Thursday, October 11, 2012

Latest Ski Season in the Chugach - Documented!

Going to college in Alaska has brought many an adventure my direction, and the art of backcountry skiing has been a big one. I decided to come up here initially for the great outdoor and environmental programs at APU, and the chance to explore and experience this wild northern region. Skiing was on my mind a bit, but little did I know I was moving to one of the best places in the world for big mountain backcountry skiing. The Chugach Mountains, a range situated along the coast of southcentral Alaska, receive a strong snowpack from the nearby ocean (average of 600 inches of snow per season), and rise to a maximum height of just over 13,000 feet from sea level. The temperatures are great for snow, and it piles up high, coating the mountains with a deep pack of the fluffy white. The daytime winter lighting in southcentral AK is gorgeous, and the aurora borealis lights up the sky on cold, clear nights. Skiing in the backcountry slid into my life after a January APU course  in winter wilderness skills, focusing on snow/avalanche science and winter camping/travel on skis. Amazing, confidence building experience to gain the skills to thrive in the far north winter environment. From there, a solid group of us have been exploring the mountains during free time, gaining experience in snowpack analysis, decision making, mountain travel, and of course the art of skiing: how to gracefully sail down these mountains! Working up to climbing peaks with good friends, and skiing terrain that you've earned, is a special and rewarding experience you have to live to fully understand. It's physically challenging, intellectually stimulating, aesthetically pleasing, and so much fun.

 Last season, after an exchange semester spent away from the mountains in the Desert Southwest, myself and a few other good friends put our all into climbing and skiing different mountains in the Chugach Range. When the conditions were right, we found ourselves in the mountains as much as possible, working on classes and school work whenever we could to ensure quality time amongst the peaks every week. I used a Go Pro camera to record clips of many of these outings, in an attempt to portray the activity we've come to love so much. We are all snow awaiting the snow with great anticipation, watching the snow line get lower and lower on the peaks! Hope you enjoy this video, it was quite fun to put together and thanks to Mute Math for the great music. Some photos from the season below as well.

Backcountry Skiing in Alaska's Chugach Range (GO PRO) from Killian Sump on Vimeo.

   Kickstep Mountain, Turnagain Pass

Portage Glacier

     Scoping a peak in Johnson Pass, prior to the below image

       First track from the summit!

Group atop Tincan Proper, preparing to ski the south face on the only blue morning in February
Keep an eye out for posts coming up about the experience of spending my summers in the Kenai Fjords National Park as a sea kayak guide, and a video from my most recent trip, a three week canoeing trip on the great Yukon river! Cheers