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Alaska Performance Backcountry Skiing Photos and Videos
2007/2008

by: Tim Kelley

October - March April - September

Tail End of a 12 Month Ski Season

Lane Glacier, Talkeetna Mountains - 07 September 2008:  My goal of skiing 12 consecutive months this ski season turned out to be pretty easy to obtain.  Thanks to a record cold spring and summer there was plenty of snow for times when you needed a skiing-fix.  Though I had never skied the Lane Glacier before, this place is no summer skiing secret.  I would guess that this popular glacier is snowboarded or skied just about every weekend of the spring and summer.

Snowfields above the Lane Glacier, looking west Skiing the Lane on 07-Sep-08
Lane Hut  These pack horse trails were made 100 or so years ago by gold miners.  Now snowboarders, skiers and hikers keep these trail defined Snowboarder and "Boarder Collie" Summit of Didlikama
Panoramic photo from just below the summit of Didlikama (this photo taken on a previous trip to Didlikama on 30-Aug-08)
     
  Peter Doner (in lead) cranks down from the summit area of Didlikama, heading for the Lane Glacier below (this photo taken 30-Aug-08)   12 months of skiing this ski season (Oct 07 to Sep 08)  

8 - 8 - 8
World Championships of the World Summer Slalom, Extreme and Big Air XC Skiing Competition
The first ever ON-SNOW XC skiing competition in AUGUST in Anchorage, AK

Rabbit Creek Valley, Anchorage - 08 August 2008:  This was a memorable, yet strange, day.  It started out as a crystal clear day, an oddity for the summer of 2008.  After work we headed out hiking in sunshine towards the site of the 8-8-8 ski fest, only to soon get overtaken by a monster thunder and lightning squall that hammered hail on us.  We ignored the lightning strikes around us as we set up the slalom course, because we knew we couldn't reschedule this event.  8-8-8 only occurs once ever ONE THOUSAND years!  So the chance to ski-link "8's" on 8-8-8 is a one-shot deal in your life!!  Click here to see Cory's pictures.

Hiking in.  Skiing venue in the distance. Cory goes big!  Anchorage in the distance.
 
PLAY VIDEO  (Once on YouTube press "Watch in High Quality")
 
 
Summer XC Slalom SmackDown
1st Cory - 15.55 2nd Tim K. - 15.80  3rd (tie) Benji - 15.92 3rd (tie) Tim M. - 15.92 4th Ian- 16.24
Summer XC Extreme Mountain Event
Results:  1st Tim M., 2nd Cory, 3rd (tie) Ian and Tim K., 4th Benji
Summer XC Big Air Hang-Time Showdown
1st Cory 2nd (tie) Benji, Ian, Tim M. 3rd Tim K. (photo by Cory)
Hailstones from the thunder squall fell on the snowfield, rolled downhill and collected in sun cups in the snow. Skiing "8's", made on 8 - 8 - 8 Hiking out.  The next official 8-8-8 ski competition is in 1000 years on 8 August 3008.  But there are sister events in 80 years: 8/8/88 and in 800 years: 8/8/888.  I'll see you in '88.  No wait, I won't ... I'll be dead.  ;-)

Crow Pass and Above Summer Ski Touring

Crow Pass - 20 July 2008:  Not the greatest weather this late July weekend.  So what to do?  Hey, how about heading out to do some ski touring!  I ran up to Crow Pass with my skis to check out the skiing.  A while later my GPS said I got in about 8 miles of random snowfield cruising and turn cranking in the area between Crow Pass, the Raven Glacier and the base of Summit Mountain.

I saw tracks from other skiers that were up here the day before.  Right on fellow winter worshippers!!  Hang in there ... next ski season is not long off!!

Heading to Crow Pass

 

Summer links
The snowfield by the Forest Service cabin is going fast.  Better skiing up high.
Lots of snow on the Raven Glacier, but I'm not skiing on a glacier alone and un-roped Skiing snowfields below Summit Mountain
Map of my random wanderings

Rather gruesome looking algae, eh?!  This snow phenomenon is called:
watermelon snow.

Skating back down to Crow Pass

Mid-July XC Skiing at the Alyeska Glacier Bowl

Girdwood - 13 July 2008:  In the early 1980's xc skier racers used to regularly hike up to the Glacier Bowl at the Alyeska Ski Area, stomp in a ski loop and get some summer on-snow ski training in.  Hardly anyone does this these days as getting helicoptered to the Eagle Glacier is the preferred choice.

I figured this area would still be good skiing mid-July this year thanks to the cold and cloudy spring and summer we've had.  Sure 'nuff.  The ski-able snowline came way down below the tram station.  There was tons of snow in the Glacier Bowl for a good ski loop with, of course, the requisite slalom course.  And skiing back down offered a long run of great snow that got your quads aching.  My kind of summer indeed !!

The Alyeska Glacier Bowl.  XC skiing here is done on a snowfield below the glacier.
       
If you need poles for a slalom course, Alyeska graciously provides slalom poles to summer-time xc skiers that need them.  At least I think that's why they leave the poles out!?   ;-) Mid-July 2008 and you could still ski from the top to way down below the tram station (seen on ridge) Guided glacier trekking tour
Bang that gate!  Smack it down! Training for next month's (August 2008) World Championship of the World XC Summer Slalom SmackDown!

Seattle Ridge Summer Skiing
July 1st frost in Anchorage.  No kidding. Heading from Turnagain Pass to Seattle Ridge snowline Cornice, Seattle Creek drainage Turnagain Pass to my left in the distance Black bear an hour or so ahead of me Portage Lake in the distance
Summit of Pyramid Peak Looking south from Summit of Pyramid Peak.  Tons of snow for July. Pyramid Peak from Girdwood

Seattle Ridge - July 1, 2008:  Sunshine!  The first sunny day since mid-May!!  Well, it seemed like it at least.

I have wanted to ski Seattle Ridge on the "snowmobilers' side" of Turnagain Pass for quite some time.  So I waited for July 1st.  July?  Yes ... this has been a heck of a cool (as in temperatures) spring and early summer.  So there is much more snow around for this time of year than most people can remember.  No complaints from me!

For this ski trip I used waxless skis.  The snow was consolidated summer snow that kept you from sinking in more than an inch even in the afternoon.   After hiking from Turnagain Pass to snow level at 1500 feet (on the snowmobile route to  ridge-top) I was able to ski all the way to Pyramid Peak.  Out and back was about a 12 mile hike/ski.

Ridge leading north to Pyramid Peak.  Looks like a fun ski route.  And it was. Blue: hiking, Red: skiing
360 degree panoramic view from the top of Pyramid Peak (click on this image to expand it)
Seattle Ridge is a dump.  It's covered with snowmobiler trash.  It's disgusting.  And I say this as a fellow snowmobiler (scroll down to see proof).  Beer cans in particular are ALL over the place.  Come on folks, clean up your act!!

I hauled a bunch of stuff out.  Stuff that I will use actually.  Wish I had brought a bigger pack!!

I made good use of some snowmobile trail markers I found lying on the snow.  I set up a slalom course and had fun running gates.

Culross Island Ridge Rambling
Heading up onto the backbone ridge of Culross Island, Prince William Sound Heading south on the island's main ridge

Culross Island - May 30, 2008:  The plan was to ski-explore the southern end of Culross Island by skate skis (we had skied the northern section of the island's main ridge each of the last two years).  But changing weather forced the backup plan of using wax-less classic skis.  It wasn't as much fun as crust skiing in the sun on this island, but it was cool to chalk up skiing some new terrain in Prince William Sound.  Skiers: Tim M., Benji, Cory and Tim K.

Port Nellie Juan in the distance     Up into the clouds
Cory the Cloud Shredder This looks like a crevasse, but there are no glaciers here.  It's a snowpack stress crack May 30th, elevation 150 feet, snow depth 8-9 feet.  We skied down a new route to the left of the trees in the background Back at sea level.  Ski-able snow started at an elevation of about 3 feet, and 30 feet from the water
Click here to see Cory Smith's pictures from this ski trip

All cTurnagain Pass Crust, Late and Great
Skiing up, and back down, the Lyon Creek drainage

Turnagain Pass - May 17, 2008:  As a backup plan for a ski trip that didn't work out this morning, we (Tim M., Cory, Benji and I) hit Turnagain Pass.  We found lots of snow for mid-to-late May (10 feet at the weather station) ... and some fine crust skiing.

  Climbing up Center Ridge

 

We met b/c skier & kiter Todd Kelsey who was camping on Center Ridge with his wife Tincan Creek drainage
Skiing down the Tincan Creek drainage   Cranking turns down off Center Ridge

 


All cDon't Forget Spring Classic Skiing ...
Expanding the picture above will show  what Anchorage skiers' backyard looks like in mid-May.  Anchorage is in the distance between the skis in this picture.

Anchorage - May 2008:  "Performance" spring skiing is usually equated with skate skiing.  But spring corn snow can make for some great classic skiing.  Waxless skis can be a good choice for these conditions.  I recently bought  a pair of Fischer Superlight Crowns (so I could be like Tim Miller!!).  They are versatile and fun skis for corn and summer snow striding, and they are good in the turns.

Spraying fallen skiers in the face with wet corn snow is not nice ...   ... but damn, it sure is fun !

All cBeware of the Crust Voles !!!

Beware!!   If you inexplicably crash while crust skiing ... the problem is likely NOT your skiing ability.  Most likely you were attacked by a crust vole and didn't realize it.  These devious monsters go ballistic when they smell wool socks skiing by their dens.   They are as fast as lightning and with their extremely powerful forearms (see above) they can quickly trip you and cause you to have a yard-sale crash.  If this happens to you - start screaming at the top of your lungs and flail your poles wildly to drive off the voles.  Or else the beasts will tear into your ankle and rip chunks of your socks off to use as bedding in their dens.  Don't be tricked by the cute and innocent facade these psycho-rodents project.  It's all just an act!  These are very dangerous animals!!!!


All cIt's Crust Skiing Before Work Season
Rabbit Creek Valley / Powerline Pass Valley / Portage Lake and Pass - April 2008
 Crust before work in Rabbit Creek Valley  Snowshoeing on crust!  What!? Beautiful mountains with less than beautiful names  Sheep tracks Rabbit Creek mile-long halfpipe
 Anchorage's favorite valley, S. Fork Cambell Creek / "Powerline Pass" Valley  The infamous weather station thang Portage Glacier Haze in distance is Mongolian dust and Siberian smoke Don't ski next to Maynard Mountain during warm afternoons
  Looking southwest towards Portage Glacier from Portage Pass.  Plenty of places to crust cruise here.  
 View of Passage Canal from the pass.  Nice view before going to work. Hey!  Who's been shooting holes in Portage Glacier !!!

All cSkookum is Skookum

Portage - April 2008: "Skookum" is a Chinook word with a double meaning: 1) strong or heroic, or 2) demon or evil spirit.  Crust skiing to the Skookum Glacier right now (April 20th) is definitely skookum.  By that I mean the crust snow is good (very strong and heroic).  But be careful of the skookum spirits that live in the back of the ice cave!


All cGrandview Without the Train

Kenai Mountains - April 2008: Lots of skiers have ridden the Alaska Railroad and Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage ski train to Grandview to go skiing.  But why ride there, when you can ski there?!  After all, it's only a 32 mile (50 km) round trip crust ski from Portage.  It's a little tricky getting from Spencer Lake over the ridge and into the Grandview Valley.  But it's worth it once you get there.  This was my fourth time skiing from Portage into the Grandview Valley.  It was Cory Smith's and Benji Uffenbeck's first time skiing to the Grand ... but I'm betting they will be going back again, and again, and ... !!

Closing in on Grandview Skiing past the Bartlett Glacier on the way out
Heading out ... Crust On !! Spencer Lake Benji shoots the curl Uhm Benji ... it's falling!  Splat. Breaking out into the Grandview Valley.  Cory scopes the Promised Land Do you dare cross the gorge on the Hand Tram from Hell?!
Benji rips and shreds Old train trestle supports Team shot at Grandview   Checking out the serpentine railroad tracks
   
  Cory carves Rocket crust Hero snow Cory likes snow bridges with character!  
Check out Cory Smith's pictures from this trip!

All cHow to Recycle Ski Wax

Question: Were does most Swix, Toko, Holmenkol, Solda, etc ski wax end up?

Answer: Landfills.

Skis end up using a small fraction of the product wax companies sell you.  Most ski wax is destined to wax shavings that people usually throw in the trash, along with the container the wax came in.  A more environmentally responsible option is to save your ski wax shavings in recycled Ziploc bags.  You can save them per wax type.  Or you can do like me - save them as either "warm" (Swix purple, red and yellow for example) or "cold" (Swix blue and colder).  In the spring, take the wax shavings, melt them in a Pyrex cup and pour them back into the original containers. You probably wouldn't want to race on recycled wax.  But it is great for training, ski storage or ... spring skiing!

Save wax shavings in recycled Ziploc bags.  A Pyrex measuring cup is all the equipment you will need. Hey Swix ... I guess you aren't going to get any money from me for THIS bar of wax!!
Stuff the wax shavings into the Pyrex cup and warm them until they become liquid. What to use to form the wax?  How about the original package the wax came in !!  Recycling times two. After pouring the wax ... let it cool. The finished product.  This bar is mostly Swix CH red with some purple and yellow.  The black flecks are base scrapings.  Whoops, I better scrape less energetically.

All cSkiing in the Backdoor of Lost Lake

Kenai Mountains - April 2008: When I skied to Lost Lake last year I saw snowmobile tracks coming in from the west.  There is no formal trail to the west so I asked a snowmobiler where the sno-go trail led to.  He said the Snug Harbor Road ... and I immediately put this trail on my "to do" skiing trip list.  The beginning and ending sections of this 26 mile route are ratty and bumpy snowmobile trails.  But the central section is incredibly nice.  One could mistake this area for the tree-less mountains of central Norway (the Jutenheimen) or the hills northeast of Nome.

There was no sign of spring crust snow on this mid-April ski.  Cold powder classic skiing and lots of wind were being served up.  But hey ... it was a sunny April day in Alaska and there was lots of snow.  That's the ticket!

Mt. Ascension framed by a wind eroded arch of sastrugi Ski route: Mile ~10 Snug Harbor Road, Lost Lake, Primrose - 26 miles.
Initial (long) climb, Cooper Lake in the distance Heading to the pass that leads into the Boulder Creek drainage Soft trails, cool country Mt. Ascension from the NW Heading towards Martin Creek Pass Martin Creek Pass was "wind devil central"
360 degree panoramic shot from the headwaters of Boulder Creek.  This is snowmobile country.  And for a good reason - it can't get much better snowmobiling than this.
Mt. Ascencion Wind pictures: Lots of snow moving on the ground and plumes of snow coming off the mountaintops Lost Lake, thar-she-be!
360 degree panoramic from a ridge above Lost Lake.  The "backdoor" to Lost Lake lies between the two main mountains in the center of this picture.
   
  2 minute old sno-go track on a windy Lost Lake Lost Lake Old Primrose Mine cabin - smothered with snow Sno-go trench-trail.  Listen before you commit!  

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Alaska Performance Backcountry Skiing

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