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Anchorage, AK Area Crust Skiing - Spring 2004

by Tim Kelley

Benji takes home the HUGE PRIZE (or huge problem?)

BenjiWok.jpg (130622 bytes) (5/18)  A proud and elated Benji takes receipt of the coveted World Spring Skiing Championship of the World Prize Wok !!!  But soon Benji will realize the dilemma, the quandary,  that comes with this prize.  The 1984 date on this box indicates that it hasn't been opened - in 20 years.  So what will happen if it is opened?  Will opening the box bring great skiing results (and some killer stir-fry?).  Or is this a "Pandora's Box", that when opened will bring bad luck and poor results in future ski races?  I think Benji will be often lying awake late at night in the months to come: "Yeah, I'll open it!"  "No that would be bad!"  "Why did I win this wok?  It's driving me mad !!!!"

Click here to go to the official 2004 World Spring Skiing Championships of the World web page.

Anchorage Crust Skiers Share Their Adventures

(5/11) In late April Scott Hauser and Wiley Bland did a fun loop from Glen Alps.  They went Glen Alps - Williwaw Lakes - Williwaw Pass - Long Lake - Near Point - Glen Alps.  Scott has a bunch of good pics from this trip here.  The shots of the Williwaw Pass area on a clear day are great - that's one cool place.
Smile for the web cam.jpg (63204 bytes) (5/08)  Urban Enkvist wouldn't be denied the crust race challenge.  He was the only warrior on the course the last weekend.  There is NO DOUBT that Urban made it to the turnaround !! I made it back.jpg (82753 bytes) I am no flabby and fluffy girlie man!  No!  I am pumped up!  I am ripped!  I am animal!  I am Uurrr-baan !!

Good News ... the "Fat Lady" was fired today !

(5/08)  I had a talk with the Fat Lady today.  She has been pushing to sing her song in the final act of winter and put an end to spring skiing.  But I showed her the pictures below and said "What's up girl!  There's still lots of snow for spring skiing.  You can't start singing yet !!!"  She started giving me a bunch of static - so I fired her.  We don't need a darn opera person telling us when to stop skiing.  After all, spring crust skiing is all about heavy-metal rock (at least it is to me).  So keep on it ... if there is still white in them thar hills - it must be skied !!
McHughNorth.jpg (83568 bytes) (5/08) Today I skied up the valley that leads up to MuHugh Peak from the south of Rabbit Creek (access via Canyon Road).  There were a few bare spots getting to the other side of the valley.  But the snow on the north side of the ridge was good. RabbitCreek.jpg (73615 bytes) I also skied the upper Rabbit Creek valley - even at 10:00 there was good skating.  The snow filled creek bed coming out of the valley is good "half-pipe" cruising.
Below 1000 feet this morning Anchorage and Turnagain Arm were socked in with dense fog.  In 3 1/2 hours I didn't see any people, and I didn't even see Anchorage!  Here's the view from the McHugh Ridge looking south to the Arm. McHughSouth-lowres.jpg (659402 bytes)(644K)

Above Anchorage the "Fat Lady" is not yet singing her song about the end of winter  (but the final act is not far off)

WeatherStation.jpg (28046 bytes) (5/07)  Here's a nice shot of the weather station turnaround point that Ann Mize took.  Ann and Dick were skiing the course AGAIN today ... they just can't get enough of this May skiing! PtarmiganWebCam.jpg (50159 bytes) Ann also took this shot.  This guy verifies that all racers actually go around the weather station.  If you look very closely you can see the black lens housing of the micro web cam under the front wing.  The web cam is powered by a solar cell shaped like a feather.  The white transmitter antenna blends in with the white tail feathers.  Bottom line:  The ptarmigan web cam catches all cheaters !!
(5/04)  Click here to check out Cory Smith's shots of today's ski activities in the Campbell Creek South Fork / Powerline Pass valley.  What a day!
(5/03)  It seems that most of the spring crust cruisers in Anchorage get along.  But there is one crust cruiser I try to avoid.  He's got a real prickly 'tude and I just don't like "running into" him.  You know who I'm talking about ... PeterPorkie.jpg (162612 bytes)
BrownSign.jpg (108661 bytes) (5/02)  This guy can say: "I ski raced in Anchorage, in May!".  Impressed?  Didn't think so.  Anyway - the first ski race held in Anchorage in the month of May is underway. WeatherThang.jpg (61559 bytes) The race is a spring skiing race.  Starting from the brown sign on the left, the "choose your own line" course goes around this old weather instrument shack and back to the start.  Skiers can pick when they race in order to try and get the fastest snow.  Click here for more info.

Good crust skiing out of Anchorage's back door - Glen Alps

ShipPass.jpg (73313 bytes) (4/24)  Looking back from Ship Pass towards the Glen Alps parking lot, and Anchorage and Fire Island in the distance. This time of year there is good snow in the valley bottoms. BrownieTracks.jpg (77278 bytes) (4/24)  It should come as no surprise that bears are out wandering around where we ski.  A good sized brown bear, heading west on the O'Malley Peak side of the Cambell Creek South Fork, left these tracks today.  So ... heads up !!!
GlenAlps1.jpg (132620 bytes) (4/23) On the way to work you can drive up to Glen Alps (site of the 2003 AXCS Nat'l Masters) and get a crust ski in.  It starts getting light at 5:30 AM - so you can get a good ski in and then still get to work early.  10 AM is early ... isn't it? GlenAlps2.jpg (93932 bytes) Anchorage, a city of about 250,000, is just 10 miles away from here.  Hard to believe.  There is cell phone coverage here.  So you can receive calls from the folks you work with.  "Where the heck are you?!?!"  But if the skiing is really good, like it was this day, the best feature of a cell phone is the 'OFF' button!

There should be good skiing here for another 2 or 3 weeks.  Hopefully longer!

Skiing up Center Creek ... for the Million Dollar View

Center1.jpg (96505 bytes) (4/15) There is a fair amount of route finding to get from the Johnson Trail into the open area of Center Creek. Center2.jpg (76402 bytes) But once there it's Kenai crust cruising at its best.
Center3.jpg (102315 bytes) Center Creek valley.  Wide, lots of terrain, lots of good routes.  Climbing to the ridge crest. CenterClimb.jpg (93501 bytes) Center4.jpg (106217 bytes) Team photo at the top-out: Tim, Tim and Cory.
Here's the reward at the turnaround - the view of the Placer River Valley and the Spencer Glacier ... CenterCreek-lores.jpg (389299 bytes)  Click on this picture to enlarge (389K)
Center5.jpg (73986 bytes) And yes - there's another reward after the turnaround - the ski run back out! Center6.jpg (62742 bytes) CenterTKTurn.jpg (49185 bytes) Skiing spring crust snow is a dirty job ... but someone's got to do it !!!

(Note: If you enlarge this picture you can see wolverine tracks on the hillside in the background.)

The meat and potatoes of spring crust skiing - Portage Lake/ Portage Pass

Portage1.jpg (74045 bytes) (4/14) Sun, great crust, sun and great crust! Portage2.jpg (104616 bytes)  Did I mention sun and great crust?
TMPortage1.jpg (80166 bytes) Skating past Portage Glacier. Portage3.jpg (91320 bytes) Skating up to the pass, Portage Glacier in the background.
Portage4.jpg (87824 bytes) Recently an otter traveled over Portage Pass to Passage Canal.  Otter tracks in snow are neat, you can see how the otter hops and then slides on its belly.  Tim Miller demonstrates how an otter would ski. Portage5.jpg (94795 bytes) The otter had fun at Portage Pass ... it left graceful, swooping turn marks on the snow.  Proof that skiers aren't the only animals that enjoy shredding turns in spring snow!
TMPortage2.jpg (58514 bytes) Judging by the the tracks near the top of the pass, the otter belly-bombed its way down the east side of the pass to Whittier! TMPortage3.jpg (67674 bytes) Starting the downhill run back from Portage Pass to the lake.
So is there a view from Portage Pass?  Yep.  Click on the pic to the right to see the 360 degree view. PortagePass360-lowres.jpg (460362 bytes) (450K)
Portage6.jpg (91517 bytes) Killer Miller and Shredder-ella Tam Tam ! Portage7.jpg (103093 bytes) Skiing near the face of Portage Glacier.

Pic of us from ADN (Marc Lester)  -- >

Note: Telephoto lens makes it look like we were right next to the glacier.  We were not.

ADNPortage.jpg (82197 bytes)
Portage8.jpg (105465 bytes) Portage Glacier is impressive these days - towering pinnacles of blue ice. TMPortage4.jpg (106163 bytes) You don't want to get too close to this jumble of precariously perched monster ice blocks (which are called seracs).
Portage9.jpg (96765 bytes) Skiing along a pressure ridge caused by a massive chunk of Portage Glacier falling into the lake.  This is a danger going near the glacier.  But on cold days like this, after a long cold spell, the danger is lower than during warmer temps. Portage10.jpg (43901 bytes) When at Portage Glacier, make sure you bring back some 10,000 year old, REAL Alaskan ice for special occasions! 

An area off most crust skiers' radar - Grant Lake east of Moose Pass

Grant1.jpg (87340 bytes)  (4/13) Early morning light on Grant Lake.  Grand Lake is a large "L" shaped lake in the Kenai Mountains.  It seems that this lake isn't as popular a destination as other lakes in the area.  I'd been here twice before for climbing trips in late summer, but this was the first time skiing in this area for Tim Miller and me.  It's a cool area.
Grant2.jpg (101700 bytes) Scortchin' crust ! Grant3.jpg (64506 bytes) Near east end of Grant Lake, looking west.
Grant4.jpg (129856 bytes) An old hunters cabin at the east end of the lake was in bad shape. Grant5.jpg (94360 bytes) But the cabin had good vibes.  A pair of 60s? "Blitz" skis were inside.
Grant6.jpg (152769 bytes) Searching for new crust skiing routes isn't always just skiing.  We eventually got "canyon-ed out". Grant7.jpg (101671 bytes) Ghost forest in the drainage east of Grant Lake.  (Throughout Southcentral Alaska you often find pockets of dead tree like this.  The 1964 earthquake caused some forest areas to sink below the water table.  These trees then "drowned" in mineral rich water that preserved the wood.)
Grant8.jpg (135945 bytes) Snowbridges are for pretty boys. Grant9.jpg (74372 bytes) Oh ... yeah !!!! 
Grant10.jpg (63263 bytes) Pool table smooth, rocket crust! Grant11.jpg (103422 bytes) Cleared for takeoff.  Flame on !!
Grant12.jpg (124413 bytes) Gnarly old miners cabin at the northwest corner of Grant Lake. Grant13.jpg (111769 bytes) Looks like the last folks to use this cabin slept on beds of ferns.  Oh well ... whatever floats your boat!

As usual - the Placer River/ Spencer Glacier/ Skookum Glacier area delivers ...

Placer0625.jpg (76012 bytes) (4/12) In the summer icebergs calf off the Spencer Glacier.  In winter they freeze solid in the lake ice and get smothered in snow.  In the spring they become a terrain park for crust-shred-loving nordic skiers. Placer0628.jpg (89799 bytes)  Tim Miller picks the next berg that he will shred to ice cubes !!! 
Placer0649.jpg (90346 bytes) Many thanks to the Alaska Railroad for their long piles of old railroad ties near Spencer Lake.  It was sure fun skiing over the tops of them !! Placer0651.jpg (79350 bytes)   Fly the ties !!!!
Placer0637.jpg (74116 bytes) Keep your speed under control around icebergs.  Slamming into them headfirst really hurts!
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