July 1, remember?) has provided many opportunities to sample the spectrum from skate skiing to turn-earning to mechanized lift-served skiing. I've been fortunate to enjoy the spectrum in these boots.

From backcountry touring to earning turns, free-heel and fixed, to skiing with a bigger carbon footprint via mechanized lifts, and in the continuum from blue ice at the firn line to cold smoke in the glades, the first half of 2008/2009 has been a great 2-plank ride.

I really need to do some skate skiing.

Salomon X-ADV Boots

New Salomon rugged touring boots arrived today. I was planning to take the day off skis, but I had to try them out, right? First impresssion was very pleasing. The SNS xa system has performed exceptionally well for me over the past 15 years with zero failures in hundreds of outings, some extremely demanding for a cross-country system. The newest addition to the boot quiver is the Salomon X-ADV 8, a replacement for my 15-year old plus Salomon Greenland boots. This system is overkill for track skiing, but it is the perfect system for the rolling and steeply tilted terrain of Chugach State Park just east of Anchorage.

The Greenland boots still work great, but I really wanted to try the new model with a stiffer-appearing cuff. The new cuff appears to be very similar to the Salomon skate ski boot cuff. And it took just a few turns for the new cuff to prove a greater level of control. The skate boot style upper strap with a closing lever is a nice feature, as is the built in gaiter. The Salomon X-ADV 8 weight on our postage scale was 1067 grams, slighlty lighter than the Greenland at 1077 grams. With the gaiter I normally wear with the Greenland, it would be several grams heavier.

I'll update this report after a more significant trip.

January 1, 2009

Max's Mountain

Robb, Dr. Snow & yours truly got a crack of noon (more like 1 p.m.) New Year's Day start, but we didn't have far to go to the trailhead. We followed a skin track up through the world's northern most rain forest, up up up to the glades and beyond to the alpine overlooking Girdwood.

Alyeska tram station from Max's.

Measured this slope at 32 degrees. Slope angle we skied, measured at 36 degrees.

Turned around at the weather station and skied back to GW village. The map says "Baumann's Bump", but everyone calls it Max's. Was there a Max Baumann? I don't think so. There was an Ernie Baumann, an early, pre-lift enthusiast of what he called Mount Solar, and what we call Mt. Alyeska. He earned his turns in the 1950's.

Who is / was Max?

Robb dropped a knee.

Dr. Snow warming up for Galena. We are very green, not in the eco way.

Altimeter is somewhat generous in the lower temps. Kruser learned from Suunto that their instruments are calibrated for 32F, and the device over estimates vertical laps when it's colder. Seems right; my Suunto read 3200 ft vertical for the trip, but Topo mapping software suggests 2800 ft vert. Consistent with Kruser's results, 10 laps on N. Face registered 24k on Suunto, but more like 20k based on map vert (times 10 laps).