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  • Writer's pictureMiles Smart

Alaska Skiing for Spring 2021

Due to closed borders between the US and Europe, we have decided to return to our old ski guiding home of Alaska this spring. We are planning on being there in April and possibly part of March for heli-skiing and ski touring. We hope to ski there with many of you who can’t make it to the Alps this winter.

Why Alaska? We spent many seasons guiding heli-skiing and ski touring in Alaska and it is one of our favorite places to ski anywhere in the world. Alaska is a location that Americans will likely be able to reach for a ski trip this winter.

What is special about Alaska skiing? How did it all start? How did we end up guiding skiing for years in Alaska?

Much of modern-day Alaskan skiing started on Thompson Pass above the port town of Valdez. There was an early group of skiers that started skiing by plane there in the late ’80s. Then in 1991, Valdez hosted the first World Extreme Skiing Championship which went on for a decade. Our close friend, Doug Coombs, won the first event. Doug and his wife Emily founded Steep Skiing Camps Worldwide which we carry on today.

In 1993, Doug and Emily Coombs started Valdez Heli-Ski Guides which is still operating. Pioneering and skiing first descents was the name of the game in those early years. The skiing over the next decade in the Chugach Mountains above Valdez helped to define a new era of steep and deep adventure skiing.

I first met Doug Coombs while working for Exum Mountain Guides in 2001. He invited me to work for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides that coming spring. I was already planning on spending part of the winter in Chamonix and I went down and skied in La Grave with Doug for the first time that season, before heading to guide in Valdez.

After some time in Valdez, I went and guided a few seasons for Chugach Powder Guides based in Girdwood. Liz was also guiding alongside me in Girdwood during these years. Girdwood is in the northern Chugach and has a nice ski area as a bonus for bad weather days.

One of the exciting things during this time was guiding the opening weeks at the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge. No one had previously heli-skied in the Tordrillos and everywhere you looked was another first descent. It was cool to get to experience what I had missed in Valdez. The Tordrillo Mountains are really vast and offer every type of skiing with a really grandiose feel. The Tordrillos are the southern extent of the Alaska Range where you have Denali and the other high mountains.

We absolutely love skiing in the Alps which is why we chose to live here, but there is something unique about Alaska that cannot be replicated in any other mountain range. The vastness in Alaska is something you don’t experience anywhere else – truly mountains as far as the eye can see. In general, the mountains are not as jagged as the ones in the Alps, however, the snowpack of AK sticks too much steeper slopes creating the iconic spines that are skied in the movies. The Alaskan mountains are perfect for pure skiing, many looking like ice cream, caked in snow. Doug Coombs used to always talk about the velvet, which is a perfect way to describe the powder in Alaska.

Below is what we are offering in Alaska this spring. Email us if you are interested. We hope to ski with you this spring!


Tordrillo Mountain Lodge is the place for the true Alaskan experience. TML lodge is a 40-minute flight from Anchorage in the Alaskan backcountry. The remote luxury lodge is surrounded by over 1 million acres of heli-ski terrain. The spectacular glaciated peaks offer everything from steep couloirs, to wide-open faces, to scenic glacier runs.

If you are looking to heil-ski in another part of Alaska we also offer heli-ski weeks in Girdwood and Valdez. Girdwood has the advantage of a fun town and the Alyeska ski resort. Valdez is where it all started with its endless classic steep descents.

Ski Touring

Valdez is one of the best locations for day touring anywhere in the world. Above the town of Valdez, the road over Thompson Pass gives easy access to countless classic ski tours and descents. Python, Cherry Couloir, Stairway, Diamond, Cracked Ice, and Berlin Wall to name a few. These are some of the names from the early ski films in Valdez. All these descents are easily accessed by ski touring from the road on Thompson Pass.

We are excited to offer this opportunity to our US and maybe European clients to join us to ski in one of the world's iconic ski destinations. Contact us by email for more information and to discuss your requirements.


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