Saturday, March 24, 2012

Alaska Mountain Wilderness SKI Classic: the first two

This years marks the 25th birthday of the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic, an event that begins early next month in the Brooks Range.

The first race was in 1987 across the Chugach Range from Eureka Roadhouse to Valdez. The route was the idea of a couple Valdez adventurers (Brian Teale and John Weiland), whom I thought would show up, if that was the route.

But they didn't show up, of course, and the route had avalanche danger, so the second year course was through the Alaska Range, "the Denali Dash".

The Dash Route (1988-1990) was the route I had envisioned since 1981 and the route that Audun Endestadt and I skied in 1986 in about 3.5 days, making two, 12 hour camps en route (Black rapids Pass; Susitna-West Fork Pass). That was an amazing ski trip and the route is a great nordic mountaineering adventure: up the Black Rapids, down the Susitna, over to the Gillam or over to the West Fork and the down the Yanert. This is the route Luc et al did in the summer classic across moraine, bare ice, and river by foot and packraft last summer in the 2011 Classic.

But as a ski trip in springtime it is a TRUE classic.


  1. Bummed that I can't do the ski classic this year, I was thinking today about a possible linkage of winter ski routes, south to north, from Valdez to wherever only the most sadistically dedicated winter wilderness savant would dare travel on skis. Perhaps Kaktovik? Think: one could tour through the Chugach, Talkeetnas, and Alaska Range on previously done routes, then ski even further, up into the Fortymile highlands, follow that big river for a bit up to Fort Yukon, then slog north into the Brooks Range, and if all goes well, bust through and coast into Kaktovik. Obvious resupplies and perhaps two different ski setups would be required, as would a rather questionable individual (or team) to pull off the feat in a few months, across the spectrum of Alaskan winter weather. Feasible?

  2. Don't you have a thesis to write!

  3. Why did Comstock take that ride into town?

  4. @ Casey: If I recall, his feet hurt, everyone else took off running, he din't like to run, and the road finish into town seemed dumb.

    There might have been a friend who spotted him on the road and he preferred to spend the time in the vehicle with him.

    My recollection....

  5. Those were good times back in the 80's! Good for you Roman, keeping the dream alive. Brian Scarborough.

  6. As Chuck and I were skiing down the glacier, he asked me what my best 10k time was better than his. Why run, and deal with the pain of running after skiing when the effort is futile? Chuck was smarter than that.

    1. Thanks Brian. Where are you these days?

    2. Denver. My 'outdoors' project is rebuilding a full size snowcat to play in the backcountry...powder skiing and general access into remote areas. Call me lazy in my old age! Did not get it running for this season, but will have it ready to go for next.

    3. Good to hear from you Brian, sounds like things are staying interesting for you.


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