Alaska skiing thrives in heat of spring time

Photo by Patrick McCormick

As the temperature in Anchorage rises, Alaskans turn out to stretch their legs on the ski trails around their city. From nordic skiers to alpine, they cannot wait to break threw the spring crust.

“When it comes to Alyeska, I think about spring skiing every time I go skiing during the winter,” said Junior Alex Troutman. “When you don’t have powder, like this year (Alyeska has only had 392 inches this season), I don’t feel any reason to ski Alyeska. It’s icy, the mountain doesn’t get any sunlight in the winter and it’s cold as hell, so when spring comes around and the sun starts coming up over the ridge I am ready to be there.”

But how does it compare to the rest of the lower 48?

Troutman, who recently visited Lake Tahoe, and has also skied around CO says, “It seems like it is always spring skiing there, it’s always nice, it’s always bluebird, it’s always sunny, it’s always warm.”

But the cold weather hardly gets to this Alaskan, who grew up on Alyeska, and claims Alyeska is the most challenging place he has ever skied. “If you can ski Alyeska you can ski anywhere, and I swear by that.” Trourtman said.

During the long winter months and powder-less days, Troutman and a friend blew off the expensive tickets and long drive, in favor of constructing a drop-off on his buddies’ roof, and building a quarter pipe and rail.

However, alpine skiing is not the only style of skiing that thrives in the spring. Professor Shannon Gramse, who is both a skate and classic nordic skier, says that spring skiing is more than a hobby, but is a passion as well. “Crust skiing is easily my favorite facet of spring skiing. Passionate Nordic skiers look forward to these few weeks all year and speak of crust skiing with almost religious fervor,” she said.

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Formation of the ‘crust’ on snow happens at night, after the days sunlight has started to melt the snow. The snow begins to harden and produce a crusty top layer.

“To hit it right, you have to start out very early morning and get back before the days thaw cycle begins.” Gramse said.

The bounds of nordic skiing are practically limitless in this state, just pick the place that suits your mood and your skill-set. “I like to ski lots of different places. Sometimes I chase the best snow conditions; other times, I just ski around the UAA area, including the multi-use trails, the APU trails, and Russian Jack, which is actually a great place to ski.” Gramse said.

Every year these snow junkies come back for more, and wrap up the ski season.

“It’s magical to explore places like the Glen Alps or Spencer Glacier on ultra-light skate gear. The terrain is exciting and skiing on crust feels like flying. You can go anywhere.” Gramse said.