Powder Dreams: Heli-Skiing Alaska’s Chugach Mountains – Men’s Journal
“This isn’t a TGR film, we keep it pretty controlled,” said Matt Bohne, a soft-spoken avalanche forecaster, Wyoming native, and our heli-skiing guide for the week. Near 10 a.m. on our first day in Alaska, I naively believed him.
After a 45-minute safety briefing that covered everything from slab avalanches to helicopter decapitation, I was scared shitless, but I used my goggles and mask to hide the nerves. We did a quick beacon drill and an airbag pack tutorial, and then I followed the others into the waiting helicopter. Buckled up tightly, I nodded at the pilot, a Frenchman named Jean Louis.
Based thirty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, Valdez Heli-Ski Guides sits in the heart of the Chugach Mountains and is surrounded by sharp peaks with leg-burning 4,000-foot descents. Tsaina Lodge, the operation’s headquarters, was founded over thirty years ago by iconic freeskier Doug Coombs. In the years since, it has established itself as the premier heli-skiing operation in Alaska. Most of the guides have worked at Valdez Heli for decades, each with thousands of steep descents to substantiate their expertise.
At least, that’s what the brochure said. I wanted to see for myself.
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