I have returned in one piece.
I arrived in Valdez (with my friends Bill Spitz and Chris Auman) on March 17 after a 10 day 10 foot local snow storm. Even
the flight attendant was looking out the window, as we passed Prince William Sound and the Columbia ice field, saying she
hardly ever saw it so clear. A Norwegian group of skiers was just leaving who had spent 12 days in Valdez and only skied about
6 runs (the equivalent of one day) due to bad weather. This was not a happy group. They spent their spare time climbing frozen
waterfalls. We went straight from the airport (after flying most of the evening and night) to the helicopter. They gave us our
beepers (to help others find you if you are buried) 10 foot foldable probes (to find others) , shovels (to help dig people out), and
harness (to assist being pulled out of glacial crevasses). All of which we carried with lunch in our pack. The guides also carried
portable sleds, stoves and overnight survival gear in their packs.  Off we flew into the Chugach range to ski what Valdez is
famous for; long, incredibly steep runs that can drop up to 5000 feet with pitches of 50 plus degrees. The helicopter would drop
you on a ridge or peak sometimes having to dig its skids into a snowbank to provide a "stable" landing spot. You would hop out
with the rotors going and it zoomed down to pick up another group or wait for you on the bottom.  As the snow is heavy, even
with the previous weeks 120 plus new inches, the slopes have a tendency not to slide as much as in other terrain. I skied on
skies specifically designed for this terrain with assistance from the head of this Heli operation - Dean Cummings, one of the
worlds most famous extreme skiers (he also guided us one of the days.) The skis are very wide to hold you up in variable snow.
Those who skied on their own skinnier skis were exhausted and could not keep up till they switched the next day. We got about
6 runs a day. Always having to wait for the previous person to have gotten down to a "safe" area before you would proceed on
the slope. Our guide once did get swept off his feet in a mini snow slide. On another occasion we skied over an area where the
wind slab snow collapsed. In general thought they ran a very cautious and extremely professionally managed operation.  Our
guide for the first 3 days (Spencer Wheathly)  is the reigning "World Extreme Skiing Champion" and showed us the run
(actually a series of cliffs on a 2000 foot vertical wall) he won the championships on last year. We skied a less extreme shoulder
off this same run.  After the first perfect day we had an enormous 3 day "wind event" (Alaskan for storm) which packed the
snow so the skiing was not quite as good, but the location and slopes where still mind boggling. In total we got to ski 5 of our 8
days which is about average. On the last (5th) day that we skied they took us deep into the Alaskan range for better snow in
what was truly breathtaking scenery. As this area was rarely skied we got to name many of the slopes we went down as first
descents. Most of the mountains in these area have never been climbed.  At my request, as a special thrill, on our last run out
the pilot took our helicopter at full speed down a narrow canyon to get us back to our base camp. It felt like being inside the
Star Wars movie.  Altogether it was an incredible trip and almost makes it worth turning 50 (this was mine and Chris's 50th
birthday presents to ourselves). My movie version is available for those who show up in Lester Place.
Any way we had a great time, I then spent the weekend in Anchorage with Liska and family and got to ski Mt. Alyeska with
David and Gary on Sunday before my return, which was also lots of fun.
Martin

Go to Photos of Trip
Heli Skiing Vadez Alaska March 17-25 2001    
Go to Photos of Trip
THE FRIEDRICHS FAMILY WEB SITE        Contact:   Marty.Friedrichs@Gmail.com