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
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!!
Cochrane Bay Ridge
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!
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" ...
Tim Kelley skating the high
point of Culross Island
Tim Miller ... "gittin'
Benji Uffenbeck races a boat
(expand to see boat below in distance)
Flag of the Alaska Crust
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.
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
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.
Using GPS data, Benji made
this Google 3D map of our route. Click on the image above to
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
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
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
Peters Creek to Ram
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!
Hiking out of Peters Creek
Descending from Bombardment
Pass into Ram Valley
Cory's map of our route
South Fork Eagle
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.
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.
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
Lost Lake, looking west
Primrose Mine cabin, almost
100 years old
Let 'em run!
Snowmobile windshield from a
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.
Eagle River Valley
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Swan Lake Canoe
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
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
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
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.
Benji skis across the old
glacier terminus lake. The ice of Eagle Glacier can be seen in the
Knik River Valley
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
Two Trips to Carmen
and Twentymile Lakes
Skating to Carmen Lake.
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.
PLAY VIDEO - 2nd trip
PLAY VIDEO - 1st trip
Cory surfs an iceberg.
Rock imbedded in iceberg in
What's this all about?
Watch the 2nd trip video to find out.
Alexander Creek to
Lewis River and Back
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
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
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
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.
swamps. The trail is snaky as it connects openings in the swamps.
General area of the
start of the Trinity Lake Trail.
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
Alaska's best athletes, sled
dogs, train here.
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 !!
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
What am I doing over here!?" Lots of trails in the area. If
you don't know the area - a GPS is handy.
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 - 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
map of the Haesller-Norris Trail system, click
Skiing for Yentna
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!
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
Thanks is given for clearing
a big cottonwood out of the trail.
Part of my route was on the
Sign to Luce's in distance.
Moments away from great burger and fries!
Great trails on the rivers.
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.
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.
Definitely no need for this
day to end!
big enough for early morning crust skiers !!!