Best Day Ever: Down the Dirty Needle

On her first trip to Alaska, Izzy Lynch conquers her fears

Last spring, Revelstoke-based Izzy Lynch went to Alaska for her first time, in the company of fellow Canadian big mountain skiers Riley Leboe and Colston VB. You never know what you’re going to get, weather-wise in Alaska, and they got hit with a week of down days. The first day the skies cleared she stepped up to the biggest line she’d ever skied.

As told to Heather Hansman

It was April 18, and it was my last day of the season. I was up in Alaska shooting with Giro and it was my first trip up there so I didn’t know what to expect. We had five down days in a row, and on our last day there the sun came out again. I had really wanted to ski some spines, as everyone does when they go up there, but it was pretty intimidating. Your first trip to Alaska is definitely a learning curve—things are dictated by the weather, daylight, conditions. You don’t really have control over anything. That comes with some doubts and fears. You don’t get your usual warm up. You’re thinking, “Will I be able to perform?”

Izzy's view from the helicopter. PHOTO: Izzy Lynch

Izzy’s view from the helicopter. PHOTO: Izzy Lynch

I was skiing with Colston VB and Riley Leboe, who I haven’t skied with a bunch. Riley had this one line he wanted to ski, called Dirty Needle, and our only chance to ski it that day was first thing, no warm up run.

We’re looking at it from the heli and it’s a full-on Alaskan spine: steep with lots of sluff. It was by far the biggest line I’ve ever skied, so I was really nervous. We were up there with a guide, Tim Thomas, and he had never skied it either. He was like, “I’d been waiting seven years to ski this.”

We had two runs on it. For the first one I took a mellower line to the left. It was still super steep, but a bit wider. I got down from the first one and was really pumped up, so I went back up, and skied the main spine.

On top I just stood up there and focused. “OK go. Wait, don’t go.” I had to get myself psyched. I had memorized the line, and I took a bunch of pictures. I knew I could ski it because I could visualize it.

Izzy's view of her tracks. PHOTO: Izzy Lynch

Izzy’s view of her tracks. PHOTO: Izzy Lynch

Anytime I’m shooting or filming where the line is complicated I take pictures, you pick out landmarks on the hill and landmarks in the distance. It’s nice to have that on top. It’s really important there, because there are a few spots you don’t want to be. Everyone talks about the blind rolls in Alaska, but you have no idea until you’re on top of them how serious they are. I had a radio in my chest pocket and Colston talked me through the whole run. They were cheering me on the whole time. That line connected our group because we were all really stoked on it.

Alaska was actually an afterthought. We had a trip planned for Retallack. B.C., but it got super warm there, so we were on standby for a couple of weeks. Riley had been up to Alaska to ski with Alaska Heli Ski before, so he was really pushing that. It was a really cool way to close the season off. Skiing was done in Revelstoke, so it was nice to end the season feeling accomplished.

The woman behind the tracks. PHOTO: Mike Basher/GIRO

The woman behind the tracks. PHOTO: Mike Basher/GIRO

It felt good to conquer that type of skiing. After that everything felt really manageable. We skied a couple of other good lines but nothing like that. Alaska is such a wild place, there’s a lifetime of terrain to explore up there. I want to go back in the spring.

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