Valdez 2014

I was reminded that Thompson Pass is a notch above Turnagain Pass on the Alaska Factor scale. As if you gave Turnagain an injection of bigger, steeper and deeper. Ski roids. Turnagain does have one major advantage over Thompson Pass though: some restrictions on motors. Thompson Pass is a free for all, and motors win.  

Elisabeth came up from Calgary for a Valdez Ski Week with me. This was our fourth ski trip together including an Anchorage Ski Week in 2009, an Ortler Traverse in 2011 and an Anchorage Ski Week in 2012. Skiing with Elisabeth is serious business: she doesn't get tired. Thompson Pass is a logical place to burn energy.  

Tok Thai is the best food between Anchorage and Valdez. Tok Thai is actually located in Glennallen, not Tok. It's just cheaper to keep the sign when you relocate. 

 

Most skiing in Valdez takes place at Thompson Pass, 30 miles up the Richardson Highway from Valdez. 

 

Remnants of the late January Damalanche. This massive avalanche blocked off Keystone Canyon, dammed the Lowe River and cut off road access to Valdez for two weeks. The debris is still 40 feet deep. 

 

Of course we stayed with Anna Wilson (left) at her bed and breakfast. 

 

Skiing in Valdez is unique because of two reasons. The first is geology. The rock around Thompson Pass is tipped on edge, creating hundreds of chutes. The second is the maritime snow climate. Valdez is the snowiest town in the US. Each winter a thick layer of snow pastes to the mountains. As each storms clears, and cold air flows in from the north, the snow dries into stable powder. 

 

Warm up on day one: 7,000 feet near Cracked Ice. We found acres of powder, but no cracks. The low-elevation glaciers around Thompson Pass have few dangerous crevasses in April. 

 

On the summit of Cracked Ice with our first run behind. This third run would be 4,500 vertical feet straight to the road. 

 

Elisabeth skis from the summit of Cracked Ice. 

 

Another huge day up the Worthington and over to the Hoodoo. 

 

Hoodoo!

 

Powder runs in the Hoodoo!

 

Instead of tree skiing during flat light, skiers at Thompson Pass head for the chutes. The rock walls act like lanterns on the snow. We skied five chutes over two days. Here's Elisabeth on our first chute, a 45-degree run of 1,400 vertical feet on Stairway near Diamond Peak. 

 

Another powdery chute.  

 

And another chute of perfect steep skiing. 

 

A three-run linkup of creamed corn around Loveland Basin on our last tour of the trip before driving back to Anchorage. Thanks for a great week Elisabeth!