I first heard about the legendary big mountain freeriding and ski scene near Valdez, Alaska after watching a segment from Teton Gravity Research’s 2012 “Dream Factory.”
Heli skiing the Chugach Mountains had long been a dream of mine, but after watching “Dream Factory” I was especially enchanted with the idea of going to the place where it all began. I wanted to make it to Valdez, where the mountains were endless, the lines big, and the powder deep.
And then, this winter, suddenly the stars aligned. After a week of plotting with a friend, I had a plane ticket in my hands and helicopter time reserved with Alaska Snowboard Guides.
This was it. My heli ski dreams were coming true. Spring 2013 would prove to be the year I would ski the biggest, baddest lines and the deepest powder of my entire life.
First Time Heli Jitters
It’s hard to explain the mixture of nerves, anxiety, excitement and adrenaline that’s pumping through your body before you load the helicopter for the first time.
Luckily, my previous backcountry experience and the incredibly knowledgeable guides at Alaska Snowboard Guides made me feel way more at ease. I knew that my safety and a good time were top priorities for the staff at ASG.
Heli Skiing and the Post Chugach High
As the helicopter took off and I watched the Alaska Snowboard Guides’ base disappear below me, I was instantly enthralled by the sheer scale and expanse of the Chugach Mountains. Huge, steep peaks packed with powder, and large glacial fields seemed to stretch out endlessly before me.
He then banked hard, heading back toward a thin crown of granite to what seemed like an impossible landing spot. He set us down on small patch of snow, and we crawled out and crouched in in front of the heli, a cliff just feet behind us.
My guide, Dan Caruso (who I dubbed Valdez’s own International Man of Mystery), fished our gear out of the basket and then the pilot dive-bombed, the heli plummeting out of view.
Eight long runs, and eight nerve-racking and exciting heli rides later, I found myself back at ASG basecamp with a huge smile plastered to my face. My cheeks hurt from smiling so big. And I knew, deep in my belly, that Alaska had become the place you’ll find me every Spring, money squirreled away throughout the year for helicopter time, for many years to come.
Have you ever been heliskiing in Alaska? Share your stories in the comments below!