Apr 18 2015

Happy Anniversary?

Mount Sanitas, Boulder, CO

Sure beats the Vail Valley Medical Center…

Well, it’s now been a year since my fall and surgery and my how time does not fly when you’re rehabbing from a major injury. I recently passed my 100th physical therapy appointment (including the ones in Vail immediately after my surgery) and they tell me when I hit my 100th in Boulder they’ll name a therapy table after me. It’s been a long brutal process but I’m happy to report that things are definitely looking up. While my range of motion is definitely limited and I’ll likely always have some pain and stiffness, my leg strength has almost fully returned and as you can see from the photo above I can now hike the steep hills that I’ve always used to get in shape for backcountry snowboarding.

East Ridge Trail, Mount Sanitas

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

East Ridge Trail, Mount Sanitas

My partner in crime…

Fortunately I live just down the street from one of the nicest hiking trails in Boulder and have a companion who’s always willing to keep me company on my treks. It’s been an unusually dry spring in town and we’ve taken advantage of the conditions to work me back into shape. While doing hundreds of squats and lunges at home and at PT never gets old, building strength by climbing up steep terrain is far more rewarding.

Little Scraggy Trail, Buffalo Creek

Back in the saddle again…

As an added bonus, last week I did my first mountain bike ride in 18 months and while my mind was a little nervous my body handled it flawlessly. So this summer will hopefully be filled with many more rides as I get back into my normal routines. All this is in preparation for next winter when I hope to take up snowboarding full time once again.

Valdez, AK

Before the fall…

It’s been a challenging winter watching the snow fly and not being able to get out in it. I’ve had to live vicariously through friends and other online powder connoisseurs and at times it’s been very painful. Fortunately for me, while there was plenty of powder to be had if one worked hard for it, it was not a particular epic winter in Colorado or BC, two of my favorite stomping grounds. Alaska on the other hand, (where the above photo is from) has been going off and is in one of the best snow cycles in years. Watching this from afar has made me thoroughly reconsider my vow never to go back. While Valdez is certainly out of the equation, future visits to Haines now seem like not such a bad idea. In the bigger picture, while I’m very thankful that I can even walk after the nasty spill I took, it’s been the dream of snowboarding again that has motivated me through many a long and painful rehab session.  While nothing is ever certain, the gluten free snowboarder does plan to ride again!


Apr 6 2014

Not every powder tale has a happy ending

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Back in the mountains again

I haven’t written much, in fact nothing at all, about this season’s snowboarding. Part of this is due to a certain amount of repetition, I mean how many powder shots from Wolf Creek can one person post. On the other hand, on this year’s trip to BC, while we didn’t have any fresh powder tracks to capture there were so many spectacular scenery shots that I didn’t know where to start. The rest of the season found me mostly skiing alone and more concerned with getting first turns than capturing any of it for posterity. Last week, found me traveling to Alaska for our annual trip and with the cameras rolling I certainly got much more than I bargained for.

At the busy Valdez airport

At the busy Valdez airport

This year we decide to head to Valdez Alaska home of the legendary Chugach Range. My three previous trips had been to Haines, Alaska where we had had variable conditions but always a great time. Our group had been culled from people I had met on previous adventures and was the same one I had skied with earlier in the season in BC. David, an incredibly strong snowboarder and all around recreational athlete who I had met on my first heli trip 12 years ago, Kevin, who I met while skiing out of bounds at Keystone and subsequently discovered that we lived less than a half mile away from each other and had kids the same age, and Aaron who I met in Haines two years prior and whose love for the Chugach Range might be the greatest snow passion I have ever seen. All are experienced and strong skiers/boarders whose love of powder and adventure made for strong bonds and quick yeses when an opportunity to go heliskiing presented itself.

My partners in crime

My partners in crime

The first two days of the trip had been nothing to write home about. We thought our timing would be perfect – Valdez had received several feet of snow the preceding weeks and was now under the influence of a massive high pressure system (in other words, nothing but blue skies). However, there had been a big wind event at the end of the storm which had compressed the powder to varying degrees depending upon location. On day one we found some nice if not particularly deep snow but since we were the third group in the lineup we ended up skiing a lot of leftovers and working around the preferred fall lines. On day two we hit almost nothing but severely wind packed snow so got off the mountain as soon as we could to save our heli time.

More tracks than usual but still loads of fun

More tracks than usual but still loads of fun

This is not to say that we weren’t having a damn good time anyway. The operation we were skiing with Black Ops Valdez had it’s own lodge so instead of our usual Alaska routine of staying in dilapidated houses or funky trailers eating lots of PB&J sandwiches we were in a beautiful lodge overlooking Robe Lake and eating delicious multi course meals. The Black Ops crew is a relatively small but experienced group that offers a wide variety of snow activities and was gearing up for Tailgate Alaska, an annual huge celebration that happens at Thompson Pass every year.

The lovely Robe Lake Lodge

The lovely Robe Lake Lodge

The guide assigned to our heli group was particularly noteworthy – Adrian Ballinger – a world class mountain climber who has summited Everest 6 times and works in Valdez in his offseason. Dinner time involved many a fascinating story about adventures of all those around the table – this is traditionally one of the best aspects of one of these trips – swapping tales with kindred spirits around the table while enjoying local food and drink. So regardless of the snow conditions we were very much enjoying ourselves and our new surroundings.

Landing some intentional air

Landing some intentional air

On day three things started to come together as they only can in Alaska. There were only two groups in the field and we immediately found nice snow on steep pitches which is what Alaska is all about. We took turns barreling down untouched slopes and trading off the camera so we could all have pictures to remember it by. After about 6 runs the other group decided to call it a day so we added their guide to our group and headed off for some more runs.

Moments before it all went bad

Moments before it all went bad

We then landed on what appeared to be a typical ridgetop and watched the heli fly off. I was sitting by my gear contemplating my next step when everything changed in a second. I don’t remember hearing any sound but all of a sudden I felt myself falling through space surrounded by snow. The cornice on which we had been sitting had split in half and I was unfortunately on the half that was now careening down the mountain. My first thought was calmly, “this is how you die in Alaska – I am about to be buried in an avalanche.” I was now cartwheeling down the mountain, periodically bouncing off the snow all the while seeing nothing but snow – kind of like being in a washing machine. My mind then shifted into the instructions I had heard in so many avy briefings – swim as hard as you can to stay on top of the surface and try to create an air pocket in front of your mouth if you’re buried. I was just getting my hand in front of my mouth and was reaching upward with my other arm when suddenly we came to a stop.

View from above

At the end of our ride as seen from above

Remarkably we were all on top of the snow. Because the snow was not that deep the minor avalanches that the cornice triggered were relatively shallow. And because we had not been sitting on top of a couloir or any other kind of terrain trap, the debris had a chance to disperse laterally instead of piling on top of us. We had however, tumbled around 1000 feet powered by a chunk of cornice that they later estimated to being 8 feet deep by 20 feet wide.

The cornice that broke

The cornice that broke

When everything stopped moving I found myself laying face down on top of the snow. I still could not move which lead me to hope that my body was merely buried. However as soon as I tried to dig myself out I realized that there was something seriously wrong with my left leg and that not being able to move was a function of the bottom of my leg now being barely attached to the top. As subsequent doctor visits would confirm I had torn all four ligaments in my knee along with numerous other tendons and meniscus and dislocated my kneecap.

 At first this was not all that painful and what I heard next was the sound of our guide Adrian moaning. As he told me later, he is not much a moaner but had sustained a concussion and wasn’t entirely sure of what had happened and asked both Aaron who had fallen with us and the heli pilot to keep an eye on him. I had assumed we had all fallen but quickly discovered it was just the three of us and while Aaron and Adrian both had rib injuries, I was the only one who could not move under my own power. Adrian worked his way over to me and immediately saw from the position of my leg that at best I had a broken leg as my foot was facing in the wrong direction. Aaron soon followed and kept telling me to hang in there while the pain kicked in and I began to realize just how messed up my leg was.

Aaron talking me through it

Aaron talking me through it

Of course, my usual glass half full attitude immediately kicked into gear and rather than celebrate the fact that I was still alive and apparently not paralyzed, I was furious at the gods for tearing up my knee and sending me once again down that long road to recovery. From there it was one long, painful slog to the helicopter, to the base, to the bus, to the hospital where they got my pants off and I could see the misshapen balloon where my knee used to be. At that point my kneecap was still way off to the side so after a quick shot of morphine they moved it back to where it more rightly belonged and now had plenty of time to calmly consider what had just happened.

I guess I had always thought it was an all or nothing proposition. Either I’d be the statistically unlucky person who got caught in an avalanche and died in which case it would not be a problem for me – just my friends and family (admittedly a very selfish proposition) or I would be in the vast majority who heliski in Alaska and come home with great tales of big mountains and deep powder. I had done three heli trips to Alaska before and while had seen numerous slides and heard about plenty of accidents I was in the usual denial of a recreational heli skier – that the heli ops are always going to err on the side of caution as killing your customers is very bad for business. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the fact that my guide from the first season I was in Alaska had subsequently died in an avalanche the next season but we had heard rumors that it was a guest’s fault for pushing limits so that wouldn’t happen to our well behaved group. Or perhaps I was thinking the odds were in our favor when we heard about the numerous accidents that had happened recently included a guide death in Haines – surely this would make everyone more cautious and the snow had had a lot more time to settle.

The slide path

The slide path

And yet our accident had nothing to do with avalanche conditions or pushing our luck on the steeps. After all a very heavy helicopter had just landed on the ridge which collapsed and you can see from the photos that we were not close to the edge. As a group we had been in many, many potentially more hazardous landings spots – this one did not set off any internal alarms for any of us and at the time we had a guide with us who had 20 plus years guiding in the area and was a local legend as well as our own guide who was used to taking people to the summit of the highest mountains in the world – this was no hot shot – johnny come lately crew.

The thing is that random unexpected stuff does happen in the mountains and if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time the consequences are likely to be very high. All of us that were involved in the accident were sure things were going to turn out much worse while it was happening. When I look at the pictures and show them to other folks almost everyone’s immediate response it that I’m lucky to be alive. And yes, it is very hard for me to reconcile the word “lucky” with the conversation I had with the first doc who saw my knee and said that the damage was “catastrophic”, as “bad as it could be” and that “my knee would haunt me for the rest of my life” – no sugar coating for him. I’m also a tad bitter that the fall was no fault of mine other than making the decision to go snowboard Alaska. But this is how it works in the big mountains – you don’t have to personally screw up in order to end up in serious trouble – I decided to spin the wheel of fate by being there in the first place.

The Heli to the rescue

The Heli to the rescue

The good news regarding my knee is that I did not sustain any arterial damage and that I live only two hours away from the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado where one of the best knee doctors in the world resides. This is where I will be spending the next to last week of the ski season (while celebrating my 55th birthday) instead of on the nearby slopes I know so well. While I am certainly nervous about the operation, at least I’m confident that if anyone can fix me up, these guys can do it.

In a quieter moment

In a quieter moment

So what have I learned from this experience? That when I was falling there was no panic just a resignation that this was it? That a matter of inches can make all the difference in the world (David who was sitting right next to me on the snow ended up with one leg hanging over the new lip but did not fall)? That “lucky” is a very relative term? It’s certainly reinforced a belief that I’ve long had – that you never know what’s going to happen and your life can change in a second and there’s no going back once it does. But oddly enough it has been that thought which has driven me to go explore big hills and chase my dreams whenever I had the opportunity – it’s just that when I was considering the “you never knows” they were usually in the context of random disease or car accidents, not an avalanche or cornice failure.

So while it may be too early to say whether it was all worth it (though I don’t see how it couldn’t be given the amazing times I’ve had in the mountains) – it is most certainly too late to do anything about it other than buck up and make the best of it. And one thing that I’ve learned for sure is that a lot of people care about me which is one thing to know in the abstract and quite another to experience first hand. All my friends and family have been incredibly helpful and Benita (the daughter of a nurse) has been a godsend without whom I would have not gotten through the first week. I am not one who finds it easy to ask others for help – I’ve always prided myself on self sufficiency but this is not something I can get through alone nor would I want to even if I could. So thank you all for your support now and in the future and hopefully this will not be the last post from the gluten free snowboarder…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Apr 3 2013

The rain in Haines falls mainly on the plains (in the mountains, it’s all snow)

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It’s been a slow year for me riding wise. Between another below normal Colorado snowpack and a partially torn MCL ligament, I’ve been on the sidelines for a good chunk of the winter. And between being out of shape and overloaded at work I even considered skipping Alaska this year but fortunately for me the plane tickets were not refundable so staying at home was not an option.

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Mike doing some preliminary research…

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David working the hill…

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Me, stiff arming the snowpack…

After a long painful odyssey involving extended quality time in the Seattle airport, we finally made it to the promised land. There the dominant color had been grey for several days so there was a lot of pent up demand among the troops when the skies finally cleared. The first day was spent exploring the close in terrain and sussing out the snowpack but there was still plenty of fun to be had.

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The hangover I can never get enough of…

On morning two we headed straight for an old favorite, “Hangover Helper” (pictured above). We were supposed to save it for the Nike film crew but we decided to help them out by checking for stability – turns out there was nothing to worry about.

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Clears my head right up every time…

Hangover is a classic AK run – a 4500’+ vertical run with that starts with a huge steep face, narrows through a gully and then has a playful and totally delicious spine at the bottom – and since we were the first ones through, we got to enjoy it in all its pristine glory.

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Doing a little recon on the “Dragon’s Spine”

I could have left then and felt like I’d gotten my money’s worth but that was only the beginning. We were now in that sweet spot, where blue skies, deep snow and stable conditions combine to make the mountains your playground.

We left a little something for the film crew…

The snowpack was a little thin this year so not a lot of technical spine skiing but the big open faces were more than open for business.

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Kevin about to have some real fun…

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Cause, look where he’s headed…

By Day Three, we were in the groove and knew we had to move fast because of incoming weather. We went back to Hangover for another helping and then moved on to “Deflower” which was still quite the virgin.

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Getting it while the getting’s good…

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No shortage of lines here…

With the clouds closing fast we headed for a hill we had often admired but never skied – Flower Mountain.

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Ain’t she a beaut…

Two untracked runs from the top allowed us to finish on a high note. We didn’t want it to end but felt blessed to get what we got.

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And it’s not just the mountains that are big…

As much fun as the mountains are, the people who get you there are just as special. As always the folks at Alaska Heliskiing were unbelievably helpful and welcoming (thank you Sunny, Gabe, Vicki and company). The picture above is from a King Crab Bake held at the owner Sean Dog’s house on Saturday night. And yes, that’s the legendary “Stifler” holding his latest conquest.

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My kind of gang…

I also need to acknowledge my partners in powder without whom the down days would have been much duller (they also took most of the photos in this post). The old saying “no friends on a powder day” doesn’t hold true when a helicopter and thousands of acres are involved. As a matter of fact, friends who you see primarily in a helicopter, tend to have very positive memories associated with them.

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No place I’d rather be…

So once again, I need to thank my lucky stars (as well as my family and coworkers) for letting me have the opportunity to experience such grandeur. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to get to Haines, but one spectacular landing on the top of a mountain makes it all worth while. Because only in AK can you have a once in a lifetime experience several times a day…

 

 

 

 

 


Apr 16 2012

Spring Skiing in Haines Alaska

The sleepy little town of Haines, Alaska

Not that I need any encouragement to go heliskiing, but after the horrible season we had in Colorado this year I definitely needed a snow fix by the time April rolled around. And what better place to get some spring skiing in than Haines, Alaska where April is prime time as the temps get milder and the days longer.

The featured item on Day One's menu

The season in Haines doesn’t start till mid February and I had been following the reports since. While Alaska had record snows early, by the time we arrived it hadn’t snowed in two weeks so we weren’t sure what to expect. We soon found there was nothing to worry about as is usually the case when you have tens of thousands of acres in your permit area.

The run above, as seen from below

We spent most of the first day on a run called Canadian Buns, so named because it butts up against the Canadian border. It’s actually part of an area known as Buns of Steel because that’s what you need to negotiate the 4000 vertical feet from the top. On this day we called it pure heaven as it was covered with lovely soft powder and totally untracked (at least when we started – almost all the tracks above were made by our group).

Check out the plush carpeting

As you can see from the pic above, the snow was very user friendly so even though the helicopter could have taken us anywhere we wanted to go, we stayed put and would still be there if we hadn’t run out of daylight.

David enjoying a taste of the fresh

Every day it got a little warmer but it didn’t matter as while the runs happily transitioned from sweet powder to perfect ripping corn they all retained the same basic characteristics – steep sustained pitches with lots of untracked lines, and really, what else do you need?

Yes, they really do ski stuff like this in Alaska - this one's called Tomahawk

Fortunately I had a great crew to enjoy this all with led by David Cole, the man who (thankfully) convinced me that I really needed to check out Alaska last year and who I now wouldn’t consider visiting Haines without. He brought another steep freak fiend named Aaron who brought another friend named Justin and were joined by two Taos vets, Keith and the Flying Frenchman, Eric. See the happy family below.

What's not to smile about?

As usual we stayed at the luxurious Plywood Palace which this year had been stripped of every non essential item and even some essential ones like silverware and lightbulbs – but hey, it’s a step up from a lot of the other lodging like the employee housing below.

Prime Haines real estate - location, location, location

But of course no one visits Haines for the indoor accommodations – it’s the stuff outside that makes any of the comfort sacrifices seem trivial. People come from all over the world and sit for weeks just to get a couple of days and once you’ve been there when it’s good, it’s not hard to understand why.

Aaron shows how real men do it

As I’ve mentioned before, even if you didn’t ski it would be worth visiting just for the scenery. You hear a lot about global warming these days but up there there are glaciers as far as you can see in every direction. All I can say is we better not be ruining it for future generations…

Typical heli landing pad view

Hitching a ride back up the mountain

And of course I need to give a big shout out to the folks at Alaska Heliskiing. As always they took care of everything we needed as I personally went through several rolls of duct tape in a somewhat futile effort to keep all my gear functioning. No one is there for the money or the fame, just the opportunity to do some of the best skiing in the world and help others enjoy it at the same time.

Once more into the fray...

So once again I come back from a helitrip and feel like one of the luckiest men in the world. We skied 6 days in a row which is highly unusual up there as all it takes are some clouds and flat light to ground you. We had blue skies, mild temps and no wind – the perfect recipe for spring skiing. And as always I’ve never felt more alive than when I was on the top of one of those mountains testing my skills and becoming one with the hill. That may sound a little new agey but if you’ve ever been there I’m sure you know what I mean. If there is a god, I’m sure he’s spent some time in Haines, Alaska…


Apr 17 2011

Haines – the video

Surfing USA

One thing there was no shortage of on my Haines heli trip was helmet cams. Every one seemed to be sporting one in every shape, size and manufacturer. Because of safety issues, there was no setting up for shots so unless you had a super long telephoto or optical zoom a helmet cam was your best bet. The problem with helmet cams of course, is that without anyone else in the picture they quickly get boring no matter how good the skiing was. So I have a good 30 minutes of endless face shots and untracked terrain which will mean very little to anyone except me in my old age. I did pull still frames out of any good footage I had of others or scenics from my still camera which can be found here. As for the rest of my footage I’ve decided to just post this one little excerpt from a run called T-Top. It wasn’t the steepest or the deepest and it went on for a good 5 minutes longer than this clip, but it’ll give you a good idea of what the riding was like including my favorite new snow terminology – “sluff management”.


Apr 8 2011

Alaska – the last frontier


The view from our cabin - the massive face of "Hangover Helper" (first run day 2) Haines Alaska

For years I’ve been hearing epic tales of  heliskiing in Alaska and seen numerous film segments of mind boggling terrain. I always assumed that terrain would be off limits to me as while I’ve spent a lot of time on a snowboard I’m certainly no alpha dog. But thanks to the prodding of an old heliskiing associate, I decided to give it a shot and boy am I glad I did.

First taste of some Alaskan fresh

The Alaskan heli scene is quite different from your typical heli operation. Out go the luxury lodges, 5 course meals and highly structured schedules. Here everything is about the skiing and everyone is on board with that. We’re staying in what is known as the “plywood palace” where the big challenge is trying to get hot water in the shower. However, the views are spectacular, the company good and as they say in real estate it’s “location, location, location”.

Typical run at Haines - notice guide circled in red

And it’s not just the accommodations in Alaska that are different – what really stands out is the terrain. This is true big mountain, technical skiing the likes of which I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Had they shown me pictures first of where we were going to ski I probably would have passed but once they dropped us off I discovered that not only was it rideable, it was a tremendous amount of fun. If you look closely at the picture above, you will notice a skier circled in red – our guide who is posted up in a place where he can keep an eye on us while we’re doing the run. The guides here are just like the clients in that they are huge powder hounds albeit with a lot more experience and thus would take us to places they wanted to ski – in other words to what is more commonly known as “the goods”.

Scouting from the heli

Where's Waldo - can you spot the two skiers in this photo?

The two pictures above best demonstrates how we worked with our guide. First he would point out potential routes from the helicopter on the way up. Then he would scout the slope, set up in a spot where he could keep an eye on us, and then send us down one at a time giving us instructions via radio when we needed them.  I had never skied terrain like this but was very pleased to discover I could.

Ripping it up on Old Faifthful

Mike avoiding the slough and enjoying some turns

The gods really blessed our group on this trip as we managed to hit the best conditions of the year so far with deep light snow, great stability, and most importantly good visibility.  The forecast before we came called for rain/snow every day and the week before they were down almost all week but fortunately for us the forecasts were wrong and we’ve flown all week till today. But when they are down it usual means it’s dumping up top and that was the bounty we found when we got out there. When our guide warned us to watch out for our “face shots” on a particularly steep run we knew we were in for a good time.

Yes, we really did ski the mountain I'm looking at

And here's what it looked like from above

The two shots above are of a run called “Indy 5000” – the 5000 being a reference to the 5000 vertical feet that the run covers. It is the kind of run you can only find in Alaska and one I never imagined myself riding. But with a couple of feet of fresh snow it was a blast and a learning experience at the same time. I’ve had to totally reorient my skiing up here – back in Colorado you look for the gullys where all the good snow is – in Alaska you have to stay up on the spines and out of the gullys where all the slough runs into. It’s a whole different way of approaching a mountain but is tons of fun once you get on the program.

Dave airing it out on Old Faithful

There were mellower runs too but what they all had in common was a thick layer of fresh light snow. This provided plenty of opportunities for enjoying the natural features of the terrain as Dave demonstrates above. By day 4 we are all fine with the weather turning funky as our legs were all ready for some rest.

The scenery isn't bad either

What is also hard to imagine even with the help of cameras is how spectacularly beautiful and impressive the Chilkat Range is. Ragged peaks, huge spires and glaciers everywhere you looked. It would have been worth the trip just to see these mountains no less to get to ski down them.

Guide shack at Alaska Heliskiing - note the pirate flag

Of course none of this would be possible without the tremendous folks at Alaska Heliskiing. From the office folk to the guides to Jack who gives us rides everywhere – everyone is super nice and more importantly on top of their game. I had anticipated maybe some attitude since this is one the premier heli spots in the world but no attitude here just a bunch of folks chasing the best skiing in the world.

My partners in crime

Also have to give a big shout out to David Cole (the guy on the right) who convinced me to come up here and his buddy Mike who is more than happy to share any and all beta on a run (and cooks a mean piece of salmon). One of the really fun things about these trips are the people you meet and this one is no exception. I’ve made a bunch of new friends up here in Haines and any time someone leaves the closing line always seems to be “see you up here next year…”


Dec 29 2009

You can get it at Costco???

Now available in aisle 3?

Now available in aisle 3?

Sorry for the lack of posts recently – I’ve been having some computer problems but am now back up and running. In the truth is stranger than fiction department I received an email this morning with the following subject line: “Valdez Heli Camps – Costco joint press release”. Apparently Valdez Heli-Camps has teamed up with Costco to bring Alaskan Heliskiing to the masses. Jay Nierstheimer of Costco.com says; “After buyer introductions at a Seattle market event, Matt (Matt White of Valdez Heli-Camps) was inspired to produce some unique and exciting options for our membership that fell well within our mission of providing high quality products at low cost to our members through our online outlet and tickets and gifts program.” Those formerly spurned by the high price of the sport with costs topping well over $1000 per day at most operations throughout North America, now have opportunities with Valdez Heli-Camps through Costco.com.  The introductory Costco item offers (3) nights lodging, meals, airport transfers, local transportation, and 25,000 vertical feet of heliskiing for just $999 (taxes included). (And if you act now they’ll throw in one of those 24 roll packs of toilet paper). VHC President Matt White chuckled; “At first I was shocked, and then thrilled to be a part of the adventure travel innovation Costco was proposing.  Reaching out to niche markets and recruiting products like mine that certainly have never been considered mainstream, motivated me to produce a product for the Costco team and the greater skiing public.  Costco.com offered us a unique opportunity to reach snow riders that may not have considered heli skiing in Alaska as an option for them; skiers or snowboarders that have more time to dedicate to their sport than money.  For those that have thought heliskiing in Alaska was out of reach this year, Costco has helped us find a way to make their skiing and snowboarding dreams come true even in an economic climate that is almost as challenging and exciting as big mountain skiing in Alaska can be…” For more information check out http://www.valdezalaskaheliskiing.com/. Will wonders never cease…