‘AK’ is THE place on most riders’ bucket list, and for good reason: it offers incredible sustained steeps, a stable snowpack and total wilderness. Once again though, you don’t quite have to rob a bank to experience it – why not hit up a few of the resorts over there and have a couple of days heli-ing when the weather is good?
Even if you have just a day or two in the air, Alaska will be trip of a lifetime.
The mountain resort of Eagles Crest, just outside the Alaskan capital of Juneau, has got some awesome terrain. Then, once the weather window looks promising, ditch the lifts and jump in the chopper with local outfit alaskapowder.com. Or, for the full Absinthe experience, follow in the footsteps of Nicolas Müller, Gigi Rüf and head to Haines. It’s a bit of a pain to get to – either a long boat ride from Juneau or a quick hop on a sea plane – but once there, book into a motel and wait for the clouds to clear. Haines is a rad hippy town full of people escaping the real world (plus a few probably running from the police). Book your heli drop(s) with South East Alaska Backcountry Adventures, and when the time comes, drive out to a café called 33 Mile where you get picked up.
Another option is Valdez, birthplace of heli-skiing in AK. You can fly into Anchorage, go and ride the nearby resort of Alyeska, then head over to Valdez for a couple of days in the chopper. There are also some mountain passes you can access by car on bad weather days, as well as some splitboard options. Check alaskabackcountry.com.
Finally, Points North Heli Adventures in Cordova access some epic terrain, though they are a little more expensive and there are not so many options if the clouds settle in.
All in all, taking the long haul flight out of the equation it is definitely possible to shred AK on something resembling a budget, just be prepared for storms and have a back-up. As James Stentiford puts it: “I’ve been to Alaska six times and had three amazing trips; the other three I’ve hardly set foot outside the motel, let alone got in the heli. Even if you have just a day or two in the air though, it will be trip of a lifetime. It’s a gamble but one worth taking.”
- The best riding on the planet, hands down
- Stunning scenery and ‘out there’ vibe
- Heli days can be combined with resort visits to keep costs down
- The weather can be awful; you can go there for two weeks and not see the sun (and of course, helis don’t fly in cloud).
- The terrain can be pretty full on. It’s more for experienced riders and even the fun runs in Haines are pretty engaging.