Saturday, March 31, 2012

Trip Report - Thompson Pass, Alaska 3/29/12

For the past 9 days, I've been in Alaska. Even though the snow isn't great (I heard yesterday that Valdez only got 17 inches in March), it's still the best stuff I've skied all year. While we scratched and clawed for every inch back home, Alaska has been enjoying a record year. So, after a resort day at Alyeska last Friday, some random touring around the Anchorage area, ice climbing, cross country skiing, and road tripping, it was time to get into some serious skiing.  So rented a car and started the 6 hour drive to Valdez.  Here's some pictures from what might have been the most beautiful drive I've ever taken:

I started to see ski tracks as I went through the pass:

So I basically said to myself: "That looks good. I'll ski that".  I put on the skins and started hiking.  Much to my chagrin, it appears that the snowmobile is the preferred method of travel.  I was huffing and puffing up the hill while guys were constantly lapping me having the time of their lives on a bluebird day. At least all the tracks groomed out a nice path for me to skin up. "Skin Track" stoke:

If the constant passing of snowmobilers wasn't enough, the sound of helicopters throughout the pass was enough to drive me insane.  It seemed like I had the slowest method of travel imaginable. It was STEEP, too. Very tiring skin.  Also, I kept getting passed by hardcore snowmobile chicks that would take their boyfriends up the hill, drop them off at the top, and then ride the thing down and wait for them at the bottom for another lap.  Where can I find a girl like this?

Eventually, I climbed as far as I wanted to go:

Pretty good view from the top.  I ripped a run, and went back for one more shorter one before my legs were completely fried. I went down to check out the "scene":

Site of Tailgate Alaska (really cool video on that site to get a sense of the place), Thompson Pass appears to be a mecca for skiers and riders. Tons of campers, pickup trucks, and snowmachines (they don't call them snowmobiles up here for some reason).  These guys are living the life.  One dude was running a snowmobile shuttle service for $50 a drop (which would go a lot higher than where I climbed), and I tried to set something up for the next morning (I'll tell you how that worked in my next post).

After talking to a few people, I decided I was doing it all wrong. If and when I come back to Alaska, it'll be a pure skiing vacation (instead of the multisport/multiregion tour that I'm doing now), right here in Thompson Pass. There will be a pickup truck, a snowmobile, and lots of friends (or amazing sled shuttling girlfriends). I'll talk about this more in my next post, but it really feels like because there is just so much stuff in Alaska, it makes having a solid plan that much more important.

Anyway, I ate dinner and had a few beers at the Rendezvous Lodge (note the heli out back):

Then I cruised into Valdez at twilight (9:00 or so) and stayed at a $25 a night B&B.

So, all in all, it was a pretty spectacular day.  Easy, fun, and safe. The next day, however, was none of those things (well, maybe fun).  That was the day that I skied this glacier:

Stay tuned for the report on that adventure when I get around to posting again.


  1. Those are some fantastic pictures. (REALLY important to click on them to see full size images.) FYI a multi-photo expose on the hardcore snowmobiler chicks would be most helpful. Way to pursue your dreams Matt. Now back to clicking on those links above.

  2. Wonderful post, fantastic pictures...but what happened next?? I have been waiting patiently for the next post, but like a mystery novel I need to know what happened!! I can't wait any longer!!