March 7, 2009

Ship Creek

Ship Creek access is a convenient adjunct to Arctic Valley. Today's foray was a short one with lift assist. After a few chilled runs in the windy, mostly sastrugiscized Arctic Valley, Dr Snow & yours truly exited the south side of the ski area to find excellent snow. We did a quick run from Chair 1 (southernmost existing lift) down the groomed trail. We found excellent powder in the ridiculously narrow gaps in the brush above the road.

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:

Only (mentally) disabled skiers ski this brush

The old surface lift base hut, 2 years ago.

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.

1 comment:

Chugach Man said...

The guy in the green coat looks mentally disabled!