After residing in Anchorage for three years now, I've observed a few subsets of backcountry skiers. The largest group gravitates South to Turnagain Pass for all the huge line powder goodness that zone provides. When the weather is clear and the snow fresh it is unrivalled. A slightly smaller group will head North to Hatcher Pass where slightly smaller scaled and often rockier chute skiing can be found. These two groups often blend as weather systems in South Central AK tend to favor one area or the other.
Not long after I moved to Alaska, I became disheartened at how bad the weather could be. My first few weeks were actually glorious with perfectly clear spring weather following one of the best winters on record. I skied a lot of cool lines those first days, especially for a guy who just blew into town. But the summer dulldrums soon followed and I became overwhelmed at times by the incessant rain. A few wind events followed and I wondered what the hell I was doing here. I think I even cried a few times.
Winter continues to be a non-starter for 2015 in Alaska. Ice climbing and obsessing over the condition of my ski quiver has done little to placate my need for fresh snow and fun skiing. Of all the places south of AK, the Tetons have faired the best in terms of snow pack. So, it was with this in mind I scheduled a two-week vacation and headed to my favorite ski range. I also decided to have a look in the central mountains of British Columbia and I scheduled the second week as a hut trip in the Selkirks.
Well, January 22nd came and the snow finally started falling in South Central AK. Truth be told, it's been snowing plenty above 2,500 feet but the more common haunts have been hurting. The telling indicator is that I'm ice climbing again. Fun but seems so much scarier and dangerous than skiing. Good for my head, though. But the arrival of the a real winter storm and cold temps, "grumpy Brian" was replaced with "hopeful/psyched Brian". That's a good thing for the people I work with. I was giddy all day.
Goddamn it's been a tough few months for the ski alpinism community. We've lost some of our best and my heroes keep falling. Today, Dave Rosenbarger died high above the Hellbroner on the Italian side of Mont Blanc near Chamonix.