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Old 07-04-2013, 01:45 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question why not Alaska...

News from the pow holiday planning front. Thanks to all the helpful replies over here http://www.snowboardingforum.com/gen...at-skills.html I was close to booking cat holiday in the Revy/Golden area. But as it looks like now, I won't be able to get days off in 2014 until April. I'll pospone the BC trip to a year I can get days off earlier.

After reading tigres post here http://www.snowboardingforum.com/mee...-go-alone.html I thought... uhmmm.... Alaksa... why not Alaska...?

Ok, begin from scratch. April would be a good time to go there. The flight time to Anchorage is insignificantly longer than to Calgary (20hrs instead of 16hrs), price is the same. So far so good. Replace the cat by a heli. Sounds tempting. So far I found out that the snow is rather heavy, runs are long, timberline is low and days are short. Tried to dig for Alaska threads but they're either very old or a complete mess to read since half of the posts in there are vanished (we WON'T elaborate on this).

Got about 14-20days to spend. In April. Still a mid advanced rider. Still want to spend as much time as possible in the deep. Mix of sidecountry (inbound goods in resorts?), split hiking, heli.

Anyone recently done a heli trip there? How did you proceede? Book a package in advance or stay there and wait for good wheather and book at short hand? Are seats available last minute at all? What are your experiences? Lodges you recommend? Any recommendations/hints are very welcome. Why would a trip to AK be a good idea and why not?
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Old 07-04-2013, 03:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Replace the cat by a heli. Sounds tempting. So far I found out that the snow is rather heavy, runs are long, timberline is low and days are short.
You can do cat or sled-assisted runs here as well, to stretch your budget (or in case of weather). The further from the coast you are, and the higher your elevation, the drier the snow is. In the Chugach Range it's unlikely to be Utah-style champagne powder, that time of year especially, but our heavier snow sticks to steeper faces and is generally more stable.

Treeline around here is about 2000ft. At the Pass you'll be doing 1500-2000ft vertical runs. From town there are runs that people walk to from their houses that are 4000+ feet. By April 1st we'll have light from 6:30am to 8pm. By the end of the month it'll be 5am to 9pm. Good chance of blue skies and decent temps that time of year.

Quote:
Got about 14-20days to spend. In April. Still a mid advanced rider. Still want to spend as much time as possible in the deep. Mix of sidecountry (inbound goods in resorts?), split hiking, heli.
The only large resort in the state is in Girdwood, about an hour south of Anchorage. They also have heli and cat skiing over there. Turnagain Pass, a bit south of Girdwood, is the place for splitting around there (also Hatcher's Pass, an hour and a half or so north of Anchorage). They tend to have better visibility over there in general than Thompson Pass and Valdez. There must be something good about Valdez though, or all those people from Anchorage wouldn't come over here to ride. You could also fly into Juneau and go to Haines instead.

With that much time you could easily hit a few different spots. Maybe go down to Girdwood for a week, take the ferry to Valdez, for another week, then drive back to Hatcher's for a few days on the way back to Anchorage. It's common (for good reason) to rent an RV instead of spending money on both lodging and a rental car. The roads should be mostly okay, and I assume you're comfortable driving on snow and ice. Some of the heli packages include lodging, though. Talk to a few guide companies to get a handle on what your best option is.

As far as your skill level goes, there's all sorts of terrain accessible to heli skiers. Some of it is a little silly, as people pay for heli lifts up runs they could skin in a couple of hours from the road. Some of the front range stuff can get tracked out, but you've got lots of terrain to choose from. They'll usually take you on a mellow test run to see if you're an idiot (and make sure your gear is dialed) before taking you on more challenging runs. From what you've said in previous posts it sounds like you'll be just fine and have a lot of fun.

Look for blogs or guide websites for the areas you're looking at for pictures and videos of the various runs. The Tailgate Alaska site is another good one (they also have lots of videos on YouTube). Here's one for Thompson Pass that has good information and videos (though I don't like the guy who runs the site): www.thompsonpass.com
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:50 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks a lot for this overview!

The hint with the RV is interesting - hopefully they've got good heating . I'm convenient with driving on snow on steep tracks, will check that option.

How busy is your area around Easter? Do hotels/flights tend to be fully booked early? (sometimes I think, half of Europe travels to or through Switzerland at Easter...)

Checked several heli operators around Valdez and Haines. From what I read, I'd say I tend to an operator with an own lodge. You get to know the people you ride with better if you stay in the same lodge. Big part of holiday trips is to share the experiences you had during the day at the evening with a beer. Preferably with the heli port right at the lodge (reduce transport time).
The prices for 7day packages vary hugely. Quality has it's prize... I wouldn't want to book with a budget operator exploiting their guides or -dunno- only having access to odd lot runs. But sometimes, the higher price you pay goes more into marketing and back office than into the proximate improvement of the experience... Hard to judge from here. Is there a particular reason you recommended "Alaska Snowboard Guides" in the other thread? Also for heliboarding?
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Last edited by neni; 07-05-2013 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 07-07-2013, 06:01 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Booked! 7day heli package in Cordova in April


Now I really need some advice on big mountain boards for the husband.

190lbs, 6ft, boot size 9, expert level - but a noob if it comes to gear knowkedge. He laughs at me making a fuss and doing research if I buy a new board. He goes to a shop, asks for the most aggressive model they have in stock and then rides it for two seasons and doesn't botter too much. "It's just a board" (oh, I hate him for this...) anyway...

Read that one should bring the biggest version of a model (renting is not a good option I think. You want to ride gear you're used to)

- Nidecker Megalight 167XL (waist width 26.5),
- Rad Air Tanker e.g. 172 (25.8),
- Jones Carbon Flagship (according to the homepage the 164 (25.4) is the biggest. Wouldn't that be too close to the Raptor 164 (25.3) he rides now?) or
- Flagship 168W (26.2),
- Ride Highlife UL, but the 172W is very wide (27.2)

Pretty sure that none of them would be available on demo days... might be able to organize a Megalight and Tanker to demo. Any hints are appreciated!

Which one would be best suited for AK pow and also be fun bombing morning groomers and alpine sidecountry on deep days at home? (The Raptor would backup for the afternoon crud at home)

I assume the main tradeoffs are that you give up agility with lengh and response with waist width... how would e.g. a Tanker ride, being long and rather narrow compared to a wide Highlife?

I assume, I'd be ok with my Flagship 158 (120lbs)...
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Last edited by neni; 07-07-2013 at 06:09 AM.
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Old 07-07-2013, 09:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I would go with anything that has a bit of a powder riding design to it.

Does the heli operation have rentals? A lot of them carry powder boards and skis they consider best for their terrain. Might be the way to go.

Congrats. Looks like an awesome trip.
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Old 07-07-2013, 12:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Is he going to be able to bring his Raptor and the new board? If so why not do something more specific like the Jones Hovercraft, k2 Ultra Dream, or Salomon Powder Snake. I mean the Raptor can handle a lot of terrain, so why not do a board that can add to his quiver.
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Old 07-08-2013, 02:47 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neni View Post
Booked! 7day heli package in Cordova in April
Congrats! Sorry I didn't answer your other post, I was out of town doing a backpacking trip over the weekend.

Curious about how you settled on Cordova. Expect pretty wet snow there in April (any time of year, really). They're way out on the Gulf Coast, so they stay fairly warm all winter, at least at sea level. How are you getting out there? Flying from Anchorage or taking the ferry? The guide you're booked with may be of some help in getting you there.

Quote:
Read that one should bring the biggest version of a model
Not sure what that means. I'd think the Raptor would work fine. No real need for a new board for this trip unless you're just looking to spend more money.

Quote:
I assume, I'd be ok with my Flagship 158 (120lbs)...
That should work well.
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:08 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Curious about how you settled on Cordova.
After reading many operator homepages I got somehow dizzy by all the superlatives and the sheer amount of words as "epic"/"unique" . Points North Heli Skiing in Alaska - Points North Heli-Adventures, Inc. was highly recommended to me by someone who's been there, thus I had a close look at them. Haven't found a negative review so far. I liked the facts that they have several helis (allowing to make distinct groups for different riding abilities), have an own lodge, down days can be spent touring or in the close by little resort that seem to offer sidecountry opportunities, reasonable price, less superlatives (yes, I know, "honesty" IS a marketing strategy too), and I really like that you'll ride with a radio as safety backup. I'm sure all companies do whatever is necessary to get the most out of such a trip but I had to pull the trigger on something.

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Originally Posted by tigre View Post
How are you getting out there? Flying from Anchorage or taking the ferry?
I'm not sure yet. It would be an option to fly directly to Cordova from Seattle some days ahead of the heli week and spend some days riding Mt. Eyak to get rid of the jet lag, get used to the snow and fine adjust the setup. Or we could fly to Anchorage and visit Alyeska (maybe find a shop where they sell Venture splitboards ). Would it be worth to take the ferry? I guess, the snowy coast line could be beautiful scenery. I still need to get used to the distances over yours . What looks pretty close as the crow flies on a map can take forever in reality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tigre View Post
Not sure what that means. I'd think the Raptor would work fine. No real need for a new board for this trip unless you're just looking to spend more money.
One of the guides recomnended that with his 190lbs, he should bring something "not under 168" I'll take my Flagship for sure. I don't want to start an argue whether or not the Raptor is a good board. It is! But he wants to buy a -some notches more aggressive- hybrid camber board anyway, not just for the trip.
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Last edited by neni; 08-07-2013 at 07:27 AM.
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Old 08-07-2013, 07:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Cos the trip from CH to AK will take about 23hrs (stops at Seattle), I tend to add some days in Alyeska since its the closest resort to the airport I found (Google estimates 50minutes drive from the Achorage airport). Is that reliable? How are the roads usually end of March?
Havent found a lot about Alyeska (the threads are either old or "damaged"). Anyone been thre recently? Worth to spend some days there? Opportunities to ride some more pow?
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Old 08-07-2013, 11:16 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Alyeska is it in AK for major resorts. There are a couple smaller hills in Anchorage that are mostly just locals I guess. If you like resorts I guess you'll like it there. Late March is a good time. Try to be there on a weekday if you can. It can get crowded on weekends that time of year. I know Snow Wolf goes there quite a bit, hopefully he'll chime in, or maybe send him a message.

The road from Anchorage should be in good condition (depends on weather, of course), but is statistically fairly dangerous. People veering out of their lane or passing at bad places cause some serious accidents there. Just pay attention while you're driving, and pull off if you want to stare at the scenery. There is also a risk that an avalanche will close the road. The odds that it will happen while you're there are probably fairly low, but it's a possibility. If a bad accident or avalanche causes a road closure, there's no other route.

There's good backcountry riding in that area too, if you're going to have your splitboard with you, both around Girdwood and down at Turnagain Pass.
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