While the rest of the country has been waiting for winter to arrive (finally this week for them), AK has been quietly accumulating snow and delivering great ski days for those willing to hike above the rain line. Sadly, the large system that rolled through the Talkeetnas at the end of November delivered our first avy fatality of the season. Jed Workman from the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center described the conditions as the worst cycle in the last ten years. In spite of the dire warnings, Liam Walsh ventured out solo and never returned. His body recovery is unlikely until the spring thaw. Sobering.
Entries in Turnagain Pass (11)
Here's a quick hit of pictures from a few outings on Turnagain Pass on the Kenai Peninsula these past two weekends. The first was with a new group of partners, all hard-ass skiers, a couple with Olympic credentials. We had a great day on **** and made the most of the conditions at hand. The season is rolling but still feels a bit hesitant in really gaining momentum. We had a wet warm up this past week with lots of rain near the alpine. But if you were willing to slog through the mess down low you were rewarded with stable and perfectly acceptable powder skiing. This was certainly, "you don't know until you go" kind of skiing. How sweet it was.
The anticipation of winter is always an oddly stressful time for me. I used not give it much thought as winter always came and the skiing commenced. But that was before whatever is going on now. Global warming? Natural cycles? Depending upon your political leanings, you can choose your explanation. But the bottom line is that winter has been fickle and elusive the past few years. Each year I'd say, "....well, it can't be any worse than last year...." and then it is. Gives me heart burn. Fortunately, this season seems to be shaping up in a more positive way.
Winter in AK continued its reluctant trickle over the holiday. The weather is decidedly unsettled with very little local precipitation and slightly better returns in the Turnagain area. Lower elevations remain bare but the high mountains are getting fatter. A scary buried hoar layer seems to be stabilizing so the hazard is diminishing for now. But more weird weather approaches so who knows what we'll get after this incoming blast.
In spite of the grim, dry and warm weather around Anchorage so far this winter, the precipitation has been pumping through the Kenai Penninsula and dumping snow up high. The road is still mostly dry requiring some walking through the alders to get to the goods but at least there's skiing. However, the funky weather patterns have created some sketchy deep layers that shed some light on the realities of Alaska skiing that I think are worth discussing. Slick rain crusts and buried surface hoar are currently persistant worries for all who venture up there.