Can Skiing Save Valdez, Alaska?

What happens when an oil town runs out of oil? What if that town happens to access some of the best skiing in the world? We sent Devon O'Neil to Valdez, Alaska, to report on just that for a story in our November issue. This is what he saw.
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What happens when an oil town runs out of oil? What if that town happens to access some of the best skiing in the world? We sent Devon O'Neil to Valdez, Alaska, to report on just that for a story in our November issue. This is what he saw.

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This is a view of a region called the Iguana Backs. Valdez Heli-Ski Guides can you to this terrain, to ski 1,500-foot-long couloirs of creamy Chugach powder. I'm currently spending two weeks parked in an RV at Valdez Heli-Ski Guides with two of the best telemark skiers in the country—Paul Kimbrough and Jake Sakson, who recently first and second, respectively, in the Telemark Freeskiing World Championships, which was held at Alyeska, Alaska, last weekend. Also with us is in the RV is Jonah Howell, who is filming footage for Powderwhore Productions, a telemark-specific ski movie. During downtime in the RV, I asked Paul and Jake for some pointers on skiing steep terrain on telemark gear. Find out their tips and check out photos from our trip in the next few slides.

Valdez, Alaska

In 1993, ski legend Doug Coombs opened Alaska's first heli-ski operation in Valdez. Skiing Magazine's Megan Michelson is currently spending two weeks in an RV parked at Valdez Heli Ski Guides with two of the best telemark skiers in the country. Here are photos from their trip—along with pointers on how to ski Alaskan-style steeps.

The down time worked, and we headed off in generally good spirits toward our final objective. We made our advanced base camp at snow line, in the midst of what might vary well be the best trundling zone in the world. Although we couldn’t muster the energy to hike any further, we easily found enough energy to roll massive rocks for a solid hour before going to bed. Our final ski day lacked the trepidation of the other ski days—there wasn’t a sense of urgency and we made a couple of laps on generally mellow slopes. It had the feeling of a fun spring day at a podunk resort rather than another day on a month long odyssey. As we headed back down to the rafts, the skiing behind us, I was overcome with a sense of relief. The trip wasn’t done by any means, but I felt the hardest, most dangerous part of the trip was behind us.

Dream Trips: Alaska

What's your dream ski trip? Griffin Post, Drew Stoecklein, Todd Ligare, and Lars Chickering-Ayers attempt to ski and raft from a river's source to the sea in Alaska's Brooks Range.

When Doug Coombs opened Valdez Heli Ski Guides in 1993, it was the first heli-ski outfitter in Alaska. Now owned and operated by Scott Raynor, VHSG has access to over 2,500 square miles of glaciated terrain, with one run as long as 6,200 vertical feet (it's called the Diamond, and if you're lucky, you'll get to ski off the top). You can book single-day packages starting at $925 (for six runs) or all-inclusive weeklong packages from $7,640. Find out more or book a trip at Valdezheliskiguides.com.

Valdez Heli-Ski Guides

Do whatever it takes: refinance your home, sell your kidney, get a telemarketing job. But at some point in your life, you need to go heli-skiing in Alaska. Here are photos from a day with Valdez Heli-Ski Guides—to show you why it's worth saving for.

Because it's light so late in the day, you can ski until 8 p.m. in daylight, and then keep skiing until 9 p.m. under the lights at Alyeska. They run Chair 1 until 9 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturday, which lets you access not just groomers, but also short, steep pitches, pillow lines, and mini hucks directly under the chair. Plus, a night-skiing lift ticket costs just $35. In this photo: Shaun Raskin and Paige Brady embrace the storm while riding Alyeska's Chair 1 at around 8 p.m.

Alyeska, Alaska: What To Do While You're There

When you think of skiing in Alaska, you might think about helicopters and film crews. But don't forget about Alyeska, one of the state's few ski areas. The mountain has received 714 inches of snow this winter—and counting. Here's what you'll do while you're there—from night skiing to dining on all-you-can-eat sourdough pancakes.