Friday, November 1, 2019

The Alaska Range: A Skier's Destination

The Alaska Range has been the stage for World-Class alpinism for several decades, but what about ski mountaineering? If one were to fly over the entirety of the 600+ miles of the Alaska Range climbing lines would certainly be eyed, but for skiing is endless. Here is some inspiration for skier's out there looking for another expedition venue.

The Pika Glacier is the classic destination in the Alaska Range for skiers. As with most expeditions, you'll be launching from the village of Talkeetna via bush plane for a ~30 minute flight (which is worth the trip itself) and likely spend the remainder of the day setting up camp. Subsequent days are typically spent assessing conditions/snowpack before skiing anything consequential (and assessment of snowpack should be continuously done throughout the expedition).

Basecamp on the Pika Glacier, AK
Every ski destination has it's own flavor of terrain characteristics, and the Pika is no different. Rather than chasing large lines, much of the Pika area offers options from 500-2,000 vertical feet- especially chutes/couloirs. Depending on the ambitions of a team, getting in a significant amount of vertical will require ascending multiple chutes in a day. Some would argue this area is a "quality over quantity" venue. While all ski destinations are pretty...the Pika glacier is particularly scenic. The weather in the Alaska Range can indeed be pretty unpleasant but when the snow conditions and the weather's as good as it gets!

Skinning on the north side of the Trolls, AK
skinning back to basecamp with the Crown Jewel's chutes visible. Ski tracks off the Munchkin are also visible on the right side of the frame.
Skiing a chute in the AK Range on a mostly clear day, AK

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