10-Days in AK: A Ski Adventure in the Eastern Alaska Range
March 24th to April 2nd, 2017
Capacity: 6 Clients, 3 Guides; Price: $5,585
The Alaska Range comprises a 400-miles long cordillera stretching from the Gulf of Alaska inland to the heart of the Subarctic. The Eastern Alaska Range—stretching from the eastern edge of Denali National Park to the Delta River—is one of the most remote parts of this range. Mounts Deborah, Hess, and Hayes make up the backbone of the Easterns, and countless unnamed smaller peaks rise out of the glaciers and tundra valleys of this ancient landscape.
These mountains see few visitors in the summer, and fewer still in the winter. The trip we are offering in the Easterns is not a goal oriented or objective driven expedition, but an adventure in the truest sense of the word. Just getting to camp will be a challenge that involves the AK road system, snowmobiles, weather, cold, and a good bit of gumption. We do not know exactly how the trip will go. This is our first year running the Eastern Alaska experience, but even had we run this trip 20 times, Alaska is never predictable. Alaska is always a beautiful and inspiring place, but it can also throw the unexpected at you at any moment. We may get stuck in camp, snowmobiles could break down, it could be -40 outside, we just don’t know. Because of this, the experience for us is always in the journey and not the destination. We will explore a wild, rugged, remote corner of the world with skis on our feet.
We use lodge and snowmobile support to have a human powered ski adventure in the heart of the Easterns. What makes this corner of Alaska so special is the confluence of experiences. From our backcountry camp we will have the option to ski tour up glaciers, explore unnamed Alaskan peaks, look up at the giants of the range while touring along a braided Alaskan river, and get in some great turns. Snowmachines (snowmobiles) will help get us into the range, and a couple of lodge based ski days on the way will help get us ready.
Camping in Alaska is an experience all its own, especially in the winter. We will experience the remote wildness of the range from the comfort of a traditional Alaskan ‘Bush’ camp. This means tents with wood stoves.
These mountains are big, cold, snowy, and beautiful. Ski touring is the perfect way to get up close and personal with the mountains. While the adventure is full on, we will have a number of terrain choices and plenty of options for different comfort levels.
Skiing in the Easterns is not like the AK you might have in your mind from TGR films or Valdez heli photos. The Alaska Range does not have a coastal snowpack suitable to consistently safe avalanche terrain. The snowpack changes quickly. It can be bitter cold or down right pleasant. The snow can be wet or dry. The wind can whip from different directions. What we do is use skis as tools for adventure. This means that we focus on the ski touring more than the turns. We will ski a lot of lower angle slopes and explore a truly epic landscape via skis—we will definitely have world-class ski touring opportunities and if conditions align get some turns in on more advanced terrain when safe.
This adventure is a dream we have had for sometime. We do our best to ease the transition into the wild, but it will be hard, as incredibly rewarding experiences always are. Cell phones won’t work, unnamed peaks will rise above, and we will be in one of the more remote corners of North America.
Here is a run-down of the trip:
Day 2: 3/25 – On our way out of town we will do a ‘shake down’ ski tour at one of Anchorage’s near by famous backcountry destinations. Our tour will depend on conditions, but likely possibilities include a day at Hatcher Pass, Turnigan Pass, or Alyeska. We will also do some beacon-shovel-probe reminders and a bit of glacier training before reaching our lodging for the evening at Sheep Mountain.
Day 3: 3/26 – We will travel by van to Paxson, AK where we will switch to Snowmobiles for the next leg of our journey. The ‘snow-machines,’ as they are called in Alaska, will take us 42 miles away from the nearest pavement to a remote lodge. If time allows, we may go on a short ski tour once we arrive. Lodging at the Lodge.
Day 4: 3/27 – Ski to camp! Snow-machines will help shuttle gear.
Day 5-8: 3/28-3/30 – Time to explore! We will tour the valley, ski AK awesomness, and enjoy the range. Our agenda will fall to conditions and group stoke, but a good time will be had by all.
Day 10: 4/1 – Snowmobile to the road and drive to Anchorage. Lodging at Copper Whale Inn (or Voyager).
Day 11: 4/2 – Depart.
- To join us on this adventure you should be very comfortable ski touring and know how to use an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe. You may use AT or Telemark skis, we cannot accommodate splitboards at this time.
- Previous glacier travel experience is not required, but you should be comfortable with the notion of tying yourself to another person.
- You should have some backcountry camping experience. While we aim to make camp as comfortable as possible, we will be out there. You will not be sleeping in nylon backpackers tents, but camp is also not like a ‘hut’.
- You should also be comfortable taking care of yourself in the cold. We will make sure everyone has appropriate clothing and equipment for the conditions, but know that Alaska is full on. Temperatures in late March can be 20 – 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can also be 40 degrees below zero.
- The Alaska Factor. We can’t control the weather, the road conditions, the temperature, and other objective factors. We will be waaay out there. Just FYI.
- You should be in shape. You do not need to be a world class athlete by any means, but you should have sufficient fitness for a week of ski touring.
Safety is our number one priority. That means that while we will do our best to get everyone some great turns, the conditions dictate what we can do. Your guides are experienced backcountry professionals, we will asses the snow, take heed of the weather, and make the call on what we can do on any given day accordingly. Cell phones do not work at our camp, and we are a long way from definitive health care. Snowmobiles are our fastest path to civilization, but even with machines, it may take time. To mitigate this risk we carry a satellite phone and Delorme InReach messaging device for emergencies. Your guides are certified Wilderness First Responders. While we spend a lot of time discussing evacuation protocols, our goal is to avoid any mishaps in the first place. We aim to give everyone a fun adventure while managing the hazards inherent to the Alaskan wilderness.
Joe Meyer – AIARE Level 1, WFR
Joe launched his career in Alaska in 2007 when he decided to “stop by and check it out”, which began a, thus far, 10-year love affair with the miles and acres of untamed land we call the backcountry. He’s spent time as a naturalist, tour guide, and sled dog handler before starting Traverse Alaska, a human powered adventure company specializing in quality, authentic Alaskan adventures. Joe spends most of each year playing outside in Alaska, traversing the backcountry in myriad human-powered ways using; packraft, bike, feet, ski, crampon and axe, sometimes tied to a rope and dog sled (if you are not familiar, traveling by dogsled requires tremendous human power!) It turns out that “checking out Alaska” is at least one life life-long pursuit. (traversealaska.com)
Nick Vincent – AIARE Level 3, WFR, AMGA Apprentice Ski Guide
Vince moved to Colorado 10 years ago and has been hooked on mountains ever since. He guides year round for Paragon Guides in Vail and the Colorado Outward Bound School. Vince’s resume includes ski descents of Chimborazo (20,564ft), summiting Cotopaxi (19,347ft), expeditions in Canada and Alaska, and many of Colorado’s most challenging ski mountaineering lines. Vince is currently working towards his certification as an AMGA Ski Guide, he is also a master mixologist.
Alex Lee – AIARE Level 2, WFR
Alex is an accomplished skier and mountaineer. He has climbed Denali (20,320ft) and been apart of several expeditions in Alaska and Canada, when not skiing in his home ranges of Colorado. Alex has been skiing his entire life and has over a dozen years of backcountry experience. He spent five years working as a naturalist in Denali National Park while learning the way of the Alaskan Wilderness. Alex also has a Ph.D. in Environmental Ethics and teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder during the school year. He loves sharing his passion for skiing through photographs and stories as a photographer (MountainDinosaur.com) and a frequent guest blogger for WildSnow.com (https://www.wildsnow.com/author/alex-lee/). Alex has guided for Paragon since 2014.
Only 6 spots available.
This price includes: All lodging, transportation, food, and group equipment while in Alaska. Not included: Airfare, personal equipment, and trip insurance.