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    Alaska Ski Mountaineering Week in Valdez

    Alaska Ski Mountaineering Week in Valdez

    per person

    Ah-laska! Spring in the Chugach is incredible with powder in the shade and corn in the sun.

    Ah-laska! Spring in the Chugach is incredible with powder in the shade and corn in the sun. The Thompson Pass area outside of Valdez features a unique mix of opportunity for roadside touring and heli-accessed ski mountaineering. The road gives us maximum flexibility to find the goods and optimize the tour. Helicopters allow us to bump up to peaks to get a head start on the days tour. Late April and early May are known for stable weather and great touring in this area. If you are ready to log major vertical, ski steep terrain in great conditions, and get your glaciated ski mountaineering game on, then this is your next big trip! This trip features 6 days of skiing, lodging, opportunities for helicopter lifts when possible, and transportation within the greater Valdez area.

    This trip is reservable as a custom itinerary at customized pricing.  Please contact the SMG office to inquire.



    Only in a snow climate similar to what is found in coastal Alaska can such deep powder persist on such steep slopes.

    When visionary ski athlete, IFMGA guide, and mountain entrepreneur Doug Coombs discovered the Chugach around Valdez in the early 90’s he proceeded to open minds to the ultimate untapped ski paradise. The Chugach Range gets plenty of snow straight from wet storms fed by the Aleutian Low that march across the Gulf of Alaska. High latitudes keep the climate cold and the solar radiation minimal in the winter months. This all combines to produce a unique and user friendly snow climate. Snow is able to stick to incredibly steep slopes, then in between storms the surface faceting process dominates. This is where the term “steep and deep” was born. Only in a snow climate similar to what is found in coastal Alaska can such deep powder persist on such steep slopes. The winter snow conditions increase the difficulty of trail breaking. The mobility of modern helicopters were the clear solution and led to the birth of the now legendary Alaskan heliski industry. In mid-April the heliski season begins to wind down. Snowlines rise and ease of access to terrain by helicopter is more limited. This is when ski mountaineering season begins.

    In 2001, veteran IFMGA Mountain Guide Bela Vadasz and some other AMGA instructors had the idea to move AMGA guide training & certification programs over to Valdez from the Anchorage area. I was invited to join as a developing instructor at the time. Doug Coombs showed us around and we had an amazing and mind blowing experience. We realized on that program that the spring is actually the best time to be there for touring and ski mountaineering. There is winter powder on the shaded slopes and spring corn on the sunny ones. The weather and snowpack stabilize as the winter melts away, and the temperatures are similar to the High Sierra in early spring. The travel to higher elevations is relatively easy in the morning when the surface is frozen solid and the nature of the terrain made it surprisingly easy to climb thousands of feet per hour with relatively low effort. The peaks and glaciers feel wild yet are easily accessible from the Thompson Pass road. Plus, the heliski companies are amenable that time of year to giving us an early morning lift or two. I did 10 trips to Valdez after my first trip in 2001 and in over 100 days of skiing over that period in late April we enjoyed mostly incredible, “hero” snow conditions, with very few challenging moments, and only a bare handful of storm or whiteout days. The AMGA continues to run ski mountaineering guide training programs in Valdez and it has become one of the most desirable spring ski mountaineering destinations in North America. If you prefer human-powered ski mountaineering but don’t mind a small taste of the power of the heli, this is definitely an iconic ski trip to add to your bucket list.  ~ Howie Schwartz

    • Included
      heli assisted
      heli skiing
      ski mountaineering
      ski touring
      Thompson Pass
    • Not Included
      3D chute
      3rd pillar
      3rd Pillar Dana
      AIARE 1
      AIARE 2
      Alaska skiing
      alpine climbing
      alpine rock climbing
      Alps climbing
      Alps running
      Alps skiing
      Alps trilogy
      American Mountain Guides Association
      avalanche awareness
      avalanche course
      backcountry 101
      backcountry ski
      Backcountry Skiing
      backcountry snowboard
      Bear Creek Spire
      Berner Oberland
      Bernese Oberland
      Bishop Skyline
      Blacksmith Peak
      Bloody Mountain
      California fourteeners
      Cardinal Pinnacle
      Carson Peak
      Celestial Aretes
      Chamonix climbing
      Charlotte Dome
      classic rock climb
      classic Sierra rock
      climbing camp
      climbing skills
      climbing Swiss Alps
      Clyde Minaret
      Convict Creek
      courses instruction
      Crest tour
      Crystal Crag
      custom private ski
      Dana Plateau
      Devil's Slide
      Dolomites climbing
      Double Eagle Resort
      Dream Bowl
      East Buttress
      East Face
      Eastern Sierra climbing
      Eastern Sierra skiing
      Eastern Sierra Winter
      Evolution Loop
      Fishhook Arete
      Four Seasons
      Glass Creek
      guide course
      Haute Route
      Hemlock Ridge
      High Sierra
      High Sierra skiing
      high tour
      Horse Creek
      Horsetail Falls
      Hut to Hut
      ice 101
      ice axe
      ice climbing
      ice climbing course
      Incredible Hulk
      intermediate level
      introductory ice climbing course
      John Muir Trail
      John Muir Wilderness
      June Lake
      June Mountain
      Kautz Glacier
      kids climbing programs
      Las Vegas
      lee vining
      Lee Vining area
      lee vining canyon
      level 1
      level 1 refresher
      level 2
      light and fast
      Lone Pine
      Lone Pine Peak
      Lovers Leap
      Mammoth Lakes
      Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite
      Mammoth Mountain
      Mammoth to June
      Mammoth to Yosemite
      Matterhorn Peak
      McGee Creek
      Merriam Peak
      mixed climbing
      Mont Blanc
      Mont Blanc run
      Mount Conness
      Mount Dana
      Mount Emerson
      Mount Gabb
      Mount Humphreys
      Mount Mills
      Mount Rainier
      mountain running
      Mountaineers Route
      Mt Conness
      Mt. Dana
      Mt. Emerson
      Mt. Humphreys
      Mt. Russell
      Mt. Sill
      Mt. Tom
      Mt. Whitney
      Mt. Winchell
      North Palisade
      North Peak
      north ridge
      onion valley to mt. whitney
      Owens River Gorge
      pack outfit
      pack support
      Palisades Glacier Camp
      peak descents
      Peter Croft
      Pine Creek
      Polemonium Peak
      Positive Vibrations
      private custom
      professional development
      Red and White Mountain
      Red Dihedral
      red rock
      Red Slate Mountain
      rescue skills
      Ritter Range
      rock 201
      rock climbing
      Rock Creek
      Rock Creek to Mammoth
      Sabre Ridge
      San Joaquin Ridge
      self arrest
      self belay
      self rescue
      Sequoia National Park
      Sierra 5.10
      sierra alpine
      Sierra Mountain Guides
      Sierra Nevada
      Sierra skiing
      single pitch instructor
      ski guiding
      ski tour
      snow skills
      sport climbing
      Starlight Peak
      Temple Crag
      third pillar
      Thunderbolt Peak
      trad climbing
      trail running
      Twin Lakes
      Ultra Trail Mont Blanc
      Via Ferrata
      white line
      wilderness trip
      yosemite national park
      Yosemite ski
      Yost Meadow
      Zermatt Valley

    TRIP ITINERARY:  Valdez Ski Mountaineering Week

    DAY 0

    Arrive in Valdez. Enjoy dinner and a celebration of our upcoming week of skiing.

    DAYS 1-6

    Ski what we want, when we want. The plan is to maximize vertical, aesthetics, and snow quality. Conditions and energy levels will dictate when and where we go each day. The guide will coordinate 1 or 2 hell bumps with a local operator, at the group's discretion and as weather and logistics allow. It is possible to arrange to leave Valdez on the evening of the 6th ski day. or feel free to stay another night and celebrate a great week with us.

    DAY 7

    If you don't leave on Day 6 then Day 7 is a travel day toward home or wherever the next destination may be.

    Recommended Skills and Abilities

    This program is designed for competent and experienced backcountry skiers with at least an interest in learning the ways of ski mountaineering. It is important to have the following:
    • Advanced-expert downhill skiing skills
    • Ability to control speed and execute fall-line turns in control and comfort in difficult snow conditions (deep powder, heavy and/or moist snow, breakable crust, firm or icy, etc.)
    • Ability to execute hop turns on 40 degree+, firm slopes, coming to a complete and immediate stop at the finish of each turn
    • Ability to sideslip forward and backward, with edge control, on steep, firm slopes
    • Experience ski touring in the backcountry using ski touring equipment (boots, bindings, skins, transceiver, shovel, probe, etc.)
    • Ability to make uphill facing kick-turns in an uphill track on a slope
    • Excellent fitness

    Cost Includes:

    • UIAGM or AMGA certified Ski Guide(s)
    • All lodging in Valdez during the trip
    • Breakfasts included
    • All ground transportation during the trip


    Not Included:

    • Travel to/from Valdez
    • Food or drink in towns
    • Snacks during the day
    • Trip Insurance (recommended)
    • Mountain Rescue Insurance (recommended)
    • Helicopter lifts are not included due to the unpredictability of weather and logistics. Expect to pay around $250 for each lift as an additional cost. We will aim for 1-2 hell bumps during the week.