Springtime in Valdez

For many of us, Valdez is synonymous with heli-skiing. But last week I spent six days touring and skiing great snow and steep lines in the mountains around Thompson Pass, retiring each day to the comforts of my hotel by the water. The Pro Guiding Service Valdez trip was a raging success. If you're wondering how to get your fix for alpine ski touring without breaking the bank, then read on.

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If you ski tour in Washington state, you know what it means to work for your turns. Long approaches and the challenges of below-treeline navigation guard many of the good tours. You might find yourself fantasizing about a well-placed gondola, or at least an open road into the alpine. At Thompson Pass, just 35 minutes from Valdez, the road reaches within a quarter mile of glacial ice. A few dozen peaks with over 4,000' of vertical relief lie within a four to five hour tour from the road. Here you begin the day at treeline, and ski right back to your car. In springtime, it's a ski touring paradise.

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Thompson Pass has it all: mellow aprons, steep chutes, glaciers, devious alpine touring itineraries, and of course some really long couloirs. We did some of everything, with an emphasis on steep powder. Todd, Ed and Kiel put in some long days, and our total for the day reached about 24,000' of uphill touring, with 29,000' of downhill thanks to a heli-bump. We had mostly excellent weather, with some hours of flat light and one day of white-out to keep things interesting.

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I hope the photos and video here do some justice to what was certainly one of my best weeks of ski touring, ever. It's hard to capture the building feeling of excitement through  the trip, as each day yielded a better and more outrageously good line.

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If you want to learn more about the ski touring at Thompson Pass, check out Matt Kinney's helpful guidebook: http://www.thompsonpass.com/Home/Guide_Book.html

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And if you want to go there next year, drop me a line. I'll be going back, and it's going to be awesome.