Into The Mild – Valdez, Alaska
Photos + Words by Freedle Coty / level1productions.com
“F**k this song” says Tanner Rainville. It’s a soggy afternoon and Rainville, Wiley Miller, Jeff Cricco, and myself are marinating in a summer fishing cabin in the Port of Valdez listening to (ironically enough) “Let It Rain” by Eric Clapton. It had been nearly two weeks of storms spilling off the Gulf of Alaska into the Chugach, and despite having mountains surrounding us and plenty of snow it was nearly impossible to ski as much as the appetite demands, try as we might. That leaves us to wait for the almighty bluebird while keeping our Facebooks on lock in a motel room. And waiting is the death of filming. This must be just like living in paradise right? We were ready for a change of scenery.
Thankfully we had plenty of options, the best one being to saddle up the party van pony and head back up North to Alyeska Resort to ski with chairlifts. It was raining in Girdwood as well (big surprise) but not at the top- two days worth of snow was waiting- and lapping pow runs in late April is hard to beat. After that fix of the good stuff it was time to turn right around and head back to tha Deez. Skies were expected to clear later in the week and the lines weren’t going to ski themselves. We came back to conditions the same as we left in, but we had one more item to check off our Valdez bucket list. Photographer Cricco knew of the afore-mentioned cabin near the Shoup Glacier that we could take a boat to and possibly do some trek skiing. A boat was acquired and we were off in the downpour. Upon arrival at the deserted beach hut, built like a brick s**thouse for shrimpers and other recreational visitors and buried under ten feet of snow, we set off on a mini tour of the zone. The skiing idea was immediately thrown out the door as the sea level snow pack resembled saturated mash potatoes, but the scenery made up for it. The glacial delta was swarming with birds and wildlife, including a few AK tourist required bald eagle, sea otter, and seal sightings. Our fling with the hut was a one night stand however, and after a night of eating and cards padded down with some Kentucky bourbon it was back to the main objective.
The following two days were our last of the Alaskan eye trip, the weather did indeed break, and so we threw all of our remaining chips on the table. The first day would be bittersweet- Valdez Heli Camps brought us out for a morning of catskiing, but the fresh coat of paint on the mountains meant it was the time to get to de choppah. The skiing duo of Wiley and Tanner got warmed up quickly, but with one line under his belt Wiley tweaked his knee- heartbreaking to say the least. The light was fading but Rainville banged out two beautiful lines with his now “personal” heli-bird-ship and we called it a day. With a man down the next day (April 24th) looked to be in jeopardy, but a guide and friend Mike Barney offered to fill his spot and we set off again to harvest what we could in near-perfect conditions. The jem of the trip turned out to be a spine face we found in the afternoon. Watching Rainville and Mike lap the soft flutes was beautiful- immediately evaporating the buildup it takes to get there- oh what a job this is.
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