Forums Splitboard Talk Forum Alaska trip – got some hints for a AK noob?
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  • #579814
    neni
    43 Posts

    Going to spend some weeks in Alaska from next week on. Been to the US only once (in NYC…), it’s the first time I’m flying with snowboard gear…
    Got my split and solid with me and will stay in Fairbanks, Girdwood, Anchorage and Cordova.
    On the bucket list so far is splitting, snowkiting, snowmobile tour around Anchorage/Girdwood; mushing, aurora watching (hopefully) in Fairbanks. And to have a look at Alyeska resort.
    Will a “normal” car be ok to get from Anchorage to Girdwood or is a 4×4 necessary? What other “must do” did I miss? Any guides/operators you’d highly recommend? Diners with great food? Places to visit? etc…

    Any hints are highly welcome!

    Jones Solution 152 / Phantom Alpha / Dynafit TLT6 Mountain CL
    (Spark Afterburner / Deeluxe XV)

    #675860
    Killclimbz
    1165 Posts

    Hey! Look who made it over to splitboard.com. 😀

    No Alaska advice, but you found the right place to ask these questions.

    #675861
    ale_capone
    864 Posts

    skip Fairbanks? drive around the kenai, sleep on the beach.

    #675862
    AK
    23 Posts

    Good timing. We are getting a solid reset in most areas.
    Definitely skip Fairbanks if you want to ride. But if you want to see the sights that’s cool.

    Alyeska is getting snow. You need nothing special as far as a vehicle goes. I would get the cheapest car possible as roads are usually fine.
    You should check out Hatcher Pass and Turnagain. Easily accessible riding right off the road.

    Maybe check out Valdez. They are getting a large amount of snow this next week. Check out Black Ops for cat skiing or sleds.

    If you are going to Cordova I think you can take a ferry from Valdez.

    For food go with Mooses Tooth in Anchorage. Silver Gulch, Chena Pumphouse, or Lemongrass in Fairbanks. Best Western in Valdez.

    Good luck, be safe. Here are some AK links to check out.

    http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php/269114-Ski-AK-The-Official-2013-20014-Thread
    http://www.thompsonpass.com/Home/Home/Home.html
    http://www.cnfaic.org/advisories/current.php
    http://hatcherpassavalanchecenter.org/
    http://www.valdezavalanchecenter.org/

    #675863
    neni
    43 Posts

    Thanks a lot AK!
    I’ve added the days in Fairbanks since we eagerly hope to see northern lights and I’ve read chances there are good. That part of the trip is not for riding, I know… but it’s also an important part of our “AK adventure”.
    The other two weeks of the trip are devoted to riding, including heliboarding (BTW is that something one is allowed to mention or will I get crucified for being a hedonistic polluter? Anyway…)

    Yea… been monitoring the weather/precipitation “over there” since Jan and was – uhm – a bit shocked by the temperatures and rain, and now very delighted to read about the storm hitting the coast. The winter was warm and dry in my home area, it almost broke my spirit to read that the year, when we finally manage to do this trip, is a “bad” year over there as well.

    Hmmm… we are rather cautious… Maybe the terrain is easier to predict/conditions are usually better at yours, but here, death toll is very high each year, that makes us very reluctant to hike/ride in unfamiliar terrain without a local guide. To hike off a road is something unimaginable for me. I’m so curious to get there and see the differences/similarities.

    Thanks a lot for the diner tips. I’m a foody, gonna try them all for sure. Good to hear that a normal car will work (I wouldn’t recommend anyone to drive into the Swiss mountains without 4×4 or having snow chains in the trunk) that will save some bucks, since I calculated with a SUV.

    BTW: Hi Killc!

    Jones Solution 152 / Phantom Alpha / Dynafit TLT6 Mountain CL
    (Spark Afterburner / Deeluxe XV)

    #675864
    AK
    23 Posts

    No it is cool to mention your heli access. In terms of guiding I actually have never been out with a guide. My crew is just supper conservative and we all have our Avy 1 or 2.

    Joe Stock is a baller of a dude who guides in the Anchorage area. You can find him here: http://www.stockalpine.com/

    For Valdez you could contact Matt Kinney. http://www.thompsonpass.com/Home/Home/Home.html

    Chugach Powder Guides are solid and Black Ops in Valdez would treat you good.

    #675859
    PlowTrucKA
    17 Posts

    Turnagain pass is readily accessible and skin tracks will take you to any kind of alpine terrain you want, including very mild, fun terrain. If you don’t find skin tracks going everywhere, you probably forgot to check the avy forecast and its bad, because we get after it when its anything but severe. Snowcat in girdwood might be worth it after this weekend, especially if you don’t ski tree runs often. Fly in Valdez, skip Cordova, unless you got time and money to burn. Feel free to send me a personal message if you have any questions.

    Fairbanks is a long trip on a northern lights whim unless you’re staying for a couple weeks.

    #675865
    D-GREEN
    336 Posts

    If you’re going to Fairbanks to see Northern Lights, then you should go to Chena Hot Springs to stay. It’s only 30 miles North of Fairbanks, and what better way to gaze the skies then from a hot pool.

    Driving from Anchorage to Girdwood and Turnagain Pass is generally a breeze, no real need for a 4×4. Driving to Fairbanks can be a harrowing experience. Less people drive up there and therefore the road can be more prone to ice/black ice. It’s a straight forward drive and not mountainous or anything, but it can be a long “white knuckle” drive… Take it slow, or fly for that matter.
    Driving to Hatchers Pass can be sketchy and I would recommend a AWD or 4×4 for that one.

    I recommend Glacier City Snowmobile Tours trip to Spencer Glacier out of Girdwood for snow machining, if Placer Valley is not open to snow machining when you get here… I wouldn’t bother.

    Most all Heli guides and services are about the same if you ask me. Hiking Turnagain is pretty obvious as pointed out above, but you can check out Wild Alpine Guides if you feel the need for guide services in the area. Definitely keep an eye on Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center for updated snow reports in the area. and Good Luck!

    #675866
    peacefrog
    376 Posts

    +1 on Chena. Get the fuck out of FAI ASAP! Though go to Thai House. Do Thai House and Lemongrass if you’ve got time but TH is the gold standard.

    My take was that you were flying from FAI the ANC so don’t worry about the car-except make sure it’s front wheel drive. If they offer to upgrade you to a mustang (or other rear wheel drive car) don’t take it. If you’ve got the skills to take care of yourself in the swiss alps then you can take care of your self in AK (at least from a touring perceptive). Though a tour guide will save you a lot of time and will get you access to thing that you wouldn’t do without someone letting you know “it’s ok, the line goes”. Not much to add except I would go for Juneau instead of Cordova.

    #675867
    neni
    43 Posts

    Yes, we do the longer distances to FAI and CDV (heli week) by plane. The flights and accommodation are already booked. Gonna add Valdez and Juneau to the to do list of a future AK vacation 😀

    The car will be to get around in FAI (if needed at all, not sure yet), and for day trips around ANC and to Girdwood. Interestingly, B&B owners of FAI and Girdwood both recommended to rent an AWD…

    Thanks for the tips! Booked a tourguide and Glacier City Snowmobile Tours.

    Any info on Alyeska? The outer area still is closed… I guess the recent storm didn’t deliver enough snow. Is it still worth to spend some time there? (not interested in groomers) Are there tree runs? We never get to ride trees but I assume it’s fun, so it would be cool to try. Or are snow conditions bad and I’m better off to plan to tour every day?

    Jones Solution 152 / Phantom Alpha / Dynafit TLT6 Mountain CL
    (Spark Afterburner / Deeluxe XV)

    #675868
    D-GREEN
    336 Posts

    At this point… Tour everyday! Outer areas are still all closed. The North Face is pretty much the only treed area on the mountain, and it has not opened nor does it look like it will open this season. It is still snowing now though so keep your fingers crossed.

    #675869
    davidr
    102 Posts

    Thanks for the info everyone, I’m going to be there april 10th-22nd. Plan is anchorage, girdwood, and valdez. Try to get a good day of heli the rest splitting.

    Some more info I’ve consolidated;
    (from another thread here)

    “Anchorage IS quite close to Alaska, only a 1/2 hour away. For starters, check out snowsavage’s “Sunsets in the Frontcountry Chugach” in the TRs here. That should keep you busy til you find a car and can get out of Anchorage. Then drive South about an hour to Turnagain Pass and start with Tincan Peak. It’s easy to find… A small parking lot on the left hand side at the top of the pass and generally filled with cars. There’s a superhighway/skintrack to the top, and usually enough people there that you don’t really need a partner. The next mountain down, Sunburst, has a lot of activity too and is a longer run. Then there’s Magnum, Cornbiscuit, Movieland, Twin Peaks, Silvertip and on and on. And that’s just on the left hand side of the highway! On the right hand side is Sunnyside which is motorized. That means bring a six pack or some gas money and hitch a ride up on a sled to some SICK bowls.
    When you graduate from Turnagain and can really get out of Anchorage, drive 6 hours North to VALDEZ! You’ll figure it out from there. Hope that helps and see ya in March

    Don’t know much about riding around Arctic Valley. I believe you can take the lift up and skin from the top though.
    As far as Hatchers Pass, it’s as far from Anchorage as Turnagain… just in the opposite direction. It is awesome though with lots of easy access riding. Do Not be talked into April Bowl though! It’s a long approach for short runs in a bowl that is notorious for avalanching.
    Snowsavage’s TR talked of making turns after work in Anchorage. So it fits the 9-5 thing. I generally work nights and weekends myself. PM me when you get here and we’ll try and get some turns in… I can pick you up on the way to Hatchers if I head up that way. Peace”

    Good pictures for Valdez area mountains – http://retirement2valdez.blogspot.com/2013/03/migrant-workers.html

    I got Joe Stock’s and Kinney’s books too been reading through

    #675870
    neni
    43 Posts

    Fairbanks was worth the visit, the one night aurora quest was a lucky punch, had a great northern lights show 😀
    Now staying in Girdwood, weatherforcast announced bluebird the entire week – yay. Not a lot snow at sea level, but heard people saying that at Turagain Pass the snow is good…
    Gotta say, really love Alaska so far. People are super nice and helpful, day after day sunshine, and the food is just splendid – oh… all this seafood!

    Jones Solution 152 / Phantom Alpha / Dynafit TLT6 Mountain CL
    (Spark Afterburner / Deeluxe XV)

    #675871
    neni
    43 Posts

    @peacefrog wrote:

    If you’ve got the skills to take care of yourself in the swiss alps then you can take care of your self in AK (at least from a touring perceptive). Though a tour guide will save you a lot of time and will get you access to thing that you wouldn’t do without someone letting you know “it’s ok, the line goes”.

    I’m very glad we took a guide. We would never had dropped into that line if he wouldn’t had said “it’s ok” 😆
    Even though I read about how different the snowpack is and about the low level avy danger at the moment here, it’s just… my eyes and judgement are adapted to my mtns at home.

    Had a great day out on Turnagain Pass, Tin Can, Ted’s Run with wonderful warmish bluebird – yay!

    Jones Solution 152 / Phantom Alpha / Dynafit TLT6 Mountain CL
    (Spark Afterburner / Deeluxe XV)

    #675872
    D-GREEN
    336 Posts

    Powder is definitely out there, but look out for hard pack and ice. We’ve had 2 helicopter rescues in the last 4 days! Good job getting a guide.

    #675873
    davidr
    102 Posts

    I’ve heard from two people that have spent a lot of spring seasons on Thompson that a good amount of riding can be accessed by bootpack? I was going to bring my solid (just bought a 160 Venture Odin, yeah!) for a day of heli, but it sounds like I should maybe bring my snowshoes(MSR, not verts) as well? My partner will definently not be bringing snowshoes. Any opinion?

    #675874
    D-GREEN
    336 Posts

    Most everything on Thompson Pass that I can think of is benched. Once you are on top of a bench, and at the base of the mountains, the boot packing is great! But you have to get up the bench and to those mountains. I highly recommend a split board or hitching a sled ride up. Snowshoes don’t work well hiking straight up, you need a locked heel (verts)… straight up boot packing is fine though.

    #675875
    davidr
    102 Posts

    @D-GREEN wrote:

    Most everything on Thompson Pass that I can think of is benched. Once you are on top of a bench, and at the base of the mountains, the boot packing is great! But you have to get up the bench and to those mountains. I highly recommend a split board or hitching a sled ride up. Snowshoes don’t work well hiking straight up, you need a locked heel (verts)… straight up boot packing is fine though.

    Thanks.

    Is there a toilet on the pass?

    #675876
    D-GREEN
    336 Posts

    Yes. Public bathrooms at the Tsaina lodge, portable toilets at Tailgate, and forest service bathrooms at Worthington Glacier (which may, or may not, be locked up for the winter).

    #675877
    davidr
    102 Posts

    How has the touring been around there? 30 percent chance of rain on Sunday? Thompson pass has been real good but we want to check out some different terrain. Rode hatcher last thurs. What a state!!

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