Back to Alaska

27.Aug.2012 by Patrick O'Brien

Last summer I was able to join APU and Sun Valley skiing at the Thomas training center on Eagle glacier.  (http://www.craftsbury.com/blogs/grp/?p=1910).  Getting quality on snow time during the summer months  is a huge asset to any nordic racer, and something still quite novel to life long Eastern skier.  This year I was again hoping get to Eagle glacier for some solid training. After a last minute spot opened up, I hopped on a plane and found myself back in Alaska. The weather last year was a pretty mixed bag. A few days of nice sun, some overcast skiing, and some days where you weren’t sure what direction the precipitation was coming from because you were in whiteout conditions and had no idea where on course you were. Fortunately this year the weather was much more cooperative.  Most days were cloud free t-shirt skiing and when the clouds rolled in hard, low overnight temperatures still made for much harder and faster tracks than the year before.  One thing I learned from my previous trip is to put the largest baskets you can find on your poles.  Racing poles are nice and light, but pretty useless when you are pulling them back out of the snow on every pole plant. Last year may have been slow and sloppy skiing, but this year the tracks were firm enough to delay morning training to allow the boiler plate ice to soften. Overall it was a great camp.  Lots of quality kilometers of training, technique tweaks, seeing how other ski programs operate, and getting to mix it up in intervals with a different group of guys than our normal summer group.  So without further ado, some pictures from my week on snow!

Alpine Air's A-Star helicoptor lifting off

Alpine Air's A-Star helicopter lifting off

And headed up towards the glacier

And headed up towards the glacier

View from the cockpit.  Despite being only a 40 minute drive drom Anchorage, and looking down on Girdwood the facility is still remote.  All food, skis, gear, and even the Pisten-Bullys have to be flown in by chopper

View from the cockpit. Despite being only a 40 minute drive from Anchorage, and looking down on the town of Girdwood the facility is still very remote. All food, skis, gear, and even the Pisten-Bullys have to be flown in by chopper

Passing Alyeska Resort on the way up

Passing Alyeska Resort on the way up

A typical scence looking out from the facility. The training ceter sits on the edge of a 1500 ft drop off. The yellow rope is there for a reason... Somewhere under the cloud cover is Girdwood and the Airport

A typical scene looking out from the facility. The training center sits on the edge of a 1500 ft drop off and the clouds often get hung up on the mountains below. The yellow rope is there for a reason... Somewhere under the cloud cover is the town of Girdwood and the Airport

Keith the main pilot "dropping off" the edge going back for another load of skier and gear. The A-Star kicks up some serious rotor wash. 5 minutes up 5000 ft. A few seconds later and he is back out of sight.  (photo: H Mooney)

Keith, Alpine Air's main pilot "dropping off" the edge going back for another load of skier and gear. The A-Star kicks up some serious rotor wash. (photo: H Mooney)

The view into town on a clear day. In the front of the picture are two of four shipping containers for storing all the maintenence gear during the summer and the grooming equipment during the off season. Everything is bedded on concrete and bolted down to withstand the high winds and heavy snowfall.

The view into town on a clear evening. In the front of the picture are two of four shipping containers for storing all the maintenance gear during the summer and the grooming equipment during the off season. Everything is bedded on concrete and bolted down to withstand the high winds and heavy snowfall.

Meltwater pond in the foreground, trails on the glacier way off in the background. All the water for the facility is pumped and filtered from the meltpond. Electricity comes from a diesel generator. The facility uses composting toilets. All trash is sorted into to two catagories. Burnable is disposed on site and the remainder is flown back into to be disposed of.

Meltwater pond in the foreground, trails on the glacier way off in the background. All the water for the facility is pumped and filtered from the meltpond. Electricity comes from a diesel generator. The facility uses composting toilets. All trash is sorted into to two categories. Burnable is disposed on site and the remainder is flown back into town be disposed of.

The loop starts with a fast 1k downhill from the facility

The loop starts with a fast 1k downhill from the facility. Thanks to a good snow year this winter, even the Bergschrund (the head wall) crevasse hadn't opened up like last year so we were able to ski down and back from the loop to training every day.

Bergschrund from last year

Bergschrund from last year

It was pretty nice some days at the end of the long ski to catch a ride back up the big hill on the back of the PB last year...

It was pretty nice some days at the end of the long ski to catch a ride back up the big hill on the back of the PB last year though...

Great tracks and great skiing

Great tracks and great skiing

Pete moments after some impressive klister grab had him doing a superman across the trail

Pete moments after some impressive klister grab had him doing a superman across the trail

Lots of skiing means big meals!

Lots of skiing means big meals!

A huge thanks to Erik Flora of APU and Craftsbury for making this trip happen! Only a few more months and we will be back on snow gearing up for the race season. Summer has really flown by!