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Alaska Performance Backcountry Skiing Pics and Videos - 2006/2007

by: Tim Kelley

Click Here to Access All of My "XC Skier In AK" YouTube videos


Chugach Crust Arches

Chugach Mountains, 31 June 2007: For our last crust ski of the season, we hiked to to our secret "Crust Arches" location high in the Chugach Mountains.  As usual, it was friggin' awesome skiing there!  What!  ... you don't know where this place is?  Well - maybe if you ply us with free Rockstars ... you'll get us to talk.  But then again, maybe we'll just chug the Rockstars and laugh at you!

Let's hope summer goes by fast, and that next winter is as good as this last one was in Alaska!!  TK


Cochrane Bay Ridge Skiing

Prince William Sound, 16 June 2007: Another nice day in Prince William Sound.  Were we fishing?  Shrimping?  Viewing glaciers from a cruise ship?  Kayaking?  ... Heck no!  We were skiing!  Plus ...  peak bagging and sneaking up and spying on mountain goats!

 
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Culross Island

Prince William Sound, 19 May 2007: Prince William Sound is "home" for many Alaskans.  These pictures and video explain why  some days there is "no place like home" ...

 
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Tim Kelley skating the high point of Culross Island

Tim Miller ... "gittin' some!" Benji Uffenbeck races a boat (expand to see boat below in distance) Flag of the Alaska Crust Skiers Militia

Center Creek

Kenai Mountains, 29 April 2007: Two words: Center Creek.  Not much more has to be said.  This is always a fine crust cruising destination.  Cory, Tim, Benji and I found that a lot more snowmobiles go into Center Creek than there used to be just a couple of  years ago.  But it's still Center Creek ... so it's always high on the "best of" crust skiing list.  Check out the video for some spectacular scenery, great skiing conditions ... and for a unique camera angle on a crash and burn!  Distance of ski - about 22 miles.
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Cory Smith's pictures ...

Wow!  Cory got some great shots on this ski trip!  These really show what prime crust skiing in Alaska is all about!!  Click on any of the three pictures above to go to Cory's web site for a full size picture.


Summit Lake / Mills Creek Loop

Kenai Mountains, 21 April 2007: Cory Smith and Benji Uffenbeck helped Tim Miller and me finish some unfinished business.  Tim, Trond Jensen and I tried this 25+ mile loop a few years ago, but it was a no-go.  On attempt #2 it happened.  We didn't have the greatest of conditions and ran into about every type of snow condition known to skiers.  We also got into some very flat light in the upper Mills Creek drainage that made skiing in this white-scape a challenge.  But our crack crust skiing crew had a good time cruising this neat loop in the Kenai Mountains.
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Using GPS data, Benji made this Google 3D map of our route.  Click on the image above to expand it.

Click here to see Cory's pictures.  And here to see Justin Wholey's www.akhiker.com pictures from his trip around this loop a week after us.


Harp Mountain Horseshoe

Eagle River, 17 April 2007: A short window of great weather moved in and Benji Uffenbeck and I jumped on it to ski a new crust route.  Starting from the Eagle River bridge we hammered the hilly homestead roads to the mystery pink cabin.  Climbing south we went over a 3900 foot pass to the southeast of Harp Mountain and skied the South Fork Eagle River drainage down to the dip in Hiland Road where it crosses the river.  This was a 20 mile horseshoe (sort of) route around Harp Mountain.  After the ski we went to work ... and watched storm clouds roll back in over Anchorage.

View from a side valley of the South Fork Eagle River drainage.  Benji descends on the right.

The mystery cabin at the end of the homestead roads. As Benji says: "Skiing new crust routes is not always glamorous !! " Heading to the pass, Hurdygurdy Mountain in the distance.

Lots of herringbone up the north side of the ridge.

 At the pass - just your normal views from a before-going-to-work crust ski !  Heading down the valley. Following the South Fork down to the dip in Hiland Road was fun and excellent skiing.

 One landowner had strung nylon cord along his property at neck-level to sabotage snowmobilers.  A**hole.


Peters Creek to Ram Valley Traverse

Western Chugach Mountains, 14 April 2007:  No doubt, this trip made the list of our epic crust skis.  Tim Miller, Cory Smith, Benji Uffenbeck and I  linked up Peters Creek and Ram Valley via 5000 foot Bombardment Pass for a 6 1/2 hour crust ski, hike, powder slog and a navigation challenge when up in the clouds.  Plus we threw in a broken ski 9 miles into the trip, that was repaired with willow twigs and duct tape ... and the ski made it another 18 miles!
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Hiking out of Peters Creek Valley Descending from Bombardment Pass into Ram Valley

Cory's map of our route


South Fork Eagle River Valley

South Fork Eagle River Valley, 13 April 2007:  It's always good to get a crust skiing fix before going to work.  That's what Tim Miller, Benji Uffenbeck and I did this morning ... we headed to Eagle Lake and the end of the South Fork Eagle River valley.  At the end of the valley we found signs of a brown bear that had likely just come out of hibernation.
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Tim Miller and Benji hit Eagle Lake.  Cantata Peak in the distance. Tim and Benji cop HUGE air !!  So sick!  It was a privilege to watch this! Benji passes the rite of manhood - he eats brown bear "first dung out of hibernation".  Benji will be strong this year.  Very strong!

This oil painting will soon be on display in the lobby of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.


Lost Lake

Kenai Mountains, 31 March 2007:  I had never been to Lost Lake.  "You're kidding right!?  Everyone's been there!"  Nope.  I've always avoided going to this place in the summer.  The reason - people.  Too many people go here, especially when they have the Lost Lake Run.  I figured I'd wait until the best time of the year, and go there and be the only skier.  Sure glad I waited until this day.  24 mile ski in and out from Primrose Campground.
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Lost Lake, looking west Primrose Mine cabin, almost 100 years old Let 'em run!

Snowmobile windshield from a crash site.


Willow Mountain

Willow, 30 March 2007:  The blob.  The marshmallow mountain.  Willow Mountain stands out when viewed from the air or high ridges nearby.  It's not very tall - but it has an endless, treeless summit plateau.  This terrain begs from afar to be skied.  Cory Smith and I skied bumpy snowmobile trails to the base of this ridge.  Then we strode nicely set-up sno-go single-track across the 'big white open' to the summit.  Good views of ... just about anything you wanted to see!  24.5 miles out and back, 3350 feet of climbing.
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Eagle River Valley Loop

Eagle River, 24 March 2007:  I was stuck in town this weekend.  So I headed out to Eagle River to try a quick loop I'd never skied before.  I had  a hunch the homestead roads on the south side of the valley would connect to the trail on Eagle River itself.  My hunch, and the loop, played out well for a 19 mile "combi" ski - classic skiing on the roads and skating on the river.  I started and finished at the small parking lot south of the Eagle River Bypass bridge.  Nice ski ... if I lived in Eagle River I'd be doing this loop a lot !
 

The loop.  Out the old homestead roads, back on Eagle River.  19 miles.

Nice "old school" classic tracks on a solid base for the first 5 miles.

The old homestead roads are beautiful skiing.  And I like the way they are cut into the hillside and hug the gullies, "Old school" tracks gave way to "older school" tracks ... making your own in 4" of powder. I recruited a trail breaker.  But he/she eventually revolted, turned around with ears back and made me head off the trail to avoid him/her.  Moose don't want to leave solid trails this time of year.

An artsy shot taken on the way back down the river.  Think twice before sticking your ski pole into the sun.


Bald Mountain Ridge

Willow, 20 March 2007:  25 years.  That's how long I have looked at long and smooth  ridge north of Wasilla and east of Willow and said: "I've got to ski up there!"  But with so many other ski-ventures on "the list" I hadn't gotten here until this day.  I chose a windy (ok - a too windy) day to go here.  I parked (5$) at the Black Mountain Bed and Breakfast on the Hatcher Pass Road.  Nice place.  There is more skiing to be done in this area, and I plan on going back before another 25 years go by.
 
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Secret Susitna Valley Trails

Susitna Valley, 18 March 2007:  The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has over 2000 miles of winter trails.  But that is only the amount of "official" trails.  Add in local, supply hauling, cabin access and trapping trails ... and the total is easily over 3000 miles.  Maybe closer to 4000 miles.  The video below shows clips from some of these "secret" trails without telling where they are.  Ha ha!
 
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Little Mount Susitna

Susitna Valley, 17 March 2007:  I was able to ski Mt. Susitna my first try.  But the "Sleeping Lady's" little sister - Little Mount Susitna was tougher to figure out.  It took 4 tries over 3 years to link together trails and ski-able terrain to get to the summit of this remote ridge in the Susitna Valley.

 
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Super Cub wing strut near the summit of Little Mount Susitna.    

"Hey Mr. Bear ... it's almost springtime!  Time to get up!"

This is the view of the BACKSIDE of Mt. Susitna.  Millions have seen Mt. Susitna from the other side - from Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su Valley.  But this side of Mt. Susitna is viewed much less.

Tyonek to Alexander Creek

West Side of Cook Inlet, 11 March 2007:  After a bush plane drop-off to the west of Tyonek, I skied to Tyonek and then on to Beluga and Alexander Creek.  A lot of the skiing was on roads that exist to service natural gas production fields.  This extensive road system is not connected to Alaska's main road system ... except for a few weeks in winter when an ice road can make the connection.

 
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The General Store in Beluga. Sign for Fat Albert's bar.  Things can get kinda wild here.  In 2004 a guy got shot and killed at closing time. Beluga electrical generation plant - source of much of Anchorage's electricity.

The bridge over the Beluga River.  High above the river, single lane, slick surface, minimal guardrails.


Winner Creek Pass

Girdwood, 4 March 2007:  The Winner Creek Drainage to the northeast of the Alyeska Ski Resort is a frequent destination of heli-skiing operations.  But due to powder snow being melted or blown away ... the only folks in the valley were Tim Miller and I.  What good is powder snow anyway?  It just slows you down.  Ski fast, ski crust.

 
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Helicopter landing site.    

Tim Miller rips down a fine carpet of crust.  Powder sucks, it just slows you down.

 

 

The "Berry Peaks" (left to right): Nagoon Mountain, Lingon Mountain, Highbush Peak.

East Fork Eklutna Valley

Western Chugach, 3 March 2007:  I had hiked and climbed in the East Fork of the Eklutna Valley before.  But I had never crust skied into this valley.  Conditions were right to get back in the valley, and once it opened up it was great crust skiing in a remote and scenic nook of the Western Chugach Mountains.

 
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Swan Lake Canoe Route

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, 24 February 2007:  For over 20 years I would often think that I should check out the Swanson Lakes area and the Swan Lake Canoe Route.  But summers are busy times in Alaska and this trip always got bumped for others.  Well, I'm glad I waited until winter.  This was a "private" ski - no other people seen and no tracks to follow.  This ski was mostly crust skating with stretches of classic striding on portages between lakes.

 
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After I turned off the Sterling Highway I saw no one driving or skiing all day.  This place is abandoned in the winter.

 

Dave Spencer is the late father of the Anchorage Spencer skiers: Paige, John, Lynn and Bill.

  A large glacial erratic lends itself to the namesake of 'Rock Lake'.  

As you can tell from this sign - it is illegal to use paddles here in the summer.  If paddles are seen in your hands -you will be fined !


Susitna Ice Road

Sustina Valley, January through March 2007: I love ice roads.  No matter what I'm doing on them: driving, skiing, skating or snowmobiling ... it's just a neat feeling to know you are on a road that is "frozen in time".  And will be history before long.  I traveled the Susitna Ice Road over ten times this winter.  Chugach Electric built this ice road for access to transmission tower repairs.  You never know when the next ice road in this area will be.  Next year?  In five years? Ten years?  Who knows.  I'm gonna miss this year's ice road (sob, sob) ... it was great!!!

Ice road driving. Ice road skiing. Ice road skating (on Nordic blades).

Ice road hauling (they used to haul me when they were younger).

PLAY VIDEO  - One Last Skate on the Susitna Ice Road
PLAY VIDEO  - Skating on the Susitna Ice Road (short video)
PLAY VIDEO  - Driving, snowmobiling and skiing on the Susitna Ice Road

Eagle River Valley

Eagle River Valley, 14 February 2007: Before work, Benji Uffenbeck and I skied from the Eagle River Visitor Center to Eagle Glacier and back.  It's not often you can do this whole ski and not have to do a bit of wading.  But this year conditions were good to pull this ski off.

 
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Benji skis across the old glacier terminus lake.  The ice of Eagle Glacier can be seen in the valley above.  

"You first!"


Knik River Valley

Knik  River Valley, 11 February 2007: If you can survive passing in and out of the Jim Creek "Mad Max Zone" of target shooting, 4-wheeler and snowmobile craziness, burning vehicles, mountains of beer cans and more target shooting ... then the Knik River Valley has some scenic skiing.  It's tricky getting to the glacier.  I took a wrong turn at Metal Creek and got messed up and ran out of time.  I'll be going back.  But next time I too will be armed !!

 
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Two Trips to Carmen and Twentymile Lakes

Skating to Carmen Lake. Carmen River Carmen Lake

Twentymile Glacier

Twenymile Valley, 10 & 18 February 2007: The rivers of the Twentymile Valley are plenty fickle.  For there to be crust skiing conditions AND the rivers frozen over for crossing with dry feet - that has been a rare phenomenon.  But this year was different.  You could crust ski the 30 plus mile trip to Carmen and Twentymile Lakes fairly easily.  After doing this once by myself I was fired up to do it again with Tim Miller and Cory Smith.  The icebergs in Twentymile Lake were particulary impressive.  More so than I have seen in Spencer Lake.
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PLAY VIDEO - 1st trip

Cory surfs an iceberg.    

Rock imbedded in iceberg in lake.

     

What's this all about?  Watch the 2nd trip video to find out.


Alexander Creek to Lewis River and Back

Western Susitna Valley, 6 February 2007:  The Chedatna Lakes area is a favorite area of mine to ski.  I've skied there dozens of times.  Few trees, wind packed snow surfaces and humidity from Cook Inlet can make for year round crust skating conditions here some years.  It's remote enough so basically no one skis here.  I've skied here for 20 years and have never seen tracks from another skier.  So ... this place is MINE.  Stay away!   But Chad Burris - it's okay for you to ski here !! ;-)

Skater's dream sno-go trails.  

 

Endless crust snow. Hoar frost on stalks sticking out of mineralized overflow. Not many trees here, so beaver houses are make of shrub branches, lots of mud ... and even some freshwater mussel shells.  Mt. Susitna to the north.

 


Hatcher Pass to Houston Traverse

Western Susitna Valley, 6 February 2007:  Groomed snowmobile trails are relatively new to Hatcher Pass.  These days there is a groomed snowmobile route from the Mother Lode Lodge, up over Hatcher Pass and down to a point about 12 miles up from Willow.  Benji Uffenbeck, Tim Miller and I skied this great trail and then hopped on the Herning Trail and rode it to Houston.  This was a good 31 mile or so point to point ski.  It was Super Bowl Sunday, so we basically had Hatcher Pass to ourselves.  We only saw two small groups of snowmobiles all day.

Our route.  31 miles.  

Finally!!  XC skiers get to be the bad guys !!!

If you look closely you will see the sign implies: "No classic skiing".  So skate skiing must be OK !!

Brutal climb to Hatcher Pass, skated with packs.

On top of Hatcher Pass looking towards Willow.

Ripping down the groomed Hatcher Pass road on the Willow side. Skating the Herning Trail.

Benji made this elevation profile of our ski trip, and this neat aerial plot of our route.


Trinity Lake Trail

West Side of Cook Inlet, 28 January 2007: This was a snowmobile assisted exploratory trip to find this trail and check it out.  I snowmobiled to the Beluga gas field, ditched my sno-go in the woods and did an 25 miles out and back ski.  Now that I know how to access this trail I plan on going back again.

Early morning on the northeast edge of the Beluga gas fields.  

Ditching the sno-go in the woods.  And pulling out the skis.

 Top of the climb to the plateau.  Beluga gas fields below.

 Gobs of snow.

 Endless swamps.  The trail is snaky as it connects openings in the swamps.

 General area of the start of the Trinity Lake Trail.


Haesller-Norris Trails - Loop

Willow, 20 January 2007: Still wanting to learn more about the Haesller-Norris Trail system I set out to do a big loop on these trails.  Half way through the ski it started snowing heavily.  And near Zero Lake I lost the trail when I dead-ended into a musher's sled dog yard.  So I bailed out to the Parks Highway and skied back to Willow.  It was a long day.  Fun.  But it still leaves me with more routes to explore in this gem of a trail system.

Alaska's best athletes, sled dogs,  train here.

Snow, snow and more snow.  And a freshly groomed mushing trail.

I only met one person on the trail all day.  We really hit it off well !!


Herning Trail

Willow, 20 January 2007: The Herning Trail is an old sled dog freight hauling trail.  It runs from Houston about 16 miles up to the Hatcher Pass Road.  In the old days supplies for mines in the Lucky Shot mining area were brought up from Knik via this trail.  Nowadays the trail is a snowmachine access trail for getting to Bald Mountain Ridge from Houston.  The day I skied this trail, I did an out and back classic ski on a packed powder trail.

Very scenic birch lined trails.

"Huh!?  What am I doing over here!?"  Lots of trails in the area.  If you don't know the area - a GPS is handy.

Foot trails lead off the Herning Trail into the woods.  These are sets for a trap line.  This is NOT a good place for loose dogs.

Very scenic spruce lined trails.


Haesller-Norris Trails - First Trip

Willow, 29 December 2006: I'm a big fan of Willow, Alaska winter trails.  The Willow Trail Committe (WTC) of the Willow Area Community Organization (WACO) has got their act together.  I never cease to be amazed at how great a winter trail system the Willow folks have put together.  I had skied a lot of Willow's trails in previous years, but never the Haesller-Norris Trails.  I got hooked on these trails and did four trips this year that incorporated these trails.

For a map of the Haesller-Norris Trail system, click here.

   

 


Skiing for Yentna River Burgers

Alexander Creek and Yentna River, December 2006: It's always fun to stop at Susitna Valley river lodges off the road system.  Places like: Gabbert's, Luce's, Yentna Station.  Good food, and ALWAYS good stories to be heard!

Luce's Lodge owner Dave Luce is a super nice guy.  It's always fun to talk to him and his lodge patrons at mile 9 on the Yentna River.  Dave asked me why I skied up from Alexander Creek.  I said: "Because your burgers and fries are worth skiing 40 miles for!"  He got a chuckle out of that.

Poor trails off the rivers.  

Rocket crust in December.  Around my neck are rescue ice picks.  Early season river skiing can be tricky.

Thanks is given for clearing a big cottonwood out of the trail. Part of my route was on the Iditarod Trail. Sign to Luce's in distance.  Moments away from great burger and fries!

Great trails on the rivers.


November Nordic Blading

Nancy Lakes / Portage Lake, November 2006: Skiing was pretty good.  But damn ... the skating in Southcentral Alaska was REALLY good!   Portage Lake was frozen smooth.  Sub-zero temps covered Susitna Valley lakes with thick ice and hoar frost, allowing us to skate where we had never skated before - like over the Nancy Lakes Canoe Route.

 

 

 

 


Random Camera Clicks

When skiing in wolf country ... never be the slowest skier in the group!! I wonder how long a "No Sign Shooting" sign would remain bullet hole-free on an Alaskan Highway.  15 seconds? Definitely no need for this day to end!

Finally!!  Rockstars big enough for early morning crust skiers !!!

 

 

Fata Morgana

   

A view of the inside of my heart.

     
Alaska Performance Backcountry Skiing

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