When it came time to head to Valdez for April, I called up a girlfriend of mine that I knew would be perfect for this mission, Nicole Mansfield, a badass skier, professional kayaker and all around fun lady. It didn’t take too much convincing and she was in. I left Crested Butte, picked her up in Alta, Utah. We packed my truck full of ski, kayak and camping gear and we were on our way. We stopped outside of Banff, Canada and skied in the Lake Louise area. We had a great day with good snow and were tempted to stay for a little to ski there. But after getting a report of Valdez, I knew we had to get there because it was even bigger and better. So we kept on going, driving late in the night to early morning, sleeping in the front seats up my Tacoma and not stopping for too much. One night while driving in Northern British Columbia at 2 am, I saw my first view of the Northern Lights. It blew my mind and didn’t stop smiling the entire night.
As we drove down Thompsons Pass into Valdez, our minds were blown. It was the biggest, most beautiful, gnarly mountains we had ever seen. Within 12 hours of arriving in Valdez we were scrambling to put all the gear together that we needed for a winter ski camping mission. Our buddies who were locals were leaving on this mission and wanted us to come. We were not prepared for winter camping in Alaska but packed what we had and made do.
We spent the rest of that day climbing a couple thousand feet up the bench to our camp spot. Nicole and I didn’t have lightweight gear so our packs (double packs actually, one strapped to the other) were super heavy, probably half our body weight. But we made it and dug out our tent spot & kitchen. We spent the night watch the sunset over the mountains.
Throughout the next 6 days, we skied some amazing lines for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This was one of the most amazing times of my life. Skiing sick lines in Alaska with amazing friends. We had 2 zones to ski from the area we camped. We would wake up every morning and either eat breakfast at camp or take it with us and head out for the day. We would ski 2-3 runs a day and get back to camp to watch the sunset every night while eating a hot meal. Every day was blue bird and every night the stars covered the sky. There was a few night we stayed up late enough to catch an amazing North Lights show. The nights were very cold and you constantly had to be doing something to keep warm. Since Nicole and I didn’t have the best gear for this kind of mission, we were struggling with staying warm. We had a 3 season tent, +15 degree sleeping bags and a mat the sucked the heat right out of my back while I was trying to sleep. It was definitely a struggle at times but totally worth it! I knew that I would do it again in a heart beat and, in fact, it is what I want to do for the rest of my life.