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For as long as I can remember, I have dreamt of skiing in Alaska. It is a dream almost certainly fueled by endless hours of wasted youth; watching Warren Miller and Matchstick films, seeing legends like Nobis and Treadway ripping through the magical powder that sticks to the steep, spined out terrain of the Chugach.
I’m now half way through a three week trip to Alaska and though I’m lucky enough to have the support of some great brands behind me when it comes to traveling and skiing, the three of us on this trip are doing it all with a pretty low budget. Probably no more than most people would spend on a family ski trip to a European resort, this is our very own ‘Alaska on a shoestring’.
After packing all of our skiing, touring and glacier gear into my Snokart bags, we travelled for the the best part of 22 hours from London to Anchorage, stayed there for the night, picked up the cheapest rental car we could find (a Toyota Corolla!), threw all of our gear into it and then headed south to our first stop of Girdwood and Alaska’s only ski resort, Alyeska. The road from Anchorage to Girdwood follows the coast for about 40 miles with of some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. Mountains rising straight up out of the ice-filled sea, bald eagles perched on trees just over the road and signs warning us of bears, we knew for sure we had arrived in a wild place.
Jon and I arrived in Girdwood early in the afternoon and caught the tail end of a storm that had dumped about a metre of snow on the resort. We acquired a couple of cheap day passes off skiers that had been up that morning and went up to check out the hill. The snow was already transforming, getting heavier run by run and the clouds were closing in so light was getting flatter by the minute, with this in mind, we went back to the hostel in search of some local knowledge. We found out that we should head to Turnagain Pass, about 25 miles south of Girdwood, to ski the next day.
Turnagain didn’t disappoint, in five or so places along the road there were cars and trucks parked up, with either skin tracks or snowmobile tracks heading off into the surrounding mountains. We parked up at the trailhead of a peak called Tincan, put skins on my new 2013 Whitedot Rangers (the perfect tool for the backcountry access skiing that we were embarking on in AK) and headed up for a tour. After a 2 hour tour we had a coffee at the top, then skied from the peak, getting our first taste of Alaskan powder on the way down. The next two days we headed back to Turnagain and although the weather wasn’t quite as good, clouds rolling over and light getting flat, the snow stayed fresh and trees, in the lower part of most routes, made for some great skiing. Smiles all around, and all with great satisfaction knowing we hadn’t spent a penny so far on helicopters, snowcat skiing or snowmobiles!
We left Girdwood, via the airport to get Tom, and headed out to our main goal of skiing some classic routes in the Valdez/ Thompson Pass area. Valdez is a pretty famous place in the world of freeride skiing. It hosted the original World Extreme Skiing Championships back in the day and has featured in a whole host of ski films since. As we drove over the Thompson pass on the way into Valdez, we noticed the wind was pretty strong. We were surrounded by steep faces covered in the hallmark spines, watching as every inch of snow from the storm the week before, was being blown off those faces that we wanted to ski. Guess it wouldn’t be an Alaskan adventure without some crappy weather!
The next morning we headed out up to the pass, and started to climb up one of the routes called ‘Crudbusters.’ After not long, the ascent was getting sketchy, winds picked up and we had to cross over some slab-avalanche debris so, I found a safe place to take my skins off and headed back down to the car. Pretty disappointing for day one in a place you wanted to visit for over a decade. The next few days we re-visited the pass, but after a quick morning reccy, we drove back down to the trees in the port area to try and get some filming done, and salvage something from our time in Valdez.
After 4 days of short hikes, freezing winds and disappointing descents, we knew Valdez was a place you need to have good weather and snow, or a few weeks spare to sit waiting around for those two ingredients. The terrain you can access by skinning is awesome if you do catch good weather and are fit enough to hike for anything between 3 and 8 hours. A heli wouldn’t go a miss either; some of the spines and more interesting lines are definitely only accessible by flying in, but after all, this is our ‘Alaska on a shoestring,’ and that just wouldn’t fit.
So right now, we’re back in the Toyota; this time 4 of us with skis and gear bags, half of it strapped to the roof the other half squeezed in like a clown car. We’re heading back towards Girdwood, where snow on the pass hasn’t seen the wind and pretty excited that after a bit of shopping around, figured we can afford to spend a day or two Cat Skiing with the infamous Chugach Powder Guides…it would be a shame to come all of this way and not have a bit of a blow out…!
I’m a 25 year old free skier from Jönköping, Sweden. After spending a few years in the Austrian Alps I’m currently living and skiing in Engelberg,Switzerland.
We are a bunch of swedish skiers here in Engelberg, many who’ve been coming back for several winters and creating a really good atmosphere. This winter has been amazing so far with loads of snow, great skiing and a few trips to other places where I’ve never skied before.
I started skiing quite late. Since I’m from southern Sweden the opportunities for alpine skiing are limited, to say the least. When I was 15 years old I skied for real for the first time, up north in Sweden. I loved it immediately and since then I’ve skied as much as possible. Right now I’m living in the Alps for the fifth winter in a row. Things has gotten better and better, I’ve improved my skiing and gained a few sponsors that support me. And I haven’t gotten tired of it yet! Skiing on Whitedot skis (Redeemer and Preacher) this winter has really given me an extra boost.
I’ve always focused a lot on photographing. My father is a photographer and that interest is something that me and my younger brother Martin have also got. We’ve been skiing together in the Alps for three winters, shooting a lot. Since I’m the crazier one and he is the wiser one it has always been me in front of the camera and Martin behind. There have been many crazy jumps and great pictures since we started! This winter he decided to travel in Asia instead of skiing, but I’m continuing with my blog, skiing and shooting a lot with my good friend Björn Arnemo.
1. Last season Davide Capozzi and yourself secured a first descent down the South West face of Mont Rochefort; was this something you had wanted to do for a long time? How did you know the time was right to tackle the route?
The idea to ski this particular descent came about through Rhemy Lescluses around 2008 when he mentioned it to Davide Capozzi who then proposed it to me. We subsequently talked about it but however never found the right moment to set off. I personally didn’t feel I was ready which was most probably why we left it. 2012 was revealing for me as I felt I had reached satisfactory levels of physical, mental, technical and off piste experience sufficient to feel confident on the various terrains – off piste in the woods and the steeper slopes. We decided to ski it in winter snow conditions because had we waited for possible better spring conditions, in all likelihood the temperatures might have been too warm, the snow to scarse, exposing rocks etc.
2. Stefano, can you describe the feeling of the descent; what were the snow conditions like, did you find a higher avalanche risk than you were expecting once you were at the summit, was there a strong wind, and what time of day did you summit and then manage to start the descent?
We started from Helbronner at 9am, climbing to Colle dei Marbrees and from there we dropped to the beginning of a long slope that took us up again connecting to the foot of the slope that goes to Mont Rochefort. I knew that the most difficult part would be the climb on mixed ground to reach the snowy slope. As often happens to me however, I misjudged and underestimated the difficulty and I was hard pressed to navigate the most technical bits and stay physically protected/safe. Davide tracked all the snow slope – dividing it up between us. When we arrived at the top it was 14.30. The descent was much easier than first thought even though the snow was difficult in parts – we crossed winter snow that had been blown into crisp/crusty with some completely hard icy tracts. The inclines were in the region of 45-50 with some steeper/faster tracts – but the difficulty of this slope is due to the climb with the skis and the continual exposure to rock falls. To exit the slope we had to drop down with double ropes. We then did the ski down the last part of the Marbrees in the dark without head torches and we arrived back at the cars at around 18.00.
3. You claimed the South West face of Mont Rochefort on your Whitedot Redeemers (180cm); How did you find climbing with them and then how did the Rockered profile help on the descent?
I chose this skiing (ski run) because I had imagined that the snow conditions would be winter type and that the slope would be wide and not too fast and in fact it suited me very well. The Rockered profile is perfect for soft snow but becomes very hard going once you hit the hard stuff. During the climb the weight and encumbrance of the skis was revealing but, for me, the decent is the real objective and so I am happy to struggle a bit with the right skis.
4. You’ve recently received a pair of Limited Edition, Whitedot Redeemer CarbonLite skis; what elements of the ski do you feel will aid your style of skiing and ski mountaineering the most, what has struck you most when comparing the skis?
I find that at my level of skiing, the Whitedot Redeemer CarbonLite (180cm) is perfect for 30 to 50 grade in soft snow conditions and their structure permits me to slide fast without needing to hook the external metal, to curve/corner nimbly working tip and tail to gain the best from the centre of the skis to maintain good speed, thanks to the strength of the structure of the skis which is superior to the ones I normally use for hard snow. When I descend below 35 and pick up speed, I prefer to have skis without Rockered profile – longer, stronger with a flat tail and less point. But the majority of the time I ski down steep, technical, winter slopes and the Redeemer are perfect and give me a lot of satisfaction.
5. Lastly, we know you are continually looking for the next summit, the next adventure; what is it about ski mountaineering that drives you to continually push yourself and the limits? What have you got in the pipeline for this season?
I have lots of projects in mind because Monte Blanc offers many possibilities. There are lots of things that have to come together for a descent to work and so I study the mountain and how the winter evolves – improve my techniques, my physical and mental condition, learn from my mistakes and listen to the alpine experts and skiers around me. My ambition comes from the discovery that there is much ahead for me to learn and try. I know there is much still to enjoy and enrich my skiing experience, lots still for me to better my style and this motivates me and keeps me from quitting. The descents that I do/manage are a big way of making me reflect on the biggest and wider values and depths of our existence!
Christoffer Söderström is new to the Whitedot team this season, he is a park and urban skier from Finland.
This year the season started pretty early in Finland, in late October his home resort had already opened. They where only open for a week before they had to close again though luckily some weeks later the winter started for real and Christoffer was back on track.
In December he entered his first competition for the season, it was called “make it happen” and it was held in Kläppen, Sweden. The park was the most fun and creative Christoffer had ever skied.
Since he came home from Sweden he has been mostly filming urban sections in Helsinki with Twentytwo Productions for our second full length ski movie. It hasn’t really been going as well as he had been hoping. The first day filming he fell in to some stairs and hit his hip really hard. The next few days filming it was too cold for the banshee bungee to work, so he didn’t get the speed he needed and they called it a day. The last weekend he had been building the spot for a couple of hours before he was ready to start skiing, until he realised one of the lamps was broken! However they decided to just continue with one less light and carry on.
When he finally thought they where ready, the generator broke down … luckily it’s not always like this skiing urbans. Even though it is really frustrating when things like this happen, Christoffer stays positive as it is all worth it in the end when you get the shots.
Check out Christoffer’s first full length film here..
Whitedot Skis’s Mani Eder, beat off the competition that included Marc Swoboda, Dominik Wagner and Martin Hauck to take the top step of the podium at Blue Tomato’s “Battle in the Arena” rail jam, at the Olympiapark in Munich.
Congratulations to Mani who linked together a technical run over the stair set rails and wall ride to take home the win, and a wildcard entry to the Sick Trick Tour!
Sunny days seem to be a theme over in Colorado, Whitedot’s Nolan Stowers and Parker Norvell have been out filming again, check out their second Webisode instalment.
Our idea to create a Webisode came to life over the past weekend, we had the perfect conditions and park to be able to make our first collaborative edit under the warm sun of the Southwest. The park had been built the best it has ever been by the outstanding park crew of Purgatory, and everything lined up for three good days of shooting with warm weather, sandwiches, and good friends.
We were feeling excellent and with the prime conditions at hand, decided it was time to start throwing down. With cameras rolling, we reached into our bag of tricks and pulled out old and new, pushing not only our own limitations, but pushing the park-rat culture of our home mountain. Parker Norvell, being the beast that he is, rolled up his 4XL sleeves and excelled under the glaring camera lenses, not only nailing tricks with style, but astonishing everyone by attempting his first double flip and taking to his feet time after time. As for Nolan Stowers, he decided to whip out his fancy backflips, adding the superman to his arsenal of variations of his backflips.
The Webisode is our little testament to the great skiing in the wonderful place we live, as well as the incredible skis we shred on, and our plan is to try and pump out episodes every other week. These episodes will not only contain our shots but what our plans are as far as the competition and film scene go. Hopefully this wonderful thing you Europeans call “snow” will hit our corner of the world and we can show off the extraordinary backcountry and urban scene that our region so eloquently provides us.
The competition season has officially begun for us, bringing with it not only the fun of competing, but the opportunity to travel and spread the word of Whitedot. For both of us, the competition season has gotten off to a fantastic start. Parker kicked off the season in Vail with a 3rd place finish, and more recently claimed the top spot on the podium at a slopestyle in Crested Butte within the confines of his respective age group. Nolan also traveled to Crested Butte, competing in the Open, or Pro class, taking home the silver. Our next competition will be hosted at our quaint little mountain this weekend, which attributes to our performance, seeing as how we have been training on it nonstop recently. Ecstatic and motivated, we plan on filming for these webisodes as often as possible. Hopefully we can claim some urban spots, there’s a massive wallride we have been eyeing out for some time now, as well as a few gnarly rails.
With the coming of storms, Nolan plans on busting out the Directors and getting out into the Backcountry. There are some lines he’s been scoping for a couple of years now and would like to stake his claim on them. Parker is hoping at some point to extend his knowledge within the field of backcountry. We plan on getting both of us out of the park and off of the lifts into the great unexplored backcounty for some photo and film shoots with our resident camera men and Videographers, Taran Egner and Rees Gibbons. We are determined to have a long, great season on our Whitedot’s.
We would like to thank the park crew at Purgatory for putting the time and effort into creating the best park our little corner of Colorado has ever witnessed and also like to send a quick shout out to all of our friends who slaved over cameras, ensuring that we could show this pilot episode to all of our peers. Thanks to Whitedot Skis for allowing us to represent such a unique and innovative company. With a combined 4 years of experience skiing for Whitedot, we are both grateful for the opportunity to be associated with such an awesome lineup of fellow team members. Stay tuned for more episodes of “A Whitedot Weekend” next episode dropping as soon as we finish our multiple documentaries regarding our epic conquest to find and obtain the loch ness monster. Or get more legit footage.