February 19, 2012

Spectrum of Skiing - Fischer S-Bound 98

From inch-wide skate skis to ultrawide reverse camber powder planks, and everything in between, the spectrum of skiing is evident in the varied conditions we ski and the ingenuity of ski designers to make all these conditions enjoyable.  The freedom of sliding on snow can be found in cross country, downhill, back country, side country, snowboard, touring, alpine touring, nordic touring, metal-edged touring, split board, skate, classic, big mountain, slalom, reverse camber, you name it.   Meadow skipping-to-powder bowls is Anchorage front range skiing - free heel, self propelled, mellow to steep with substantial approach to the steeper terrain.   

Needing a stiffer system for the steeps, but light and fast for the long, rolling approaches, the Fischer S-Bound 98 fit the need.  The Fischer S-Bound 98 has a 98/68/88 mm sidecut, and it has significantly less camber, and with a waxless base, has a much slower glide than the waxbase Fischer Outtabounds 88/68/78 mm I've been using for the past 5 seasons.  But, the waxless base ascends better than an optimally waxed 88 (Outtabounds waxbase has not been available for a couple of seasons).  Fischer touts a "nordic rocker" on the 98 which performed very well breaking trail uphill.  The 189 cm 98 turns with longer radius than the 179 cm 88.  But, the system stiffness of the S-Bound 98 with some old Riva 2 bindings and a Scarpa T2 (coincidentally about a '98 vintage) boots is clearly more powerful on the descent than the 88 with the nnn-BC (Salomon SNS Raid) and Salomon X-ADV 8 boots.  For pure powder pleaure, the verdict must wait for the next storm, but first impressions of Fischer's 98 were positive.

Fischer's S-Bound 98 combined with Riva 2/Scarp T2 boots may fill the bandwidth for steep slopes with a fairly long, rolling approach.  I don't think I would choose this system for Arctic-to-Indian (24 mile) traverse due to the slow glide, but it has potential application on front range mountains such as Tikishla, Knoya, and Kanchee Peaks of the front range.

February 18, 2012

Midwinter Journeys

With Anchorage midwinter snowfall about double the average, this has been a front range season (I only have 3 core shots).  The large amount of snowfall and a few wind events have transformed the topography.  From megadrifts on normally flat trails to smooth snow bridges over normally ski-breaking creek beds, the snowscape is lacks familiarity, but the snowpack is thick and sweet with a few exceptions.

Yours truly discovered the exception on lower Wolverine Peak ridge yesterday.  Where last week we enjoyed fabulous powder turns on a mellow grade, this week I found wind blown tundra with a few patches of snow.  Below the mountain hemlocks of Wolverine, the snowpack is sweet, but the snow near the trees was hideous.  The top 20% of Sam's Secret was wind hammered, but the lower 80% was too much fun.

Fun was the order for today's tour with Eruk and Lucy.
Uberdog Lucy
We skinned up the now defunct military ski area at Arctic Valley and traversed into the southerly bowls below the present day lifts.   Eruk and I had both eyed these bowls from Arctic Valley lifts, but never skied them.   Near the ridge top, we carefully traversed across superhard wind pack toward the powdery bowls where we found a great line that dropped 1500 powdery, vertical feet down to Ship Creek.  We skinned back up the Ship Creek Trail to the Arctic Valley Road to finish the tour with a long slog.

Arctic Valley South Bowl
Our high traverse was a little sketchy, but the reward of the sweet snow in the bowls made it worthwhile.  There is great low angle skiing down the creek we followed with no bushwhacking, unlike some other direct fall line routes to the Ship Creek Trail - this season's exceptional snowpack may have something to do with the lack of bushwhacking.  We also checked out the South Fork-to-Ship Creek route I've dreamed about for years.  The eastern edge of the the map above shows the saddle above the South Fork trailhead (section 9, east of sec. 8).

We saw dozens of rabbit tracks on our return slog up the Ship Creek Trail.  And we saw numerous lynx, coyote, and possibly wolverine tracks, too.  Also on the return leg, viewing a moose, spruce hen, ptarmigan, and raptor further enriched our experience.  Lucy was dragging her tongue and showing signs of deep fatigue in the powder, but when she got a whiff of all that game on the Ship Creek Trail, she perked right up and hunted rabbits, grouse and other scents the whole way back to the car.

February 12, 2012

Hatcher Foothills

A human lifetime, a flashing blip on a geologic timescale, can just sort of slip by you on a life scale.  Ascending the skin track shifts the life frequency from a high pitched harmonic to a one breath after another, one step at a time meditation.  The skin track culminates with a shift from ascent to descent, a discontinuity, from a breath-to-breath rhythmic ascent to a turn-to-turn exhilerating descent, up to down, slow to fast.  The uptrack might be the means to the end, or it can be that rhythmic step-by-step freedom to go where your legs, lungs, and longing will take you. 

AK HW and yours truly ascended the Talkeetna foothills below 4068 and rode the soft snow back down.  Under blustery skies, winds picked up at the brush-tundra margin.  Snow quality for the descent was stale, wind-affected yet soft.  Warm winds have moved the snow and created a very thin veneer, tricky, but skiable and enjoyable. 

Ascending above Hatcher Pass Road towar 4068
Down the Meadows below 4068
A busy schedule has kept her out of the ski track, but she rode her planks like second nature.

February 5, 2012

2012 Anchorage Front Range

With double the normal snowfall at Anchorage airport, it's no wonder that the front range has an exceptional snowpack.  From Rabbit Creek on the south to Ship Creek on the north, the front range has thousands of acres of great skiing terrain.  Rising between forks of Campbell Creek, Wolverine Peak commands the central part of the Anchorage front range.  The greater Wolverine Peak bowl area from Near Point to Rusty has so much great skiing that it's nearly beyond description.  From classic crosscountry routes on established trails to alpine touring on 40-degree chutes, and everything in between is really good.  Wind-blown, rocky ridges give the appearance of poor skiing, but like of other parts of the front range, it's really not difficult to find powder in the greater Wolverine Peak bowl.

Cruising around the below tree line the past couple of days with Sam, Fran and Julie was so much fun in the sun with powder.  The untracked experience in the alpine country with Eruk today was a great tour.  We skied the south face of Near Point, crossed the basin and skied the gulley of Rusty's north face.  
Meadows of Near Point
One of many moose in the greater Wolverine Peak bowl
Reliable Lines in Greater Wolverine Peak Bowl
The descent lines on the map above show where I usually find powder, some more than others.  Lots of alders can lead to some frustrating bushwhacking, especially on south facing slopes, but careful selection of the route linking open meadows will lead to Near Point nirvana.  Significant avalanche hazard exists on several of these lines.  Wind often loads the north-facing aspects with snow that I've seen avalanche.  Rocks are another risk, especially above treeline, outside of swales and gullies.

February 3, 2012

Sam's Secret

Neighbor Sam led me to a nice line on Wolverine.  It is a fine route linking meadows on the flanks of Wolverine Peak.  We found about a foot of super light and fast snow on variable base.  We made a 2-hour lap with Sam's two dogs.  Nearly perfect snow was falling at 2" per hour; temperature was about 18F.