Adventures in Alaska, week one...

Spring was in the air in Utah, which was my cue to head north.  Way north.  To Alaska.  I have a busy life in Utah that was basically put on hold for my migration north.  It has been three years since I made it to Alaska for various reasons that include volcanoes as well as being broken in half on a rock.  I have been chomping at the bit to get back, and April showers bring airline tickets and deep powder in the Alaskan backcountry.

^In Utah I was helping my good friend Chris with a bathroom remodel.  My goal was to get this shower up and running for him before I left, but I ran out of time.  Alaska was calling.  Chris and his wife are snow riders, so I know they understand.    

^As excited as I was to get up to Alaska, it is always hard to leave these two.  Especially when they both give you the puppy dog eyes like this.  My wife is a saint for understanding my crazy lifestyle.  More so then most will ever know, or even be able to understand.  Being married to me requires unique patience and understanding.  Thankfully she possesses both.

^While rushing to the Salt Lake City airport to make my flight in time I was saying my farewells to the dry scene that has dominated Utah this winter.  Sunset on the spring time slopes was a beautiful thing.  Mostly because I was leaving it.

^Dry as a bone.  See ya later.

 ^Now that is what I am talking about for a real nice windshield view.  Jon Gurry and Dave Magoffin are our go-to guys in Alaska, and I was so stoked to see the two of them again.  It had been a while since I had seen either of them.  We go way back by now, and I am so thankful for friends like these.

^Dave has a really cool yurt in the woods in Girdwood that served as our base camp for two weeks.  Don't get me wrong this is not your standard yurt life.  That's right, that is a 40 inch television hanging on the wall.  

^This is for real.  Also, even more ironic is that one of our young gun athletes on this trip grew up on this road.  Spencer Jonas, is a Girdwood native, and I was really excited to get to ski with him.  I have seen him rise up through the competition ranks over the last few years with tight precision.  I remember watching him and wondering how good he could become.  Now I know.

^Andrew Schauer is our other young gun ripper.  We also found Andrew on the competition circuit over the last few years.  He is an exciting skier to watch.  He always puts on a hell of a show at the competitions, which rings true to my old comp style when I was doing comps.  We loved his electricity, and are stoked to be investing our time, money, and efforts into both Andrew and Spencer.  These kids crush it.

^Trailhead planning.  Dave and Jon listen carefully as lead cinematographer, Cody Smith, tells it like it is.  I have also known Cody for a long time, and worked on a variety of projects with him in the past.  I was pumped to have him running the show on this trip.  I have total trust in his judgement, and his ability to make us all look good.  


^...and approaching...

^...and then picking out the lines each of us wants to have a go at.  Dave and I have spent some time in dangerous terrain together before, but the two young guns were brand new to us.  It was great to see the crew starting to gel together and talking through dangerous terrain with each other.  Touring with a new crew can be stressful, but this group impressed the hell out of me.

^About a week into the trip the storms rolled through, and offered up a fresh coat of new snow.  We took refuge at the world-class Alyeska Resort.  Tram laps and powder turns were the name of the game, and they play it well up here.  This resort impresses me every time I get the chance to go there.  

^Down day action is even impressive.  This is a bore tide on the Turnagain Arm.  If you look real close you can see a stand-up paddler out there surfing the wave all the way in.  You don't get to see things like that every day.  Even if you live in Alaska.

^Then the sun came back out, and we got back out into the madness.

^It is big terrain here.  Not something you'd want to tackle alone without a good crew behind you to back you up.

^Because sometimes things like this happen, and if you get caught it is all on your crew to save your ass.  Fortunately for me, I was able to ski off of this rather gnarly avalanche and save my own skin.  You can literally see my ski track coming off the side of the slide path right in front row center of this picture.  That was a real scare, and it took me a few days to get my head right after that one.  It was a really reactive day that shook our crew to the core.  Obviously, we try to avoid these scenarios with all of our power, but when you are a pro skier trying to operate in dangerous terrain these things happen.

^Getting out with all the crew alive and healthy is sometimes a big win all unto itself.  Sunset never looks so good as when you see it after skiing off of two avalanches in one day.  It was a tough day for me, but the crew pulled me through and impressed me with how well they handled themselves in crisis mode.  Big scares like that are when you get a good idea about what kind of people you are actually touring with, and these guys made the grade.

^The next day we got back out to reassess the situation and start what I call the "ramping up" process all over again.  The reactivity of the new snow was starting to settle out.  All we had to do was get a feel for how quickly and how well that was happening.  We started back at square one pushing smaller and lower angle slopes.  Then we started slowly ramping up the slope angles and line choices according to the feedback we were receiving after each test.  The strategy paid off, and we began to get back into the kinds of lines we came for.  Things are looking up as the avalanche conditions settle out and the new snow continues to stay cold enough to ski really well.  We have a big few days coming up, and I for one am chomping at the bit to see what this crew can accomplish.  Now that mother nature is coming back around to our favor we have some really great chances get some good work done.  Check back in for the update on the second half of the trip.  Looks like this is going to get good... really good... soon.