March 29, 2009
Like a heavy layer of dust, the ash was buried beneath 5" of fresh snow at Alyeska. Other than the very strange appearance, it had neglible effects on off-trail skiing.
The US alpine skiing championships are being held at Alyeska, and the ash seemed to have little effect on the slalom today. The weather hasn't cooperated for the races - too much snow. And now the Redoubt fallout. How do you wax for ash?
The upper-most Chair 6 closed at 1:40 p.m. today. The resort reported high wind was the reason for the closure; the peak gust recorded so far today was 39 mph according to the weather station at the top of the quad. Tanaka had untracked snow near the southern boundary, so we played there for several short runs after Chair 6 closed.
March 28, 2009
Near Point Trail
March 22, 2009
Breaking trail became a chore above timberline on Wolverine with the trail sinking knee deep. Perhaps it was 5 straight days of touring on the rugged touring set up, which compared to downhill or AT, demands a little more from those little muscles in the feet and a lot more from the big core muscles. In any case, I feel it, and it hurts so good.
Had to return to the line I tried a couple of days ago. I found the descent this time. It's not so much the line, but the snow quality on the line; I found the good snow. But, I struggled to find the gap in the alders to cross the ravine and reach the north ridge of Wolverine. After a little searching I found it - it's easy to see from a distance as shown below.
After catching the Alyeska and Arctic Valley snow reports, I wondered if hanging around Stuckagain was the best place to be. And it turned out that the snow quality here is very, very good - no face shots, but worthy of the effort and time.
March 20, 2009
A sunny and breezy tour and a fun trip on the train. Curry has nice touring terraine. We arrived a few days after the wind and found variable snow conditions, from a few inches of fluff, to boiler plate, to semi-supportable crust.
As the train passed through the model community of Alaska, Wasilla, we looked for Russia and almost could see her.
We'll sing in the sunshine.
We'll laugh every day.
Then I'll ski on my way.
March 19, 2009
Backdoor Trail is simply sublime skiing. The ephemerality of snow in the sunshine is sublime. That wonderous, warming insolation inevitably destroys the magnificent mixture of air and snowflakes skiers love. Powder, fluff, fresh, pure. It surely will be gone.
Grieve not its sunny departure. Only enjoy it while you can. We'll get more snow, perhaps this season, definitely next. The approaching vernal equinox signals our thaw, and the soon to be awakening flowers and already awake bears (one in the bird feeders yesterday). We'll see the downy moose calves, brawling bear cubs, and spawning salmon. Until then, enjoy powder in the sunshine!
March 18, 2009
This evening was comprised of a scrumptious supper, 1300 ft lap with a couple of miles of touring and telemarking (love the tour AND the turn), followed by a neighborhood meeting on the "Far North Bicentennial Park Draft Trail Improvement Plan". More to come on the 'plan'.
March 15, 2009
From the Seward Highway, Max's Mountain
Begin with the end of a wonderful day of sunshine on Max's. Skin track is on looker's left.
Yesterday's skiers dug a few pits. One loud settlement whoomphed in the forest at 1400 ft el, but otherwise no signs of instability. I stayed above 2300 ft el until the last run.
Today's laps were 1200 ft vert on a nice low angle, multi-lap track.
Alyeska looks small from Max's.
March 14, 2009
This could be trouble.
The Talkeetnas are endless.
March 13, 2009
March 8, 2009
March 7, 2009
We rolled over the lip at the site of the old military ski area and skied excellent powder on a more open southwest facing slope below the present-day Arctic Valley Road, an area once served by a surface lift. The USGS map still shows 4 ski lifts, but the southern most on the map, a chairlift which had been operated by the military, was removed in the 1990's. The surface lift is not shown on the USGS maps and was removed in the 1960's; but if you look carefully, you can still see the roof of the old warming hut. This website has more history: http://www.alsap.org/ArcticValley/ArcticValley.htm
Only (mentally) disabled skiers ski this brush
From the Anchorage Powder Guide:
Ship Creek is one of those play and then pay runs because it descends from the road. It is one of the few areas I have skied and never seen another skier (outside of my party) nor have I seen other tracks, other than my own. It is the site of a long demolished lift marked by the abandoned lodge still standing at the bottom of the old lift site.
Skiing Vertical and Distance: 1300 feet vertical; 2 mile ascent
Getting There: Two options exist for parking. My preferred option is parking near the gate for the old military ski area. As you are driving up Arctic Valley Road, above timberline, about a quarter mile before you reach the ski area parking, there will be another (probably unplowed) road on your right leading to the razed lodge facilities for the military lift. A second parking option is the large pull out at the Ship Creek Trailhead.
Descent: From the Ship Creek Trailhead, ski or walk up the road to the spur road leading to the old military ski area. Ski along the access road for the old military area beyond the gate, then look for a gap in the alders to drop off the road to skier’s right. Then traverse to skier’s left and the run will open up. Alder patches and other brush create the need for some route finding, but it is fairly easy to link the open areas together with little to no bushwhacking. It is not a bad idea for first timers to ski the developed trail from Ship Creek Trailhead to become oriented with the trail switchbacks.
Ascent: The Ship Creek Trail descends from the Arctic Valley Road to the Creek, some 1300 feet vertical below the road. After skiing approximately 700 feet vertical down the run, either traverse to skier’s right to the Ship Creek Trail, or continue descending the fall line to Ship Creek Trail, then follow Ship Creek Trail back up to the road. Erring toward skiers’ right is the best policy to avoid missing Ship Creek Trail, but traversing too high up will cause you to do more bushwhacking than necessary.
March 6, 2009
Wolverine above timberline was blustery with big plumes blowing off the ridge lines. But, those mega-plumes did not affect on the creamy snow below timberline. Beautiful sunshine, excellent snow, and a new line made my anthropocene contemplation fade away.
Backdoor Trail was faster today. I took my camera, but left the memory card plugged in the computer at home. So, I cannot give you images of what Doc called a "Robbie Trail." I don't believe it was intended as such, but I took that description of Backdoor as quite a compliment. Near Point and Wolverine Trails were exceptional! Snowpack is a bit thin for late winter, but the skiing was GREAT! And the new line I found on Wolverine was great, too. If you can't stand a little bushwhacking, the down route (blue) might not be for you.
March 5, 2009
A little storm brewed and blew from Powerline Pass down Campbell Creek while we skied Lazyman. We were fortunately skiing with the wind.
Anchorage Hillside offers some great trails in Chugach State Park. We enjoyed a couple of inches fresh powdery snow on the Middle Fork Loop and Near Point Trails (east of Campbell Creek). The snow pack seemed thin, but it provided adequate coverage for great skiing. http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/chugach/hillsideski.pdf
The Lazyman starts at about 2250 ft el, and descends to 800 ft el, with about 450 ft climbing and a gross descent of 1900 vertical feet over 6. 5 miles. Pretty easy skiing. But, we added a level of difficulty by starting in a blizzard and ending in the dark. A great trip - highly recommended.
March 4, 2009
Since then, a few inches now and then has accumulated to skiable conditions. The trail seems more like early November, not early March. But, it's a lot better than some alternatives.
It was good to be back in the track on Backdoor - a nice break from the work-a-day that has been less than pleasant lately. Two friends on my work team got laid off today. The company's explanation is understandable, but it is a very sorrowful event, a sad sign of the times.
March 1, 2009
We exited the ski area at the saddle between Mt. Gordon Lyon and Rendezvous and skinned up Gordon Lyon, then skied down toward Hiland Road. The descent toward Hiland is not recommended due to avalanche hazard.
Doc found a nice line.
We played, then paid. The price of climbing back up toward home was well worth the prize.