Alaska is astonishing. I have been many places. Zion, Indian Creek, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain National Park, Joshua Tree, Telluride, numerous beaches in numerous countries, the Tetons, the Absaroka, Glacier, Olympic, Tuscolo outside of Rome, Zermatt, Interlaken, Gstaad, Barcelona, Munich, and the list goes on.
Alaska is hands down the most incredible place I have been and It isn’t because it’s the most recent place I’ve been. The mountains are bigger than anything I’ve ever seen. You stand at the top of some peak that, on our budget, it took 4-8 hours to get to the top of and look around and realize that you are a speck of dust and nothing more in the grand scheme of things. It’s utterly humbling. Looking at mountains in Alaska is a little bit like looking at and counting the stars: You stop counting and eventually look away because it’s too big and you would never finish counting and it’s a little scary to think about. You could spend 10 years in one cirque and ski a different line every day.
So I spent 11 days there (which is about 1/30th of the amount of time one should be spending in Alaska per year) and shot 1/2 of my present portfolio. I want to put everything on Facebook and Twitter but I would be doing that for the next year if I did so I think a photo essay is more fitting.
While there are some skiing photos in here I backed off of posting too many of those because I want to protect them for the moment. I have them spread out all over for companies and publications to look at presently and I want them to have first viewing rights. But that doesn’t stop me from posting a slew of outtakes and secondary skiing moments. So here we go.
OWNERSHIP NOTICE: If you are with a company or a publication it would be really professional and respectful of you not to “steal” any of these. I will be pretty grumpy if I find these anywhere but this blog. ”Stealing” is mean and I like, you know, paying my rent and eating food and exorbitant stuff like that. This is my only job so it kind of makes me feel like you don’t particularly care abut me not starving to death in the cold when you just rip a photo from this site and use it. If you’d like to use anything here please email me and we can talk at email@example.com. Thanks :-) I know you understand. Xoxo.
Thanks to Icelantic Skis and First Degree Boots for sending me skiers and asking me to come along and shoot, the Mountain Rider’s Alliance and Ski Manitoba Mountain for the amazing project that is Manitoba, and Cavan Images and my dad for funding.
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When I landed in Anchorage it was cloudy. I pretty much expected it to be cloudy the entire trip so I wasn’t super concerned. If I got one bluebird day I’d be happy. Joe Turner and I met up in the airport and stayed in the local Icelantic rep’s house while he was off at a job for a few days. Our first day found us scrambling to see if Alyeska would give us the hookup. They were unresponsive so we went to Alyeska to ride around a bit. It was still cloudy so we didn’t figure on getting much done. Thankfully, those clouds meant that it had snowed. A lot. This was literally the first frame I took in Alaska.
We took a few more shots like this but we’d been shooting a resort all year. I really wasn’t in Alaska to spend my time on a lift fighting to keep other people’s tracks out of my photos.
So we got tired of Alyeska after a couple hours and got in the car to go to the baby of the Mountain Rider’s Alliance: Manitoba Mountain about 15 miles from the Hope Junction on the Kenai Peninsula. Joe forgot his touring bindings so we just skinned up a ways from the road once we got there and farmed a few shots. Then the skies cleared, the sun came out, and I had bluebird.
I was PSYCHED on Manitoba. We went back the next day with Dayla Robinson and another friend. It was bluebird. An afternoon of bluebird and another day felt like a miracle. Joe decided he was going to send the fattest line on the Block Headwall. It was insane to watch.
Yeah. Huge. The day after this was a dark day. Both Joe and I were pretty tired but we only had 11 days so we made the poor choice to go get it on Manitoba again anyway even though we were exhausted and I woke up with a raging migraine. We skinned up Manitoba in driving winds but wouldn’t be told otherwise: we were going skiing. Screw everything else. Joe dropped a chute and I didn’t see him come out the bottom. Not good. One panicked radio call to tell me he was OK but I needed to get to him FAST and a cautious run later I got down and found Joe waiting for me. ”I screwed up my knee.” Great. Joe had gone to huck a cliff, caught a shark on the run in, fallen off the cliff and had been fine. But then he got “Chugached” by his slough from above and the resulting tumble caused the damage. Blessedly, he skinned away from the event and back to the car. His ACL is gone though. See you next season, buddy :-(
While I wondered what would happen to my trip with the guy spearheading it going home, Scotty VerMerris, the team manager for Icelantic skis, was debating coming up at all since our plan to eventually go to Valdez was shot without Joe (and a wind event had apparently RUINED Valdez a couple of days before). He eventually decided to come up and make the best of it. I am so happy he did. Scotty VerMerris is one of the coolest people I have ever met in my life. He is also one of the funniest. Shenanigans ensued. They started with three of us crammed into the front of a rickety old Toyota with Joe driving us to Manitoba, Scotty shifting gears and talking on the phone, and me hoping and praying that I didn’t die.
Despite nasty blisters on his feet I rapidly found out that not only was Scotty hilarious and fun to be around, he was also a CRUSHER…which the following photo doesn’t particularly show. Suffice it to say that the photos from this session were money.
The next day we took a rest day and waited for Alex Taran to show up. When I picked Alex up I knew immediately we were going to get along. I got so lucky on this trip to end up with people who have an almost identical sense of humor to mine. We proceeded to have a blast.
After my first day up Crow Creek with Alex we decided to head to Manitoba…again. It was niiiice…again. I was starting to think it was never going to get cloudy again. Spoiler Alert: It didn’t. I also found out that in order to get Alex to feel OK with having her photo taken non-skiing she needed to be particularly rude to the camera. Whatever makes you smile in front of my camera works for me :-)
The skiing was amazing. I was worked. We decided to take a day to breathe, bid Joe farewell, and reevaluate what the trip was going to look like since our entire original plan was off the table.
Through various phone calls, Facebook messages, and many other things we realized we didn’t really have the funding to do much more than skin. We decided we were going to go get a tent and some sleeping bags and skin up into some glacier and make the best of it. At the very last moment we got a phone call that some dude named Brett was going to show us around Hatcher Pass (you will now forget that location name forever…these aren’t the droids you’re looking for…move along) on skins. We had heard that the snow was pretty nice over there so why not? At least we could find someplace to camp. As it turned out, Brett was a sick snowboarder, an insanely nice guy, and had a really hospitable friend who was going to let us sleep on his floor in Palmer (or Wasilla…I can’t really remember). THANK YOU BRETT. YOUR DIRTBAG REDNECK WAYS SAVED THE END OF OUR TRIP.
So our first day up in that area was insane. These are outtakes. I’m not adjusted to shoots that are 100% quality from the second you get out of the car. Also, a quick word on those boots up there. They’re sick. Perhaps more oriented for the sidecountry, they’re a tad heavy, but I skinned miles on them every day comfortably. Personally, I appreciate the orientation to the downhill and not the uphill and I really liked the airy toe box. I’ll look forward to when they have Vibram on them. First Degree really has something good here.
The last day finally came. I wasn’t particularly happy. Who wants a trip like this to end? In their extreme generosity Brett and his friend offered to give us sled rides in one of their “secret” areas. I really didn’t know what to expect. For some reason I made the same mistake that I made with dirtbiking and had it in my head that snowmobiling was mellow. It is not mellow. The stuff that these people do on a sled is downright terrifying. However, the access that the sled gave us was absolutely ridiculous. We proceeded to have by far our most productive day shooting and one of the more unique experiences of my life.
I also got introduced to “getting iced.” Alex picked up her pack and opened it up at one point and suddenly a stream of profanities ensued directed at Scotty. She pulled out a Smirnoff Ice. ”What is this devilry?” I wondered. It turns out that if someone hides an Ice in your path and you see it you have to slam it on the spot. It also turns out that I’ve been living under a rock because it’s an old game.
And then I went home and slept for a month. It was lovely. I can’t wait to go back.