Friday, April 27, 2012

Alaska Always Makes You Think

View across the street from basecamp.
Fellow snowboarders, I'm back from AK. What was I up to while I was there? This stuff. Hence my lack of writing on this fair site. I didn't do nearly as much riding as I had hoped, but I got plenty of good work done, including some enlightening interviews that could lead places. Exciting places.

Along the way, I did learn a thing or two that you might find interesting, if not entertaining. I will share that information with you now. Cue that song.

It's not always all about the snowboarding. It's the whole experience. Northern lights to bar fights. Maybe you score a free heli flight for being with the media. Maybe your sled breaks down halfway up and you miss all but two runs of the contest you were supposed to be covering.

View from inside the cat.
You'll probably get some sled bumps, maybe a cat day, some road runs. Splitboard. Hike. Get out there. Just don't worry if you don't. Do something just as mind-blowing instead.

You will get sick either in Valdez or immediately upon return. Some attribute it to the oil pipeline terminus. I attribute it to the late nights and drinking. My friend and photographer never went to sleep sober or before 4am, he came back with pneumonia and plenty of new friends

Snowmobiles are the best way around Thompson Pass. I never had a smooth trip on one in two weeks including a spontaneous trip into a creek and a halfway-to-the-contest-finals breakdown. Maybe it's because I never referred to them as 'snowmachines' as the Alaskans say.

Mike Basich's pickup holds a sled and pops up.
Speaking of which, you can fit a snowmachine into the back of a Suburban. You saw that in the last post, but did I mention he slept in there with it one night, too?

Tips for getting rides on a sled: have your own, have a loyal friend (most friends will just bail on you), have money, have drugs, be female. I guess the old 'ass, grass or cash' mantra holds.

The female-to-male ratio is probably more like 10-to-1.

Pam Robinson was definitely digging the ratio.
A 10 in Alaska is a 4 elsewhere. Try not to think about what gets a 4 in Alaska.

Andy Bergin-Sperry set up a business drying other peoples' clothes. I hear he even got some takers.

The guy serving you drinks at night might be giving you sled bumps by day. Tip well.


Gilly and Jonesy, 'nuf said.
Kevin Jones is the real deal. He said, "You're not a snowboarder if you don't come here." But he still thinks too many people are showing up. Maybe there are just too many people. He's been coming here for 17 years. Private heli for 30 days? Done it. Still says a splitboard changed his life. Genuine article, folks.

"Do what you can today, for tomorrow may be gray."  -- Dave Geis, Alaska Snowboard Guides

"What's the difference between Valdez and Maine? What do you think this is, a joke?" -- Darren "Gilly" Gilmour, former Mainer

Manly man. I couldn't get the moose in the frame.
Alaska locals look kinda like Portland locals. Except they're bigger and their clothes look tattered from doing actual work. That and they look like they would beat the shit out of you or just shoot you. The beards, though, the beards are similar.


The sign said "No Sopping Avalanche Area." Now what?
Finally, I'd like to thank Chris at Snowboard Magazine for giving us the chance. We wouldn't have gone  without that and I hope we delivered. I'd also like to thank the guys at ClifBar for hooking us up with 30 pounds of food and promotional goodies. Our time on the pass would have much more expensive or just straight malnourished without them.

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