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Discussion in 'United States' started by DidSurfNowSki, Mar 9, 2016.
Greedy pig .
bloody great achievement
You gotta wear the jumper on opening weekend, no matter what the conditions.
Good on you. Massive day, big one tomorrow.
Everyone in their heli merch on front valley - now that'd be a crack up!
Especially on the carpet LMB
if there was ever one hell of a lucky bastard
DSNS is it
enjoy it mate, great to see you got the goods
Alright for some!
I see you are up early today DSNS. Hope you rested well.
Big day today. Pack up and vacate room, do some heli-skiing, settle bills with PNH, get to Seattle.
tonight's the night to hit that bar I told you about and celebrate. Have an awesome day.
Here's just a taste
Sure was a change in the weather.
So Saturday the magic carpet at PB??
PB and I are in.
So are our buddies. They're coming to play at Perisher too.
[now to resume DSNS heliski thread... hope you'll be there DSNS, to tell us all about it!]
Currently chilling in a Vancouver airport bar on the way home. Will post a lengthier TR once back in Oz. Our guide, Nate, took heaps of photos which he is going to put on Dropbox. Should be death by bluebird heliskiing photos in the next day or so. I didn't take too many photos as I was more focussed on getting away safely from heli nose-ins, not skiing off cliffs, not falling into crevices, avoiding avalanches etc.
^ so VERY happy for you that you got a couple of fantastic fly days!
I'm supper excited to actually get to ski with all the reveler's this year!!
Best decision i ever made!! (not to take away from your decision to go the opposite to me Sara!! The decision was one of the best i made at the time too!)
hehe - I love it when the guide tells you at the top of a run "now, this is a run you do NOT want to fall on as you'll probably tomahawk all the way down the couloir - hopefully you'll bounce over the bergschrund........."
Avvy alert must have been pretty high with so much snow before you got to fly
Let's just say the guides all got together for a meeting after a particularly large one we witnessed. This meant that we did not ski the totally certifiably insane steep stuff, just the really, really steep stuff.
Safe travels T.
Stoked for you and bummed for you at the same time.
All that way and expense for two days in the heli. Arghh !!! but what a two days it must have been.
Skiing weather windows are bad enough as is without upping the ante with a heli.
Not unlike my experience in 2000. I had a week in Girdwood following by a week in Valdez with 2 fly days each. We did at least have a bit of cat skiing in between but was a bit limited. Alaska is like that. Can be lots of shitty weather and down days, but when it's on it can be awesome! For the same reason whenever I go to NZ I always go for 2 weeks which pretty much guarantees a few great days.
14!! so waiting for the VM count and hope they credit it against the PB season 17 board.
Looking forward to the TR. Love them, like what K9 did in Japan and chunky in USA/Canada, especially the emotional impression that the experience left. Hopefully it will clarify what I didn't pick up from the last couple of pages of this thread, i.e. it seemed to suggest that due to unfavorable weather you 'only' had one day. But still that would be enough DSNS.
OK, trip report time. Where to start? At the beginning, I guess.
The genesis of this trip started last year when I was wondering what to do for my 50th birthday. It was pretty clear it was going to be a self-organised event as my 2 girls (aged 17 and 19) would struggle to remember my birthday, let alone organise anything for it. Since my birthday falls in April, I posted a question on the forums on where would be a good place to ski that late in the season. AK was the universally accepted response. AK it is, now where the heck is AK? Turns out AK stands for Alaska and quite a few of the crew had a great time heli-skiing with Points North Heli-Adventures (PNH) Alaska. Helicopters, skiing, Alaska for my birthday I'm sold.
I've only been skiing for 4 years and this trip was going to be a huge step up in difficulty. I had skied Japan (Hakuba), Canada (Whistler/Blackcomb) and the USA Vail resorts (Park City/Canyons, Kirkwood, Heavenly, Northstar, Breckenridge, Kirkwood, A-Basin, Vail and Beaver Creek) previously. Very little of that was off-piste and in the powder. This trip was going to be 100% in those conditions. Additionally, forum consensus was that AK skiing is also a step up from the norm. After a few emails with the PNH guys, I committed myself to the trip, giving myself 12 months to prepare for it.
During the Oz 2016 ski season, the Perisher crew might have noticed that I followed big Steve around off-piste whenever I could. I even followed skifree up little Paralyzer on AT skis to get a bit of BC experience. After the ski season had ended, I started walking up Mt Taylor every morning. Once the magpies had stopped using my cycling helmet as target practice, I followed skichic up some great mountain passes on the road bike. Robbo MCS pointed out a good ride over "the Wall" near Beloka. Should be easy I thought, how wrong I was. My first attempt on the Wall ended with me doing the walk of shame up it. The following weekend I attempted the climb again and pulled myself inside out getting over it to show to myself that I could do it.
All was going well until March when I picked up a bug/virus that took all month to shake off. Better in March than in April!
Suddenly it was time to jump on the plane and get to Alaska. I used the Canberra->Sydney->Vancouver->Seattle->Anchorage->Cordova route.
Everything was going well until Seattle where I missed my connection. It was the start of my fight with the Alaska Air kiosks, not once did they work for me ><. Long and short of it was a extra night in Seattle, getting to PNH a day late. Also, my next-door neighbour said that someone had broken into my car. Happy 50th Tony I thought.
Once I finally got to PNH I picked up all my safety gear and did their safety training. Chatting to the rest of the PNH clients I wondered what the hell I had walked into. Everyone was either a current ski instructor or had been a ski instructor, or had extensive heli-skiing experience. Oh, and the Segal sisters were there too. They all looked at me funny when I said I had only been skiing for 4 years.
On Sunday, the helicopters flew out to the ski camp with the Segal sisters. They were out there to film segments for their film, Finding the Line. Other heli flights that day got cancelled due to poor vis/strong winds. We also heard that there was an avalanche overnight close to the camp when they woke up next morning.
The weather did not improve for the next 4 days, so we occupied ourselves doing other things.
We boot strapped up the local ski hill and I tried out the fat powder skis for the first time. The snow was rain affected and I skied badly, not linking any turns together and struggling to stay upright. I did start to think that this could turn out to be a very long week...
During other rain affected days we hiked, read books, walked the glacier etc. My birthday came and went unannounced, I was happy to maintain a low profile.
On Wednesday, I made the bold prediction that we would possibly fly on Thursday, and would definitely be skiing Friday and Saturday based on the nextsat images for Alaska. It was Tony's hopecasting at its finest.
On Thursday night, little Kinley, daughter of Kevin and Jessica, the PNH owners, stood up in front of everyone and said we were flying tomorrow! This was a huge turnaround from the middle of the week when the forecast looked terrible. Bad weather can mean no heli-skiing all week. Nate, our guide, said that he had only gone out 8 days in the season so far.
Friday breakfast was surreal, a room full of people with hardly a word spoken. Of the 3 helicopters available, 1 was going out on a private charter and the other 2 had 4 groups of 4 each plus a guide. We were last out, but Nate said not to worry as the last group gets the most in.
Time to introduce my skiing companions
Fabrice, an expert skier from Switzerland who has superb skiing technique and ability. He is a connoisseur of exotic fast cars.
Christoph, an expert skier from Germany who had superb skiing technique and ability. He also is a connoisseur of exotic fast cars.
Enzo, an expert skier from Utah. Only slightly behind the Europeans in technical ability but isn't fazed by anything.
Then there's me, an high (?)intermediate skier from Oz who drives a Honda Jazz
I have spent a bit of time flying around in helicopters while in the military, so that bit was fairly familiar. What wasn't familiar was the Alaskan scenery. Those Chugach mountains are so majestic. In no time at all we were at the top of the first run and it was time to ski in perfect bluebird conditions - clear blue skies and no wind. Made a very welcome change from overcast and rain!
Having sat through all the bad weather and seeing the hassle Fabrice and Christoph went through to ski through to Saturday I was determined to see it through. Before we jumped into the helicopter, Christoph had to get his skis from another skier who wanted to use them before Christoph did. Luckily the name sticky taped onto the skis cleared up whose ski was whose.
The first day we did 14 runs, which was the equal highest number for the day. Each of the runs went along the lines of:
- the helicopter would either land on the top of the peak or with its nose into the hill if it couldn't land
- Nate, our guide, would get out and pile up our gear
- we would get out of the heli and line up behind the gear
- the helicopter would take off
- we would saddle up, on a number of times I struggled getting into my skis with the Marker bindings, but the other guys were tremendous and helped me out where needed
- Fabrice would start taking pictures and get his go-pro ready
- Nate would take off, disappear out of view because it was so steep, pop back into view quite a fair way down the hill
- we would each ski down in turn to where Nate was, taking care not to be taken out by our slough
(For the run above we started at the top of the peak in the distance)
- rinse and repeat with Nate leading and us following 2-3 times down the hill (did I say how steep and long these runs were?)
- get down to the bottom ready for the heli pickup
I have never skied runs on such good quality of snow or of that steepness before. On these runs the uphill hand would sometimes bounce along the snow and I'm 6'2". I didn't get any face shots, but in some places, it was thigh deep. With the fat powder skis, what worked out best for me was to pick a line, get some speed up and carve out Super G turns no matter what the pitch. The powder skis worked very well once you gave them a bit of speed and run. Every time I thought my legs were getting tired, I just thought back to that Beloka hill climb, there's plenty left in the tank yet!
On Sandy's recommendation, I did buy a nice pair of Mont Bell powder gloves. With all the getting in and out of helicopters, getting geared up, putting skis on and off, the ability to get gloves easily on and off was essential. These were a great investment.
You know that guy that tried to take Christoph's skis off him that morning? When he was putting his skis on he let one take off down the hill without him. Perhaps he was right in wanting to keep Christoph's skis .
On about the 4th or 5th run we saw a large avalanche on a south facing slope where the sun heated the snow. The debris field ended where we were going to stop on that run, so we were lucky. The guides all got together to discuss the situation and formulate a plan for us to safely ski for the rest of the day. One of the things they decided was to steer clear of the really, really steep slopes and just ski the moderately insane steep slopes. I did not mind that one little bit.
10 hours after we had left base we returned and I let on that I was up there for my 50th. The beers never tasted so good at dinner.
On Saturday we set out again, but we had to be back in time for our flights out. I think we did 5-6 runs. We went a bit further out and a bit higher into the mountains and the snow quality was even better if that was possible. The runs were also longer and steeper. We were also treated to a skiing master class from Fabrice down one run. Nate told me to ski the 'road' and let the others do a particularly challenging line on that run.
Once we pulled the pin it was a mad race back to camp to get changed and get onto our flight out of Cordova. Then for me it was Cordova->Seattle->Vancouver->Sydney->Canberra to get back. I'm typing this TR on the Syd-Can bus
So was it worth it?
You bet it was!
I skied with some world class skiers in a world class venue. Nate picked the ski runs that was within my ability to do, while giving the others well and truly a great experience as well. I am indebted to Nate our guide and to Fabrice, Christoph and Enzo for their kind assistance and encouragement skiing the Chugach mountains. I can now wear the PNH jumper with pride, I think I've earnt it.
(well not quite; I'm committed to ski Austria next year with Kletterer !)
(also, once Nate has posted his photos onto the interwebs I'll append a selection onto this topic)
Brilliant stuff T. Now you have had a taste of the good stuff .
Absolutely fabulous read.
I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear reading that, your excitement and pure joy was infectious.
awesome stuff. What a place hey? Absolutely breathtaking.
So, did you have enough (any) heli hours left in credit to make it worth going back again?
Amazing trip and one never forgotten ....just goes to show you don't need to be perfect you just need to be keen.
Alaska also seems to seep into your whole being where it never leaves........you will be back.
Awesome, love ya work DSNS.
Thumbs up for the focus on all the positives - done yourself proud
It's only impossible if you think it is.
Great report, great attitude and well done for challenging yourself. Your skiing will move to a higher level just through that experience.
Time to go through Nate's pics
Typical of where the heli drops you off, just enough flat area to put your skis on. The first turns you need to do are hidden from view. It's commit and go!
Looks like some bottom clenching going on there (I know I would be!)
If you go the wrong way off the top you're dead.
This is a 'come over to the rollover to see where you are skiing' shot.
At this stage fear has well and truly kicked in.
In this picture, I'm the little speck at the top of the hill standing there all by myself. Fear factor is now off the charts.
Definitely won't win any style contests, but smooth is best.
A common thread about skiing in Alaska is how steep it is. They are not exaggerating.
Let those fat skis run and crank out the GS turns at speed.
Note that I'm taking the path of least resistance !
Here's a picture of the avalanche we witnessed.
It slid all the way from the top of the hill to the bottom. We were going to ski down there for our heli pickup.
So we tended to ski the north facing slopes, that's me in the middle.
The sheer size of it was staggering.
Washing some speed off DSNS style
Eventually the fear and adrenaline would get replaced by feelings of fatigue by the time you get to the bottom for the heli pickup
Ready in time for the heli to come and pick you up again for another run.
Waay better than sitting at home by myself eating cheesecake . Now what to do for my 51st