Deep in Alaska By Ken Lucas
BUFF® Staff / 10-6-2016
It's been a long hot summer and as the first cool autumn breeze hits, my mind instantly fills with images of snow. I dream of snow to come and memories of the snow this past winter. My mind keeps replaying one particular ski trip to Alaska last season.
Bouncing along in a tiny 3-person Alaska bush plane stuffed with ski gear, it's 9am of the first day and already it's the adventure of a lifetime. The skilled pilot points out moose and wolverine along with majestic views of Denali, North America's highest mountain; as we drop down to land the Piper Super Cub ski plane on frozen Judd Lake. The luxurious cabins of Tordrillo Mountain Lodge sit along the shores in the immense mountain scenery. The awesome staff from the Lodge, (chef, to heli-pilot, to massage therapist) greet us with warm treats before we suit-up for an afternoon of helicopter skiing across 1.2 million acres of their terrain.
Alaska is known for the best skiing on the planet and for those in the know, the Tordrillo Mountains are the crème de la crème. As you might have heard, Alaska can dish out its fair share of downright nasty weather. The Tordrillo's are known for having the highest percentage of perfect condition days. Sun, powder snow, cold temperatures, low avalanche conditions, and epic terrain all line up more often here than anywhere else in Alaska, if not the world. Rolling glacial runs of 5,000 vertical feet of deep, velvety powder will fry your legs by the end of the day. Steep faces of perfect texture keep the heart rate up as snow gently sluffs besides perfect turns. The guides at TML are the best in the business and make sure that you are never overwhelmed or under-challenged. Intermediate to classic AK spines where the snow piles up and clings to the precipitous slopes for skiing unlike anything in the world.
Warm food and drinks next to the fireplace start off the après-ski activities back at the Lodge. New friends glow and share stories of a full day of blissful riding which leads to an Alaska-style spa treatment of: wood-fired hot tub plus sauna; followed immediately by a cold plunge. People relax on the deck watching the sun slowly sink behind the mountains while a few of us indulge in jumping through a hole cut through the ice on the lake. With the day nearly complete feeling fully rejuvenated and satiated, we top it off with a fine dinner put on by the Lodge chef. Conversations range from new adventures to spiritual awakenings and eventually come around to talk about how good it is going to be tomorrow. Everyone hits the bed with dreams of sunshine, friends, and perfect powder snow.
Words and Photography by Ken Lucas
Sunny Spine Photography by Jeff Hoke
Steep Spine Photography by Bill Dyer