We skied and camped 20 days on the glaciers near Denali. It was clear, calm and very cold. We found the good snow. You had to know where to look.
Alaska had arctic conditions and snow pack with temps down to -27C at night on -16C during the day. At that temperature, the snow recycles into sugary powder. There were only 2 other people in the entire Alaska Range.
We have a 17 foot Hilleberg Atlas with a full liner, floor and vestibule which provides us all the comforts of home in style and comfort. We have a heater, built in snow furniture, tables, oven, stoves, music, movies, solar panel. We eat Shabu shabu, Beef Stoganoff, fresh baked bread, bagels, cookies, scones, Halibut and Salmon in Beurre Blanc sauce.
Our first camp was at Backside Lake, a low elevation lake at the end of the Backside Glacier. A couple of local Alaskan friends had suggested it, and you should always listen to the locals. It turned out great because it was protected and calm when the rest of the Range had big wind. It was cold: between -20 and 4F, but sunny.
After ten days, we went to Anchorage to recuperate and reprovision. Staying at Airbnb’s worked great because we had a washing machine, garage, and space to dry out the tents. It really changes the whole expedition.
Next we took Leighan’s suggestion that Little Switzerland, on Pika might be protected and it worked out great. Leighan is a pilot with Talkeetna Air Taxi and a skier and former climbing guide. She is awesome and has helped us out with beta on the conditions in the range. It took us a day to find the goods, but the snow was great. We explored over the passes into the next valley and found a great zone which we named Shangri-La. Trying to get back home from Shangri-La Valley over the pass we were blocked by this massive crevasse and a huge serac.
The Alaska Range has the best skiing of any place in the world. There is no where you can make 60 turns in perfect snow, straight fall line, with no bumps, changes in pitch just steps from your camp.
We explored cool crevasses. Sarah is roped up and probing to avoid falling in a hole.
I have to acknowledge our good friends in Alaska without whom we could not undertake these expeditions. Mike and Dayna Corey who we’ve known for 35 years lent us their giant Chevy Suburban for a month. Its a perfect expedition car, its huge, and we filled it to the gills. Our friend Stu Brown helps us store some of our gear which can’t be carried on the plane or shipped and helps us prepare. Our new friend Joe Stock helps us with beta and advice. He is a famous AMGA/IFMGA guide and wrote the book Alaska Factor, which is the definitive guide to backcountry skiing in Alaska. We often see him up on the glaciers with his clients. Also our friend Aaron Brown, who wrote the book, Chuting Valdez is a valuable resource for beta and advice. Thanks guys! Its great to hang out with you in Anchorage at the great restaurants.