September 29, 2013

Chugach Powder in September Sunshine

In 1984 we were wandering around the mountains of Crow Pass, Alaska seeking early season powder in the Western Chugach, when we stumbled onto Summit Mountain and its glacier bowl. Returning many times to Summit Mountain above the defunct Bahrenberg Mine, we usually find autumn powder.
Happy to Find His Shadow

Climbing below and through the clouds for three hours, Kruser exulted rediscovering his shadow. We found sunshine up high and boot top snow on the glacial base, good skiing worth a couple of laps. On 28-Sep-2013, skiable snow was 2500 feet vertical from the trail head.

Reminiscing the many seasons we've shredded our ski bases on the moraine with almost enough snow, we had mixed feelings about the obvious lack of skiable snow on the moraine. Thankful that we weren't tempted by more but-not-enough, and wistful to ski the moraine - a lot more fun and faster than down climbing.

This trip had a vertical ski-to-hike ratio of 0.375, on the low end of the Keenan scale, but not bad with fresh snow in September. The Crow Pass hike is beautiful, often with wildlife viewing of black bears and mountain goats and inspiring Western Chugach vistas.

Photocredits:  Kruser & Yours Truly

What will we find in the clouds?
Glacial Toe
Freeheeling mw

September 15, 2013


Portillo, Chile, is it on every skier's list of places to go? Skiing summer powder is one attraction, rubbing shoulders with the US ski team on the va et vient lift contraption is another.

With only a single tower at the bottom and cables anchored at the top, the avalanche-resistant Vient yanks as many as five-abreast skiers up a steep snow-covered scree slope. Experiencing the vient in itself is reason enough to come to Portillo, but riding up elbow-to-elbow, shoulder-to-shoulder, and ski-to-ski with Julia Mancuso or Lindsay Vonn is just over the top. Watching the womens' teams train and enjoying the Andean sun at the Portillo hot tub is cool, but the skier comes to Portillo to ski.

Skiing Portillo has options for side-country skin-up or boot-pack, groomers and chutes from line-free lifts, and heli-skiing. Spectacular ski touring from the base is available when Laguna del Inca is frozen. Portillo out-of-bounds skiing, like most places, has substantial avalanche potential and, with more than 3000-feet of mountains above the lifts, it has some of the greatest overhead avalanche risk that I have experienced.
September 7, 2013
Hotel Portillo is situated on Laguna del Inca, a spectacular lake in the middle of the Andes near the Chile-Argentina border. Most Portillo visitors overnight at the on-mountain lodging. Day-trips from Los Andes are feasible, but the 3-lane (with only two lanes marked) Trans-Andean highway switchbacks can be tiresome for day-trippers. We enjoyed the Portillo Experience from a cabana within a 2-minute walk of the hotel.  The hotel restaurant has incredible service by a large staff who cater to the guests every whim.

From the extraordinary service to the spectacular skiing, Portillo is a terrific experience every skier should enjoy.
El Plateau, Portillo Patrol Hut
Portillo Sidecountry (Youtube Link)
Portillo Sidecountry with La Parva (el 15800-ft) Background
Powder in the South-Facing Shade
Lake Run Return
El Plateau Chair
Cabana View Up
La Cabana
From Cabana Deck

September 2, 2013

Esquiadores de Alaska en Chile

Kruser, Doc, and yours truly found August snow and the Andean sun at Tres Valle, Chile. Ensconced at Powder Lodge in Farellones, we made day trips to La Parva and Valle Nevado, skiing  back to Farellones each evening to the warm Chileno ambiance created by Christian, Patricio, and Natalia.

Doc, Guillermo, Davidisimo, and yours truly left the lifts and ascended Cerro Pintor, a 13700-ft peak in the El Plomo range.  It was a fantastic tour with more lateral than vertical, but some good snow protected in the Pintor shadows.
Doc Pointing the Way
Red Up, Green Down around Cerro Pintor
Tres Hombres con El Plomo
Cliffs of Pintor

Yours truly returned to Cerro La Parva (the La Parva near Tres Valle, not the glaciated peak above Laguna del Inca near Portillo) for a solo trip.  Mucho viento y corteza nieve!  Not great conditions on Cerro La Parva, but it was good to look around from her summit.
La Parva Summit

Hoping this slot would have soft snow did not make it so. Hard scrtichy snow with some breakable thaw-freeze crust created a tricky descent with exposure to rocks below, and called for survival skiing mode.

Thank you Lera, Patricio, Nady at Powder Lodge and everyone at Tres Valle for a great time!