Alaska Trip So Far

Since my track record for posting timely, detailed, and pictorial blog posts on trips is at best 25% (I still have aspirations of blogging about our African honeymoon 2.5 years ago…), I figured it would be best to write a short and sweet update for the Alaska trip so far.

This trip originated last year when the Seattle Jibber crew started discussing our next ski adventure, and Alaska heliskiing was high on everyone’s list. The details got sorted out over a few beer sessions at Naked City Taphouse and via many long email threads. But, several months later, we got our shit together (and purchased many bonus pieces of riding/safety/photographic gear), and made it to AK and Points North Heli Adventures.

The only problem is there isn’t any new snow. It hasn’t snowed in over a month, and apparently it’s bluebird in the forecast for at least the next week. Given that we forked over a lot of coin for the dream of endless epic Chugach powder lines, the lack of snow was a potential problem.

“Was” being the operative word. As JJ put it, the powder heli-boarding trip has become “Winter Camp for Adults”. We’ve definitely done a lot of flying and riding, but the amazing scenery, great crew, awesome old and new friends, and the constant and creative search for interesting entertainment in the middle of nowhere has taken precedence over the Mars-like snow conditions.

As for the snow, there have been a few pockets of goodness, but generally those pockets are surrounded by extra-terrestial conditions that I would honestly describe as the roughest I’ve ridden (which is something to be said for a unique experience). On the first night, when chatting up the guides over a few beers, most of them euphemistically would describe it as:  “It’s a little ‘firm’ out there.” I was a little worried when one of our guides, who after a few beers might have been being a bit more transparent than he should, when asked how it would be on a snowboard, replied, with a worrying look on his face: “Oh, you’re fucked.”

Other favorite quotes about the conditions: “Falling really isn’t an option here.”, “It’s Blower Hardpack!”, and “Sastrugi“. As for falling, there have been definitely a few longer than expected slides on relatively mellow terrain because the snow was just so hard and icy, so we’re definitely riding with an extra level of caution (and a harness in case we wander off and fall in a crevasse). But so far, we’re keeping things in check.

But what is lacking in powder is more than made up for in unreal scenery. It’s such a treat to be surrounded by tons of jagged, steep, snow-capped mountains and glaciers while overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The sunsets have been particularly surreal. Living in Seattle, we’re blessed by some pretty stellar landscapes, but Alaska takes it to eleven.

On the down days, or the after-ski time, there’s been a ton to do, often contrived and invented. Activities have included:
* Jibber Pong – a  hybrid sport combining the best elements of ping pong and beer pong recently invented by our crew and about to take the world by storm via some new acquaintances who have quickly adopted it – expect this to be the national pastime of France in about three years
* Sumo Wrestling – the PNH crew has some overstuffed Sumo costumes and one of the guides (Jim) appears to be formally trained as a referee
* Northern Lights – the Aurora Borealis is quite visible here, and last night it went off big
* Cordova Pub Crawl – after an aborted day of flying, we hit up three of the local pubs
* Helibeaching – on a down day, we flew twenty minutes to a local beach for amazing scenery, a bonfire, grilling, and chucking the football on the beach
* Tripps – late one night, one of our guides and the chef stopped by asking if we were interested in playing a dice game. It was pretty enthralling.

Winter Camp is pretty fun indeed. Kudos to Kevin and Jessica and all the guides and staff (especially our fearless leaders Kip and Tom) and the Jibber crew for keeping the stoke up and turning what could be a disappointing trip into something epic nonetheless.

And we have three more days. Time to go shoot stuff. Or maybe a glacier hike. It will be fun.

Northern Lights - photo by Brian Nevins

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