Picking up from episode one, after a great week of living and ski touring in the Chugach the weather changed dramatically. A couple of bitterly cold days coupled with high winds led to a storm of epic proportions. I can still hear Devon skiing down “Home Knoll”-our little backyard storm stash-on Friday morning. The turns he made on the two inches of dust-on-crust that fell was so loud the sound echoed through camp. We all knew the storm was coming, the question was should we try and get picked up by the heli early or take our chances? Too late. Saturday morning we woke up to 42 inches of new snow. The above shot speaks to what the next four days looked like.
This is a shot of Jeff trying to find the bathroom sometime during the storm. Shoveling was constant. Our camp went from somewhat level ground to buried in deep snow walls that would last the remainder of the season. At times when the snowfall rate exceeded two inches an hour I’d catch Jeff or Wesley for a brief moment in between shovel throws and we’d just laugh in disbelief. With propane heaters, good food and our little pow stash behind camp life was good even though the storm was so intense.
Keeping camp shoveled was a priority. The task was somewhat daunting and seemed an overly ridiculous effort at times. To shovel for hours and hours on end, all day into the night only to have the tents and everything else fill in whenever we stopped felt defeating on more than one occasion. But we knew the storm would pass at some point, and in the meantime when we did feel “caught up” a quick trip to the white room erased any possible ill feelings, doubts or anxiety. It was turns like this one- although just a fraction of a second in the greater scheme of things-that gave me the energy to get back to camp and shovel until nothing more could be done except sleep. Photo Credit: Wesley Thompson
Devon O’Neil laid down more than a few memorable tracks during the storm. This is one of them.
When it snows as hard it snowed during this storm it’s really tough to get out of camp to ski for a wealth of reasons. By the time the storm passed our snow stake was buried. Conservatively we called it 130 inches. In reality it was probably closer to or a little more than 140 inches. When the helicopters showed up it was time for a quick changeover. We bid our group good-bye and welcomed and next crew that was eager to see what the zone looked like after 11 feet of fresh snow. This crew was comprised of a lively bunch from Lake Tahoe, a couple of Australians, one Swede and one Virginian. With a bit of clearing we were lucky to get touring in the zone right away. The funny thing is after the 11-footer, in between our changeover and the time we got back to breaking trail, another 18-24+ inches of complete Chugach blower had fallen. The 11 feet had mostly crushed itself and all you felt was the top fresh stuff. Mike and his powder cloud, shown in the above shot, does a solid job of speaking to the brilliance we shared with our week 2 group. The beauty of the zone with all of the new snow was breathtaking. The skiing and riding was the highest quality of the season-some of the best I’ve ever sampled in all of my life on skis. The stoke was high, the powder skiing was sublime and we were still a few days out from a true bluebird window.
Stay tuned for episode 3 dropping soon…