I took advantage of some cheaper fares to get a roundtrip to ANC and get in a few early season ski days at Alyeska (http://www.alyeskaresort.com/). I will be seeing several of my BP colleagues including a past boss, etc as its only 30 miles outside Anchorage. I will arrive back in Houston 6:00am on Monday and go to work. I’m not taking any vacation days for this (Friday, Dec 12 is my unit’s regular off Friday – we do the 9/80 system).
Its been snowing like crazy at Alyeska with 264” so far this season and something like 50” so far this week! They say this is the only ski area in North America where you can see the ocean while skiing. Also the northern lights are supposed to light up the sky on clear nights, which are expected. Temps are supposed to be in the teens. I expect to be monitoring my BP mail with my crackberry (and thus have my cell with me). The time zone is one hour behind Marianne. Daylight is from 10:30 to 4:30 in mid Dec, skiing is from 10:30 to 5:30 (so they have lights).
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The Alyeska Prince hotel is deluxe and the scene is totally snowy. The rental shop and lift office are all great. I called the "mountain host" office and told them I was new and wanted to burn the place. In 10 minutes an impossibly nice lady, Summer, showed up and proceeded to take me basically everywhere - groomers and off piste chop, except for North Face which is the ultimate gravity drop here. I'll do that Sat. She gave me the Alyeska scoop, local history, etc. It was a fun challenge to keep up and rip the runs with her. She also turns out to be their webmaster. Three hours of guided ski bliss.
Ausgezeichnette pisten verhaeltnisse is an apt description as this place is a snow magnet. On any run it might be cloudy, then snow shower, then sun, then... When the occasional view was available it reminded me that this is really Alaska. Eye candy to the max.
The best image from earlier in the day occurred when dropping my lunch friend off to head to Girdwood. We witnessed a female jogger jump the snow bank and look nervously off to the side. As we neared in my car we saw a moose that was approaching the jogger. Elizabeth told me to pull up to the jogger to allow her to jump in my car should the mad moose get too close. It stopped and the jogger jogged on in the 10 degree weather. Only in Alaska!
Day 1 skiing went great, once I got to Girdwood/Alyeska. The place has a bit of a smallish feel (compared to the humongous Kitz and Serfaus), not a fair comparison. It also has the Alaskan grandeur/primal feel.
Day 2 on the slopes is done. Today I opened up the place - opening time is 10:30, by signing up for a 'crud and powder' lesson. I was the only one in my "class" so I got private lesson service; I was drinking from a lesson firehose for 3 hours. I had changed skis to 'mid fats' designed for off piste floating. Crud is the term for partially tracked powder. I wanted to work on the steep, diamond and double diamond runs that are partially tracked. "Keep the skis pointing downhill, rotate the feet, put your weight on the outside ski and lean forward. Don't lean back on the tails! Let the constant contact of your skis with the soft crud control your speen and float over the continuously changing surface. Don't unweight. If you do it right you use very little energy and look like you should be there too.
I am astonished at the general skill level of your average Alyeska customer. It is fantastic to watch these people burn up this mountain. I lost track of how many 720s I saw today. The 10 year old riders ride like they were born in the lift station. An unbelievable place.
It was totally sunny and about 10 deg today. Eye candy views in every direction. Alaskan smoked salmon chowder for lunch. A buddy from BP Alaska will join me on Sunday.