Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Anchorage Ski Outlook - 1.25.2023

THURS - FRI: clearing skies, moderating warm temps, calming winds (high confidence).
Conditions improve moving into Friday as the last storm departs and weather moderates. Clearing first for the Kenai Mountains and last for Thompson Pass/Valdez and Hatcher. Most sunny on Fri for Thompson and least for the Kenai Mtns with valley fog and widespread inversions Fri morning and eve.

WEEKEND: hot, dry->showers, light winds (high confidence).
Dry, calm, and partly sunny with valley fog on Sat before clouds and showers move in across the zone Sun. Clouds/showers arrive first for the Kenai Mtns and last for Thompson. Rain/snow line near the Turnagain Pass road level. Winds increase a bit on Sun the Turnagain Arm mountains and the Anchorage/ER Front Range.

EARLY NEXT WEEK: warm, cloudy, showery (moderate confidence).
Temps trend down and the cloudy/showery weather continues for our Southcentral mountains.  Moderate ridgetop winds especially for the Turnagain Arm mountains.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Arctic to Indian Skiing - 2.5.2017

Updated below on 1.21.2023 to include an extended version of Arctic to Indian otherwise known as "A2I Plus".

Almost everyone around town has done Arctic to Indian. Shoot, most people have done it multiple times, even multiple times each year. However, I unreasonably prioritize backcountry skiing above everything, so I miss out on a lot of other fun things. But, after starting out the weekend by skiing Byron and Wolverine, I was willing to try something else.

The descent down to Ship Creek was one of the most exhilarating things I've done in awhile. It also made me wonder why cross country skiers don't wear helmets. And hockey pads. And how anyone could consider cross country skiing safer than downhill skiing.

We reached Ship Creek and began to follow it upstream just as the sun was starting to touch Temptation Peak. It might be covered in beautiful couloirs and spires, but I still haven't been tempted to brave the bushwhacking and slogging to get there.

First light along the creek was absolutely magical: clouds of mist with each breath, huge crystals of hoar frost formed from the creek's unlimited supply of moisture, and the sun sparkling in the trees. Temps around -5 F were also very similar to those of the previous morning on the way up Byron.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Falls Creek Skiing - 4.29.2018

Updated below on 4.20.201912.22.20212.2.2022and again for 12.17.2022 to include more great days skiing new-to-us lines in Falls Creek. 

Around 2 PM on Saturday the texts starting coming in from Jeff: they were storm skiing untracked pow in Falls Creek. I was sitting in gloomy, windy, and rainy Anchorage mourning getting shut down on the Alaska Range by storm after storm. The forecast was calling for more of the same Saturday night into Sunday, and I wasn't going to miss out on more stormy couloirs. The next day, hiking out of the rainy parking lot in our running shoes, it was hard to imagine winter was up there somewhere.

But, by the time Andrew, Alex, and I had climbed past a sleepy black bear, traded our running shoes for ski boots, and skinned into the alpine, winter was back in full force.

Making a right turn, throwing our skis on our packs, and starting the booter up the first coolie of the day, we began to realize just how good it was going to be. From the top I looked back down at Andrew as the falling snow swirled out of sight below.

Alex ski cut the slope before dropping first. After a foot of rapid loading overnight, we weren't sure how the new snow had bonded, but nothing moved.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Culross Island Ski - May 2022

When I moved to Alaska 2013, I spent the first summer here working as a fishery technician sampling spawning salmon in the Prince William Sound. Coming up for air between rotting fish carcass dissections, I was blown away by the beauty of coastal AK - a place indescribably different than the arid Rocky Mountains where I grew up.

Immediately, I wanted those emerald waters, abundant wildlife, and lush bushwhacking to be part of my life. Moreover, I drooled over dreamy stories of skiing the postage stamp islands that dot the protected waterways of the sound. Between sunk boats, swamped boats, and flaming boats, learning how to make this dream a realty has not been easy for this landlubber.

Photo Dmitry Surnin

Over years of experiences that some would call adventures, others would call misadventures, but everyone would call memorable, we've slowly been taught to be slightly less of liabilities on the water. If nothing else, I've at least learned to always pay for insurance and Sea-Tow.

In early May, with a forecast for calm seas and clear skies, Dmitry and Scott entrusted us with their lives, or at least their weekends, and we buzzed out of Whittier...but only after a pit stop on the beach to saw off a malfunctioning addition to the boat.

There is lots of good ski terrain in this emerald gem, but this weekend our destination was Culross Island. Leaving Whitter, we motored across the jaw-dropping mega-fjord of Port Wells highlighted by glaciers tumbling 10,000 vertical feet to the sea. Turned the corner towards our lumpy island destination, we dropped our shrimp pots on the way to anchoring in Culross Bay.

In the bay there were places that still had five feet of snow at the beach. We looked around to find a dry camp spot tucked into a cove before skinning into the temperate rainforest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Northstar Couloir Ski - 2.13.2022

Its been awhile since I've looked at the pictures from this day and doing so puts a smile on my face. 

Dana leading morning parking lot calisthenics.

Northstar has been on my list for what seems like forever. There's a variety of reasons and non-reasons its remained there for so long, but I think the jist of the delay getting there is the chute's south aspect and relatively long approach coupled with my possibly unreasonable preoccupation for tagging objectives in soft snow. The south aspect means seasonal timing for while its only kissed by the weak angular light of midwinter; but the relatively long approach to the heart of Winner Creek means this south-facing gem often gets deprioritized on these short days when daylight comes at a premium.

The weekend started on Saturday with a stormy day of wallowing in Hanging Valley. The austere grayscale of the snow falling into the rock walls of the couloirs filled our souls with the sense of adventure. We decided to stick with the couloirs-for-contrast program the following day in the Girdwood Valley. 

Large, lazy flakes drifted out of the sky as we left the parking lot at the end of Arlberg Avenue and skinned out the catrack into the temperate rain forest.

Passing the Notch Mountain trees that we have skied on uncountable storm days over the years, we were soon skinning under the dark trees on the north side of Sunnyside. In this forest bent by strong storms raging out of the Prince William Sound, we looked up at the steep trees that are rare for skiing in Southcentral Alaska.