Last night I participated in fun Anchorage spring time ritual for a small group of local die hard skiers. After a partner texted me the other day that late evening conditions were prime on the S-Couloir on Ptarmigan Peak, I waited for a weather window to have a go. In spite of the weather gurus predicting nothing but rain for the next 10 days, yesterday cleared perfectly in the afternoon and at 7pm, I made a call and secured a mountain bike for the approach.
The Powerline Trail is as buffed as a wide dirt bike path gets. From the parking lot to the base of the run it only gains about 600 vertical feet in 3 miles. With the huge snow pack this season, the trail is still wet with some tongues of snow crossing small sections requiring some hike-a-bike. The bike I borrowed sported aggressive treads and I got plenty wet crashing through the small creeks along the way. Warm temperatures make this little issue.
Like a complete dork, I donned an eclectic selection of outerwear for the task. Skimo race boots, knee high ski socks with cycling shorts created quite the fashion ensemble. I used my CAMP Rapid 260 race pack with a shell and helmet and carried my La Sportiva race skis and Dynafit carbon poles. It doesn't get much lighter for a ski outing.
I was stashing the bike in less than 20 minutes and, after hiking over a small moraine, was booting with crampons up perfect summer snow 10 minutes later. I was at the top at about 1:05 after leaving the car. It was around 9:30 at night and the sun was still high over the horizon. The skiing was surprisingly good with a few easy to miss runnels to keep it interesting. My friends like to catch the run down even later to enjoy full sun on the run and a pink alpenglow to light their way. This is the only time of the year this line gets full sun.
I was back at the bike in less than 15 minutes, stopping only to greet some other skiers who were similarly inclined. The ride back was fun now that I was losing that gradual 600 feet before the trail kicked up to the parking lot. Round trip in about 1:45. Kind of a long way to go for 5 minutes of skiing but the combination of mountain biking, perfect Alaskan evening light, a nice aerobic burn and some good turns on a classic alpine peak makes it a must do for me. I'll be back.
One interesting gear note was ski choice. Most of the Alaskans I've met are quite dubious about my ski and clothing choices which, as you know, are driven by the fast and light mind set. They really don't get it. Not that they have to, mind you. But aside from heli skiing in Valdez or Haines, I'm not sure the huge skis are all that necessary. I guess I'll wait and see after a winter here. But I can say with conviction that fat skis are completely unnecessary on summer snow. Still, one of my fellow snow chasers that evening was booting with Dynafit Stokes on his back. Contrast that with my 160cm, 64mm underfoot race skis and the difference is, well, different. Truth be told, race skis rip just fine in that kind of snow and are a dream to ride and climb with on my back.
Dave Bass, one of my partners and seriously fast guy has expressed interest in a pair of older race skis of mine. I'm thinking he may be my first convert. The hook will be set. Ha! - Brian