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Alaska Performance Backcountry Skiing Photos and Videos
2007/2008

by: Tim Kelley

October - March April - September

All cSkiing the Curry Ridge Riders' Super Loop

Trapper Creek - March 2008: When the Curry Ridge Riders snowmobile club posted on their web site that they had just finished the north end of their new 46 mile (74 km) groomed snowmobile loop, it didn't take us long to get to Trapper Creek and ski it.  Wow!  This has got to be the coolest groomed loop I've ever skied in Alaska.  Benji Uffenbeck, Cory Smith, Tim Miller and I were treated to a cloudless day with never-ending, close-up views of the Alaska Range - all while skiing on a freshly groomed trail.  Thanks to the Curry Ridge Riders (and all the other trails groups in the Susitna Valley: WTC, LSDA, MSDA, etc.) ... you make the Valley a great place for ALL winter recreation groups.  Note to xc skiers - if you use any of these these cool Susitna Valley groomed trails, please consider donating to the non-profit groups that make them happen.

The team is back together!  Skiing across the Tokositna flood plain A large glacial erratic on the East-West Express Trail Safari Lake Trail ...and you thought snowmobile trails were bumpy! Never ending views of the Big One Chulitna Bluff Trail The Safari Lake phone is great for making free long distance calls ... to yourself.
Check out Cory Smith's pictures from this ski trip!

All cNudinli - "Ridge That Extends Across"

Nudinli Ridge - March 2008: Nudinli is Dena'ina Athabascan for "Ridge That Extends Across".  According to "Shem Pete's Alaska" this is the name of the ridge that extends from Little Mount Susitna to Beluga Mountain.  This ridge helps form the western boundary of the Susitna River Drainage.  It's a long, sparsely treed ridge ... that makes for some great skiing.  On page 113 of "Shem Pete's Alaska" Shem states this Dena'ina history about Nudinli:

"Some young people stayed all winter up on Susitna Mountain and Beluga Mountain and ... Nudinli.  They got all the meat they wanted and just stayed there all winter.  ... They'd stay until March and then come back to their women with furs and porcupine meat on sleds."

Ah yes, the good ole days when all it took to impress women ... was a sled full of porcupine meat !!  Actually, joking aside, it was no doubt a huge amount of work and an epic struggle to get a sled full of porcupine meat in those days.  In late March I did a snowmobile supported ski trip to Nudinli Ridge.  I ski toured 30 miles to get up onto this ridge and to get to Wolf Lakes and back.

The Lower Susitna River froze up incredibly rough this year.  By March it was smoothed out a bit.  But in December the pressure ridges in the ice were huge. The Dena'ina name for the Susitna River is "Susitnu", which means 'Sand River'.  It's a good place for "sandmobiling". Trail marker and Mount Susitna In two months these tracks will be 10 feet under water and there will be hooligan (smelt), salmon and seals swimming over them.
360 degree panoramic shot from the center of Nudinli Ridge.  Lots of open land here, and great views.  In the left center you can see Mount Susitna (Dghelisha - 'Little Mountain') and Little Mount Susitna (Henq'edishla - 'The Little Upland One') looking south.  On the right is Beluga Mountain (Hnidi - 'The Upriver One'), Mt. Foraker and Mt. McKinley (Dghelay Ka'a - 'Big Mountain').  Source: Page 113 "Shem Pete's Alaska".
Beaver house smothered with snow Tracks from a wolverine bounding Here you can see classic wolverine tracks, and then he or she switches to bounding gear. Foraker and McKinley.  Great views from this ridge Artsy shots that show snow conditions.  With full-on crust skiing season approaching it's enjoyable to get in some good last 'extra blue' striding ski trips
       
     Sorry the map has no route detail.  I accidentally deleted my GPS route and I can't remember how I got there.  ;-)    

All Crust Skiing Into the Past

Chedatna Lakes - March 2008: A side project of mine for a few years has been to find the location where Alexander Creek homesteader Otto Thiele took a picture in 1941 (see below) that is the signature image of the Alexander Creek Inc. Native group.  Based on lining up ridge and gully angles, I think I found the spot during a recent crust ski in the Chedatna Lakes area.  It makes sense logically too that this is the spot - it would be on the route Otto would follow back to his home at mouth of Alexander Creek.  I plan on going back when the snow cover and light are similar to the original shot to retake this picture using snowshoes.

Otto Thiele's 1941 picture of Mount Susitna Skiing to remote old Dena'ina haunts like this spot and Nudinli (see above) ... is fun stuff

 My 2008 picture from at, or close to, the same spot

 

Knik - March 2008: Back in 1984, due to low snow along the normal Knik-Goose Bay Road route, the Iditarod re-started at Settler's Bay and traveled along the Knik Arm coast to Knik before going inland.  Recently I was crust skiing this stretch of trail I had never been on and stopped to take some shots of this old fishing boat that I have looked at from the road for many years ... but had never visited.

From Allen Thomas"That boat belonged to the Redingtons. Mrs Redington told me that it was used as the mail boat at Hope before the earthquake. I think she said it was made there too. The Redingtons bought it and used it to commercial fish. The earthquake set it where you took the pictures."  Thanks Allen !!


All cCrescent Crust

Crescent Lake - March 2008: This was my first time to Crescent Lake.  "What!... Dude, everyone's been there!"  Yeah I know ... that's why I haven't been there before in the summer.  Sure glad I waited for this day to go.  It's a psycho steep and narrow sno-go trench up and down the Carter Lake Trail.  But once above the tree line it was mostly primo crust cruising to the far end of the lake and back.  Saw and talked to a few snowmobilers that were enjoying this perfect weather day.  No skiers sighted, but I did see some old tracks from skiers that had been kite skiing up here.

360 degree panoramic shot from the middle of Crescent Lake
The start of the Carter Lake Tail is a steep sno-go trench.  Then you break out in the open ... here. Horses - no.  Bikes - no.  Skis - OF COURSE !! Yep ... it's crust. Crescent Lake Forest Service Cabin on the NW end of the lake In the middle of the lake, looking north Why does coasT Pizza have a capital "T" as the last letter?  Answer: It was a "Tacos" place in its previous life. * 
* Girdwood's coasT Pizza is where Turnagain Hardcore snowmobilers and Turnagain Hardcrust skiers eat elbow to elbow.  To be a Turnagain Hardcore snowmobiler you have to take your sled and do a back flip off a cornice.  To be a Turnagain Hardcrust skier you just have to blow off work or school ... and go crust skiing !!

All iFrom Castle to Cabin And Back

Permenente Trail - March 2008: I had never skied the Permenente Trail along the Kings River, though I had mountain biked it as access for climbing trips before.  15 years ago I had talked to a hunter that was driving a 4-wheeler on this trail.  He mentioned a cabin and an airstrip further up the Kings River drainage.  So I figured I'd go and see if I could find the cabin on skis.  I also remembered a funny incident on this trail about 12 years ago.  Wiley Bland and I were mountain biking here, again on a climbing trip, and we startled a hunter.  We startled this guy so bad he slipped, dropped his rifle and started sliding and tumbling down the bank next to the road.  The hunter was un-hurt from the fall ... but very embarrassed!

Ramparts of Castle Mountain Kings River Cabin
Studded "Ice Bug" shoes came in handy getting up and down the icy parts at the start of the trail Skiing towards the unmistakable Castle Mountain During the warm spell a week before a small landslide covered a section of the trail about 7 miles in This rock glacier is very distinctive.  The ice is completely covered with rocks Looking south from the airstrip near the Kings River cabin Map of route - 2 miles of hiking / running, 22 miles of skiing
       
The Pinnacle Mountain Lodge has quite the display of antique tractors.  This is a John Deere A.  When I was a kid I spent a lot of quality time on a tractor like this. Wait!  This IS the tractor I drove as a kid!  See - it says it's "TIM'S" !!!!

All iAll is Well in Caswell

Caswell Lakes - March 2008: I'd never been to Caswell Lakes east of the Sheep Creek Lodge.  And I've never skied the Amundsen Trail from this area up to the Talkeetna Mountains.  It took a while to figure out where the trail started and where to park, but I ended up on the trail I wanted to ski.  It was a long 12 1/2 mile gradual uphill to tree-line on the mountains via a narrow and bumpy snowmobile trail.  I ran out of time at tree-line, so I skied back to make it a 25 mile cruise.

Talkeetna Mountains in the distance Icy granular snow at 40 degrees F
Fire in sky!  Bad!  It burn skin!  Wish I back in Anchorage, where always rain and sun no shine!   ...    Not ! The trail was mostly wooded, so there was a lot of shade.  And lots of moss on the trees.   The Mat-Su Valley sure has a lot of churches.  I imagine this one is where they worship the pagan gods of snow and winter - CrossCountrySkiChurch !!!

A Cool Side Trip to a Micro-Alaska

Wishbone Hill, Sutton - March 2008: While ski-exploring trails in the Talkeetna Mountains north of Sutton I reminded myself that I had never been to the lakes up on Wishbone Hill.  This hill is a strange geological spot in my opinion.  A lumpy wishbone shaped ridge in the middle of the Matanuska Valley - it has cliffs on one side, old coal mines loaded with petrified wood on the other, trails all over it and mountains towering around it.  I took the time to take a side trip and ski up to these lakes on a day no snowmobiles or 4 wheelers were around.  The lakes were a picturesque micro-spot of Alaskan coolness.  Quiet, scenic, nestled between ridges of wind challenged trees, wolf tracks everywhere ... it's hard to believe you are only 3 miles from a major highway when you are there.

Buffalo (Coal) Mine boiler and steam engine Wishbone Lake, black ice 4 feet thick
Upper Wishbone Lake They call it "crust" Wind sculpted sastrugi getting "crustified" LOTS of wolf tracks Lots of wolf poop on the lake, filled with moose hair When I got home I did this oil painting.  I call it: "Pole and Poop".  I'm selling it for $10,000.  Interested? *  ;-)
* OK ... so this "oil painting" was made by one mouse click in Adobe Photoshop.  So how about $5000?  $1000? $10?  A Rockstar energy drink?!?!?  Ah, come on!!    ;-)

A Short Window of Portage Crust

Portage Lake - February 2008: In late February Portage Lake had some good crust skiing for a week or so between storms.


A Lucky Dogsled Purches

Purches Creek / Dogsled Pass / Craigie Creek / Fishook-Willow Road Loop - February 2008: The key ingredient to pulling off this 33 mile Talkeetna Mountain loop on racing skis was ... luck.  Maybe a day or two before I skied this loop a group of four snowmobilers went up Purches Creek and made a trail that I used to the max.  Without this trail I would have been wallowing in deep powder, and likely would have bailed out on this ski loop attempt.  So thanks to those unknown trail breakers!

This was a "combi ski".  I used combi boots and classic skis and did about a 50/50 split of striding and skating.  As you can tell from the pictures ... what a day!  The sweet spot of winter has arrived!

Summit of Dogsled Pass, pointing towards Craigie Creek drainage that leads to the unplowed Fishhook - Willow road.
A cable crossing a few miles up Purches Creek After a while the trail went to the north side and paralleled Purches Creek Sure glad I didn't bring skate skis.  It's hard to skate in a 15 inch wide paddletrack snowmobile trench Looking up Purches Creek.  Dogsled Pass is in back of the shadowed ridge, to the right (there was some steep going to get to the pass) Looking back down the valley.  Why the smile?  Maybe because it's a nice day and I'm skiing somewhere I'VE NEVER SKIED BEFORE Looking back down the Purches Creek drainage
The head of the valley was in the shadows.  Chilly. A typical rugged Talkeetna Mountains peak From Dogsled Pass it's quick to get to Gold Cord and Independence Mines (in the summer).  Just go over this pass, called Highgrade Pass. This is an old penstock.  Water once came from a pond, through a flume, dumped into this tower and turned a pelton wheel which powered a stamp mill that pulverized rock with gold ore in it.  This info courtesy of Fred Trimble!!! Remains of an old mining building, War Baby Ridge in the distance. Tucking into the sunset on the groomed (for snowmobiling) Fishhook - Willow Road.  Fast going on granular corn snow.

Following Russell Dow's Ski Tracks to Palmer

Independence Mine to Palmer - February 2008: From my work on the Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project web site (www.alsap.org), I came across references of Independence Mine workers skiing from this mine at Hatcher Pass to Palmer in the late 1930's.  The likely ring leader of these skiing miners was Russell Dow.  Russell was a New Englander that skied at Dartmouth College before coming to Alaska in the late 30's to drive bulldozers for a living at the Independence Mine.  He also skied a lot, taught miners to ski and went on to teach WWII troops at Fort Richardson how to ski.

Legend has it that after a week's work at the mine, Russell would ski to Palmer to visit his girlfriend who worked at the laundromat.   Then he would catch a truck ride back to the Fishhook Inn, and a cat ride to the mine.  Russell likely skied the Fishhook Willow Road all the way to Palmer.  I wanted to re-create this ski, but do it by connecting trails instead of skiing beside a road the whole way.  It took some field research, but I finally learned the lay of the trails and pulled this ski trip off.  Thanks for the inspiration Russell !!

Benzie Ola "Rusty" Dow and Russell W. Dow (1940)

[Photo Credit:  Russell W. Dow collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

Russell likely never imagined this: fresh corduroy xc skate tracks being set at the mine he once lived and worked at. "The Mile 16 Run is unsuitable for sledding" ... ... looks like sledders can't read. A 1939 picture of an old cat at the the former Fishhook Inn (one at the bottom of the Mile 16 Run).  Russell is in the center of the 3 men. From the bottom of the Mile 16 Run I double poled on the side of the road to the Little Su River.  I figured this section would suck.  I was right. Out of the mountains and heading to the Mat-Su Moose Range trails.
I skied past the Hatcher Pass "House of ROCK" !! I'm a big fan now of the trails on the Sutton side of the Moose Range.  They are cut on the tops of moraines ... very cool. The Sutton side Moose Range trails are likely old mining roads.  Here green moss drapes the banks of the trails. Here is the descent down into the canyon to get to the Moose Creek Campground. Crossing the Glen Highway at Moose Creek. Near the confluence of Moose Creek and the Matanuska River are old pilings from the abandoned Sutton railroad.
The Matanuska River Trail follows the old Sutton railroad bed.  I had to break trail most of the way, but it wasn't bad. There are many places on the Matanuska River Trail where active talus slopes from bluff erosion bury the railroad bed. The railroad bed of the Matanuska River Trail on the right, the river on the left, Palmer in the distance. Signs of life one mile from Palmer ... ski tracks!  Could they be Russell's?!?! Russell beat me skiing from Hatcher Pass to Palmer ... by almost 70 years. Here's to you Russell !

Finding a Golden Heart at 30 Below Zero

Willow, Delta Islands of the Big Susitna River - February 2008: The "Golden Heart" was a cold War radiation monitoring aircraft, a WB-50D, that crashed in August 1956 in the Delta Islands of the Big Susitna River, west of Willow.  The cause of this crash that killed all 11 crewmen on board was never determined.

This summer the Anchorage Daily News ran an article about Doug Wolters, the son of one of the crew members, and his quest to find this crash site on its 50th anniversary.  While reading this interesting article I figured that it would be a good challenge to figure out a way to ski to this remote location.  Myron Wright helped Doug Wolters locate the remains of the WB-50 this last summer.  Myron also helped me find this obscure and unique site of history and tragedy.  Thank you very much Myron!

 Minus 26 F in Willow, colder down on the river Wreckage in the Delta Islands, looking west 1st Lt. William Wolters Wreckage looking south Placard and photo on tail section in background

Bird Creek Below Zero

Bird Creek - February 2008: I've been to Bird Pass via skate skiing on spring crust (a long time ago).  But I had never skied there in cold winter conditions.  I still haven't.  I got close, but I didn't make it.  Still, I had a good day out in sub-zero F temps.  On the way back I pulled the camera out and played with some winter-low-sun-back-lighted shots, until my fingers got cold (see below).  Thanks to the folks that camped out at the trail crossing over Bird Creek for breaking a nice trail !!

Canadian Rockies?  Alberta?  Nope.  It's "The Beak" (4730') on the ridge north of Bird Ridge Overlook. Snowmobile trails for the first half of the trip.  Single track ski touring trail the rest of the way.

More Palmer Moose Range Trail Exploring

Palmer - January 2008: I've been exploring trails north of Palmer as part of a grand scheme to link a bunch of them together for a longer point to point ski trip.  This time around I found more dead-end trails ... but some very interesting dead ends.  As this is a moose range - selected areas are clear cut to allow better moose forage to grow.  The logging trails made by these operations often follow the tops of glacial moraines and make for some cool skiing.

Trails on tops of moraines, fun skiing. Clear cut for moose forage. Nice 0 degree F. classic skiing on powdery sno-go trails. I hope that if I am reincarnated - that I don't come back as a sign in Alaska.

Views from a Cross Country Ski's Rear View Mirror
   
PLAY VIDEO
   

Retracing the Eklutna Project Run Route ... on Skis

Eklutna - January 2008: In the 1980's there used to be a neat running race called the Eklutna Project Run.  It started at the now abandoned restaurant in Eklutna and finished at the Eklutna Power Plant.  The cool thing about the run was that it followed a little known power line access road that clings to the edge of the Western Chugach Mountains.  Since running this route in the 80's I had wanted to ski this 8+ mile route.  With temps in the 40's, lots of climbing and a lot of breaking trail through heavy, wet snow in order - I knew this ski was going to be a tough slog.  So what better time to invite my tough as nails wife to go with me.

Note: Some of this route is on Eklutna Inc. land.  So contact them before going, at: www.eklutnainc.com.

Glenn Highway bridge over the Knik River is in the distance.

About half the ski was on old snowmobile tracks, the other half was make-your-own-trail in very sticky snow (see the picture of the snow covered pole on the right for "proof-of-stickiness").  The route is about 1/2 under the power line and the other half off in the woods on roads that skirt gullies and steep sections.

Near the end of the ski we ran into an area with a lot of snow rollers.  This is a fairly rare weather snow phenomenon that can be caused by wind or gravity.  Here snow build-up on branches got heavy from warm weather, the snow dropped from the branches onto a steep slope and the glob of snow began rolling to make a snow roller.  I added a new item on my "done-that" list today ... I can now claim to have eaten a snow roller!!


Classic Skiing on Willow's Classy Trails

Willow - January 2008: January is usually a good time to take your classic skis to Willow and do some ski exploration of the WTC (Willow Trail Committee) trail system.  I'm always raving about these groomed multi-use trails, it's my favorite groomed trail system in Southcentral Alaska.  These trails make me wish I lived in Willow in the winter.  Here are some shots from a 50 km ski on WTC Western Gateway trails I had never been on before.

I always give a thumps up to the Willow Trail Commitee.
Racing skis used to fit in dogsled runner tracks.  But no more.  Dogsled runners have gotten really skinny this century. Robert Frost said: "Good fences make good neighbors".  I wonder if he envisioned fences made out of 3/8" steel cable to catch snowmobile skis.
The whole Willow area was plastered with fresh snow.  Nice.
This trail sign was disturbing.  Not only is the skier on the bottom of the food chain ... but take a close look!!  The damn snowmobiler peed on the skier!!! A good sign.  Skiers are moving up the food chain. OK!  Skiers are finally on the top of the Mat-Su Trails food chain! Some WTC trails are as straight as ... a ski pole. Skiing away ... ... off into the sunset.

Subzero Day at Elevation Zero

Turnagain Grass Flats - January 2008: This is an area, between Ingram and Seattle Creeks, that my wife and I have hiked to quite a few times in the past.  But we had never skied here before.  It's a private nook of Turnagain Arm that is often overlooked.  However, good skiing conditions here can be rare.  When the frequent warm and powerful Turnagain Arm winds hit, this place is often scoured of snow.

There is also the tide factor.  Though unique and quiet  this area has a horrific past.  It was here that the legendary death occurred of a woman who got stuck in the mud while trying to free a four-wheeler.  Rescuers couldn't free her and the incoming tide submerged and drowned her.  So check the tides before going here.  Only go when there are low high tides and the tide is going out.


Backwoods Palmer Trail Exploring

North of Palmer - January 2008: Want to ski for many hours and (happily) have no clue where you are?!  Then the Matanuska Valley Moose Range area between the Hatcher Pass Road and Wishbone Hill above Sutton is a place you should check out.  This mostly un-mapped maze of multi-use trails is popular with local residents.  But folks from Anchorage should bring a GPS so you can "bread crumb" your way back to your car.  If you are lucky you can link up trails to get from Hatcher Pass Road to Buffalo Mine Road and back.

Decent snow coverage in the woods.  But in the open ... very slim on snow. Very multi-use trails - tracks of: 4 wheelers, snowmobiles, dog teams, mountain bikes, moose and ... skis. You first. Skied for hours on cool trails, with no clue of where I was going.  Quite the maze of trails here!
When skiing ... it's worth looking UP now and then. Warning: As the sun sets, freaky looking skiers come out to haunt these trails!

Backwoods Wasilla Trail Exploring
 

East of Houston, North of Wasilla - January 2008: Trails that I haven't skied before in the Su Valley ... that's the perfect draw to get me up into the Valley to ski them.  These trails were east of the Herning Trail, that heads north of Houston.  Then trails led to Bench Lake and on to the Schrock-Pittman area.

 
New Year's Eve in Houston: "Hey boss, what we gonna do with all the fireworks we didn't sell !!??" Heading up the Herning Trail before turning off to Bench Lake.  I sure like the trails in this area. I give no trespassing signs in backwoods Wasilla a LOT of respect! Sick kitty in the woods.  Sick kitty no purr.

Wasillita!  Wasillita!  Where are you !!!

Wasilla - January 2008: For years when passing through Wasilla for ski trips I would stop and hang out with my girl in the Valley ... Wasillita.  But holy crap!!!  I fear something really, really bad has happened to Wasillita!  It looks like she was abducted!  Only a boot remains from the struggle with her kidnappers.  Wasillita ... where ever you are I hope you are okay!  I miss you girl !!!  (sob, sob)

   
   Me hanging with Wasillita in 2006  2008: Now only her boot remains  

Bell Island Cabin Sleuthing
Skiing was good considering how little snow there was. And skiing was bad considering how little snow there was. Here I'm skiing on an old snowmobile track ... seriously. While skiing by a beaver house a beaver offered to take my picture (see above).  The beaver also offered me a glass of water, but I passed.  I fell for that trick last time!!

Bell Island, Lower Susitna River Drainage - December 2007: I got word of an old beaver trapper's cabin made in the early 50's on Bell Island in the Big Susitna River.   I was a little miffed that I did not know about this cabin, as this part of the Su Valley is my haunting ground.  So I decided to go on a ski and find the cabin.  This cabin was flooded and half filled with silt during the 1964 earthquake.  In 1973 Carl Thomas found this cabin while moose hunting.  He shoveled the silt out, put in new floorboards, window, stove and door, built bunks and used it for a hunting cabin until 1977.

Here is the old trappers cabin on Bell Island.  It's a simple shelter with a sod roof.     Beaver trappers are gone, but the beavers still remain.
Silt inside the cabin indicates this structure has been flooded by the Susitna River a bunch of times. Looking out at the present from the past. The cabin entrance. Frozen bear tracks on the silt covered floor show that this cabin is still in use occasionally.
The cabin has a moss and sod roof.  And the log joints were all hand hewn with an axe. Resourcefulness.  When the can of beans was emptied - the can would be used to patch a drafty hole in the cabin. The outhose.  Looks like a brown bear may have once been searching for goodies. Niggerheads.  Yep - it's a bad word, but that's what older locals call tussocks.  When these tussocks cause snowmobiles to tip over, locals use this 'n' word strung together with lots of swear words.  And that's kinda entertaining to hear!

Figure Eight Lake, Skiing in the Lower Su Valley ... Finally!

MacKenzie Farms to Figure Eight Lake and back - December 2007: Finally ... ski-able snow in the Lower Susitna Drainage.  Too many folks travel to Flathorn Lake.  So I like to head south to Figure Eight Lake instead.  Quiet day.  Only met two snowmobiles the whole trip.


Enstar gasline right-of-way trail

Old seismic line trail to Figure Eight Lake.  Straight and flat for miles.
Skis and poles, on Figure Eight Lake, point to Mt. Susitna

Nancy Lakes Snow Searching

Nancy Lakes, Willow - December 2007: I knew there wasn't much snow in the Susitna Valley.  But I couldn't stay away.  It was below zero F. and there wasn't much snow ... but it was good to be back in the Su Valley.  Because of low snow - snowmobiles were not yet allowed into the Nancy Lake State Park.  So entire lakes were trackless ... except for those my skis would make.  Pretty cool.

 

 

 

"Trail" to Red Shirt Lake


December 1st Crust

Western Chugach Mountains, Ship Pass - December 2007: There was decent early season crust snow skiing here, courtesy of wind driven wet snow from a storm a couple of weeks prior.  After skiing in this valley for most of the last 6 weeks, I actually wished I was skiing some place else.  But so far no snow in the lowlands, like in the Lower Susitna Valley.

White in Ship Pass.  Brown in Anchorage (off in the distance).

    Wind driven rocks trapped by sastrugi.


Blast from the Past: Skate Skiing the Eklutna Traverse in 1993

Snacking up at the 7-11.  No loose dogs in Girdwood in 1993! Changing to skis after hike up to Eagle Glacier. Eagle Glacier Training Center. Heading up the Whiteout Glacier, Eagle Glacier in distance.
Nearing the summit of Whiteout Peak. Whiteout Peak summit shots (Tim Miller left, Bill Spencer & Tim Kelley center, Tim Miller right)
Tucking on ski run down from Whiteout Peak. Whiteout Pass Eklutna Glacier, switching from skis to running shoes. Terminus of the Eklutna Glacier, getting ready to hike out.

Another Blast from the Past: Crust Mushing

Crust snow allows easy exploration of Alaska by many means, including dog sledding.  The fringe sport of ski-mushing, where a skier hooks into harness and becomes "one of the team" with his dog pals, also works well on crust snow.

Dog teams love crust snow mushing because they can head off in any direction they want. Ski mushing - where a skier harnesses into a dogsled and becomes one with the dog team.  Here you see a team of five Malamutes and one Skiamute. Humans are basically too stupid to be good sled dogs.  But some humans love being part of a dog team.  So sled dogs are kind enough to coach these lowly human types along and tolerate them.
   
Mushing, ski mushing or skiing on spring crust snow is nothing new in Alaska - as can be seen by the above picture taken April 2nd, 1909 at Johnson Pass.  Actually Russians were likely crust skiing on the Kenai Peninsula over 100 years before this picture was taken.  The picture above is from ViLDA ... one of Alaska's coolest web sites.

2007/2008 Random Camera Clicks

 

There's usually a story behind strange tracks you see in the snow

Urban skate skiers often demand impeccably groomed "corduroy" to skate on.  But why go to all the trouble making it?  Heck, you can find it growing right next your house!!

 

Tips that could help make you a better Alaskan crust skier ...

Train hard Hang with tough Alaskans Stretch

Eat right

Sleep like a dog Protect your balls (if you got 'em) Worship outer-fringe Alaskans

Worship outer-fringe Alaskans

Worship bad-ass Alaskan girls Prepare to take care of yourself Prepare for bad weather

Cultivate a crust skier's attitude

Search for new places to ski

Ski your butt off Ski your butt off

... And ski your butt off.


Goodbye Mat Maid
The last couple of years I have joked around about Rockstar being the drink of choice for early morning crust skiers.  But this year there is no joking.  A new beverage pushes Rockstar aside.  I'm suggesting a 2008 crust skier beverage "in memoriam".  Recently Alaska lost a homegrown nectar that was likely the most flavorful substance on earth - Matanuska Maid Egg Nog.  After 70 years, Alaska's only dairy, Matanuska Maid, went out of business.  So that means no more Mat Maid Egg Nog for future holiday seasons.  Damn!  No Mat Maid egg nog in December is like no crust snow in April !!  At a personal wake for Mat Maid Egg Nog I chugged the quart container to the right.  360 calories per cup ... so that was a 1440 calorie chug.  Beeelch.  Mat Maid ... we'll sure miss you !!!
     
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