Alaska – Alyeska – Day 3 (Learning the language)

Panorama of Alyeska from the top

Panorama of Alyeska from the top

Day three started out how I imagine Snow White’s day starts except instead of seven dwarfs, there were six average sized Minnesotans busily cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. Like the Paper St. house in Fight Club, our rented home was abuzz with activity. I was once again carried to the kitchen on the wafts of wonderful breakfast sandwiches made by our resident chef, Tracy. I’m not one for food as soon as I wake, but damn it all if waking up to english muffins, ham, eggs, and cheese toasted together didn’t take a slightly peckish man to outright voracious. Those of us who had rented skis kept them overnight in order to extradite the next day’s skiing. Well feed and having a clear idea of what to expect we set out to the hill, this time in two car loads since there was even more gear from the day before. We proccureed our lift passes and Byron spoke to the staff where to go first. There was a small traverse to a south side bowl with wide open fresh powder. Oh, the glory.

Open range for the taking.

Open range for the taking.

I was told to skate along the ridge until I saw my line. Anything can be a line in a bowl so I simply dropped in when I was tired of the traverse. The snow was awesome, but my camera goggles (made for MX not cold weather) became increasingly fogged. I lost the rest of the group as my visibility worsened. I decided to rent a locker and ditch some of my clothing and grab my other goggles which didn’t have a camera but were made for the snowy conditions. This considerably improved my eye sight and back to the hill I went.

Happily my group skiied directly under me on my way up the lift and very quickly I caught up to them at the top of the hill. Byron had found out Max’s Run was about to be opened. “Max’s Run” is not what the slope is called on the map. Before it was open to general public, someone was dropped off at the top by a lite plane, raced the flying.motorized.PLANE  down the mountain on skis, and WON. His name was Max ergo “Max’s Run”. Now as I mentioned before Byron had the inside line on the mountain and knew it like the back of his hand, however there was some minor communication breakdowns when he explained how to get hither and thither. Example: We’re standing on the edge of the traverse asking Byron how to get to the fresh powder on the chutes somewhere out of sight. He would say something like, “Well you’re gonna follow the hockey stick across the gnar gnar until you hit the knuckles (or knucks) which will put you down the fingers where all the sick pow pow is.” and then off he would go. Translated: Follow the  traverse (hockey stick) across the avalanche wash-out (gnar gnar) until you arrive at the rocky outcroppings (knuckles/knucks) where you can drop into the chutes (fingers) for the fresh powder (pow pow). It made sense as you made your way along, but it was kind of like following a pirate’s treasure map without a key.  So Byron leads us along the hockey stick directly behind the ski patrol, when out of no where a snow boarder (not one of ours) dropped in from a

Josh on Max's Run

Josh on Max’s Run

above knocking me off the traverse and sent me tumbling through the pow pow. Again, not an altogether unpleasent experience until you stop and realize how far down from the traverse you are an doubly aware you can’t simply walk back up nor can you ski down due to the canyon bellow. The rest of the group continued on without knowledge of my snowy blunder (I did find out later the same snowboarder proceeded in his carelessness and nearly took out a few more on his way to Max’s Run), and I was left waist deep in powder wonder what the hell gnar gnar was. Happily Brandt, another from our group, saw my predicament and called down to me. He apparently spoke “Byronese” and explained how to  get to the gate for Max’s Run. After floundering for a bit I got my legs under me and glided across the unbroken sea of flakes to the gate. Somehow I out paced Brandt and found Kelly and Josh waiting at the top of a pine/aspen grove.

It had begun snowing mighty flakes and Max’s Run was laid out before us as though Ullr made it just for us. We hewed our way through the small trees lapping up the perfect snow. Visibility had significantly dropped; there were a few mishaps as a result. Kelly ejected both his skis in a tumble (Josh is looking for Kelly in the picture above). We almost had to abandon them since Josh and I couldn’t get closer to help in the search and in waist deep snow skis are remarkable elusive. Gladly Kelly found them and on we went. We came out at on a cat track Kelly and Josh didn’t see coming. BAM! From powder, to drop, to

Cat Track Behind Josh

Cat Track Behind Josh

groomer. They were laid out. I saw their demise and avoided the same fate.

The rest of the day went like the day before. We enjoyed the powder until it was spent, ate at the Sitzmark, hit the slopes until we were spent and headed back to the house for more competition (this time pool) and food.

Daily Recap: Speak your guide’s language, check your six for snowboarders in deep snow, and let someone else lead the way when you are unsure.

Drive fast, take chances, and thanks for reading.

-Danger

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